The aldehydic floral perfume is iconic. Jean Patou Joy is remembered by many as the greatest perfume of the 20th century, and Chanel No 5 is the definition of perfume to generations. The mythology of the aldehyde is somewhere between urban legend and factoid thanks to No 5: someone dumped buckets of aldehydes into a floral base and the baby Jesus was born.
But the floral aldehyde does have its risks. At one end of the spectrum is the punch in the face, Estée Lauder Lauder White Linen, and at the other, the limp handshake, Guerlain Chant d'Aromes. Granted, this leaves a large middle ground for success, but in that middle ground is another risk: the nondescript perfume. Throngs of faceless perfumes led entire generations to think of aldehydic perfumes as soapy and nondescript.
But look at the successful perfumes. The aldehyde serves as an important modifier, but because it seems to work differently in each perfume, it comes off as a wildcard to the perfume wearer. To Van Cleef and Arpels First, it gives backbone. It allows the perfume to hold together green, animalic and bright white tones without flying apart. In Robert Piguet Baghari, the aldehyde gives that electric shock, like someone's just grabbed your ass. To No 5, aldehydes lend a specificity, an unspeakable clarity. It's hard to put words to it, but you'd never mistake No 5 for anything else.
It Noontide Petals, the rush of aldehydes at the opening of the fragrance gives a tremendous feeling of acceleration. In one nose-full you're carried straight to the center of the fragrance. Once you’re up to speed, you recognize parts of the aldehyde package. The sparkle, the cleanliness, the smile. In Noontide Petals, the aldehyde does exactly what it was intended to do. It focuses your attention on the flowers. The buoyancy of the aldehyde makes the rose appear hyperrealistic at first, but with time I realize the aldehyde and the rose are just perfectly balanced.
And here is aldehyde's specific gift to this perfume. Noontide Petals is a study in tenderness. It shows that tenderness is grounded and deliberate. It’s an attribute, not a lack of deficits. Tenderness leads to consideration and reflection, two states I find myself in when I wear Noontide Petals. There are perfumes that are the well-considered products of thoughtful perfumers. But there aren't many that consistently prompt a state of thoughtfulness.