The Candy Perfume Boy’s ‘Guide to…‘ series is a Jasmine award winning fragrant exploration of the individual notes that make up the vast and multi-dimensional spectrum that is the world of perfume. In each episode, we take a detailed look at a particular ingredient, analysing its odour profile and the ‘must sniff’ perfumes that serve as reference examples within the genre.
The many fragrant trips in the series have seen us make stops at Planet Tuberose, Chocolate World and Lavender Moon. We’ve also taken journeys to discover the notes of Oud, Orange Blossom, Violet and Lily. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Vanilla – we’ve been there too (and it was particularly delicious, I must say). All-in-all, we’ve traversed some delectably smelly places, learning more and more about the world of perfume on the way. I for one have found it to be great fun, and I hope you, dear reader, have too.
In this instalment we take a look at one of perfumery’s most important, prominent and prolific ingredients – jasmine. This stuff is a vital building block in our perfumes and iconic fragrances such as Chanel’s Nº5 (a true legend) simply would be the same without it. So, without further ado, I have put together my selection of ‘reference’ jasmine fragrances – seven of the very best, to be precise – to help you guide yourself through the must sniffs of the jasmine world. Let’s go scent-trekking.
Jasmine is a genus of approximately 200 types of vines and shrub that stem from the olive family. It usually grows in the warmer or tropical climes of Oceania, Eurasia and Australasia and due to its highly fragrant profile, has been cultivated for use in perfumery for hundreds of years. Jasmine also plays a significant role in many cultures, being used not only for perfume, but also in worship, as tea and as hair ornaments.
A huge number of jasmine flowers are required to extract the essential oil, required for perfumes, therefore it is one of the industry’s more expensive ingredients. Enfleurage (the placing of flowers in animal fat) has historically used to extract the elusive scent however, this is a painstaking and costly process therefore, chemical extraction is now used. To this day, jasmine is a significant component in the perfumer’s pallet – think of it as a perfume staple, if you will.
Jasmine is easily one of the most distinct floral smells in the world of perfume. In fact, I’d wager that it is one of the most unmistakable odours on the planet full stop. To my nose, jasmine smells waxy, green, indolic, honeyed, cheesy, purple, heady, hot, fruity, intoxicating, x-rated and alive.
Despite the fact that jasmine is so distinct as an odour, it has been put to surprisingly varied use within the world of perfume and jasmine fragrances really do range in pitch, tone and timbre – they can be full bodied and dirty or wishy-washy and clean. Either way, jasmine is never dull.
In this guide you will find The Candy Perfume Boy’s reference jasmines – those perfumes within the genre that simply must be smelled before one can consider themselves as a true jasmine nerd. These perfumes range from the more simplistic interpretations on the note to the complex and surprising, and even the downright filthy.
The reference perfumes that are an absolutely essential part of your jasmine education are as follows:
Let’s kick off, as we always do in these guides, with a fragrance that displays our note in its truest form. When I think of a true jasmine, only one scent springs to mind, and that is Serge Lutens’ À La Nuit. Despite its nocturnal name, À La Nuit is a sunny fragrance that gives the impression of sticking one’s head into a thick grouping of jasmine flowers. It’s rich and intense, bursting with the scent of indolic white flowers, citrus and musk, and is the closest thing one can get to wearing jasmine without weaving the real thing into their clothes.
À La Nuit displays jasmine as a heady and intoxicating flower not for the faint hearted, but it’s far from a ‘one-note’ fragrance. Yes, it’s a soliflore, but its also an incredibly nuanced one, boasting intriguing facets of bergamot, hay and green stems. Like all Serge Lutens fragrances, À La Nuit demonstrates complexity in a manner that looks effortless. It may be a straight-up take on jasmine, but seeing as the flower contains such an intensely rich array of olfactory characteristics, it comes across as incredibly varied. In fact, it’s best to describe À La Nuit as jasmine at its purest and most unadulterated.
Another distinctly natural jasmine is Van Cleef & Arpels’ California Rêverie however, if À La Nuit is a jasmine in its purest form, California Rêverie is that same jasmine carried softly on a warm breeze. It is the most dreamy take on the note and it moves slowly, with a sleepy languor that is completely in tune with the easy-breezy lifestyle of the American state from which it takes its name. California Rêverie depicts a beautiful and scenic life lived long and lived well.
California Rêverie displays an aerial jasmine note that is transparent and floaty. The jasmine is paired with glittering neroli, jammy apricot and beeswax to create the impression of a floral breeze positively buzzing with life. Remarkably, the whole thing is as light as a feather, despite the fact that there is so much going on. California Rêverie never feels ‘too much’ and it remains wistful, leading one to smell it and forget all of their troubles. This is the jasmine that dreams are made of.
Ahh, Joy – the ‘grand dame’ of all jasmine fragrances, where would we be without you? Created after the Wall Street crash to spread happiness via the medium of ostentatious luxury, JOY used to be the most expensive fragrance in the world and boasts a whopping 10,600 jasmine flowers in every bottle of Extrait. It’s no wonder then, that this one comes across as the richest and most lavish jasmine on the list. JOY is a baroque jasmine from a troubled era that feels entirely Gastby in style.
