The scene: Brussels, an early evening cast in grey light. A woman walking slowly down the street. Behind a window covered with condensation she sees It. If it were a French New Wave film, the woman would have met the love of her life with whom she’d spend the next hour and a half exchanging meaningful glances and an occasional quote from a postmodern philosopher. But being my life, this is an evening when I find mimosa.
No flowers make me lose myself the way these fluffy yellow pompoms do. I’m not the only one–a heavily pregnant friend once traveled from Brooklyn all the way to Manhattan just because she heard that one florist shop on the Upper West Side might have received a shipment of mimosas. When I walk home, my arms filled with the bouquets, even the darkening light seems to radiate the same lemon yellow color.
Mimosa brings with it the smell of the Mediterranean, the salty breeze, green violet leaves, and pale honey. Within minutes of arranging the stems in water, I can smell spring throughout the whole apartment. As a note in a perfumer’s palette, mimosa is one of the most essential, even if difficult. But along with a related variety called cassie, mimosa is used in some of the most interesting compositions, allowing us to enjoy its yellow brightness even in the absence of fresh flowers.
Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie
As I mentioned in my article about mimosa and cassie, Une Fleur de Cassie is a mimosa gold standard. It uses both mimosa and cassie absolutes, and it has the plush, tactile sensation of fresh blossoms. The character, however, is much darker and warmer. While L’Artisan Mimosa Pour Moi smells the most like mimosa on a branch, Une Fleur de Cassie is a mimosa-themed fantasy, but for this all the more interesting.
Thirdman Eau Monumentale
The cologne is based on a chord of mimosa, bergamot and cumin. The idea seems unusual, but the result is harmonious and effervescent. Mimosa on the Italian Riviera, if you will.
There still remain villages in Provence that specialize in candied flowers and jams made from rose, jasmine, violet and other scented blossoms. In such places you can find mimosa bonbons. They look like yellow colored nonpareil balls and taste mostly of sugar. Caron Farnesiana is my idea of what candied mimosa should taste like–almond meringue and violets.
Guerlain Petit Guerlain
Here I’m talking about the 2014 Thierry Wasser version, which blends mimosa, orange blossom, honey, and licorice in a wispy and delicate perfume. Not a whiff of Johnson & Johnson powder here; French babies smell of orange flowers. Even so, I rarely wear it as perfume, using it instead to spray the bed sheets and linens.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Mimosa Pour Moi
I mention Mimosa Pour Moi because it has by now acquired the reputation of a niche classic. It’s pretty but too darn shortlasting. Instead, to satisfy my mimosa cravings I turn to Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom.
Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom Candle
Putting together mimosa and cardamom, velvety and spicy, warm and cool, was genius. Unlike most Jo Malones, the cologne lasts well on me, but equally wonderful is the candle. It creates the illusion of a house filled with mimosa bouquets.
When my mom asked for mimosas at her local florist, a shop assistant looked somewhat confused and then said, pointing to a bar down the street, “Ah, orange juice and champagne? They make it next door.” I have experimented and concluded that nothing beats the original recipe from Harry’s Bar in Venice–1 part orange juice mixed with tangerine juice to 3 parts of Prosecco. Orange juice by itself is too acidic, and fine champagne isn’t improved by any additions. On the other hand, Prosecco or even Cava take well to fruity notes.
Carmen: Novel and Opera
“I will bring you cassie, if you still enjoy its perfume,” wrote Prosper Mérimée in Lettres à une inconnue (Letters to an Unknown). The Unknown, was Mademoiselle Jenny Dacquin, the daughter of a notary of Boulogne, with whom Mérimée corresponded for over forty years. And what flower should his Carmen throw to Don Jose? Une fleur de cassie.
“She put her mantilla aside, to show her shoulders and a huge bunch of cassia, which protruded from her chemise. She had a cassia flower in the corner of her mouth, too, and as she walked she swung her hips like a filly in the stud at Cordova” (“cassie” in the original French; Mérimée, Carmen, 1847, p. 31).
In Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, the aria “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” (The flower that you threw to me) is a passionate declaration of love and yearning. Mimosa’s cuddly softness hides a smoldering heart.
Do you have any other favorite mimosas?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin