Sunday, March 24, 2019

Floraiku: The Art Of Perfuming Haiku

I have not seen much about the brand Floraiku which was introduced in 2017. It was started by Clara and John Malloy, the founders of the brand Memo Paris which has perfumes inspired by exotic travel locations and which I wrote about here. The Memo Paris brand is based on  travel destinations around the world but with Floraiku the Malloys have turned the lens on Japan, and specifically on Japanese poetry known as haiku and Japanese ceremonies. Japan still holds some mystery to the Western world and there is special fascination for its cultural traditions and an appreciation for the focus on finding stillness and calm in an increasingly fast paced and loud world. The Malloys were struck by the purity and rituals of Japanese ceremonies and decided to translate this into scent.

The packaging for Floraiku is truly exquisite, and as we all know, this doesn't come cheap. The bottles come in bento boxes which include a travel spray and a clever carrier made from the perfume's lid. Each perfume has an illustration by artist Victoire Cathalan and Clara Malloy has written a "haiku" as the spirit for each scent.

The haikus do not exactly follow the rules; seventeen syllables in lines of five--seven--five, but let's not be sticklers. The little poems embrace the haiku spirit; sparse description, tightly edited and each word carefully chosen to describe the beauty in an everyday moment. This minimalism of words, each chosen for perfect effect, is carried through into the perfumes formulations. Each perfume features three notes and are at least fifty percent natural oils. Thus the perfumes are not complex. They literally unfold in three acts, as similar to three lines of poetry. The notes unite to form a beautiful picture but some users may not appreciate this minimalistic approach to perfumery, particularly at this price point. This is a true luxury item and is not carried at many stores, Harrods in London and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, as well as a small number of other locations. The original bottle purchase is at $350 but future refills can be had for a much more reasonable price, $200 for 2 oz. As a result of these prices, I found their sample set of eleven sprays at $35, which is how I tested the fragrances, a very reasonable deal.  If you order the samples they come with a book which features the haiku for each scent and the beautiful illustrations. Otherwise you can go on their website an have a look. It is all very stunning.

There are three categories of scents, each of which highlights a Japanese ceremony: Enigmatic Flowers which represents the art of Ikebana, or flower arrangement, Secret Teas and Spices which represents o cha, the ceremony of tea , and Forbidden Incense which alludes to kodo, the burning of the incense. In addition there are two scents called shadows, one to darken and one to brighten the other scents. I will give my quick impressions of the fragrances.

Enigmatic Flowers 

Cricket Song
Walking in the darkness
A cricket song
How torrid the heat is!

It is amazing the things you can learn when writing about perfume. Did you know that cricket's chirping frequency increases with heat, and if you want to play at being a naturalist, count the chirps in fifteen seconds then add 37 and that will be your approximate temperature, in Fahrenheit!

The notes in Cricket Song are bergamot oil, magnolia oil, and vetiver oil. The perfume opens with a light touch of creamy white flowered citrus. The bergamot oil makes the opening bright and airy, scent floating on the breeze. The flower, magnolia, feels very languid and damp. It's scent seems to be unfurling in the hot night air. This little poem is deeper than at first glance. The crickets are chirping because of the heat and the flowers are releasing their scent in the night air. With the elusiveness of scented petals carried away by the wind, the vetiver base gives the luminous magnolia a soft place to land.

I have a jillion crickets living in the little swatch of woods by my house and in summer they can make a deafening racket. I also have a magnolia tree but sadly the flowers spend all their energy on being big and beautiful and put very little effort into scenting the air. Still, I love this haiku and the scent Cricket Song for how it reminds me of a summer's night, the cricket's song hummed by a familiar army of choristers invisible in the nearby trees. This finding of beauty in the everyday mundane small moments that give our life texture and tiny points of pleasure is the definition of haiku poetry. This perfume is my favorite from the entire line by the way.

