Fragrances in the night garden

Fragrances in the night garden

By Deborah Fulsang

We love a good surprise. You can understand then why we perked up in spotting something twisted and strange in the fragrance world this spring. In fact, it was the reimagining of classic blooms. Pretty was being uprooted—literally—with something darker, more mysterious. A forbidden garden beckoned, one covered in creeping vines and otherworldly blooms. And the scents? Nothing cute and sweet to be sure, but something more complex and unusual. The other side of pretty.

Tom Ford posited this olfactory idea with his Jardin Noir Collection last year. There was his drunken Jonquille de Nuit, Ombre de Hyacinth, Café Rose and the intoxicating Lys Fume with its lily, ylang ylang and dark balsamy essences mixed with labdanum, styrax and wood. Heady and delicious and smelling of indulgence.

And then on the runway, more dark blooms surfaced. In Paris, Christopher Kane explored the anatomy of the blooms in a dark, Victorian style for Spring 2014. And at Hermès, models wore myriad dresses and tunics bearing bold floral prints in deep jade and midnight hues. 

In this month’s launch of Balenciaga’s Rosabotanica, the mysterious garden is inspiration. Perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault, working with Olivier Polge, captured this dark floral beauty.

“It is a garden imagined by Nicolas Ghesquière,” he says, “a mysterious dangerous garden; very beautiful but dangerous; very inside the pop culture.” He also speaks of the face of the scent—Kristen Stewart—as the perfect extension of this duality. “She’s very beautiful, but fragile, with a dark side,” he says, alluding to her Twilight fame.

The scent also distills this dichotomy: Based on the rose, “it is fresh and clean with a touch of red fruits and something spicy; a touch of honey too. …And a little bit of metallic that I find very modern,” he explains.

Rosabotanica’s bottle likewise bewitches with its packaging. Like its predecessor, Florabotanica, it is a striking sculptural vessel, with a chunky cut-glass vial and graphic black and white stopper. But the plants have taken over, like an overgrown Little Shop Of Horrors creature, to colour the front of the flask too.

Laura Slatkin of Nest Fragrances is likewise smitten with a nocturnal secret garden. To be specific, it was the botanical artwork of 18th century artist Mrs. Delany that inspired her new three-scent collection of Amazon Lily, Midnight Fleur and Passiflora. She worked with Russian-born artist Alexander “Sasha” Solodukho to paint her trio of fragrances bottles—matte black with tangled botanical renderings. 

So whether you whiff Tom Ford’s luscious spritzes, the new Rosabotanica, or  Nest’s Midnight Fleur with its night-blooming jasmine notes, wood, amber and patchouli, one thing is certain: Any notion you had of what a simple floral perfume is will be completely washed away leaving you to explore this other side of pretty.

Balenciaga Rosabotanica EDP, $130 (100 ml), at Hudson’s Bay, Holt Renfrew, Shoppers Drug Mart and Sephora in Canada

Next Fine Fragrances Collection, Amazon Lily, Midnight Fleur and Passiflora, EDP, $118 (100 ml) each, at


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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.