Smells of Summer : Tomato Leaf

Suzanna on tomato leaf as a perfume note.

Among the smells of summer (suntan lotion, beach rose, vanilla ice cream, jasmine, hot asphalt, and blackberries, to name a few), none is more redolent to me of that golden season than is the scent of tomato leaves. The leaf’s smell transports me to the end of summer, to the dog days where the heat shimmers and the dust in the road rises and seems to hang in the sultry air.  It is then that the season’s tomatoes, fat and bulging globes of red fruit, release their scent in what always seems to me an impromptu act of fragrant pleasure.

tomato leaf

The smell of the tomato leaf is precise and yet is impossible to nail down with any accuracy; as with a geranium leaf there is a green/acidic vegetal smell and a nearness to turpentine or pine, plus a hint of almost-acrid dust or chalk resin.  The smell is sharp and suspenseful—one can tell the state of ripeness of the fruit, or so it seems, from the high pitch of this aroma.  Its particular odor is due to an aromachemical of a type that also causes the smell from the geranium leaf.

In perfumery, the smell of tomato leaf is often used to signal freshness or to impart the feeling of the outdoors.  It is not an actual note but is a construction and it pairs especially well with citrus notes like grapefruit, other leaf (or herbal) notes, and mossy/grassy basenotes.  Two of my favorites are Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again and Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau.  The smell of tomato leaf is not a listed note or accord in either of these but is an olfactory impression stemming from grapefruit in the first and blackcurrant leaf in the second.  One of the most remarked-upon fragrances featuring this accord is Sisley Eau de Campagne, which dates from 1974 and is a wearable French countryside. A newcomer with this note is Ys Uzac Metaboles.

Applying a fragrance with a prominent tomato leaf note always seems to me to be a jolt to the senses.  No matter how often you wear a fragrance with the note, it always comes as a bit of a surprise.  Its verisimilitude to the plant from which it is derived is so accurate that it stands in stark opposition to a long list of notes that smell almost—but not quite—like the fruits, woods, flowers, and animal essences from which they allegedly derive.  There is no abstract of a tomato leaf.  It is one of the most remarkable notes in perfumery, in my opinion, due to its unexpectedness and its complete lack of gender reference.

The list of fragrances below contains scents that feature the note as a primary component (Memory of Kindness, Demeter Tomato, Liberty Fizz) and those that add a touch of it to the blend for purposes of accentuation.

Do you enjoy green, leafy notes in perfumes?

Here’s a compilation of fragrances with tomato leaf or the impression of it.  Please let me know any others!

Aedes Signature Eau de Parfum

Annick Goutal Folavril

CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness

Demeter Tomato

Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau

DKNY Women (1999)

Heeley Verveine d’Eugene

Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil

Hilde Soliani Stecca

Joop What About Adam

Molinard Une Souris Verte

Sisley Eau de Campagne

Estée Lauder Pleasures Intense for Men

Nina Ricci Liberte Acidulée (Liberty Fizz)

Parfums de Rosine Diabolo Rose

Smell Bent Lobster Cellphone

Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again

Photography by Bois de Jasmin.

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54 Comments

  • Nick: The long gone, but truly, deeply missed by me – What About Adam! by Joop.

    Reminded me endlessly of my grandfather’s greenhouses in summer. A nearly perfect green, summery scent.

    How I wish I had bought 10 bottles. August 14, 2012 at 8:09am Reply

  • Nick: Oh Duh, just noticed it was in the list – Sorry, I am clearly not Mr Pay Attention today 🙂 August 14, 2012 at 8:10am Reply

    • Suzanna: No worries, Nick, and I am glad that you brought What About Adam? up again. It was a truly great frag! The good news for those of us in the states is that it is very available on eBay! August 14, 2012 at 8:28am Reply

      • Nick: Really? That’s very interesting as my other half lives in Seattle. I will have to investigate.

        Thanks so much. August 14, 2012 at 11:43am Reply

  • kjanicki: You got my favourite 3: L’ombre dans l’eau, Aedes Signature and Sisley Eau de Campagne. I own the first two. Tomato leaf is the most “green” smell I know, right up there with galbanum. I love it. August 14, 2012 at 8:30am Reply

    • Suzanna: kjanicki, glad that I mentioned your fave three! The tomato leaf note certainly adds a special kick to those frags (and makes me crave the Aedes Signature right now!). August 14, 2012 at 9:04am Reply

  • Patt: I’d like to add Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio to the list. I get a strong, summery essence of tomato leaf from it! August 14, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks for that addition, Patt! August 14, 2012 at 9:41am Reply

  • lucas: Me and tomato leaf aren’t good friends, I don’t really like it’s scent. I also have a problem with figs and fig leaves so I was astonishingly happy when I tried Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio and I didn’t have problems with wearing it and felt comfortable in it. It’s late summer, but it’s decided, I’m buying it for the next spring/ summer season August 14, 2012 at 9:36am Reply

    • Suzanna: Lucas, I have issues with fig leaf as well. I’ve tried and tried and cannot get my nose around Philosykos, and the L’Artisans (of which I own Premier Figuier Extreme) are too perfumey. I agree that tomato leaf is a similar type of note–difficult to manage.