I See The Clouds Go By
I see the clouds go by
to the tea picker's song

The notes are cassis absolute, cherry blossom, and white musk. I See The Clouds Go By opens with a really beautiful berry note which smells fresh picked and succulent. In the opening moments I think I smell tea but then it's gone. I enjoy the tart depth of the fruit in the scent. Here the cassis floats atop notes of cherry blossom but they combine to make a scent that smells like syrupy wine notes. There is a richness but musk keeps the scent soft. This was another favorite.

First Dream of the Year
First dream of the year
first wish
the milky way above

The notes are grapefruit oil, orange blossom oil, and iris concrete absolute. The grapefruit opens slightly tart but I smell the orange blossom right away. The orange blossom is so realistic. I have a lemon tree in my back yard and it reminds me of the beautiful smell of the tiny white blossoms which bloomed a couple of weeks ago, very pure and sweet. There is a dance back and forth between grapefruit and orange blossom with an underlying sweetness. I never really smell the iris concrete note. Over time the scent looses the amazing brightness and becomes more fuzzy and musky.

Here's the thing. There are plenty of orange blossom perfumes and while the scent of orange blossom is gorgeous, there are not a lot of ways to make it unique. The way these fragrances can stand out from one another is how realistically the note is translated to scent. Here you get that natural smell. It smells like expensive oils were used, as they should be, and this orange blossom really smells like nature. If cost were no object, this orange blossom is pretty enough to make me desire to own it, but since that is not the case and I have some very pretty orange blossom perfumes, this is the one in the flower collection that intrigues me the least.

Secret Tea and Spices

The Moon And I
In this world of dreams
the moon and I
contemplating night flowers.

I don't know that I've ever smelled such a realistic tea note in a scent. At first sniff it smells like black tea but slowly it turns more green. The notes are mate absolute, matcha tea, and cedar oil. Just as in some tobacco-note perfumes you can smell the actual leaves and the oil, that is the sensation here. I picture one of those huge straw baskets holding piles of tea leaves beginning to dry, their edges curling as drops of oil secrete. Eventually the tea notes dissipate and the scent becomes more woody on a bed of cedar.

This is just my personal impression but I didn't get a lot of longevity for a perfume that started out so strong. And although the tea representation was well done it was almost too realistic for me without any non-tea notes to soften it.

I Am Coming Home
Shivering lights far away
I am coming home.

Notes for this are ginger oil, white tea, and cardamom oil. The perfume starts out with a bright realistic scent of ginger. There is a whiff of white tea, but if you've ever had white tea you know the flavor is so faint as to be almost water, and one must appreciate delicacy and nuance to enjoy it. The same goes for the scent here. The cardomom doesn't have the impact I expect. It is a soft crumble of spice, just to give the ginger an edge. If you like ginger-based scents you might enjoy this one. It does have one of my favorite bottles.

One Umbrella For Two
Our eyes raise to the sky
no rain
one umbrella for two

I have already written about this one in a previous article on "purple-smelling perfumes" and this is my favorite scent from the tea collection. Notes are blackcurrant absolute, genmaicha tea, and cedar oil. One Umbrella For Two opens with a nutty note reminiscent of a Japanese rice cake and the grain scent is both strong and unusual. Genmaicha tea is said to have the scent of roasted rice. Eventually the nutty grainy flavor begins to be infiltrated with the scent of blackcurrant. It starts out rather dry and tart but there is a switch, the scent switches from grain to fruit. As this happens the blackcurrant sweetens slightly. In my head I'm picturing fig newtons, but filled with blackcurrant rather than figs, encased in that yummy crust that is a cross between a cookie and bread. This all sounds quite strange, I know! Try it and judge for yourself!

Forbidden Incense

Sound Of A Ricochet
A red dragonfly
under the burning sky
the sound of a ricochet

Vanilla absolute, tonka bean, and sandalwood oil are the listed notes for this perfume. Sound of a Ricochet would be beautiful in the first crisp days of fall or to give a gentle sense of warmth on a cold winter's night. The combination of vanilla and tonka is not new but all too often I find the mix to be heavy and cloying. Here it really does give the sense of a delicate trail of incense rising up from burning sticks, leaving a gentle string of ash from the burned stick that collapses once it gets too long. This is a gentle but lovely scent and I got good longevity.

