A Week of Violets III: Penhaligon’s Violetta

The last review of this week’s joint blog project concerns Penhaligon’s Violetta.  You can go check out Redolent of Spices and Scent of the Day for more violet scent reviews, as well as my list of violet scents

Violetta, created in 1976, is a straightforward violet fragrance.  That’s more or less what you need to know – except that where many other violet soliflores tend toward either the powdery (Borsari Violetta di Parma) or candy-sweet (Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse), Penhaligon’s is all flower and leaf.

The official notes, according to Penhaligon’s,  include citruses, geranium, violet, sandalwood, cedarwood, and musk.  However, I’m almost sure there’s some violet leaf in there too – it’s quite sharp and green for quite some time, and has a spicy, aromatic quality that seems to indicate violet leaf.

From the Penhaligon’s website:

Created in 1976, Violetta is a dark, dusky and mysterious fragrance suffused with the achingly nostalgic purity of violets. Surprisingly green and sharp to begin with, it becomes lush and velvety as it develops. The sweet violets are complimented by green notes of garden geranium and supported by subtle woods and musks at the base. One of our most surprising fragrances, it captures the elusive violet with incredible clarity and potency.

“Surprising?” Not really; like I said earlier, it’s pretty much all violet leaves and blooms.  Violetta begins with the bright, clean green note of violet leaf, and the intense sweetness of deep purple violets.  It stays here for most of its three-hour experiment, with an interesting spicy accent and a floral freshness to its heart – it’s violets All The Time, but for me very much like crushed fresh plants: no powder, no candy.  Which is the way I like my violet scents, to be honest.  The light woody drydown gradually becomes apparent during the last hour.  There’s a whisper of musk, too, but not enough to be distracting, and I think this restrained, woody drydown may be the part of the fragrance that really sells me on it.  It’s not entirely masculine, but there’s a dryness from the cedar and sandalwood that keeps Violetta from being wholly girly, like the Goutal La Violette.    Too, it’s reminiscent of a walk through the woods, complete with patches of blooming violets among the trees. 

This is an Eau de Toilette, and like most EdTs, it doesn’t have great staying power.  I don’t mind that, though – three hours of this beauty is well worth it.  After testing as many violet fragrances as I could get my hands on (oh, there are more I haven’t gotten to yet, but at last count my Violet Scents Tested list numbered 24!), I still think Violetta is my favorite violet solflore, with Soivohle Violets and Rainwater as runner-up.  It blends well with other fragrances, it stays fresh and clean and woody-floral, and that bottle is just darling.  I need one.  My decant is rapidly disappearing.

Here’s a review of the talcum powder formulation of Violetta, by Jessica at Now Smell This, and a brief review by Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Image of perfume bottle is from Fragrantica.com; image of blooming violet is from Wikipedia Commons.


15 thoughts on “A Week of Violets III: Penhaligon’s Violetta”

  1. I’m hoping a question about another small, blue, early-spring, wildflower won’t be too off-topic here … and was wondering if you’d ever tried Penhaligon’s Bluebell?

    I find the idea of a perfume that smells like a bluebell woods quite charming, but have seen enough harsh comments about Bluebell online that I haven’t gotten around to trying a sample.

    1. Oh, no, Liza, ask away!

      I have tried Bluebell, and I absolutely loved the first five minutes, which were full of a spicy-green, heady hyacinth smell, just like the bulbs that bloom in my yard in the spring. Unfortunately, it then skewed chemical… I mean, industrial-accident chemical, a Union Carbide truck overturned on the interstate. AWWWWWFUL. Hideous. One of the few I actually had to scrub off.

      I think I already swapped my sample away, or I’d offer it to you. (Wait, does that make me a bad friend if I give you something I hated?)

      1. Many thanks for your response. You’ve confirmed my decision to hold enough trying it until such time as I can spray it in a store.

        Nah, not a bad friend at all, especially if it saved me from buying a sample 😉

    1. Hm, dunno… you have echoing green stuff there, maybe. No. 19 kicks butt. I love it. Never thought to layer those two, though.

      What I REALLY want is a scent that combines black tea and violets.

  2. Another fantastic review! I must try this! Green + violets + a woody drydown, no candy in sight? Sounds a treat!

    I was also keen on trying Bluebell, but I don’t think I could deal with the disappointment, going from green goodness to train wreck!

    Penhaligons is such a hit and miss house for me. I love Elixir with all my heart, Night Scented Stock was unfocused and gave me a headache, Amaranthine is gorgeous, and Malabah was Malaboring.

    Angie Cox: Your suggestion of Violetta layered with No.19? I will be trying this asap!

    1. It really is very nice, Joan. I was disappointed at how little I liked Bluebell, too, especially with how lovely it was at very first sniff. Grrr.

      I still haven’t tried Elixir on skin, but I didn’t like Night Scented Stock either. Amaranthigh is terrific (not skanky on me at all, wonder why?), though.

  3. This sounds like another possible Penhaligon’s purchase for me. I’ll have to go sniff it. I love Amarantine and Orange Blossom, and I’m really digging Elixer lately. I hated Bluebell too. Thanks for doing this with me, it was fun!

    1. Soivohle Violets & Rainwater, maybe. (Google soivohle or liz zorn to get to the website.) Or the Annick Goutal La Violette, which is much girlier and more floral, but doesn’t have the green notes. Or maybe Les Nez The Unicorn Spell, that’s another green notes+violet scent, with a silvery sort of angle. But I think that it might have those light woody notes in the base, too.

      I would mention, though, that it’s not heavily woody, just a very light woody note to go with a very light musk, totally inoffensive and not very masculine at all. I get the impression that the woody and musk notes are just there to extend the scent on skin so it doesn’t taper off into nothing too soon – it’s not ABOUT woods, if that makes sense.

  4. Thank you! I’m actually wearing Violetta right now and I love everything about it except that light woody note, which isn’t that noticeable unless I really pay attention, but it’s there and my skin and nose do not like it!
    I have been eyeing Annick Goutal La Violette but no one seems to have it. The department stores also seem to be having issues with their AG distribution lately.
    I’ve never tried Soivohle fragrances before but they sound lovely.

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