Finding Freesia (Hester)

Freesias come from South Africa. To crib from Wikipedia, twelve of the fourteen species are indigenous to my home province, the Western Cape. When they’re in season, sadly for only a very short while in early spring, I stop by the side of the road and buy a bunch whenever possible, and their gorgeous lightly peppery, stem-y fragrance easily perfumes an entire room. I know me some freesias. They are by far my favourite flower.

So naturally I am in search of a perfume to give me that “just-rolled-in-freesias”-feeling. I don’t want a scent with an alleged freesia note, but a more-or-less soliflore; it’s a quite delicate smell and I feel sure most other notes would dominate it.

In my quest I have tried two alleged freesia scents. First up, Ofrésia by Diptyque. They’ve added black pepper, as I read in Jessica’s recent review on Now Smell This, which is understandable, as the fresh flower does have a peppery zing.

At first application of Ofrésia, I smell something crisp and fresh, rather like muguet, with some rosiness. And that… is it. I can’t really say I pick up on Diptyque’s addition of pepper. I mean, all springtime florals have some mild zing, right? That’s the zing I get from Ofrésia, not pepper. This is a somewhat crisp, very springtime-y scent, but there’s nothing of true freesia’s penetrating, gorgeous “hang”. Ofrésia sits close to the skin, and if you’d told me it was some random brand’s try at lily of the valley, I’d have lapped it up and maybe got out my purse – it is certainly pretty! But it scores low in diffusiveness and lasting power, and the major flaw: it simply doesn’t smell very much like freesia. After a few minutes there’s a pretty prominent soapiness, too, that the fresh flower never has, and which reminds me rather of Dirty Girl’s Lily body spray.

Nothing wrong with Ofrésia, but nothing very right, either. A quick look at Makeupalley reveals that some people register a feminine-hygiene-product smell, and they’re actually bang-on. It needs to be greener, more sap-like, and conversely somehow warmer, too, to really reach freesia’s aroma.

Maybe this is at least partly a case of dab versus spray? I have a dab sample of Ofrésia and I know scents can vary wildly depending on method of application, but I rather doubt this will suddenly turn true-to-bloom when spritzed. (For the purposes of this mini-review, I did dab quite luxuriously, so spraying would have been approximated.)

Recently a friend brought me a little spray bottle of Demeter’s Freesia from New York. Great was my excitement! I have a longstanding love affair with Demeter Dirt and enjoy a few others I’ve encountered, too, so I was pretty optimistic. But while Freesia turns into a semi-pleasing spring floral (though also short-lived), it has two major flaws: not smelling like freesia, and having a harshly synthetic topnote which terrifies the nose, if only for a shortish while. (This is a thing I find in some other Demeters, too; their Rain also starts off with a horrifically chemical… something.) “Old sweat” was the rather surprising pronouncement on Freesia of my boyfriend (a not-completely-untrained nose, I’ve been working on him). I wouldn’t quite go that far, but there’s certainly something very, very unfloral to the birth of this Freesia. Is it… perhaps nutty? That seems impossible, but this topnote is really odd, and the furthest thing from a green-white floral scent. And as I sit here sniffing, I note that in fact, it is not a one-minute-only topnote mistake which is therefore tolerable, but that something of its nature persists for quite some time.

After twenty minutes or so, what’s left of Demeter Freesia bears an extremely vague resemblance to a room in which there may have been freesias yesterday – freesias that had already gone slightly slimy. Maybe the very best description is cheap freesia shampoo (which I’ve bought in hope and discarded unused, so disappointed was I by the scent).

If given the choice between two bottles, one of Ofrésia and one of the Demeter version, I’d certainly choose the Ofrésia, and I doubt I’ll ever see the bottom of my Demeter 30 ml. But I’d never use up Ofrésia either, except perhaps as a room or linen spray. It’s just not memorable or nature approximate.

Any suggestions to aid me in my quest would be most welcome! I love Halloween by Jesus del Pozo, and I see there’s a freesia flanker – can anyone weigh in on Halloween Freesia? Are freesias easy to come by in the overseas, as we say here? It strikes me that they might be in bloom in the northern hemisphere at the moment. And what colour freesia is your favourite? I’m very partial to the buttery, warm yellow.

  • AWench says:

    I’m a freesia hunter, too (and frangipani, another soliflore no-gets quite right). I tried Antonia’s flowers and it IS very pretty, floral, fresh and stemmy, but it isn’t a freesia soliflore!

  • turquoisewater says:

    What about Antonia’s Flowers (by Antonia’s Flowers)? It’s supposed to be a freesia soliflore, isn’t it? I recall it smelling very much like freesia, with that spicy pepper-ness.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    I too love Freesia but have yet to find a close enough appoximation. Interesting that none of us has struck upon a ‘right one’ – perfumers are you listening? :Please:

  • jen says:

    Count me in as another freesia fan. I used to work at a florist and whenever we had them in stock I’d try to stuff them in all of the bouquets. 😉

    Maybe it’s time to wander down to the old job and see if I can hunt some up. I’ll be watching along to see if anyone comes up with a realistic perfume version of freesia. Until then, we wait.


  • DinaC says:

    I also love the smell of real freesias. I had white ones in my wedding bouquet, along with roses and other stuff. For mother’s day, I got a bouquet that had a few lavender freesias in it. They smell wonderful. Like you, I’m always in search of a real smelling freesia scent.

    I have Freesia by Caswell & Massey in powder, bars of soap and “perfume spray”, but it smells like a very sweet, old-fashion floral to my nose. There’s nothing particularly freesia-y about it. It’s pretty, but I’m still on the hunt. 🙂

  • Musette says:

    We get cut freesias here all the time (didn’t know they come from your part of the world, though) and they smell grand! But I suspect that would be a difficult scent to translate into perfume. I have seen them grown here – but only in pots (I live in the Midwestern US) and even then, in a greenhouse. The scent is spectacular!!!

    xo :Devil:

  • Carrie says:

    I have been on the hunt for a true to life freesia scent ever since I discovered the one white flower that appeared to be a crocus that was blooming in a planter on the back deck of my husband’s grandmother’s house. That one flower was perfuming the entire side of the property. I had never experienced freesia before, and she told me she had planted bulbs in that planter something like 30 years before, and that one flower was the only one left and it still came up every year.

    That was in the early 80s, and I still have not found anything even remotely resembling freesia, except…..walking through the cleaning products section of the local grocery store when we lived in Western Washington around 1990, I got the distinct smell of freesia. I was sniffing along the shelves and I can’t remember if it was a detergent or a fabric softener, but at some point around 1990, a perfumer for household products managed to hit on the closest freesia scent I have experienced outside of the flower.

    • Hester says:

      Huh! Isn’t that just great, finding it, then putting it in some stupid product!

  • Ann says:

    They are delightful, aren’t they? Wish I knew of a great freesia scent, but I’ve only heard of the Diptyque you mentioned. Surely there’s got to be one around somewhere. We’ll just have to keep looking …

  • Poodle says:

    I don’t know of any good freesia scents. My aunt used to have a candle that smelled pretty close but that was years ago and I have no idea where she got it and doubt she would remember.

  • Patty White says:

    I agree with nozknoz – tough to find the perfect freesia scent. Most of them smell too sweet and plasticky, they just don’t get the real flower at all.

  • nozknoz says:

    It’s hard to beat the warm yellow color!

    I don’t think I’ve found anything that smells like real freesia – it really is one of the loveliest notes. Too bad Roudnitska didn’t think of planting freesias instead (or in addition to) of lilies of the valley!