The scent of lotus flowers is one of my favorite floral aromas, but smelling lotus in bloom is a rare treat. Lotuses blossom three hours "down the road" in Portland, Oregon, but it doesn't stay warm enough, long enough for them to flower here in Seattle. If you want to know what lotus smells like, find a lotus pond and sniff the newly opened blossoms; do NOT rely on perfumes that mention 'lotus' in their ingredients or you will be a Lotus Ignoramus.
Lotus in modern perfumes has been interpreted as a "watery" floral note: light, clean and smelling like fresh, and I mean fresh, water surrounding flowering lotus plants. Describing real lotus fragrance is difficult, but pink lotus flowers smell citrus-y, "green" and "spicy" and they possess deep, sultry floral aromas accompanied by a faint scent of sweet, marsh mud. The perfume of lotus blossoms is strange and intoxicating. (Smell the "living" flower if possible; once you cut a lotus stem the flower's fragrance fades quickly.)
Guerlain Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus and Pacifica Lotus Garden proclaim their devotion to LOTUS. Both fragrances fail to capture the scent of real lotus blossoms, but there's more to talk about than lotus in these perfumes, right?
Guerlain Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus
Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus (shown above right) was supposedly formulated for Asian perfume consumers: a group that likes their fragrances on the light-breezy side. Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus goes on very sweet with an indistinct floral note mixed with citrus and the fleeting aromas of jasmine and peach. In its early stages, Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus resembles classic Mitsouko in Eau de Toilette strength — but with added sugar and without classic Mitsouko's jab of moss. As classic Mitsouko takes a shady wooded path to its peppery-peachy finale, Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus launches into the stratosphere and becomes bright and rain-soaked.
Applied with restraint, Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus disappears on my skin within an hour; it smells (almost) like a "sweet-flowers-and-spice" sport fragrance for young women — something to absent-mindedly spray on after a shower. (And speaking of 'clean and fresh', Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus' extreme dry-down smells like another classic 'fragrance': original WOOLITE®.) If you apply Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus lavishly, the scent will last a long while, but it will be insufferably sugary-sweet. To my nose, this is a feminine perfume.
Wisely, Guerlain has used the Mitsouko name and bottle, and the lotus association (lotuses are a potent Buddhist and Hindu symbol throughout Asia) to appeal to prospective buyers. I'll admit I almost bought this perfume without smelling it because of the name (I wear classic Mitsouko), the blue bottle and lotus; a sample arriving in the mail saved me from a bought-unsniffed disaster.
Pacifica Lotus Garden
Lotus Garden was inspired by Pacifica founder Brook Harvey-Taylor's love of two lotus gardens — one near Santa Barbara, California, and the other at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Pacifica ad copy reads: Though worlds apart, both gardens are places for contemplation, refuge and pure beauty. Perfumed with green notes, citrus, lotus and olibanum; every ingredient is carefully layered together so that each inhale takes you deeper into bliss. The lotus, said to always be looking for its place in the sun, is a symbol of strength, unyielding passion, spiritual enlightenment and unconditional love. This fragrance is dedicated to all who seek such beauty in life.
Lotus Garden should be called "Green Mango Garden"; it smells a lot like (a less complex) Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. Apart from green mango, I smell citrus (grapefruit?), an aquatic note, soft musk, and, every now and then, a spicy note that reminds me of tomato leaf. This is a nice fragrance, especially at the price, and I'd rather wear it than Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus.
I'll continue to hope that some genius perfumer or fragrance company will produce a perfume or note that conjures the scent of authentic, lush lotus blossoms. Until then, enjoy real lotuses whenever you have the chance.
Guerlain Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus is available at the Guerlain boutique at Bergdorf Goodman, New York; 60 ml Eau de Toilette, $100.
Pacifica Lotus Garden perfume is $22 for 1.2 oz. For buying information, see the listing for Pacifica under Perfume Houses.