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.


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.


37 thoughts on “The Big Violet List”

  1. I’ve tried Bulgari PF on skin twice. Both times, it smelled lovely for about a minute and then reminded me strongly of diapers. Not good.

    I can’t remember which of the SSS violet scents I tried — I think VdV — but it was great.

    It’s mostly a note I haven’t intentionally explored. As your descriptions indicate, it’s really easy to get it wrong, I guess.

    1. Diapers. Yay. I got, as I said, musty basement instead, but I’m sure that was better than what you got.

      I have somehow managed to skip SSS’ violets – and DSH’s violets too. I really should remedy that. I did try Possets Silver Violets, and found it just ridiculously sugary.

      Violet can go wrong in several ways, I think: too powdery, too fruity, too sweet. (Jolie Madame is wonderful, though.)

      1. Yes, from the sample you sent me of JM, the violets work beautifully there. I do really like the violet leaf note, which reads as more masculine.

        I found Paris way too pink and powdery and girly for me, which is too bad — I like Sophia G. and thought I’d love it. I smelled YSL Parisienne on a scent strip the other day and found the top notes surprisingly affecting. Clearly that’s what rose + violet is supposed to do. But after a bit, on paper at least, it kind of fell apart, started to smell cheap. Which I’m sure it is…

      2. Violet leaf does a lot to tone down the sweetness. Review is coming up, so I won’t say much right now, but Penhaligon’s Violetta is largely violet + violet leaf, a nice balance of green and purple.

        Rose-violet can be really cliche… I was thinking the topnote of Parisienne, which I liked too, was cranberry. It was great for 15 minutes, but then faded to Paris on a starvation diet. Dull.

  2. My favorite violet is Laurie’s VdV , it’s deliciously jammy but it doesn’t come off as sickly sweet, it has just the right amount of everything else.
    Dollop of heaven on my skin when I wear it.
    Balenciaga Paris is very nice, not exciting of course or edgy but Plain Janes of the perfumeworld can still be appreciated by me, it’s just too expensive for it to be so simple.

    1. Well, T, it looks like I really do need to get my mitts on some VdV! I suspect Wood Violet might be too masculine for me, as some of her scents are. (I also have yet to test Jour Ensoleille – I think I was put off by the jasmine, but I really should check it out.)

      I might like B Paris, but the argument against it is that it’s “perfectly nice” by nature, but priced for “fabulous.”

      OMG! I left Le Dix off the list! must remedy that.

      1. Do you dislike jasmine? It’s noticeable in JE for sure, but I thought the tuberose came out more (yum). It’s also really woodsy and labdanum-y. I think you’d like it. (But beware, it’s VERY strong.)

      2. NOT a big fan of jasmine. I don’t dislike it, but it can be very iffy for me, and I tend not to seek it out. I do like the greener angles on jasmine, and tend to do better with jasmine sambac (a la TM Alien, for example), than with jasmine grandiflorum (a la Patou Joy).

        I think most of the SSS are quite strong and require a delicate hand – the website says they’re all parfum concentration, in terms of percentage of fragrance materials!

    1. Huh.

      Huh. Okay. People like different things. Well, I don’t think I DISliked VV… it just didn’t grab me. Like I said: it bored me.

      One frag hag’s comfort is another one’s yawn, or something like that. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this list, violet is a note I’ve recently started to explore. I do own and love YSL Paris, and was aware that it’s a rose/violet combo (and yep, it is my girly-girl/glamour girl scent). Also have a sample of SSS Wood Violet, which I didn’t care for, but the cedar note explains that – I don’t do woods well. Caron Aimez-Moi I liked, and would have bought, if it didn’t fade out and disappear in about an hour.

    1. YSL Paris is definitively girly-girl! And cedar seems to be difficult for some people – pencil shavings, hamster litter, cat pee… sometimes it can skew a little masculine on me, and I myself don’t enjoy that much.

      I’ll get into discussing Aimez-Moi during Violet Week…

  4. I haven’t really explored violet myself yet either, the only ones you’ve listed that I’ve tried are Bulgari Pour Femme (meh), Balenciaga Paris (pretty, but not FBW at current prices) and Laurie’s two violets.

