My grandmother on my mother's side was a published haiku poet and master of Japanese arts such as shamisen (Japanese banjo playing), ikebana (flower arrangement) and sadō (ocha, or tea ceremony). I learned traditional tea ceremony in my youth, and I remember performing it for people and also partaking in the ceremony as a guest. I loved the little sweets we could eat before drinking the borderline bitter (yet savory which I liked) ceremony-grade tea, the precious bright green powder brewed by hand. The discipline itself was an experience to savor as well. Each step, like a dance, made sense within the sequence to usher the next one in, and every move had some meaning, practical, spiritual or both. However, traditional Japanese tea wasn't something I got to practice nor partake in all the time, and I think attempting to perform it now would prove as successful as an attempt at a grand jetté. I'll stick to perfuming for now. Creed Les Floralies, which this past weekend the SA at the Creed counter at Saks told me they're taking pre-orders for and would be officially launching shortly, is a fragrance inspired by the aromas of an ancient Japanese tea ceremony inside a tea house on the flowering grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (back when Tokyo was called Edo) featuring notes such as chrysanthemum (the national flower of Japan), plum and of course, green tea. I had walked 20 blocks in the rain round trip to go smell it, and I'm happy I did.
One thing I'm confused about is the name: I thought it would be called Floralie, but the tester at the counter was clearly "Les Floralies". Now, is it my imagination or was there a fragrance by that name already? Perhaps it was only offered as a room fragrance, but could it be the same scent? I believe Les Floralies launched in the early 2000s. I had never gotten around to smelling it, so I'm glad they've decided to issue a version of the fragrance to be worn on the skin - if in fact that is what they did. As for the scent itself, Les Floralies is at first sniff similar to Creed Love In White for its fresh, soft floralcy with an underscoring of soft fruits, Spring Flower for its full heart of jasmine and rose (I smelled the jasmine I know in both Spring Flower and Jasmal right away), and L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons for the light tuberose note I detect in it (perhaps that's the chrysanthemum). The scent also reminds me vaguely of Jean Patou Un Amour de Patou, another light but full-bodied, sort of green and fresh floral bouquet with subtle fruit notes (appley to my nose) and a traditional rose-jasmine heart. Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Eau de Camelia Chinois, Chanel Gardenia and Pure Tiffany also come to mind, but for me, Un Amour de Patou, Creed Love In White and Spring Flower come closest to its overall character. Many of these have been my favorite scents over the years, and so I was pleased to be reminded of them.
For me, Les Floralies captured this elusive concept of "the gentle breeze of the way of tea" in my mind, by displaying both refinement and a spontaneous, improvisational lightness of being. I enjoyed the carefully balanced measures, the absence of anything unappealing such as obvious white musk, ozone or harsh, sharp notes, and that it's not a stuffy, aloof and intimidating scent as one might imagine of a green scent. The white floral note I perceive as tuberose is slightly sharp in the sense that it's green and punchy, like a seringa or mimosa note, but it's a friendly floral accord, and the plum is a good-humored yet still elegant contrapuntal note. For a full-hearted floral, it's on the delicate side, comparable to L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons; however, Les Floralies leans more towards a floral bouquet than the citric, almost light chypre-like (similar to 4711) effervescence of La Chasse. The floral notes in Les Floralies are somewhat concentrated and make for a high-pitched floral with a semi-languid, semi-retro "flowery" feel (remember Charles Jourdan Un Jour?). The name, Les Floralies, is fitting, but I would have been equally drawn to this fragrance had it been named Love In White (and it would have conveyed the simplicity and purity-seeking asthetic of the transcendental nature of Japanese Arts).
Read more about chrysanthemums in Japan: Things Japanese:
Kiku - Chrysanthemum , www.mothra.rerf.or.jp
(Image: 1. Kitagawa Utamaro, "Flowers of Edo: Young Woman's Narrative Chanting to the Samisen", ca. 1880, 2. Imperial Seal of Japan, wikipedia.com)