      Glad you have liked Ninfeo Mio! August 14, 2012 at 9:40am Reply

      • Lucas: Yes! It’s good to not only count on citrus perfume in summer, but also on this nice creamy, slightly citrusy fig. August 14, 2012 at 2:01pm Reply

  • rosarita: I love that smell, even after a childhood spent working long hours in the vegetable garden and then helping to can everything in early fall. DKNY Women is my favorite tomato leaf perfume. It has a mineral note like hot pavement that’s been rained on, then the sun comes back out and the pavement steams a little, very evocative of late summer. Un Jardin Sur Le Nil is a summer staple but I haven’t noticed a tomato leaf note; I’ll look for it next time I wear it 🙂 August 14, 2012 at 9:51am Reply

    • Suzanna: What a lovely description, rosarita, of DKNY Women! I will have to experience it through your words next time I wear it. August 14, 2012 at 10:04am Reply

  • Nikki: Lovely description Rosarita! Thank you for bringing up tomatoes, Susanna! I love tomatoes and we used to eat tomato salad every day in summer in Italy with lemon juice to counteract the incredible sweetness of those tomatoes. I haven’t found any good tomatoes in years. In Germany there are some “new” tomatoes called Russian tomatoes, they are very big and strangely colored but taste good. In the States there are the old fashioned or heirloom tomatoes which are quite good. Now to the scent of tomato leaf in perfume: looking at your list, I understand why I don’t like these scents and I have had YSL In Love again and L’Ombre dans L’Eau only to give them away/return them. Interesting how one’s nose can’t stand certain scents in perfume . Thanks for the list, this will be the No No list for me! I can’t fool my nose… August 14, 2012 at 10:11am Reply

    • Suzanna: Nikki, it is almost impossible to get decent tomatoes in the states. Off topic a bit, but I recently tried a super-engineered tomato that was alleged to have a certain state of juicy ripeness. This it did, but it was the most acidic tomato (or fruit in general) ever, and it burned my mouth!

      Buying and giving away and buying again is a cycle of frustration–I’ve done it too many times to count! August 14, 2012 at 10:00pm Reply

      • Nikki: How interesting, Suzanna! I really don’t understand this cycle myself, must be that I get swayed by positive reviews and then think, ok, there must be something, only to be confronted by my own personal dislike of the perfume I bought to give away. Maybe Victoria can shed a light on the different sensations experienced by people? I read that some people can’t smell the scent of cooked cabbage at all (good for them!) while some ethnic groups detest lavender because it reminds them of funerals. I do believe that there are certain receptors in the scent region of the brain that are more in tune with certain scents and not others. August 15, 2012 at 11:31am Reply

  • kate: I love the smell of tomato garden, but I don’t wear it well. I had a bit of an epiphany reading this review though…I never really thought about it before, but you are so right that the scent of the tomato leaf accord is so shockingly accurate! Very few perfume notes smell so much like the real thing. Interesting! August 14, 2012 at 10:13am Reply

    • Suzanna: Kate, isn’t it just so? In fact, only leather accords smell like leather to me–everything else is off by a small to large amount! August 14, 2012 at 10:14pm Reply

  • Mj: Hi Suzanna,
    Thanks for the lovely article. I ran outside to pluck leaves from my drought stressed tomato and geranium plants to compare to a spray of Un Jardin Sur la Nil, one of my favorite hot summer sents. Where is the tomato leaf in this scent? I have always enjoyed the drydown, but have had trouble with the initial “nail polish remover” blast of the first spray.
    Must explore the other scents on your list.
    MJ August 14, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks, Mj, glad you enjoyed the article!

      Tomator leaf of Sur le Nil buried under nail polish remover :–) August 14, 2012 at 10:15pm Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: What a wonderful article! Thank you, Suzanna.

    Tomato leaves is one of those smells I just love. In fact, I often don’t wash my hands immediately after working with my plants because I like to let the fragrance linger for a while, and I love catching hints of the almost overblown greenness when I walk past them in my yard. It is a smell that is as much a part of summer to me as sunscreen, berries, freshly cut grass and the smell of barbecue late in the afternoon and into the night.

