Monday Question – Which Are The Best Fragrance Flankers?

By Tara

Do you think flankers offer an opportunity to re-work an existing fragrance in a new and exciting way?

Or do you think flankers are usually a cynical attempt to cash in on a successful perfume, often with little creativity on display?

In your opinion, which are best flankers available today?

question-markMy Answer:

Usually I can’t help but sigh at the release of yet another perfume flanker. There are just so many of them these days that even the flankers have flankers. Once in a while though, one will come along that re-interprets a fragrance in an inspiring, interesting and perhaps more wearable way. I would cite the following as examples of some of the best:

N°5 Eau Première, Chanel

Shalimar Ode a la Vanille, Guerlain

Infusion d’Iris Absolue, Prada

And finally because it has had the power to turn our own Olfactoria into a perfume monogamist (at least for a while) –

L’Ambre des Merveilles, Hermès

Now it’s over to you. What are your views on flankers and which are your favourites?


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64 Responses to Monday Question – Which Are The Best Fragrance Flankers?

  1. Jordan River says:

    Well Tara, it’s a great commercial idea to increase sales from a best selling product. Tweak it and release for a small outlay rather than developing something groundbreaking and risky. But we are not really interested in such crassificity. Do companies then pour (flanker) money back into artistic development? Creative and even seasonal twists should be welcome but there are so few that really add to ones enjoyment of the original juice. Mugler’s leathers were worthwhile flankers. Are EDP’s considered flankers or iterations? When these have been released some time after an EDT I have bought them expecting to be swept away. In each case I preferred the original Philosykos and Terre d’Hermès. Superb choices by the way (yours above) but look at the houses. They delivered. Tempted by L’Eau Bleue D’Issey pour Homme, but not for the juice (a new take on water if you please). For the beauty of the lapis lazuli bottle, (ha, we have been here before!) which is silver capped and so so streamlined.

    • Tara says:

      You make many great points there Jordan. Too often flankers are just an opportunity to milk even more money out of a perfume that’s proved to be a cash cow. Like many businesses (and some popular arts even) it’s much easier and safer to do a twist on something that’s already proved to be winner.

      Mugler’s leather interpretations do sound really innovative and well done.

    • Undina says:

      I don’t think different concentrations should be considered as flankers in most cases (though some of them – e.g. Mugler’s Angel EdT definitely are).

      Jordan, do you really smell the difference between Terre d’Hermess EdT, EdP and parfum? I tried all three and couldn’t find anything to separate them other than longevity.

      • Jordan River says:

        Outflanked by Undina! I did wander off topic to concentrations. It was the extra strength of TDH that I didn’t like. So same smell but +++. Was too much (for me). Philosykos was a different smell, more than slightly, a heavier scent. I liked it’s lightness as a EDT.

      • Jordan River says:

        meant Outflanked by Undina with LOL’s!

  2. brie says:

    Agreed on the Ambre…finally got a chance to try it at my relatively “local” Sephora and I found it to be much better than the original and understand B’s obsession with it. However, I do tend to shy away from” flankers” these days…there are just too many of them I cannot keep up with trying so I have just given up!
    Not sure if these are considered flankers but after Escada came out with its original perfume they began producing yearly limited editions-same shaped bottles but muted glass in different colors. I have religiously been purchasing those since 1994 not for the juice but rather because I like the bottles!

    • Tara says:

      brie, we just can’t get away from those beautiful bottles lately! Beauty is definitely the theme of the year. It sounds like you have a very striking collection.

      I totally agree that one of the many issues with flankers is that they seem to multiply like rabbits, so it’s impossible to keep up.

  3. Alexandra says:

    I am slowly coming round to the well thought out flanker… while they do seem, more often than not, to be a sly marketing ploy there are some truly lovely ones out there that reveal a different side to the original. While trying to come up with my favourites I realised that you had already beaten me to them Tara, so hurrah for your lovely list. I still am not a fan of No. 5 (I’m not giving back my perfume membership card) but I am beginning to come round to Eau Premiere. But my best flankers award definitely goes to Shalimar, against all expectations I like Shalimar Initial a lot, and as for the Ode a la Vanille I may just (just) prefer it to the original (ok now you can have my perfume membership card back…) I just wish, wish WISH Guerlain would bring the 2012 Ode a la Vanille something something Madagascar to London (pretty please).

