The Scent of Rhubarb

It’s hard to imagine a note trendier than rhubarb. Pick up any pink tinted bottle and a sales associate will recite a litany of notes which is bound to include rhubarb (along with red berries and pink pepper). But rhubarb’s popularity is justified because it can be made tart or sweet, coquettish or edgy. For me, familiarity with this material doesn’t breed contempt. On the contrary, the more I explore it, the more I become infatuated. To reveal different facets of rhubarb, I take it as a topic of my FT column, Perfumes with a Rhubarb Shimmer. I explain that materials with rhubarb inflections also have a classical pedigree and I recommend savory fruity perfumes for both men and women.

rhubarb slices

Every spring I make a Persian rhubarb sherbet by cooking sliced stems and sugar in water. Once the flavour and pink colour infuse into the syrup, I filter the liquid and add rose essence. Enjoyed in tall crystal glasses, the sherbet has a voluptuous taste that calls to mind the warm light streaming through the stained-glass windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a pink-tinted jewel of Shiraz. Since perfumery has much in common with cuisine, rendering my sherbet into a fragrance accord with a similar ornate impression is not difficult. Please continue here.

Any other rhubarb recommendations are more than welcome.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Enjoyed this? Get blog posts via email:

Or, stay updated via:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS

63 Comments

  • Lifestyle Lodestar: Sounds like an absolutely delicious recipe and scent. Do you have a favourite perfume with rhubarb notes? July 18, 2016 at 8:06am Reply

    • Victoria: I mentioned my favorites in the article. I don’t think I have a single favorite, since this note can be so varied. July 18, 2016 at 8:14am Reply

  • Lifestyle Lodestar: I see what you mean, such a versatile note July 18, 2016 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: What about you? Do you have any favorites? July 18, 2016 at 8:41am Reply

      • Lifestyle Lodestar: English Pear & Freesia by Jo Malone is a summer favourite, but the rhubarb is more subtle than I would like. July 18, 2016 at 11:02am Reply

        • Victoria: Jo Malone had a few with rhubarb, but yes, given that it’s a light note and JM blends are already on the light side, it can be too fleeting. July 19, 2016 at 11:56am Reply

  • Kat: I have one perfume with a rhubarb-rose note in my collection: Caudalie’s Rose de Vigne. I enjoyed it for a while as light summer scent but then I got tired of it due to the strong fruity notes that make it overly sweet. I like my roses with some thorns. July 18, 2016 at 8:40am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a very good perfume (and quite affordable here in Belgium), but I also found it too sweet in the drydown. It starts tart and becomes sugary later. July 18, 2016 at 9:48am Reply

  • Elena: I look forward to exploring more! Per your recommendation/review, I tried Rhubarbe Ecarlate recently. I was intoxicated by the opening, but as much as I loved it, I couldn’t justify the price tag since after 20 minutes or so, it softened to merely nice. July 18, 2016 at 9:51am Reply

    • Victoria: It has a big dose of musk, which is velvety and lush. I normally don’t care for such finishes, but something in combination of musk and rhubarb made me smitten. Still, I agree, it’s expensive as is the whole Hermès line.

      Have you tried YSL In Love Again? Another brilliant rhubarb dominated perfume. July 18, 2016 at 9:55am Reply

      • Elena: I haven’t, and will seek it out! I also finally tried Chamade, and the first time I wore it, the hyacinth and powdery notes seemed old fashioned, but then I fell hard for it. So thank you! July 18, 2016 at 10:20am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s one of the most perfect perfumes. Not to say that it’s an easy one to like, but once you fall in love with it, it’s for life. July 19, 2016 at 11:54am Reply

  • Briony hey: Your rhubarb sherbet sounds gorgeous. It reminds me that I must keep trying new recipes – I tend to just trot out my old favourites time and time again. I tried a rhubarb perfume recently in Fenwick’s – Mark Buxton’s Devil in Disguise. I quite liked it but it seemed very fleeting on me. July 18, 2016 at 10:00am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried it, but the name is intriguing. July 19, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

  • Jillie: My mouth is watering at the thought of those scents and flavours!

    For a quick drinkable rhubarb hit, I thoroughly recommend Taylors of Harrogate’s Rhubarb Tea, which they have produced in conjunction with Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It is such a zingy beverage.

    They also have a Rose Lemonade Tea which has been heaven to drink while I suffer a horrid summer cold.

