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Nose to Nose – Our Top 10 Scents for April – Violet Notes - April 2, 2014

Photo - Wikimedia Commons - Violet or purpleflower


Kay:     You know, I always crave violets in April.

Gwen: Well, they are harbingers of spring, that’s for sure, and one of my favourite plants. Did you know that violet is the only flower that is recognized as a bona fide colour? According to Wikipedia, violet has its own place at the end of the visible spectrum, and was one of the seven colors of the spectrum first described by Isaac Newton in 1672.

Kay:     Neat! There’s something else about violets – they’re quirky, at least some of them are. Some Viola varieties have an elusive, disappearing scent!  Their scent has a ketone compound called ionone which temporarily desensitizes the receptors in our nose, which prevents us smelling it anymore, until the nerves recover. Tricky, eh?

Gwen: Funny how ‘shy’ violet is a natural tease – maybe that’s so we won’t pick ’em all. All this talk about violets has got me thinking about violet fragrances.

Kay:     I think perfumes based on violets are perfect for April. Which one is your fave?

Gwen: Well, there’s the challenge. Violets have so many different aspects for perfumers to play with. I mean, the flower smells earthy and powdery, or it can smell candy sweet, and the leaves can smell metallic and green - which means there are a lot of great violet frags out there. It’s really hard to choose, but #1 on my list has to be La Violette by Annick Goutal.

The metallic violet at the start, sweetened by red fruits, smells like the little purple violet candies my English aunt used to send me when I was a child. Then it gets tangy and green, and smells more natural - of flower, leaf and stem - as if it were a little bouquet of violets. The perfect evocation of spring.

Kay:     My fave is Violet Empire. It’s been at the top of my “violet list” forever – I just can’t quit it. Violet Empire is more the leafy smell - green, green, green, with mint, woods and leather notes, and just the merest hint of sweet violet. It has a “moment in time” quality to it, and to me, it epitomizes the smell of spring.

Gwen: I know exactly what you mean. You know, that puts me in mind of another fave –  Balenciaga Paris. That green, metallic note from violet leaves at the start that settles to a soft, creamy violet playing hide-and-seek with carnation and resting on an earthy-woody patchouli and labdanum base. Like spring itself, it flirts and teases with the promise of warmer days and shorter nights to come.

Kay:     Another of my Faves? Bois de Violette, which is fuller and shinier than Violet Empire, but still resinous and damp-smelling at first – like wet cedar, green leaves, forest floor. And the middle stage and dry-down really showcase the purple violet bloom as it sweetens. Even though it’s by Serge Lutens, it dries down into a light scent that sits on your skin, and delicately wafts. I think it’s perfect for men and women.

Gwen: Serge Lutens and violets? Mais oui! You know that violets go both ways?

Kay:     You mean it’s non-discriminating and not gender specific because it’s used in men’s colognes, too, just like bergamot, lavender, and rose….

Gwen: Yeah, because of its earthiness, I guess. I mean, one of my all-time fave violet frags is for men - Dans tes Bras by Frédéric Malle. The violet warmed by clove at the opening is well, potent and leads to a warm woodsy, spicy, earthy scent. It smells of intimacy.

Kay:     Wow!, I wanna try that one! One of my very favourite men’s scents is Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene, and it’s got a HUGE dose of violet in it. It lands a one-two punch right out of the bottle – bitter galbanum, herbs and dried citrus followed with a thick cloud of dark green violet leaf. This opening salvo is just a strategy to get your attention, because the intense greenness starts to change to a sweet grass and violet-rose, with iris and pale almond in the heart, and oakmoss and woods in the base - cool, mossy, woody, very smooth, and very very classy.

Gwen: Isn’t that an old-timey men’s scent?

Kay:     You mean a “classic’? Yeah, from 1975 – but it still smells wonderful and very contemporary, like expensive niche!

Gwen: Speaking of niche, I do love the way some niche perfumers play with the violet note, so Violette Fumée by Mona di Orio has to be on my list. This one has a tender violet at the heart bolstered by lush Turkish rose with tendrils of soft, smoky pipe tobacco snaking through it, followed by violet leaf, green and fresh. Warmed by spicy saffron, Violette Fumée smoulders on a resinous base of opoponax, bitter myrrh and musky, woody cashmeran. Oh, I need a moment….

Kay:     Mmm, I know exactly what you mean. Violette in Love by Patricia de Nicolai always  does that to me. Her vision takes the green and purple of the violet plant and mixes in other colours -  yellow citrus, pink pepper, red raspberry, red rose and pale iris are added to the violet heart notes, black pepper, coriander and musk add spice and fullness to the base - flesh to the perfume bones, so to speak. Violette in Love is luscious and full and round!

Wikimedia Commons - Visible Colour Spectrum

Gwen: Let’s not forget violets and leather - violet smells fabulous when paired with leather notes. Very sexy! Which is your sexy Violet?

Kay:     My sexy Violet is Jolie Madame by the iconic Germaine Cellier for Balmain – another “oldie” that has come through re-formulation relatively unscathed.  It opens with lush green violet leaves, mixed with light citrus and spice, and then reveals its sweeter heart of white florals, rose, and iris, still shaded in the green violet green leaves. Oakmoss, patchouli, and vetiver, then musk, civet and the unmistakable smoky leather base-notes turn Jolie Madame into a fascinating femme fatale, with a dark uninhibited side that begs to be explored.

Gwen: Uninhibited makes me think of Stephen Jones from Comme des Garcons. That opening shock of intense violet and cold aldehydes – wow - gorgeous right from the start. At the heart, the violet gets even  more intense, and clove adds  hints of spicy warmth, but it never loses it cool edge, and it never gets sweet. This is my favourite violet frag of all.

Kay:     Wait a minute! I thought La Violette was your favourite violet frag?

Gwen: Hmmm, you’re right – I get so carried away when I’m sniffing violets. Can we start over again?

Click on the links and read about these gorgeous violet scents, then try a few, and wake up your nose to the smells of Spring!