Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!

This image, from Wikimedia Commons, makes me think of the Prince lyric, "An ocean of violets in bloom" (from "When Doves Cry").
This image, from Wikimedia Commons, makes me think of the Prince lyric, “An ocean of violets in bloom” (from “When Doves Cry”).

I already did a post, five years ago, on violet fragrances (The Big Violet List, November 2010). But here I am wearing violets again, so I thought I’d revisit the topic. (And yes, I still hate purple. Don’t let’s dwell, ‘kay?)

Miss Piggy with Carol Channing. Probably from The Muppet Show; I don't remember this episode, but I bet it was an inspired duet.
Miss Piggy with Carol Channing, singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” on The Muppet Show, 1980.

Just for fun, here’s a three-second “Violet” clip from 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”  I was always troubled by that movie’s divergence from the book, when the book was perfectly excellent as it was! However, I loved Gene Wilder. And I loved Veruca Salt’s paean to hedonistic selfishness, “I Want It Now,” with its delightful, horrible lyric, “I want a party with roomfuls of laughter/Ten thousand tons of ice cream/And if I don’t get the things I am after/ I’m . . . going . . . to . . . scream!” (Taz can sing the heck outta that, btw.)

If you're telling me you don't see it, you should maybe get your eyes checked, stat.
If you’re telling me you don’t see it, you should maybe get your eyes checked. I mean, stat. Eerie. They eyebrows are not helping.

The 2005 Tim Burton version with Johnny Depp was equally disturbing, but for different reasons — one of which was Depp’s appearance as the love child of Carol Channing and Michael Jackson. Ugh, it’s still creeping me out. Let’s just not talk about it, hmm? Let’s just all go read the book instead.)

Back to lovely springy violets. I’m still wearing the ones I loved in 2010, but there are a few more I’ll bring to your attention. Violets are perennial, so there are changes in the violet frag-scape all the time. Guerlain’s gorgeous violet/rose/ambreine Attrape-Coeur (or Guet-Apens, or Vol de Nuit Evasion, as it was tweaked and rereleased) is gone. Alexander McQueen’s My Queen, too.

Tom Ford Black Violet hit my radar and then disappeared within that timeframe, too. But not without my seizing one of those adorable 4ml mini bottles on ebay, despite its being what Patty at Perfume Posse called “a scary violet clown” in her long discussion of violet frags (link at the end of this post). Yeah, it’s weird, and yeah, wearing it is like forcing myself to look over the edge of the balcony at the ground sixty feet below, or like watching the disturbing but sweet “Edward Scissorhands.” (There’s another Burton/Depp collaboration for you.)  But there are days I crave it.

Balenciaga Le Dix has been gone for some time; so has Houbigant Demi-Jour and Diane von Furstenberg Volcan d’Amour. I’m not going to talk about the reformulations of Caron Violette Precieuse or L’Artisan Verte Violette  (neither of which I liked). I can’t bear to talk about the less-violet, less-heliotrope, more-iris post-2011 refo version of Guerlain Apres l’Ondee (it was basically perfect; now it’s not).

violetI won’t completely rehash The Big Violet List post – it’s easy enough to click through to read it. Here are some new ones, as well as a few I didn’t mention before :
Mona d’Orio Violette Fumee – violets and tobacco.
Van Cleef & Arpels Feerie – reportedly, a fruity violet.
DSH Perfumes La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes and Giverny in Bloom – I haven’t tried the blues-and-violets, but Giverny in Bloom is a lovely galbanum smack followed by some noticeable violet and vetiver, with too many other notes to name. Reminded me just a tad of Jolie Madame (which I love).
Imaginary Authors Violet Disguise – a plummy, dried-fruity, balsamy violet, which does not sound like my sort of thing at all.
Smell Bent Violet Tendencies – leather and violet leaf.
Giorgio Armani Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste – I have a ‘fume friend who calls this one “Grape Slushee on my suede boots.”
Balenciaga Paris – citrus, violet leaf, half a violet petal, and lots of sawdust. Nice, but dull if you ask me.
Lolita Lempicka – I can’t believe I forgot to mention this little gem, green and licorice and violet and vanilla. I first tried it in Rome and have found it delightful every time I’ve tried it since, but I still don’t feel the need to own more than a sample or two.
Tom Ford Violet Blonde – The baby-aspirin/Tang-dust chemical-orange note up top pretty much ruined this one for me, but it’s violet leaf, pepper, jasmine, iris, and some woody suede. I don’t remember much actual violet in it. Do Not Want.
Serge Lutens De Profundis – I still (still!) haven’t tried this, since Oncle Serge is not my bon ami. Also, I am wary of the chrysanthemum.
Histoires de Parfum Blanc Violette – violet, a particularly vicious violet leaf, and powdery white musk. Ehhh.
Parfums d’Empire Equistrius – powdery violet iris.
LUSH/Gorilla Kerbside Violet – violet, jasmine, woody notes.