    • Tara says:

      No need to give back your perfumista card, Alex! I think a lot of us (me included) find the No. 5 and Shalimar flankers a lot easier to wear than originals.

      I really wish that Shalimar Madagascar flanker would come to the UK too!

  4. poodle says:

    I’m not a fan of flankers but I do agree that there have been a handful of good ones. I like some of the Mugler ones. I think some of them improve on a theme but some are just an obvious money grab. I hate the ones that are supposed to be a lighter version of a scent. If I want lighter, I’ll spray less on, I don’t need to buy a whole new fragrance. Some flankers are different enough from the original that they should have just been a stand alone fragrance, like the Poison flankers. Overall I think there are too many flankers and I wish perfume companies would put more time and effort into releasing more worthwhile scents instead of making minor tweaks to existing ones.

    • Tara says:

      poodle, you’re so right about the Poison flankers. Hypnotic Poison is a good perfume but has little if anything to do with the original. It feels like they’re just using an established name to bring in the punters.

  5. Vanessa says:

    Parfum Initial if you consider that a Shalimar flanker? Loving it more and more. Also agree on Eau Premiere but I don’t get on at all with Ambre des Merveilles. I do, however, highly rate Eau Claire des Merveilles (name is approximate!). I also think Agent Provocateur’s flankers are good on the whole, notably Eau Emotionelle and L’Agent.

    • Tara says:

      I definitely count Parfum Initial as a Shalimar flanker. I think that one and Eau Premiere offer a more youthful and wearable alternative to the originals, which makes them worthwhile.

      Agent Provocateur’s flankers are a good call. I remember Katie Puckrik liking the Diamond Dust version and thinking it smells different to original AP – although I don’t think it’s supposed to.

  6. Lynley says:

    Hi Tara, hi everyone 🙂 I can’t help but just get annoyed at flankers for the most part these days. They’re out of control! 🙂 I do like the parfum versions of Voyage and Terre d’Hermes, though I wouldn’t exactly call them flankers as they’re the same fragrance.. I can only think of one flanker I like as much as the original and that’s Balenciaga l’essence. Haven’t tried the rose version yet so it may all yet be downhill from here :-/

    • Tara says:

      Hi Lynley!

      Flankers are pretty much out of control these days, it’s true. I wouldn’t consider new concentrations as flankers either.

      At least you’ve found love in L’Essence. I hope you’re not disappointed by L’Eau Rose!

  7. I typically stay away from flankers because in my mind it always seems like a marketing ploy and a way to make more money for the company. Given that though, for some reason I am drawn to the Shalimar Vanille like a siren song!

    • Tara says:

      The majority of flankers are the result of a pretty cynical marketing ploy but I think you’re right to make an exception for the Shalimar flankers. Guerlain has put the work in and as a result, they are something special.

  8. Annina (nina) says:

    I’m generally jaded and roll my eyes when it comes to flankers, but I love L’Amber de Merv, Hypnotic and Pure Poison, Shalimar Initial, No.5 Eau Premier, Cco Mademoiselle, Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, and Leather Angel.

    • Tara says:

      You’re right, nina – a new flanker is greeted by an eye roll from most of us I think. I love your picks though! Voile de Fleur is great and I do love the sound of that leather Angel.

  9. Hey Tara,
    I really want to try the Madonna Truth or Dare Naked and I have an Opium men’s summer flanker, plus eau de Shalimar, mainly I walk past them but I always love the JPG Le Male summer flanker bottles and own Fleur du Male. One of the Kenzo flankers for Flower was good but I spritzed in store and by the time I’d decided I liked it, GONE.
    Do you think that with all the extra IFRA regulations that we may see a huge flanker jump, so they can keep the name but with legal ingredients?
    Portia xxx

    • Tara says:

      Hey Portia!
      Thanks for commenting during your travels.

      That Madonna flanker does sound intriguing, I must say.

      You last remark is really interesting. You may well be right. We could end up with a similar situation to the one we’ve had with Miss Dior, where the compliant flankers usurp the originals. Rather worrying.

