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.
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
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.