You can find other violet lists at Perfume Posse and The Non-Blonde, as well as The Candy Perfume Boy and Blogdorf Goodman (share if you’ve found other helpful lists, too).

I’m still wearing Penhaligon’s Violetta and vintage Balmain Jolie Madame parfum, as well as YSL Paris. Now and then I have delusions of hunting up a bottle of CdG Stephen Jones, that weird but fascinating violets-blooming-on-black-lava-rock thing, since my sample is long gone.

What are your favorite violets, if you like them?

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Perfume Review: Guerlain Après l’Ondée

"Irises in the old rain garden," from jthomasross (click to follow link).
“Irises in the old rain garden,” from jthomasross (click to follow link).

As I write, spring has budded outside. The daffodils came up a week ago; the hyacinths popped out shortly after. The grass has begun to grow tall and green up from its drab winter state, and I see the tall spiky leaves of wild onions growing up through it on roadsides. The cherry trees – from wild to domesticated fruit-bearing to Japanese ornamental – are blooming in froths of white and pink lace.

When I went outside this morning to take the boys to school, no fewer than six male robins were singing their heads off from different trees, claiming their territory.

Spring has really come. And so it is time to wear one of the loveliest spring fragrances in my collection, or in anyone’s collection: Après l’Ondée. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1906, it is the softest and most wistful scent I have ever smelled. Contemporary with the Impressionist movements in painting and in music, it is a perfect expression of the soft-focus dreaminess of both Monet and Debussy, an indistinct swirl of violet and heliotrope gauzy as a silk chiffon scarf. Continue reading Perfume Review: Guerlain Après l’Ondée

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A Week of Violets II: Annick Goutal La Violette

My second review for Violet Week, a joint blog project along with Redolent of Spices and Scent of the Day, is for Annick Goutal’s La Violette.  This scent is actually a violet soliflore, where Caron Aimez-Moi is not, though it’s not as violet-focused and simple as some of the other violet scents I’ve tried. It’s part of Goutal’s “single-flower” series, which also includes Le Chevrefeuille, Le Jasmin, Neroli, Rose Absolue, and Tubereuse. Released in 2001, it was composed by Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal.

The Perfumes: The Guide review is fairly complimentary, giving it four stars and the description “vivacious, fresh and pink-cheeked,” while also mentioning a slight off smell of glue or paint thinner and comparing it to L’Artisan’s girly Drole de Rose (also four stars). I don’t get the “vivacious” description; to my mind, it’s shy and pretty and romantic instead.

Here’s part of the ad copy from the Annick Goutal website:

This fragrance is mischievous and flavorsome like a violet candy, tender as an ancient lipstick, shallow like the little stem once worn in women’s décolleté.

And from Lucky Scent:

Annick Goutal loved the subtle and extremely feminine smell of this flower. This is why Camille decided to dedicate this perfume to her mother with whom she liked to nibble lightly on violet stems to get its sweet taste.

Harmony of flower, leaves, and stem, for a floral fragrance subtly touched with a green note. When a touch of rose is added, the violet becomes even more seductive. This scent is mischievous and savory like a violet candy.

The notes for La Violette are bare-bones notes: violet leaf, violet, and rose, and darned if that isn’t just about as simple as the fragrance actually is. There may be other materials in there, but if so, they’re awfully quiet and serve only as supporting cast members technical crew. There is indeed a very fleeting haze of paint thinner or nail-polish remover in the top, but it is literally gone within seconds. There seem to be no basenotes to this fragrance: no musk, no woods, no moss… My experience with it is this: fresh green and intense violet to start, then powdery-woody violet and a bit of pale rosewater later, and then a fade into skin. The scent experience, even “sprayed wet” the way I do to increase a gentle scent’s impact and staying power, is ephemeral and light, and only lasts two to two and half hours on me.

The whole thing is about as girly and innocent and sweet as you could ever want – if you’re looking for the perfect smell for the flower girl in your wedding, this is it. If you’re looking for a fragrance to announce, “I’m harmless and lovable” to your dorm mates or new neighbors or prospective in-laws, this is it. This is actually a terrific handkerchief scent, too: the tiny hint of powder along with the sweet violets makes it extremely ladylike without calling to mind the dreaded “old lady” soubriquet. It’s perfect for wearing while lifting a flowerlike face to your young swain for that first chaste kiss, or for worshipping from afar.

