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Fragrances are perfect for mother on her special day

May. 05, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- Flowers are lovely, especially in the springtime, but there are the obvious limitations of shelf life and mobility.

A floral perfume? Now that's something with fragrance power to last an entire day on the go -- and the next day, and the one after that.

"Flowers are really the basics for all women's fragrances," says Veronique Ferval, creative center manager for International Flavors & Fragrances in New York, one of the primary manufacturing sources of the extracts or "juices" that perfumers use.

It's typical to create a perfume with a bouquet that combines the notes of many flowers, even if it ends up being dominated by one.

"Historically in the fragrance industry, there are the classics -- rose, gardenia, jasmine, muguet -- really classic flowers that we've used for many years and continue reinventing," Ferval explains.

Part of the allure in those scents is familiarity, but they also can be easier to bottle than, say, daisies and lilies of the valleys (as muguet is commonly known in the U.S.), she explains.

"A big factor is the olfactory delivery," says Jennifer Mullarky, scent consultant for retailer Perfumania. "Some flowers don't smell or you can't extract them. Having a well-known fragrance gives the emotional factor that many people relate to. There's comfort in knowing what you are smelling, and that attracts people to a perfume."

She adds, "When you are out and smelling a flower, you're not smelling a straight oil, which is not always as nice as the mixed bouquet."

Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, known to be an enthusiastic gardener, is relaunching his Esprit d'Oscar perfume from the 1970s that is rooted in jasmine, orange blossom and tuberose.

In an interview in New York with The Associated Press, de la Renta said that as a young boy in the Dominican Republic, he imagined himself as a perfumer. He'd wake up in the morning with the air of his open window carrying the smell of dewy flowers.

He first thought the dew was what captured the scent, he recalled with a laugh, but after a few failed attempts at bottling that, he realized it was the combination of flowers that was important. "I still remember it -- it's what I wanted in the perfume," he said.

White flowers, including tuberose, gardenia and orange blossom, are popular in modern perfumes, although they're not used nearly as much as jasmine, rose and violet, Mullarky says. They are complex scents with many facets -- fruit, freshness and creaminess, she describes.

You'll find some men's fragrances use lavender to infuse a light floral note without being too flowery.

Around Mother's Day, there is a big spike in fragrance sales, says Kevin McCall, vice president of sales for Perfumania. Husbands and sons are buying for their mothers, but there are also are many women shopping for themselves, inspired by their new season of gardening, he says. "Spring really kicks florals into people's minds."

McCall says he can see the shift away from heavier perfumes that largely dominate winter sales as the weather warms. Florals are popular all year in California, Arizona and Nevada, for example, he says, but the Northeast comes to floral scents around Easter, followed by the Midwest.

Where flowers originate figures into the actual smell of a floral note, too.

Mullarky says there can be a big difference between a Bulgarian rose (considered the finest quality rose), an African rose or run-of-the-mill American garden rose. They're all lovely, she says, but they give off different scents and blend differently with other notes.

Even the type of soil or the time of day the juice is extracted can affect the scent.

Sometimes it takes consumers time to warm up to a more exotic flower, says IFF's Ferval, but even if the exposure only comes from a perfume bottle, people can develop a taste for it over time: That's what happened with the mimosa flower, which has more spicy than sweet accords.

Green notes naturally complement heady florals -- like they would in a vase -- and woodsy notes add a modern twist to very classic florals, Ferval explains. For something cheerful and bright, she recommends adding a fruit note, especially a citrus.

Elizabeth Arden has a new perfume, Pretty, that experiments with a new capturing technology that combines floral, fruit and woodsy scents into one, without separating individual ingredients.

Some other options with strong floral hearts:

--Daisy Eau So Fresh by Marc Jacobs. Daisy with wild rose, raspberry, apple blossom and violet.

--Calvin Klein Beauty. Lily with ambrette seeds from hibiscus, jasmine and cedarwood.

--Flora by Gucci Eau Fraiche. Rose petals and osmanthus with bergamot, water notes, sandalwood and patchouli.

--High Line by Bond No. 9. Grape hyacinth, Lady Jane tulips and red-leaf rose with grass and sea moss.

--Dolce & Gabbana Rose The One. Bulgarian rose with peony, geranium, peach, muguet and musk.

--Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle. Oriental rose with cinnamon and clove.

--Roberto Cavalli Just Pink. Tiare flower (gardenia), white lily and peony, with Bulgarian rose and rosewood.

--Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giora. Jasmine and peony with a "mojito" blend of mint leaves, brown sugar and Italian lemon.

--Black by Bijan for Women. Gardenia and rose petals, with pomegranate, jasmine and musk.

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