  10. Olfactoria says:

    Your list is my list, Tara! 🙂

  11. susan says:

    Rehashing some of the above:
    -Hypnotic Poison
    -No. 5 Eau Premiere
    -JPG Le Male flankers (the summer ones are nice)
    -Mugler flankers… liqueur, “taste of,” and my personal faves, the leathers…

    Adding one that I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned, Allure Homme Edition Blanche is a flanker that I find to be better than the original, in fact, the best of the rather boring Allure Homme family.

    And while I don’t personally care for it, I know that many would consider Coco Mademoiselle the best flanker of all time. Certainly one of the best selling!

    • Tara says:

      Susan, searching for a good flanker can be like looking for a needle in a haystack so it’s no wonder the same names are coming up. Thanks for adding the Allure one.

      You’re right about Coco Mademoiselle – it certainly does have its fans.

  12. Dominic says:

    I’ll repeat after a few of you, Eau Premiere is very good flanker, I also adore Cristalle Eau Verte, these two are the last good flankers from Chanel. I really liked Angel Innocent, even though I’m and Angel devotee now. Oh, and Boss Orange Sunset, I was surprised myself I likes it and bought that one. I enjoyed the smell of Rush 2 by Gucci, Eternity Moment and L’Eau de Chloe, they are quite well done.

  13. lucasai says:

    Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue

  14. Tania Duffy says:

    Palix and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec both insist these new arrivals are not to be confused with flankers, industry parlance for spin-offs (i.e. how Beyoncé’s Heat was followed by Heat Rush).

    • Tara says:

      Hi Tania
      Yes we’re focusing on the “spin-off” flankers today, rather than original perfumes. Though I can see that some sound like a flanker when they’re actually a completely new composition.

  15. There is a sub-category of flankers that I have dubbed “prequels” (they sound like earlier versions of the original). I tend to like these : No 5 Eau première; Shalimar Parfum initial. Each has a distinct fingerprint, yet you can tell they share DNA with the original.

    I think Eau des Merveilles has a good crop of flankers. They meet my personal standards for flankers, which I guess are the same as for “prequels”: each has a distinct fingerprint, yet can tell they share DNA.

    • Tara says:

      I really love your description of flankers – perfumes sharing the same DNA as the original. That’s spot-on for a true flanker. I also like the way you say some of them sound like “prequels” because of their names, quite true.

      The Eau des Merveilles flankers are top quality but that’s Hermes for you.

  16. I do not know whether or not “L” by Lolita Lempicka is a flanker. I prefer it to the original, and
    especially enjoy it in cold weather. I gave several of my young relatives choices for their Christmas fragrance, and they chose “L”. It’s a comforting scent.
    I am making a list of several of the ones mentioned. I’ve yet to find Amber des Merveilles or Hypnotic Poison.

    • Tara says:

      L is not a flanker to Lolita Lempicka as far as I know and they are so completely different, but someone may correct me. I can imagine L is a very comforting scent all the same and perfect for winter.

      Amber des Merveilles and Hypnotic Poison are well worth checking out if you do come across them one day.

    • Melis says:

      Hey Anita, I own both L’ambre and Hypnotic Poison. I would happily send you some samples if you would like.

  17. I think I generally roll my eyes when I see a new flanker. However, I will also admit that a good fragrance is a good fragrance, flanker or not. I love the entire Merveilles series from Hermès. Dior Hypnotic Poison is terrific, even if it doesn’t exactly resemble Poison much if at all. The vanilla variations on Shalimar are wonderful too, as are the leather plays on the Mugler fragrances. Did you ever try the gourmand ones? I missed out on those but I heard they were nice too!

    • Tara says:

      You are absolutely right. A good fragrance is a good fragrance, whether it’s a flanker or not. It would be foolish to count them out completely, even if 90% are less than great!

      Sadly I haven’t tried the gourmand Muglers but I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.

  18. Like others above I love the Mugler flankers — I own more of the flankers than the originals! In the case of Alien, I don’t really care for the original, but I really like some of the flankers, especially the Ambre d’Or Sunessence version.

