I admit I was a bit scared of this scent. And at the same time fascinated. Since its inception, Grandiflora’s Boronia Eau de Parfum has basically been on a world tour – via the renowned Pitti Fragrance fair in Florence – and a bunch of international reviewers posted tantalising reviews online before a carpet of rose petals was finally laid down in the cool doorway of the tiny Grandiflora flower shop in Potts Point, and the humble flower was welcomed home.
In case you’re not up on flower facts, there’s a contradiction to boronia flowers. While teeny, their scent is heady. But not in the classic white flower way, soft and sultry. It’s not the pretty feminine scent of a classic rose either. It’s a scent you’d know if, like me, you had a scrappy childhood hunting lizards on warm rocks down by the local creek. It’s a raw, sweet smell that mingles with brittle native grasses, sharp points getting stuck on your clothes as you brush past, snapping stems. Sugar ants crawl along the edge of eucalyptus leaves to reach them as the sun beats down. The wind is hot but the red earth is damp, as you uncover flat stones to scrape out secret messages to your mates into the lichen-covered escarpments.
So yeah, I had a pretty specific expectation of how a boronia should smell.
While by the sounds of things, superstar Grandiflora florist Saskia Havekes might have had that kind of childhood too, I was guessing that if your name is Bertrand Duchaufour, you spent your youth a little differently. This is master perfumer Duchaufour’s second scent for Grandiflora. His first, Queen of the Night, is an intoxicating, voluptuous white floral centred around the diva of a flower, showing for one night only every year. A different bloom to boronia in pretty much every way.
Duchaufour, so I read in those reviews, was taking the very particular profile of the boronia bush and making it classically French, opulent, gourmand even. How would notes of cognac and caramel merge with my scrappy little brown blossom?
You know what? Pretty well (good job, Bert).
He opens Boronia with a rich, ripe apricot, and I already get some of the sweet smell of tobacco underneath. I’m seeing colours and they’re deeply golden, sunny, resinous. Revealed within these big notes is the initial sweetness of my earthy, leathery little boronia cups. There’s a dry, straw-like note that catches in the throat of that rich opening. The underlying landscape of the scent is smooth as suede but the raw character of boronia is expressed onto it with beautiful nuance.
As those fruity notes start to fade, Boronia expands extraordinarily, opening out like a lazy afternoon into something rugged (Clayton’s word, I’m stealing it because it’s perfect), and at the same time sweetly nostalgic (hello, caramel). There’s a powdery element too – apparently it’s violet – that contributes to that idyllic feeling for me. It’s intimate yet open, it’s not ‘pretty’ but I definitely find Boronia feminine, in a freckled fashion. That boozy cognac note that freaked me out in the description doesn’t send the scent towards ‘bro’s-in-da-club’ at all (as if it was ever going to, sorry Bert for not trusting you). But I’m starting to feel a little drunk. There is some new facet of the scent to recognise in every moment, secrets being uncovered, side stories being told, and I understand why Duchaufour’s approach is labelled “operatic”.
Right on time, the temperature of Boronia starts to cool. A smokiness emerges. Cool dry woods take over, there’s a vaguely medicinal vibe here, like anise tea, and for the next few hours this comforting base lingers in a beautiful twilight. It’s time to head home from the creek before it gets too dark.
Grandiflora Boronia Eau de Parfum $145 from Libertine Parfumerie.