Floral perfumes for non-floral types

Floral perfumes for non-floral types

By Alexandra Donaldson

“A perfume shouldn’t smell like flowers. A woman should not smell like another substance in nature,” said the ever-opinionated Coco Chanel. “She should smell like herself, but better.”

Despite coming from a woman who created the most famous floral perfume ever—hello, Chanel No. 5—these are words I can relate to. I am not a flowery person, and the smell of a bouquet has never appealed to me. I decorate with leafy, non-flowering plants and appreciate flowers on aesthetic level—but not as much on an olfactory one.

When it comes to perfume I gravitate towards green, earthy, musky fragrances—with the odd citrus note thrown in for some lightness. So when I happened upon a fragrance, named for a blooming white flower—gardenia—I was surprised that my first sniff was extraordinarily pleasant, and equally shocked when I went back to spritz it again and again.

Here at The Whale & The Rose, we think a good perfume wardrobe should be varied and should express all sides of one’s personality. And omitting floral perfumes, arguably the most popular of fragrance categories and a family which includes many legendary perfumes, from one’s personal scent repertoire seems almost sacrilegious.

So I don’t favour floral perfumes. Admittedly, there are always exceptions to every rule. And so, I got to work compiling a list of florals (both the notes and scents) that even musk-seeking green lovers like myself can appreciate—and maybe even love.


The scent that had me wanting to explore florals a bit more? Jour d’Hermes Gardenia. Jean-Claude Ellena, the nose behind this scent, describes this perfume as “flowers, nothing but flowers…a profusion of flowers.” It’s not exactly the description that would have me running to the perfume counter.

But gardenia is bright and sunny, vegetal and slightly tropical. Jour d’Hermes Gardenia embraces the sensual and wonderful bitter-meets-spicy side of gardenia, thereby sating my desire for something not overtly precious or stereotypically feminine.

Other gardenia scents to try include Aerin Gardenia Rattan. With its salty sea water top note and amber base note, this perfume is a summer beach day—sunny, salty and warm. Narciso Rodriguez Eau de Parfum is another Gardenia pick with an earthy element. Its notes of musk, cedar and vetiver make it a green gardenia spritz—a most intoxicating, sexy, earthy scent.

Hermes Jour d’Hermes Gardenia, $204 (80 ml), www.nordstrom.com
Aerin Gardenia Rattan, $125 (50 ml), www.sephora.com
Narciso Rodriguez Narciso EDP, $127 (90 ml), www.thebay.com


There truly is a Chanel scent for everyone. As part of the Les Exclusifs collection, Chanel released 1932 in 2013. The scent is centered around jasmine—a flower that is white and sharp with a subtle sweetness. In 1932, jasmine is combined with incense and vetiver. The result, crisp and light but woody and earthy too. This perfume smells like spring coming to life—potent, like damp earth and fresh greenery.

If you tend to favour something a little sweeter, try Carven Le Parfum. This playful jasmine scent includes mandarin as a top note, while jasmine and sweet pea make up the middle. The base is patchouli leaf and sandalwood. Light and sweet, this is a perfume that touches also on green, floral and fruit notes. It’s fun, energetic and elegant.

Chanel Les Exclusifs 1932, $280 (200 ml), www.chanel.com
Carven Le Parfum, $123 (100 ml), www.sephora.com


I use lavender oil often. Its calming aromatherapy effects make it a great home fragrance, and lavender oil helps relieve headaches and muscle tension. But, foolishly, I’ve never sought out a lavender perfume before. Lavender is a green-smelling or aromatic flower making it ideal for men’s fragrances (famously Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male used lavender).

Another men’s spritz, Prada Luna Rossa Sport, also uses lavender but combined with ginger, juniper berries, tonka and vanilla. The scent is zesty, but the lavender adds a softness that makes is appealing and very comfortable to wear for both men and women.

For a more obvious lavender scent, Diptyque’s Eau de Lavande captures all the qualities of the essential oil, but adds notes of cinnamon and nutmeg for a more richness. It will bring a hint of the south of France to your day.

Prada Luna Rossa Sport, $92 (100 ml), www.holtrenfrew.com
Diptyque eau de Lavande, $98(100 ml), www.hotrenfrew.com

Looking for more recommendations based on fragrance category? Take a look at our fragrance buying guide.

PHOTO: Adrian Armstrong
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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.