    I also think Sensuous Noir is better than the original Sensuous. And there was a mimosa version of Amarige a while back that was better than the original too.

    • Tara says:

      Good call on the Sensuous Noir. It had a bit of a niche feel to it which is very unlike Estee Lauder!

      I think I would probably prefer the Mugler flankers to the originals too.

  19. laniersmith says:

    Oh golly what a question. I am still just getting to know the originals! flankers only confuse me. Why don’t they give the new creations a brand new identity? I know why…Marketing. Oh Well.

    • Tara says:

      Flankers are confusing because there are so many. These days a new perfume has bearly had time to establish itself before its flanker comes along. It’s hard to keep up.

      Besides the limited number of exceptions already mentioned, you’re really not missing much 🙂

  20. Undina says:

    My knee-jerk reaction was to join everybody else in condemning flankers with rare exceptions. And it was my position for a long-long time. But then I started thinking… Flankers are usually done for the mainstream perfumes. Is it true that good flankers are more rare than good mainstream perfumes? Or do they appear in the same proportion? Also, other than personal preferences, are there actually good flankers for bad perfumes? Or bad flankers for a good one? I don’t have answers.

    • Tara says:

      You always analyse things so well Undina. It’s always good to get your take, even if you don’t have all the answers. Niether do I, but off the top of my head I’d say that you usually get good flankers from good perfumes. I can’t think of a bad perfume that has a good flanker. I’d also say we could name many more good mainstream perfumes than flankers, going on the MQ I asked about that the other month.

      Judging by the comments so far, it seems the best houses for flankers are Hermes and Mugler.


      • annemariec says:

        People say that Organza Indecence is better than the original Organza. I remember thinking Organza nothing special but I have not smelled OI. Somehow there is a psychological block. If you don’t like the original, it’s hard to get excited about testing the flanker. Most of us have a ‘to test’ list a mile long anyway!

  21. Joan says:

    Here’s the millionth vote for No. 5 Eau Premiere and Hypnotic Poison.

  22. Natalie says:

    I am indifferent to flankers as a concept, *except* when they have ridiculous names like Eau de Rose Blu Premiere a la Vanille de la Paris e Milano – EAU FRESH. 😉 Other than that, I take the good with the bad. I agree with Eau Premiere and most of the Eau de Merveilles flankers, honestly. I also think Angel EDT and Sensuous Nude were very good flankers.

    • Tara says:

      Ha ha! Yeah the names for flankers (and the flanker’s of flankers particularly) can be really funny. Didn’t B say that soon we’d be getting Marc Jacobs Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang?!

      Thanks for mentioning Sensuous Nude. I think we’ve only had Sensuous Noir so far.

  23. I do love a good flanker, but it does have to be a ‘good’ flanker. The ones I love are the ones that play off the theme of the original like the Mugler flankers or even the Poisons, each one playing up a different facet of the one before.

    I’m also with you and others who ‘dig’ Eau Premiere and Parfum Initial. Them be some good scents there. In fact, I probably wear Parfum Initial more than I wear Shalimar. Sacrilege, no?

  24. Tara says:

    No not sacrilege at all! There is a time for both but to me PI is clearly easier to “spray and go” on all sorts of occasions.

    I agree that some of the most interesting flankers play up a particular facet of the original, which can bring a new appreciation of it.

    From your post the other day it seems Dali loves a flanker too!

  25. Philipp says:

    Another vote for Infusion d’Iris Absolue by Prada. For me it is even better than the original which I won’t repurchase as long as the Absolue is available.

  26. Das says:

    In addition to several mentioned above – Alien Essence Absolue, L’Ambre de Merveilles, and Sensuous Nude – I preferred Kenzo’s Amour Indian Holi to the original. In all cases, I really wanted to love the originals, but felt like the flankers were softened up, not to be lighter per se…it’s hard to explain but it’s like the flankers smell less bitter or less synthetic, which is better in my book. So I don’t blindly dismiss any flankers! 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Das, I think it’s a fair point. Sometimes the flankers can be smoother, more wearable versions of the originals.

      You’re right, it’s good not to dismiss all flankers out of hand – it’s just there are so many of them!

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