It is definitely not a scent for seduction, however – it’s far too innocent for that. It’s too gentle and retiring for an office scent, too (you don’t want to smell innocent and romantic at the office, or people will dump their work on your desk and expect you to do it for them).

That said, La Violette is downright pretty. It’s as pretty and shy as the flower that inspired it. If “just pretty” tempts you, you couldn’t go wrong with this one.

Here’s a lovely review from Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Top image is from LuckyScent; lower one from Rainbows4All.

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The Big Violet List

There is something about cool weather that makes me long for violets.  I don’t know why I love violet scents, given that the violets that grow wild in this part of the country are scentless, shy little things, and I have never smelled fresh Parma violets.  I keep coming across them in novels, and have always loved the idea of them – small purple flowers with a heavenly fragrance.

Violet Week is coming up the first week of November!  You can read reviews of several violet scents at Redolent of Spices and at Scent of the Day, as well as here at Muse in Wooden Shoes.  I’ll be reviewing Caron Aimez-Moi, Annick Goutal La Violette, and Penhaligon’s Violetta.  Others to be featured include: Creed Love in Black, Parfums de Nicolai Violette in Love, Soivohle Violets & Rainwater, Guerlain Attrape-Coeur, CB I Hate Perfume Violet Empire, Balmain Jolie Madame, and (maybepossiblyI hope) Stephen Jones for Comme des Garcons.

Violet was one of the first notes I explored upon becoming interested in perfume, and I’ve tried quite a long list of violet scents, both soliflores and violets-in-composition.  Violets, composed largely of ionones and irones, can have fruity, powdery, woody, and/or sweet aspects as well as the expected floral ones, and you may enjoy some of those aspects while not enjoying others.

If you’re interested in investigating violet as a note, here is a compendium of the violet scents of which I’m aware, along with brief descriptions of the ones I’ve tried, to help you get started.  I hope you find at least a few you enjoy, and if there are any other violet soliflores or violet-focused fragrances you’re aware of, please let me know of them.

Soliflores:

Borsari Violetta di Parma – an old, old-fashioned, reference soliflore.  Very quiet, very powdery, and although the notes don’t list it, I think there may be a bit of rose in there.
Berdoues Violettes de Parma – another old-fashioned, powdery violet.  I didn’t like it at all.
Berdoues Violette Cherie – a flanker that’s even softer and more powdery than the original, as far as I can tell from descriptions.
Berduoues Violettes Divine – a “dark version” flanker in beautiful packaging; deep, sweet, and fruity with a woody drydown that eventually gets a little tiresome.
Annick Goutal La Violette – Upcoming review (here).
Penhaligon’s Violetta –  Upcoming review (here).
Possets Silver Violets – sugary-fruity violet.  Could come in a cereal box labeled “Violet Puffs.”  Urgh.
Soivohle Violets & Rainwater – Upcoming review at Redolent of Spices.  My take: after reading Musette’s descriptions of this at Perfume Posse that repeated the phrase “little whump of dirt,” I gave in and tried it.  Nothin’ but violets, floral-sweet, no powder at all.  Nice, but linear.  Or so I thought, until about the fourth try, when I finally got the “dirt,” which to me was more like a dry, earthy base that made me think of forest floors.  Still, the “dirt” note is not the focus, but leads to a very pleasant, coherent drydown that puts this one high on the list of violet soliflores.
Caron Violette Precieuse – I really should invoke the Thumper rule on this one, because the only thing I have to say about it is this:  Hideous.   I am, of course, talking about the current reformulation of an old favorite, so if you’re still hoarding some from the days when it was good, please realize I’m not talking about The Precious.  (And share, for heaven’s sake.)
L’Artisan Verte Violette – powdery violet plus powdery green.  I don’t know how they got the green to be powdery, and I don’t wanna know.  I found it to be deeply boring.
Laura Tonatto Eleanora Duse – the favorite violet of March over at the Posse.  Like Violets & Rainwater,  you get a lovely sweet deep violet over a pleasant woody drydown.  I think I prefer V&R due to the ghost of cologne in ED, but I’d pick either one ahead of any number of other violet scents.