To my nose, JOY is a heavily indolic jasmine supported by strong ballasts of powder and aldehydes. It develops into more of a floral blend with time and as it dries down, the fragrance becomes a very good example of how jasmine can sit within a bouquet of its cousins; tuberose, rose and ylang ylang. JOY is a remarkable piece of work that has stood the test of time. It also proves that true luxury and opulence never go out of fashion, and rather than simply playing the role of a museum piece, JOY still feels as relevant and beautiful as it did back in the day. Beauty is timeless, after all.
We now move into the ‘strange and beautiful’ section of our jasmine guide, starting with the hot, breathy jasmine that is Amouage’s Opus VIII. Creative Director, Christopher Chong has overseen the creation of many stunning pieces of work at Amouage, with Opus VIII being an example of one of the brand’s greatest. This is a resplendent art piece that is difficult to pin down – is it jasmine, or is it incense? Is it heavy or is it entirely weightless? One isn’t sure. Opus VIII is a paradox of a fragrance that perpetually moves between polar opposites.
The jasmine feels warm and thickly textured, like a velvet curtain. The incense however, feels cold and silvery, like mercury on ice. These two elements clash to create something that is completely abstract and alien in terms of texture, scent and temperature. Some fragrances do more than simply smell nice, they lead one to think and flex their olfactory muscles to appreciate something entirely new. Opus VIII is one such fragrance. In short, it is one heck of a perfume.
As expected, legendary fashion designer, Thierry Mugler’s take on the humble jasmine flower is anything but conventional. Rather than setting his olfactory tale of jasmine flowers in a field in Grasse, Mugler has chosen to set the scene in outer space, creating, with renegade perfumers, Dominique Ropion and Laurent Bruyere, a jasmine born out of a solar flare. And to top the whole thing off, Mugler had the stroke of genius (and balls) to name this goliath of a jasmine, ‘Alien‘.
Alien exists as the tension between blinding white citrus, a stonking great big, and syrupy jasmine note (that can actually be smelled from the far reaches of the galaxy – fact), and lots of fuzzy, woody cashmeran. The result is a skyscraper of a fragrance that strikes a distinct and unusual tone, quite loudly, I might add, but at the same time feels luminous and transparent. Alien is a truly unique fragrance that transcends fashion and expectations, oh and time and space, for that matter. Let’s just call it what it is – a modern masterpiece.
If you’re wondering whether jasmine is diverse enough a note to allow for one brand to have two fragrances within this guide then firstly, you’re wrong, and secondly, HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING?! Serge Lutens is a man that has a masterful knack for approaching one material from a number of angles, he also knows how to make a dark and gothic floral unlike anyone else, and it is for these two reasons that Sarassins his second jasmine (currently he has three in his lineup) a worthy entry into this guide.
Sarrasins is a dark, moody and malevolent take on jasmine that is undeniably snake-like in character. The jasmine here is thick, creamy and indolic. It has a fruitiness that, instead of feeling fun or vibrant, comes across as forbidden and poisoned. There’s also good deal of cheesy funk that hints at heady, overflowing white flowers, and merges perfectly with the skin-like leather in the base. Sarrasins is a cold and calculating black mamba of a jasmine that isn’t afraid to strike unwitting victims. I say, let yourself fall prey to the bite of this jasmine, there are worse ways to go.
I wanted to call this final entry into the guide the ‘Walk of Shame Jasmine’ on account of the fact that it strikes me as the kind of jasmine fragrance one would encounter tottering home in the same clothes he/she was wearing the night before (it gets a special picture in this guide because it’s nasty, you see). The problem with that description is that there is no shame here. Lust is a sexually liberated jasmine. Yes, it’s slutty, but it’s also totally owning it. This jasmine is having fun exploring the more carnal exploits of life and it simply doesn’t give a damn what you think (and nor should it).
Lust presents jasmine with the sweetness dials turned all the way up to ‘full on’. It presents jasmine via the way of bubblegum, amping up the flower’s syrupy qualities and giving the impression of a white hot flower dripping in sugar. Rose and vanilla act as olfactory wingmen for this predatory jasmine, accenting the sexiness of the jasmine with oodles of rose-flavoured cotton candy to keep it sweet. As tenacious as nuclear fallout and as loud as Elton John’s wardrobe, Lust is an over the top jasmine that shows just how far the note can be pushed, and takes it one step further.
Join the Discussion!
What are your favourite jasmine fragrances?
Other Episodes in the Series
Image 1 via havenessence.com [edited]. Image 2 via blog.orangecarton.com. Image 3 via liberty.co.uk. Image 4 via galleryhip.com. Image 5 via easycosmetic.de. Image 6 via fragrantica.com. Image 7 via douglas.nl. Image 8 via 1st-original.ru. Image 9 is my own, with a David LaChapelle photo in the background.