    Wood Violet was lovely, but unlike Patty, I rock the woods. 😉 VdV didn’t work for me, but I suspect that’s more my skin than anything – I’ve discovered that I “sweeten” a lot of lighter fragrances, and it’s dismaying to share them with others and smelling on them these lovely fresh facets that get drowned out by MONSTER SWEETNESS on my skin. For some reason, I don’t mind deeper fragrances to be sweet, but for lighter ones I prefer more freshness. I’m OK with a string bass that’s dripping in maple syrup, but I don’t like my piccolos sugar-frosted.

    It’d be nice to find a lighter violet that doesn’t go super-sweet on me that makes my heart go pitty-pat, so this is a great list, mals. Thanks! 🙂

    p.s. SSS Jour Ensoleille is sunshine and happiness, so I’ll second that recommendation.

    1. Dionne, I’m with you on the sweetness level. I can wear Dior Dolce Vita (rummy fruitcake, yum), but not Chanel No. 22 (sugar-crystal-coated flowers). Loved the descriptions, by the way!

      Do try the Penhaligon’s, if you can – there’s a lot of green to it, and it isn’t very sweet. Likewise Jolie Madame. And I’m intrigued by the Prada Violette – galbanum and leather sound like good accents for violet to me.

      Thanks for the rec on JE – I’ll definitely get a sample of that soon.

  5. I love violets (the flower) and, having always lived in regions where the scentless ones grow, I’ve tried to establish sweet violets in my garden a couple of times. (Sadly, both times I ended up moving before they bloomed.)

    When I started to explore perfumes a year or two ago, I was amazed to discover that the violet note in perfumery was a scent that I recognized from my childhood: When I was 5 or 6, a friend had a perfumery kit, with various bottled scents that you could mix together to create your own perfume–and one of those clearly must have been violet. Sadly, however, that was the one note from her kit that I absolutely hated.

    I’m still not overly fond of that note. I love Aimez Moi and like Jolie Madame, and used to like Je Reviens, which has (or had) a substantial violet component, but that’s about it (and I totally agree with you on the Insolence).

    1. Liza, bummer on not getting to see your violets bloom. I’ve been strongly tempted lately to mail-order a pot and see if I can get them to bloom in the house.

      Your friend’s perfumery kit sounds interesting – but I’ll bet you it was done with the cheapest stuff the manufacturers could find, and you might do better with more upscale violet scents. I don’t care for the powdery violets myself. OR you could just recognize that you don’t care for that note, and go your merry way… there’s plenty else to love. I don’t like orange blossom much, but even given that I avoid it, I’m not short on stuff to smell!

      I will go add Je Reviens. I don’t smell much violet in there, but my bottle is a 70s-era EdT and is somewhat age-damaged, albeit probably better than the current version. Sigh.

  6. Mals~ Hey girl, I wanted to add OJ Woman to your list.
    I dunno about you, but to me there is quite alot of violet in this one, do you agree? Amazing, bewitching, strange and beautiful. I want a Fb of her!

    (I know you ain’t surprised) 😉

    1. Thanks, T – I knew there would be some, particularly violet compositions, that I would forget. I’ll add it. I actually don’t get much violet in OJW – it’s a nice spicy dark green for about twenty minutes, and then it’s allllllll amber, alll the time. I mean, nice amber – but I don’t seem to get the magic that many other people get out of it.

      And no, not surprised that a) YOU love it and b) want a FB! You have excellent taste, m’dear.

  7. Did you happen to catch Donna’s post “This Violet Doesn’t Shrink…” at Perfume-Smellin’ Things? New violet from Roxana Villa and Donna liked it.

    1. I did see it… Donna and I have a lot of overlapping likes, although I think she likes chypres a lot better than I do. I’ve had a lot of good luck trying things she recommends. Anyway, I’m not sure why I’m resisting the idea of adding Gracing the Dawn to the list, but I am. Weird.

      I should just add it and shut up. I don’t have to test the thing.

      1. Ah yes. I went back to read the review, and it was the words “almost like a classic, old-fashioned masculine aromatic fougere” that turned me off. I HATE fougeres – on me, that is. LOVE them on guys. Drakkar Noir, delicious on a dude. But that’s the one category that I absolutely will not wear, ever, ever EVER. No fougeres for me. Blame it on coming of age in the 80s, with every eligible male hottie wearing Brut and Polo and DN, if you will…

        She does say it hovers there for a few minutes before coming up gorgeous deep violets. Maybe I should get over my prejudice.

