When I chose Sylvaine Delacourte Florentina to review, I didn’t know Kevin had already served it papers in his review of the line’s Helicriss, where he called Florentina “the most insufferable of the bunch” of the house’s releases. I understand that. If you don’t like powder and musk, you might well loathe Florentina.
Me? I’m a fan. I love a silky soft, swan’s-down puff of a perfume, and Florentina is all about that. To me, its musk is more about texture and body than about cleaning products. Take this as a commendation or condemnation, depending on where you sit, but Florentina has now unseated Lorenzo Villoresi Alamut as my favorite “comfort-me-with-powder” scent.
Florentina’s notes include almond, iris, heliotrope, white musk, carnation and vetiver. I first sniffed Florentina with Denyse from Grain de Musc. “This reminds me of [Guerlain] L’Heure Bleue,” I said. She replied, “L’Heure Bleue with the sad parts taken out.” That’s about as accurate a description of the fragrance as can be delivered in a sentence.
Florentina is a powdery iris scent with a touch of pastry cream. At first, it’s slightly green, but it plunges straight into ladies’ powder — no baby powder about it — infused with dry iris. This isn’t the juicy iris that hints of violets and lipstick. It’s an aristocratic, powdery iris that Proust’s heroines would have loved. Its powder is finely ground enough to hint of buttercream transformed into vapor, as airy as warm breath on chinchilla fur.
Which brings us to the scary word, “musk.” Some musks smell like detergent to me. I don’t like a fragrance that reminds me of cleaning toilets. Add orange blossom, and the same kinds of musk recall powder room soaps shaped like pansies. To me, Florentina goes nowhere near the laundry room. Musk can fill another role in perfumery, to add texture and marry materials. That’s the role I feel musk chiefly plays here. Here, musk is the feathers in the feather bed on a carved walnut Victorian frame with old linen sheets.
Florentina has moderate sillage and terrific longevity. A few spritzes before breakfast burn quietly until bedtime. As Florentina wears, it pulls closer to the skin, but it doesn’t really change character much. Florentina isn’t freaky or challenging. If Florentina suits you, you won’t have to work to like it. That’s not what it’s about. Florentina’s charms are basic: fancy iris powder with almonds and cream.
Maybe you love L’Heure Bleue’s sad parts. I do. That’s a huge part of its attraction. But I have room for pretty, contenting fragrances in my perfume cabinet, too, right next to the peach satin slippers with maribou puffs.
Sylvaine Delacourte Florentina Eau de Parfum is $160 for 100 ml. In the US, you can find it at Luckyscent or Indigo Perfumery.