Soliflores I haven’t tried, with brief descriptions of their “angle”:
Devon Violets – traditional powdery violet
CBIHP Wild Pansy – green and violet, reportedly simpler than Violet Empire
Yardley April Violets – traditional powdery violet
Santa Maria Novella Violetta – citrus violet green
Devon Violets – traditional powdery violet
Molinard Violette – violet woody musk
Geo. F. Trumper Ajaccio Violets (discontinued, apparently) – green violet
Guerlain Meteorites – powdery rose-violet
Prada No. 7 Violette – galbanum, rose, violet, iris, leather
DSH Perfumes Violetta di Murano – green notes, violet, woody

Violet compositions:
Caron Aimez-Moi
– Upcoming review (here).
Balmain Jolie Madame – violet, leather, moss.  Upcoming review at Scent of the Day.  My review is here.  (Oddly, violet is not listed in the notes, but there’s a ton of it in JM.)
Stephen Jones for Comme des Garcons – aldehydes, violet, and metal/tar (“meteorites”).  It’s like violets growing on black lava rock, weird but oddly pleasing.
Coty L’Origan – orange blossom, violet, and anise.  The vintage parfum is a mossier version of L’Heure Bleue, which it predated.
YSL Paris – rose and violet.  Flowers larger than life and fifteen times as romantic.  Don’t overspritz or you’ll radiate like Three Mile Island, except prettier.
Bvlgari Pour Femme – mimosa and violet.  I hate this one – there’s something like a musty basement in the middle that I can’t stand – but it certainly has its fans.
Guerlain Attrape-Coeur – Upcoming review at Redolent of Spices.
CBIHP M4 Room with a View – hay, baked earth, violets.  Based on the famous romantic scene in the E.M. Forster novel, where George Emerson kisses Lucy Honeychurch on a hillside outside Florence.  Oddly, I didn’t find this one all that romantic.  Instead, it feels a little like a thrown-together soup that needed more time on the back of the stove for the flavors to meld.  It doesn’t smell like a Florentine hillside; it is very sweet. I don’t know why I’m snarky about this, except that I wanted to swoon and didn’t.
Ava Luxe Midnight Violet – violet and cedar.  An utter disaster on me, given that the amber in the base is the variety that comes off to my nose smelling like shaving cream.
Serge Lutens Bois de Violette – violet and cedar.  I liked Feminite du Bois, but wasn’t all that impressed due to the fade-out and -back-in during its development.  I really like PdRosine Poussiere de Rose, and I love Dolce Vita.  My opinion on this one is – Meh.  Nice, but transcendent? No.
Guerlain Insolence – berry rose violet.  The EdT and EdP are slightly different formulas.  The EdP is shrieking insanity, if you ask me – it chased me out of the room.
Balenciaga Le Dix – aldehydes, violet, sandalwood.  I had actually forgotten to add this one at first, largely because I’ve only tried it from a vintage mini bottle bought on ebay – and I didn’t smell any violets in it!  Could have been that particular bottle, which I’ve since swapped away – but everybody else says “violets” for Le Dix, so I added it to the list.  I should probably retry it, from a reliable source.
Worth Je Reviens – aldehydes, green notes, mixed florals including violet.  Seems more “floral bouquet” to me personally, but some people get violets out of it.
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman – evergreens, violet, amber.  Intriguing and unusual.  Sadly for me, the amber tends to take over and I can’t smell anything else, but this is the darling of many a perfumista, and deservedly so.
Frederick Malle Lipstick Rose – Powdery violet and rose.  My personal reaction to the sample?  “Yes, it smells like old-fashioned lipsticks – exactly like them.  Very clever.  Brilliant work.  Kudos to F Malle.  Now gimme my money back.”  I have no idea why I like YSL Paris and dislike this one, but that’s the case.  I make no apologies.
Guerlain Apres l’Ondee: my review here. Short version: Impressionist perfection.

More violet compositions I haven’t tried, with descriptions pulled from fragrance forums like Fragrantica, Makeup Alley, and Basenotes:
Fresh Index Violet Moss – violet and moss, both powdery, with a white (laundry) musk drydown.
Balenciaga Paris – violet “modern chypre.”  Both reviled and praised for its quiet, non-ditzy office-wearability.
CBIHP Violet Empire –  Upcoming review at Scent of the Day.
Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette – mossy violet floral.
SSS Wood Violet – violet and cedar.
Soivohle Purple Love Smoke – grape Jimi Hendrix violet.
Alexander McQueen MyQueen – violet patchouli vanilla.
DSquared SheWood – citrus violet cedar.
Jean Charles Brousseau Fleurs d’Ombre Violette Menthe – mint violet woody.
Parfums de Nicolai Violette in Love – Upcoming review at Redolent of Spices.
Creed Love in Black – Upcoming review at Scent of the Day.
Christiane Celle Calypso Violette – rose honey violet.
Lush (now Gorilla) Tuca Tuca – violet vanilla vetiver.
Roxana Villa Illuminated Perfumes Gracing the Dawn – violet-floral chypre.

Images of Viola Odorata from Wikimedia Commons.

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