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The Understated Elegance of Frangipani Fragrances

By Kari Molvar

Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi

“If it were possible in London, frangipani trees would be in my dream garden,” says Linda Pilkington, the British perfumer and founder of the fragrance line Ormonde Jayne. Native to balmy, tropical climes — including the coast of Kenya, where Pilkington first encountered the velvety white flower on a trip — frangipani has a scent that “is captivating,” she says. “If you can imagine a full bunch of jasmine with a drop of vanilla, that’s how the frangipani flower smells,” she explains. “It has this soft richness that’s very appealing.”

Now, a fresh crop of fragrances has bottled the lush scent. Unlike other botanical florals, frangipani doesn’t have a fruity note — a distinction that makes it subtler for everyday wear and more understated than tropical flowers such as ylang-ylang and Osmanthus. “It’s a complex but delicate essence with many aromatic facets,” explains the perfumer Mandy Aftel, the founder of Aftelier Perfumes, adding that “it needs a proper setting for it to shine.” Citrus or spice notes, for example, can round out the creaminess of the flower, as they do in Jo Malone’s lemon-tinged Frangipani Flower Cologne (US$140) or D.S. & Durga’s saffron-infused D.S., US$350 (S$480). Diptyque’s Essences Insensées Tiare Flower, US$250 (S$342), meanwhile, tempers the sweetness of its florals with a hint of pink peppercorn.

Aftel, for her part, likes to pair frangipani with Mediterranean blood orange and bitter ginger (the latter of which can be found in Aerin’s Hibiscus Palm, US$175 (S$240), which “provides lift to its sultry floral notes.” In Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani, US$225 (S$308), Pilkington uses tart plum to give “a certain sharpness” and Madagascan vanilla to “bring out the softness of the frangipani.” The result, she says, feels “very elegant” for a workday or evening — not just the beach.

No matter the blend, a light application will do. In summer, the heat of one’s skin will heighten any scent. For that reason, Aftel is fond of misting frangipani on the nape of the neck or backs of the knees, where it can delicately unfold and waft around you all day. Frangipani, says Pilkington, “is one of those olfactory smells that delivers slowly. You have to smell it very deeply — and very long — to get the full complement of the flower.”

Clockwise from top left: Jo Malone London Frangipani Flower Cologne, US$140 (S$192), jomalone.com.Ormonde Jayne Frangipani Eau de Parfum, US$225 (S$308), saksfifthavenue.comDiptyque Essences Insensées Tiare Flower, US$250 (S$342), diptyqueparis.comAerin Hibiscus Palm Eau de Parfum, US$175 (S$240), aerin.comD.S. & Durga D.S., US$350 (S$480), dsanddurga.com.
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