      2. Fougeres were initially really tough for me too, but with enough exposure I’ve stopped smelling them as definitively manly. I love Caron Third Man so much on my BF that I’ve started wearing it occasionally myself. ONLY in cold weather though. That stuff is rich.

      3. ALSO – for some reason the accompanying artwork (done by RV’s husband, an artist), annoys me. And this reaction from a dedicated reader of fantasy novels, too…

        How irrational am I?

        I do notice that Donna seems to be the only reviewer who says “violets.” Edit: no, I’m wrong. Several others do, too. So, okay, GtD goes on the list. (Why is this one bugging me so much? Why do I so not want to add it? It’s not like RV ever stole my lunch money or anything.)

      4. Elisa – I just can’t do it. I think I’m a good bit older than you are, and times have changed, but my nose is still stuck on FOUGERES = MANLY. I really think this has to do with all the men I’ve smelled wearing them. Drakkar Noir was new when I was in college (did I just admit that? it’s true, anyway), and it was the 80s, so guys swaggered around wearing buckets of the stuff.

        Date a guy who wore Brut (and only Brut, and lots of it), and it will probably be forever GUY SMELL in your personal scent map.

        3rd Homme is a lot less fougere-y than many, but then it’s jasmine-y, and jasmine does nothin’ for me. (Hm. A tuberose fougere, what would that be like? Not that I’m proposing to wear it, but still, interesting.)

      5. It’s true, I went to high school/college in the ’90s, and men didn’t wear as much cologne then, and when they did, it was more Cool Water than Drakkar Noir. Still, when I smell a fougere, I always think GUY SMELL at first. I guess there were enough men around wearing fougeres to create a strong association, but not to ruin them for me forever.

        The jasmine effect is pretty minimal for me in 3rd Man. I mostly smell lavender and soap and spice and incense. (Isn’t oppoponax another note you can’t do?)

  8. OMG! I should beat you! I was reading along, going all “okay, hmmm, yeah, what? etc”…and then I got to Lipstick Rose and again I’m just reading along, drinking a lemonade….

    ….and then I spit it ALL OVER THE MONITOR! laughing my ykw off at ‘now gimme my money back’.


    thanks! I’ll be back, once the monitor dries…

    xo A

  9. I have Santa Maria Novella Violetta which is a potent green flowery eau de cologne. I like it’s quality of greeness and that of extreme longevity which i appreciate. I combine it with other fragrances to make experiments and most of the times the result is impressive. Gives richness and multifaceted quality in other scents. I have it years and it never ends. Femme pour Bylgari is another feminime, airy, powdery scent of contemporary character with old fashioned flair. Paris YSL was a big success, a very romantic scent. I used to wear it years ago, i hope they didn’t change it. I was smelling mostly roses and some green quality along with a sugary feeling. I never thought that this perfume has violets. Anyway that my experience with violets. Your lists are enlightning and to keep in consideration.

    1. Hi, nulla! So the SMN is a cologne-like thing with green notes? Thanks for telling us about it. That’s interesting that you layer it with other things – I’ve never quite gotten the hang of combining scents. I know a lot of people really do like the Bvlgari. Paris is still very rosy, but I do smell quite a lot of powdery violet in there although the violet is not the focus. It is lovely.

      I hope you find something else you’d like to try in the list, and thanks for commenting.

  10. What a shame you have never had a chance to smell real violets. I love to pick mine and plunge my nose into the strange earthy smell. I read somewhere that you can lose your sense of smell for moments after smelling them. They are small treasures .I have not found any fragrance at all like the real thing and somehow I don’t think it could be captured. I do love Violetta though as it has a touch of the smell but as you say more leaf than flower.

    1. Hi there, Angie – how lucky you’ve got real ones. My grandmother used to grow them, but I’ve forgotten how they smell, and every transplant we’ve tried has, ahem, failed to thrive. Sigh.

      You could be right and the smell can’t be directly duplicated.

      I like the violet leaf in Violetta!

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