Florals as a category often get maligned by perfume hobbyists. I think they’re considered quaint and that liking them demonstrates a sort of naivté about perfume. ‘There, there, darling. In a few years you’ll find your way to the chypres and leathers.’ I couldn’t disagree more, and First is my evidence. It’s true that well-executed florals tend to demonstrate beauty principally in the same way that ambers tend to demonstrate lushness and chypres, austerity. I think that Huge Florals such as First can hang onto beauty while giving complexity both in the moment and over time. ‘Floral’ alone doesn’t entirely capture it (there are aldehydes, hedione, woods, amber and civet) but if you must put a word to it, floral is best.
First is luxurious and expansive out of the bottle. The first sniff is just radiant. But over time the thrill is the way it moves from chord to chord so seamlessly. You don’t notice any abrupt changes, but the movement isn’t hidden from you either. You feel a slow, steady inertia as First moves out from its center. And while I agree with people’s description of First as symphonic, it is the dissonance that keeps me glued. Yes, aldehydes, white flowers and hedione give that swirling bouquet feel, but the civet, narcissus and I believe tonka focus on something dark beneath the bouquet. And since these elements are the ones that last, that beautiful morning feel at the start gives way to a glamorous twilight.
I know that First’s style of perfumery is considered a bit retro, and that, in general, the symphonic floral has been supplanted by simpler linear woody florals and the fruity floral, but First is still relevant. It is sweepingly gorgeous and makes you stop and think. This is the experience of perfume that I hope never dies.
Note: If you love Amouage Gold or Gold Men (I do) but can’t bear to pay the price (I can’t) try First. It is similar to both and sits somewhere between the two in tone, huge and bright like Gold, animalic like Gold Men.