    I’ve never noticed tomato leaf before when wearing In Love Again but am off to spritz some on and see if I can detect it. Yves Rocher’s Mure edt has a strong tomato leaf impression to my nose, and I almost think I can smell it in Clinique Aromatics Elixir, hidden in the other glorious chypre notes like a subtle velvety thread.

    The drought hasn’t been kind to the fruit on my plants so far, either, but at least I have the beautiful greenness to enjoy for a few more weeks even if I don’t know if anything will come of the scant flowers that appeared this year.

    Tomato leaf would be a fantastic scent for a reed diffuser, especially in March when it seems like winters here will never end. 🙂 August 14, 2012 at 11:21am Reply

    • Suzanna: Absolute Scentualist, what a great idea for a reed diffuser! Perhaps someone will read this and create one.

      I often rub lavender on my fingers when visiting herb gardens! August 14, 2012 at 10:17pm Reply

  • Sigrun Olafsdottir: I also enjoy tomato leaf fragrances a lot and I’ve never thought about how much alike geranium and tomato leaves smell, but they sure do, thanks for bringing that to my attention 🙂

    Another tomato leaf scent worth mentioning is DSH Divine Gardens from her Italian Splendour Collection. To me, it smells of, rather unexpectedly, tomato leaves and clean laundry. August 14, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks for adding the DSH frag to the list, Sigrun. I haven’t tried that one and it sounds compelling. August 14, 2012 at 10:17pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Suzanna,

    Today you touched on a scent that to me is intoxicating. Several years ago, I successfully propagated heirloom tomatoes, basil and lettuce (on a rooftop garden) Tending the tomatoes, I rubbed my fingers not only to check the vines for mites but for its scent. The leaves I have since learned can be poisonous however I never suffered any conseqences just pure pleasure. No wonder the list of fragrances you mention I have worn without realizing that tomato leaf was a note therein.
    When Takashamiya was still in existence in NYC they carried a Tomate Leaf scented candle.The French floral designer (who’s name escapes me) produced it and imported it as an exclusive to this store. August 14, 2012 at 1:56pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Nancy A., I’d welcome a tomato leaf candle in the summer. The frag would cut straight through the muggy haze. August 14, 2012 at 10:19pm Reply

  • solanace: These “Perfume Notes” articles of yours are a bliss! Well, let me think… According to Luca Turin, AG Le Chevrèfeuille smells a bit of tomato leaves. I have a few tomato plants in my yard, and I love their smell after I water them, but I’m not sure I can find them in this Goutal. I quite like it, anyway. (I also have a honeysuckle, and it surely smells nothing like it!) August 14, 2012 at 2:25pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Solanace, I am not sure either what Chevrefeuille smells like, but it is not tomato leaf or honeysuckle! August 14, 2012 at 10:20pm Reply

  • RVB: I love the smell of tomato leaves on a hot summer’s day.I used to grow them on my rooftop here in NYC and on a balmy summer’s evening the scent was heavenly.The most realistic tomato leaf note I’ve found is in L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Parfum de Feuilles.It’s actually a room spray but works just as well on the skin August 14, 2012 at 3:59pm Reply

    • Suzanna: RVB, thanks for that tip! I’ve known people to wear other room sprays as personal fragrance, so why not? August 14, 2012 at 10:21pm Reply

  • OperaFan: I grow tomatoes in my garden and the smell is definitely something I look forward to in the summertime.

    The Sisley is one of my favorite green fragrances, but I never think of the tomato leaf in it. Definitely agree with you about the “jolt to the senses” when wearing this type of fragrance – I just love it. I believe that AG Passion also has the tomato leaf note in it, but I don’t think I could pick it out even if I was looking for it. 🙂 August 14, 2012 at 4:40pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Operafan, I agree it would be hard to pick this note out of AG Passion–it’s obscured in blooms.

      I am not a huge fan of greens, and yet this odd note is one green I love! August 14, 2012 at 10:22pm Reply

  • Lisa: I have CB IHP Memory of Kindness and admire it — just not when it’s on my skin! Tomato leaf is absolutely lovely, but for it to work in a perfume, it has to be buried in there, way, way deep (the same goes for other dry, green earthy notes). I much prefer tomato leaf to pop in home fragrances, such as candles, incense, room spray, and what not. August 14, 2012 at 4:42pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Lisa, I think one is either a hardcore fan of tomato leaf or not–it’s either something one welcomes or, as you say, it must be somewhat buried! August 14, 2012 at 10:27pm Reply

