We tend to complain that many fragrance houses offer a surfeit of new releases, season after season, without any apparent concern for quality or aesthetic consistency. Houbigant is one house we can’t blame for taking that approach: although it certainly has a “heritage” that would turn newcomer niche lines green with envy, its complicated recent history has resulted in a pared-down catalogue of offerings, which is somehow refreshing these days.
I do remember Chantilly from my teen years, but it’s now owned by Dana Classic Fragrances (and probably doesn’t smell much like it used to in my Seventeen-reading era). And, just a few years ago, I had a co-worker who wore the venerable Quelques Fleurs (1912!) as her signature scent; I loved catching a whiff of it when she passed me in the corridor. On the other hand, I’ve cordially loathed Quelques Fleurs Royales since its release in 2004 — the last news I’d heard about Houbigant until this summer’s launch of Orangers en Fleurs.
Orangers en Fleurs was developed for Houbigant by perfumer Jacques Flori and its composition includes notes of orange blossom, Turkish rose absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, tuberose, eau de brouts (“an exclusive Robertet raw material” which seems to be based on petitgrain), ylang Comores essence, nutmeg, cedar wood, and musk. In a nod to the company’s past, Houbigant has packaged Orangers en Fleurs in a re-interpretation of a vintage Baccarat perfume bottle. The bottle’s cap is shaped like an antique Baccarat bottle stopper, which is a clever touch (even if its plastic feels a bit flimsier than it should at this price point), and the label is a thin metal plate affixed to the bottle’s side.
This interpretation of orange blossom is definitely not a soliflore: it’s faceted and just complex enough to stay interesting. I’ve enjoyed wearing it over the past few days and picking out its various notes. Orangers en Fleurs opens with the green bitterness of petitgrain, originally derived from the leaves and stems of the orange tree. (This must be the “eau de brouts” announcing its presence.) There’s also a breath of warm spice from the nutmeg note, and this spiciness lingers throughout the fragrance’s development. In the heart, the orange blossom and other white florals come to the foreground. The tuberose is soft and creamy, and it adds depth to the soapy-clean orange blossom. The jasmine is warm and refined, but very much a supporting player.
As it dries and changes over the hours, Orangers en Fleurs turns a bit less flowery again, as the musk base and the cedar emerge. Overall, Orangers en Fleurs is a harmonious balance of green and white, sharp and silky, floral and wood. Its longevity seems below average for an Eau de Parfum on my skin, although Suzanna at Bois de Jasmin found it to have better staying power, so your experience may vary. Someone could easily wear one or two spritzes for a workplace situation and then reapply a little more generously for evening without overdoing anything.
I don’t wear many orange blossom fragrances, but I do have a few favorites: Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli (orange flower-citrus cologne), Lush Orange Blossom (straight-up, natural-smelling orange blossom), and the new L’Artisan Parfumeur Séville à l’Aube (radiant oriental orange blossom with resins). Orangers en Fleurs differs from all three of those: it’s a feminine, traditional variation on orange blossom. Orangers en Fleurs is designed to complement and extend the classic floral style of Houbigant’s older fragrances, rather than reinventing the brand. It succeeds well: it doesn’t smell exactly like a vintage fragrance, but it has a classic feeling, and it doesn’t assume that the only way to lure new customers to the Houbigant counter is to wave the pink-hued flag of a fruity-gourmand scent. Even if I didn’t like the fragrance, that attitude would please me.
Houbigant Orangers en Fleurs is available as 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($180). It is also available as a Parfum (100 ml for $600), and matching body products will be released in October. For purchasing information, see the listing for Houbigant under Perfume Houses.