As someone who dedicated three years of their life to getting a degree in poetry, I was pretty excited to sample scents from Floraiku, a house which advertises itself as ‘perfume as a poem.’ A wonderful poem has the ability to deliver a real shock to the system in just a few lines. Perfume, which can be enjoyed in a single whiff, has a similar economical power. To truly know a perfume, you of course have to experience it over time and in different occasions – the same could be said for a poem – but an initial blast or passing sniff can have a surprising impact on the mind. There’s a reason so many perfume nerds think of received compliments as the true gauge of a perfume’s power. After all, isn’t it amazing that a smell could be so good as to spark engagement from a stranger?
However, a great poem usually succeeds off its ability to carry a depth beyond its explicit content. They summon implied histories and emotional impressions that lie somewhere beyond the text, kind of similar to wearing a perfume that carries memories from past wears. Even never-before-worn scents can carry surprising emotional weight through their references to naturally-occuring smells or sheer creative complexity. These are the perfumes that make us smile or laugh out loud the first time we encounter them.
While this poetic link applies to basically any great perfume, Floraiku takes their approach in a more literal fashion. Each fragrance is modeled after the haiku format. Three core notes, representing a haiku’s three short lines, come together to make a minimalist fragrance that favors elegance over power. In theory, it’s a nice twist on Jo Malone’s format, where each fragrance is named after a few familiar ingredients. In practice, it’s not quite as fulfilling.
Last year, I picked up Floraiku’s sample set, which is excellently priced at $40 for eleven 1.5 mL sprays. I immediately put them to the test and found myself underwhelmed. Each scent was very light and relatively low on personality, and I’d often find myself forgetting what I was wearing or what I was supposed to be looking out for. The best haikus leave an impact with a keen eye for nature’s reflection of our human emotions, or they find a spark of humor within the breathing world around us. Smelling Floraiku’s scents were more like looking through a gallery of pretty but unremarkable landscapes. There was nothing unpleasant in the compositions, and that was almost unpleasant in and of itself.
At the time, I’d recently burned through sample sets from two of the boldest, most exciting indie houses around: Zoologist and Olympic Orchids. Almost any house would struggle to compete with those lineups. But as time has gone on, I’ve found myself leaving my sample set on the shelf no matter the scenario; anything a Floraiku scent does, something else does better. Bvlgari’s Au The Vert accomplishes more than Floraiku’s many tea-based scents, and performs better, at a fraction of the cost. When Floraiku is matched up against the fresher scents of the similarly-priced Frederic Malle, it loses by leaps and bounds. On those screaming hot days that demand light perfumes like Floraiku’s, I find myself reaching for Dior Homme Cologne, Frapin L’Humaniste, or Tom Ford’s Costa Azzurra instead of cracking open my sample set. There’s just not a time or place for these perfumes in most substantial collections.
Which brings us to the final nail in the house’s coffin: the pricing. Floraiku perfumes run from the low three hundreds to the mid seven hundreds, an exorbitant amount to pay for even top-of-the-line perfume. The house’s absolutely gorgeous bottles almost manage to justify the cost – they’re among the best available – but there’s nothing interesting inside them. Surely you could find a more cost-effective way to decorate your shelves.
Among my hundreds of perfume samples, I’ve found olfactory revelations and nasal nightmares. The adventures you can have with a few milliliters of liquid constantly inspire my writing. Unfortunately, all Floraiku has to offer are ideas of what good perfumes could be: simple, literary, well-packaged. Perhaps one day they will turn those very expensive ideas into a more intriguing, affordable realities. For now, they’re less like haikus and more like stock fortunes tucked in tasty cookies. It’s fun to crack one open, but I can’t remember a single fortune I’ve ever received. I just know I’ve ended up tossing all those little pieces of paper in the trash.
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The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.