  • Ariadne: How is the scent extracted from the tomato leaf? I just plucked a leaf off my potted tomato plant and rubbed it on my wrist. Smells even sweeter than just the leaf itself! August 14, 2012 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Perhaps Victoria can weigh in with that answer, Ariadne. I have no idea and it’s a great question. August 14, 2012 at 10:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: The scent of tomato leaf is duplicated by synthetic materials. The tomato aroma is incredibly complex, but the leaf is really just approximated in perfumery with a few brushstrokes, usually green, crunchy notes. As far as I know, there is no commercially available tomato leaf oil, but doesn’t that sound wonderful! August 15, 2012 at 11:10am Reply

  • Diana: I wore DKNY’s Woman for years but never really got any positive feedback from others about it. As a matter of fact, it was one of the only two scents I’ve worn and received decidedly negative feedback. (Traversee du bosphore was the other.) But, I wear perfume for my own pleasure, so those comments didn’t stop me from enjoying the perfumes. I just kinda fell out of love with DKNY over the years as other scents grabbed my interest, but I still have a bottle of the perfume and the perfume oil and enjoy both on rare occasions. August 14, 2012 at 8:39pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Diana, that happens a lot–the “meh” or negative reaction when we think something is wonderful (and it is, to us). Good for you for keeping the scent so you can try it here and there again. August 14, 2012 at 10:29pm Reply

  • annemariec: I don’t get tomato leaf out of Nil. Un jardin en Mediterranee – definitely. I notice that Fragrantica does not list tomato leaf as a note in Mediterranee, but I get it quite strongly, and it’s wonderful. Must try that Sisley too.

    Great post – tomato stem is not a note that gets much discussion. August 15, 2012 at 6:10am Reply

    • Suzanna: Annemariec, I’m glad you liked the post. The idea for it came up in a discussion in the comments section a couple of months ago–and I love the note! August 15, 2012 at 8:37am Reply

  • Amer: When my father was alive we used to have tomato plants in our garden every summer. I never considered the smell to be of any considerable beauty until I found it employed in perfume (you know tomato stems are poisonous and the smell in the actual field smells just like a warning of that). Now I can’t tell if the reason I love it is that I found a hidden beauty in it, appreciated its merits in a composition or due to signification of danger or personal reminder of happy childhood memories.

    If memory serves me right I think there is tomato leaf in Eau de Lierre too and yes! I do love my greens bitter and fresh! I had never heard of that Joop offer. Is it still around? August 15, 2012 at 7:03am Reply

    • Suzanna: Amer, I know you can find the Joop on eBay, quite reasonably.

      I’ve always loved the smell of the tomato plant and it signifies summer to me more than any other. August 15, 2012 at 8:39am Reply

  • Nikki: Such a great discussion. Overwhelmingly positive memories of summers and gardens and loved ones. Keep it coming, Suzanna! August 15, 2012 at 11:28am Reply

    • Suzanna: Thanks, Nikki! Glad you enjoyed this–I loved writing it. August 15, 2012 at 5:09pm Reply

  • nicolas: I absolutely love Métaboles, if only it was stronger!
    I’ll ad Aube Pashmina by Huitième Art and d’Orsay’s Feuilles de Tomate room spray/candle. Has anyone tried these? August 17, 2012 at 7:44pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Nicolas, it’s good to hear a vote for Metaboles! There hasn’t been discussion of this line, and I’ve not tried the other frag and room spray you’ve mentioned (but I will!). August 18, 2012 at 9:29am Reply

  • Douglas: My absolute favorite tomato leaf comes in candle form. SpaceNK’s Tomato Rhubarb is on constant rotation in the apartment and is highly recommended for any who long for that yummy greenness tomato leaf can add. Great post. August 23, 2012 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, thanks for the rec! Just want I need (but I do! I do!) another candle.

      Glad you liked the post! August 23, 2012 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Brian Shea: When I first starting seeing ‘tomato leaf’ things coming out several years ago I thought “Who the heck would want to actually smell tomato leaves, much less smell like one?” I always thought tomato leaves had a pungent, well, stink! But apparently a lot of people love the smell! This makes me want to go to my garden plot and rub the leaves of my tomato plants to see if I can cultivate any sort of liking for the smell. March 13, 2013 at 12:21pm Reply

  • stacy: it’s not a perfume, but 80 Acres makes a scent called Verde and it has some tomato leaf smell happening. July 1, 2013 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Barbara Johnson: Has anyone tried the Jo Malone, Green tomato Leaf candle? Oh my…………Lovely. I wish that they would make a spritz of the same fragrance. Available at Nordstrom. July 11, 2015 at 8:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I smelled it at the store and I loved it. A true green tomato leaf scent! July 13, 2015 at 3:35pm Reply

  • nozknoz: Cognoscenti No. 16 Tomato Leather is a wonderful light and refined leather built around this now. It’s fascinating how they’ve used tomato leaf instead of birch tar, etc., for that touch of bitterness that defines a leather perfume. June 21, 2016 at 11:06am Reply

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