Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oriental Fragrance Family Subgenres

As with music, I don't stick to one type and can't fathom limiting myself. I'm a happy connoisseur open to experience new interpretations of the world we live in. Even if I have favorite genres of scent, I inevitably find something I like in every genre and I love discovering those things that challenge my taste and help me grow. Here are the subgenres of the Oriental family and famous favorites in each. Just to recap, Oriental is a scent family that is traditionally spicy and/or rich and heavy. Famous Orientals include Guerlain Shalimar, Must de Cartier, Estee Lauder Youth Dew, Calvin Klein Obsession, Yves Saint-Laurent Opium, Christian Dior Addict and many amber, vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli and musk based fragrances. I might say they smell rich, luxurious and a little bit wild. There are new Sheer Orientals today such as Calvin Klein Sheer Obsession. In a nutshell: Red hot!

Soft Oriental is a subgenre that could be described as the quieter version of the firey and seductive Oriental fragrance family. I should mention that the word "soft" describes the texture of the scent (powdery as opposed to sharp), not how strong (concentration, potency) it is. Soft Orientals are soft and warm, making me think of angels and clouds and cotton candy or smoky incense depending on the degree of sweetness. I think of Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Heavenly (listed as Floral Oriental but to me it's mostly powder, no flowers), Giorgio Armani Sensi, Kenzo Flower Oriental and Bulgari Petits et Mamans (made for moms and kids). They're often seen as "skin scents" of the baby powder variety; if you're looking for a more innocent version of seductive, you might find this genre appealing. These are not bold and challenging scents; they're easy-to-wear and casual like a cashmere sweater.

Floral Oriental is a crossover that's not quite straight Floral and not quite straight Oriental. I'd put Chanel Coco, Jil Sander No4, Boucheron, Panthere de Cartier, Burberry London, Rochas Tocade, Jean-Paul Gaultier and the diaphanous and strange Guerlain L'Heure Bleue here. Many of them smell complex (perfumy) and are often perceived as more traditionally feminine than other subgenres. If you want something that's one part romantic and one part seductive, this genre would be it. Think roses, cognac and evening glamour.


Gourmand, a popular fragrance type, is one of the newest subgenres and it smells exactly as it reads: foody (no, you can't eat it) with sweet notes such as chocolate, caramel and almond in large quantity. Thierry Mugler Angel, Comptoir Sud Pacifique Amour de Cacao, Serendipity 3 Serendipitous and Aquolina Pink Sugar are categorized here. I would place Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison, Lolita Lempicka and Chopard Casmir here but many say they're not Gourmand but Woody Oriental. Pink Sugar is very patchouli-heavy so it's Woody, too. I'll just say they're good if you like it extra sweet. Hypnotic Poison is almond vanilla with a touch of spice (caraway seed = smells like rye bread or anise) and Chopard Casmir is a fruity caramel amber vanilla. Many Gourmands are often perceived as young scents, though people of all ages do enjoy them. Sugar: fun to eat but also fun to wear.

Chypre Oriental: OK, you got me. Givenchy Ysatis is not really Oriental but Chypre. Can you resist that ad? I think of Givenchy Ysatis as being a crossover Oriental Chypre since it has the warm Oriental elements blended with the refined, sophisticated, quirky boldness of Chypre. Ysatis is usually classified as an Animalic Chypre because of the touch of leather in its base of bay rum, so you can imagine it's strong, edgy, perfumy, upscale yet seductively bombshell. Maybe I should have put Guerlain Vol de Nuit here, since it is really Oriental even though many people smell a chypratic chic element in it. These grown up perfumes won't depict angels and clouds and all those fluffy innocent things.