I came across Perfume Shrine a few months ago while browsing the " net " trying ( without success ) to find information on making perfume with violets ; that is violet flowers. I find your website fascinating, particularly the history of perfume and your wonderfully evocative descriptions of the perfumes. Do you know of any perfume which is made today with violet flowers?"
|via Melissa Frank at Pinterest|
Did I know indeed. For all practical purposes, violet flowers are non existent in perfumery. Our back and forth took the direction of an exchange for more info.
I immediately replied to her thus:
"No wonder you didn't find information on perfume making using violet flowers. There is no sufficient cost-effective oil from the violet flower and perfumers routinely use synthetic molecules, called ionones, to render the violet note (The violet leaf note does yield a different oil which can be used, but the effect is different).
There are two main directions in violet fragrances, apart from the violet leaf one (very much in use in masculine fragrances) which renders a watery, lightly metallic note and I gather is not what you're searching for.
Therefore, one direction is sweet violet perfumes reminiscent of Parma violet candies (of the viola odorata kind). The other is more powdery violet perfumes which are sometimes reminiscent of cosmetic products (face powder and specifically lipstick when coupled with rose). I was wondering which is that you're seeking (or another one entirely) as that would help me direct you more accurately."
Margaret was quick to point out that
"Perfumes reminiscent of Parma violet candies sounds a bit too sweet for me ; I think I would prefer the powdery type of violet perfume. As far as I could glean from the internet , violet perfume was once made by the cold enfleurage method , a very time consuming and expensive process Incidentally, I read in a biography of Empress Eugenie of France that violet was her signature scent. As she was such a fashion icon of the era , violet became the scent of the Second Empire To give you an idea of the sort of perfumes I like, they are light floral romantic and elegant such as Diorissimo or the original Fete by Molyneux"..
Indeed the violet flower essence was not cost effective and it had all but disappeared by the time (late 1950s-1960s) that Steffen Arctander was writing his guide to botanic materials.
I then emailed her back with a list of soft violet fragrances, with a powdery undertone in most cases (in fact some are so delicate and feminine that I had included them in the Parfums Lingerie list I coined back a while, you might want to check both lists):
|penhaligon's via pinterest|
Balmain Jolie Madame (with a hint of leather)
Borsari Violetta di Parma (soft and quiet, not very sweet)
Bvlgari Pour Femme (the original one in the transparent bottle, but not frosted glass)
Chloe Love, Chloe
DSH Violetta de Murano
Guerlain Meteorites (discontinued fragrance, but sometimes can be found at discounters and on Ebay; it's a very powdery soft violet reminiscent of the homonymous face powder)
Gorilla Perfumes Tuca Tuca
Laura Tonatto Eleanore Duse (sensual and romantic)
Penhaligon's Violetta (lightly sweet violet)
Sonoma Scent Studio Lieu de Reves
Tom Ford Violet Blonde
Yardley April Violets (traditional soft violets)
YSL Paris in eau de parfum (the eau de toilette is cleaner, the eau de parfum more powdery)
I'm afraid you won't find a truly 100% all naturals violet fragrance out there that is a violet soliflore. Perfumers need to make conscessions to using synthetics to produce this note. But some are more natural than others (Gorilla, DSH, Laura Tonatto). These brands can be found Googling. All natural violet fragrances that are worthwhile and true smelling include Anya's Garden Moondance, where the violet impression is however injected with a little tuberose."
I was about to mention Guerlain Apres L'Ondee to her, from the classics which intermingle naturals and synthetics, but the newer reformulation of the eau de toilette is warmer with more heliotrope rather than the older balancing act of cool violets and heliotrope-anise, so I refrained.
Of course violet fragrances can run the gamut, with woody-earthy violets (where the note is coupled with the analogous iris), face cosmetics reminiscent rose-violet fragrances (which we skimmed the surface of in this post), sweet style Choward's candy rich sugared violet scents or green, leafy violets full of spring foliage. We will revert with different lists of the top selections in those categories in our Best Violet Fragrances Guide.
Last but not least, one interesting tidbit I found on violets mentions that bisexual women and lesbians used to give violets to women they were wooing, symbolizing their "Sapphic" desire, because Greek poetess Sappho described herself and a lover wearing garlands of violets in one of her poems. The giving of violets was popular from the 1910s to the 1950s.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Violets, violet leaf and ionones (synthetic violet notes)