Floris is a relatively rare creature, an English perfumery house. They are the oldest example of that breed, dating back to 1730, when the house was founded by Juan Floris, an immigrant from the Mediterranean island of Minorca. The first royal warrant (to make combs for George IV) was issued to the company in 1820, and they have had many famous clients over the centuries, including Mary Shelley, Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill, and (fictionally) James Bond. From 1730 onwards, they have been headquartered on Jermyn Street in London, a famed center of British couture and perfumery. I was recently given a free sample of their “Fumée De Jasmin.” to review.
Fumée De Jasmin
The company is now being run by its 8th & 9th generations of Florises, and they have been making some of their famous perfumes for decades (masculine “Number 89”, since 1951) or even centuries (“Limes”, from 1832, a masculine when initially produced but now regarded as a unisex fragrance). But what are they up to these days?
Fumee De Jasmin is one of their “by request” limited editions. Fumée De Jasmin (hereafter FDJ) is costly ($235 for 100 ml) and rare (only 100 bottles being produced in this run, all hand poured.) Smaller samples do not appear to be available for purchase from the manufacturer.
Fragrance Design : FDJ is a fragrance with an intricate backstory to it’s design, rather like Penhaligon’s “Sartorial” which claimed to simulate the olfactory environment of a 19th century bespoke tailor’s shop. FDJ, more appropriately, simulates the smells of the Floris family underground perfume and fragrance making workshop in the 19th century. Notably, one of the company’s widely produced mainstays, called “Night Scented Jasmine”, was produced continuously during this period, originally made from 1806. (Discontinued eventually, this perfume was recreated in 2006.)
Obviously then, as this workshop produced so much of this fragrance during the period being “portrayed”, one expects a strong note of jasmine in the fragrance, but the clever conceit here is that the jasmine is fused with other workshop scents, such as the smoke from the fires being used to prepare various chemical mixes, the wood odor of the furniture and arches, the earthy smell common to basements, and the residue of all the exotic fragrance elements used to mix all the other Floris products. So the core of jasmine has many companions, most prominently smoke, hence the name of the fragrance.
Scent Elements: The manufacturer’s scent pyramid description on their website reads as follows:
Top Notes: Lavender, Bergamot
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Carnation, Black Pepper
Base Notes: Cedarwood, Oriental Resins, Woody Amber Notes, Vanilla, Javawood, Tobacco.
Initial Impressions: FDJ has a rich opening, with lavender and jasmine both quite prominent. Note that this means the heart note is appearing almost immediately with one of the tops. The bergamot is underplayed, and to my nose, fleeting.
Within a minute or so, the smoky elements appear, which are represented here by carnation. The “smoke” and jasmine accord last for roughly 1-2 hours, and the lavender fades away within a few minutes.
Intermediate Development: The eponymous smoky carnation and jasmine eventually become quite spicy at around the two hour mark, and are joined by notes of incense and pepper. There may even be a hint of (doubtlessly synthetic) oud in here, though such a note is not specifically credited in the note pyramid (“oriental resins” may include this note, or might not). This is my favorite part of the scent, but it fades all too quickly, mellowing down into a sweeter wood and tobacco accord, with jasmine persevering.
Long Term: In hours 3-5, the spicy and smoky notes recede rapidly, and we are left with a more conventional wood and tobacco scent, and even the jasmine takes a backseat. The amber and vanilla makes things quite sweet, and in the really late drydown there is almost a powdery note, perhaps from the vanilla.
Longevity: I could still catch vague notes of the base notes for about 7-8 hours after application, but the core complex elements of the fragrance recede greatly after about 4 hours. I have dry skin, so this longevity is not terrible at all, but, frankly, the most interesting part of the fragrance is not found in the extended drydown, but rather in the lively and odd middle part of the lifespan.
Projection: Sadly, FDJ becomes a skin note after about 2-3 hours, meaning only you and those intimately close to you will be able to smell the scent. Depending on your needs, this may be just fine, but if you want to entice and amaze those standing a few meters away, this will not do the trick.
Even after initial application, FDJ is not an extended range kind of scent, e.g. not at all like Terre D’Hermes, which can literally be smelled from across a room with only a few squirts applied. In comparison, one might call Fumee De Jasmin a regular English gentleman of a fragrance!
Quality of Ingredients: Impressive. No false notes here, no cheap smell of alcohol or overly synthetic cedar notes. I cannot speculate on the balance of essential versus fragrance oils here, (other than to note the likelihood that there is not any real oud in the mix) but whatever is used smells like high quality scent elements. In particular, the tobacco and carnation notes are very well done, with the carefully balanced carnation scent creating a scent of smokiness that is neither overly floral nor unpleasant.
Appropriate Usage Environment: The tasteful nature of the scent, and its minimal silage and projection make this a fine choice for the workplace. FDJ is not aggressive and does not project alpha male dominance across the room (try “Quorum” or “Encre Noir” for that!) so it will not be much of an olfactory weapon. The gentle appealing complexity of the scent make it fine for romantic and special occasion usage. I would say this scent could be used in all seasons, warm and cool.
Manly?: The woods and smoke balance out the floral elements nicely in top and middle phase. The sweet drydown may be challenging to some men, but I had no issues with those elements. This is a sophisticated and urban scent, suggesting industry and complexity, not outdoorsy or animalic in the least.
Value: Hm, a tough one! Would I personally pay upwards of $200 for roughly 3 and a half ounces of this? I tend to equate projection and longevity with value, so for me, if I was spending $200 on a perfume, I would want something like Amouage Gold, i.e. a robust, complex scent that also is not in the least subtle. Sadly, this puts me in the same camp as Vladimir Putin, a fellow not known for his understated demure nature.
If you like Bach rather than Mahler, Auden rather than Tennyson, Jaeger-Le Coultre rather than Rolex, chess over poker, and Spanish shaving cream rather than American artisanal soap, you may be more of the target audience for Fumee De Jasmin.
Bottom Line: Even given the high cost, I can honestly say nothing else in my collection of roughly 50 fragrances comes close to this interesting design. “Sartorial” by comparison is muddled and derivative, and the design of FDJ is more coherent and elegant. With such limited production, you won’t be smelling this on the subway, or in business class with any frequency, if at all.
If you want something sophisticated, complex, rare, and gentlemanly, this may be the fragrance for you. I also greatly appreciate the complex development of the scent pyramid over time, and appreciate the quality of the ingredients used. A distinct four to five phases of development is rare in a modern perfume, but FDJ manages this intricate transition. if you want to smell a fragrance “story concept” that works, FDJ is the poster boy for the idea.
If you like the concept of FDJ, but can’t quite justify pulling the expensive trigger, try “No. 89” from the same house. Much less expensive, a complex scent that projects better and lasts longer, and still relatively rare in the modern world, where everyone wants to smell “fresh”, “clean” and “marine”. Plus… you’ll be using the same fragrance that James Bond wears!