My Shadow On The Wall
Pale summer moon
o silence
my shadow on the wall

Notes of violet leaf, mimosa, and sandalwood oil make up this scent. It opens with a velvety green violet leaf. The green of the violet leaf is softened with notes of mimosa which add a mere touch of floral sweetness to the otherwise austere violet leaf. This one is as delicate as a slender bud of green bursting from the earth. I found it to me a wonderful meditative scent while it lasted, calming the aftereffects of a frustrating customer service call with Qantas Airlines that had left me riled. I would have been nice to have the scent last a lot longer, though.

My Love Has The Colour Of The Night

My love has the colour of the night
a firefly
in the swimming pool's light

In the beginning this scent gives me the mental picture of opening a wooden box, a special box that holds treasure or precious items. The box is richly carved and is indolent with the smell of fresh wood and oils to give it lustre. There is mystery here, like it hasn't been opened in many years. Patchouli gives a connection to the earth and adds to the mystery and the darkness. Vetiver gives a dry and natural scent.

Light and Dark Shadow

The idea of spraying your perfume with a fixative scent to change it or add something extra is a fairly recent invention. There is a longer history for mixing scents, as with Jo Malone and others. Personally I'm not a fan of this practice.  I will tell you briefly how these scents smell on their own. The red bottles are really striking.

Sleeping On The Roof
Sleeping on the roof
warm wind
shadows blown away

This is the light shadow. Notes are lily of the valley, orange blossom, and amber musk. As with the other flower notes, the lily of the valley is super realistic to nature. There is a dampness as if you've just picked it, and the stem is weeping sap and scent. I am surprised to find I like this as a scent. It is pure lily of the valley on me until the amber eventually makes its way. Encouraged, I think I'll try layering, as is its purpose, so I put it on top of One Umbrella For Two. Nope, just as I expected, sort of a muddled mess. The bright lily of the valley note that I liked so much doesn't exactly disappear but it loses a good bit of power within a couple of hours.

Between Two Trees
The owl is watching 
between two trees

This is the dark shadow, but it starts out pretty bright. Notes of grapefruit oil, mate absolute, and vetiver oil make up the trio. The grapefruit is quickly overtaken by vetiver which smells dry and woody. The mate adds an herbal earthy feel. There is some depth to this and I find it appealing to wear but it's very subdued on my skin.

I enjoyed trying the Floraiku line of perfumes. I think the aesthetic is beautiful and well thought out. The sampling set is good value and a way to try out the perfumes before buying as they are only available at a very limited amount of store fronts or online. I struggle with the price point although I can see that no expense has been spared in the packaging. If you find one of the scents you really like, it becomes more economical if after making the initial splurge for the bottle you afterward buy the refill which is a much better value. Or I suppose you could just buy the refill but what's the fun in that? 

Lastly, here is a video that clearly shows the bottle, and how the top becomes a protective case for the travel spray.

Japanese prints are Google images. All other photos from I bought the sample set from which I tested these perfumes.


Undina said...

In the past I approached this brand a couple of times but back then, while samples seemed reasonably priced, their delivery costs made them golden - and I would sigh and leave the site hoping to come across them at a store one day. But I was so impressed by your review that I went to that site again. And unexpectedly the situation has changed: I assume they found a US distributor who sends these samples locally. I bought the set the same day I read your post (I couldn’t comment though because I think Google broke something while killing their Google+, and I couldn’t login to comment here). Today my package has arrived, and I decided to make another attempt to thank you for the lemmings ypu’ve resurrected :) It’s official: if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have bought this set. Now you can proudly wear the Honorable Enabler Pin.

Cynthia said...

Undina, I hope now that you're trying them you don't hate me, ha ha. I hope you find something of interest. And I happy/sorry to be an enabler! Let me know if any of them strike you. At the very least, I think you will find they are true to their branding.