    And both teas are so pretty to look at! July 18, 2016 at 10:12am Reply

    • Lucas: Jillie, you just made a tea lemming in me July 18, 2016 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Your food and tea recommendations are always so unusual and interesting. What I miss about living in London is the fact that rhubarb is such a popular flavor and you can find it in anything, from ice cream to drinks. Both teas sound like something I’d like. July 19, 2016 at 11:53am Reply

  • Jane: One of my warm weather regulars is Duchaufour’s Rhubarb from his Sherbet series for Comme des Garcons. Straight up tart rhubarb for the first hour or so, very refreshing. Just when I think I’ve had enough of that it shifts to a pleasant wood which lasts quite well. I wore it recently to a dance performance in a hot and crowded little theatre and no one tried to get away from me—in fact got a complement on it from a stranger. July 18, 2016 at 10:21am Reply

    • Kitty Van Halen: I love this one! Did they discontinue it? I’ve been looking for a bottle. So perfect for summer. July 18, 2016 at 12:25pm Reply

      • Kitty Van Halen: Oops! Just looked and they still carry it at Luckyscent. July 18, 2016 at 12:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: I saw it at the CdG boutique not long ago, so I assume that it’s still around. July 19, 2016 at 11:57am Reply

      • Jane: Don’t know. Mine’s quite a few years old and haven’t seen it around. July 18, 2016 at 12:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: One of my favorites too. Fresh, crunchy and not as sweet as straight up rhubarb blends tend to be. July 19, 2016 at 11:55am Reply

    • Kat2: My favorite rhubarb by far–so refreshing for these hot and dry summer days! July 21, 2016 at 11:49am Reply

  • Lucas: Did you try new Hermes – Rhubarbe Ecarlate? It’s also very nice and refreshing cologne. July 18, 2016 at 11:51am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: May I add a bit of rhubarb trivia?

    In 1404, the Spaniard with the melodious name of Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo travelled first to Constantinople and then continued his voyage through what is today Armenia, Iran, and Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan. There, he arrived in the legendary city of Samarkand and spent three months at the court of the great ruler Tamerlane (Timur) whom he actually met.

    Señor Clavijo wrote a detailed account of his trip in “La embajada a Tamorlán” (Embassy to Tamerlane) and remarks about Samarkand:

    “The city is very rich in merchandize which comes from other parts. […] China sends silks, which are the best in the world, more especially the satins, and musk, which is found in no other part of the world, rubies and diamonds, pearls and rhubarb, and many other things.”

    Isn’t that splendid?

    I personally have and like the Comme de Garçons Rhubarb Sherbet. Very refreshing, like a fizzy drink. July 18, 2016 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. I loved that quote.

      In Iran rhubarb flowers are also eaten, and they have a delicate tart flavor. One of my favorite ways with rhubarb is savory–with lamb or fish. Salt on rhubarb brings out its sweetness. July 19, 2016 at 11:59am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: Oh yes, absolutely: the Persian lamb and rhubarb stew khoreshe rivas, for instance. You’ll know it well, I’m sure. I find adding lime juice helps brighten the khoresh too. July 19, 2016 at 12:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: It makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I also find that lime works even better than lemon, because of its spicier, greener taste. July 20, 2016 at 2:16am Reply

          • OnWingsofSaffron: BTW, I wanted to thank you for your tip with the shop FreshMed in Etterbeek, BXL. I went there the other day and was stunned by their enormous choice. Re date: there were about ten different brands of dates, from Israel, Iran down to Namibia! So I bought some Iranian dates, plus a Jordanian date vinegar and am planning on making a simple date chutney 🙂 July 20, 2016 at 2:26am Reply

            • Victoria: I love that place. They also carry Iranian and Turkish date molasses that taste of spicy caramel. Mixed with tahini, it’s my indispensable breakfast item. July 20, 2016 at 2:35am Reply

      • Kari: Rhubarb and fish sounds amazing! July 24, 2016 at 8:55pm Reply

    • Gretchen: what an excellent tidbit of information! I am a lifelong rhubarb lover (that sherbet sounds amazing), but have never tried it in perfume. This discussion and FT article may tempt me to test a few. July 19, 2016 at 9:40pm Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: I like rhubarb too. (In Germany, a compote of rhubarb and strawberries is often made which is very refreshing.) As I mentioned above, I have that little white bottle of Comme des Garçons Series 5: Sherbet – Rhubarb. It doesn’t have any formal, perfumy allure: For me it is a cheerful thing, a “jeu de rhubarbe”. But it is no shrinking violet, it is quite dynamic! July 20, 2016 at 2:16am Reply

      • Victoria: I forgot to add a link to the full recipe, and here it is:
        http://boisdejasmin.com/2014/03/rhubarb-rose-sherbet-syrup-recipe.html July 20, 2016 at 2:20am Reply

  • Elke Gerhard: Some years ago, I found this gem and still love it:
    Ciel mon Jardin by Le Prince Jardinier, unfortunately it is discontinued.

    http://www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Le-Prince-Jardinier/Ciel-Mon-Jardin–4284.html July 18, 2016 at 2:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also remember Ciel Mon Jardin and the charming boutique the brand had in Paris. July 19, 2016 at 11:59am Reply

  • Karen A: These all sound so refreshing! It’s funny, because I’ve been on an incense kick having fallen in love with Lutens’ Serge Noire. Not the usual hot/humid fragrance but enjoying it nonetheless. July 18, 2016 at 2:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Dry incense like that would be perfect on a hot day, I think. I also liked Sahara Noir in small quantities during our heat wave. July 19, 2016 at 12:00pm Reply

      • Karen A: When I first found BdJ it was after testing Sahara Your and I could not figure out why it has been released in the summer. You wrote that since it was geared for, and used notes from, the Middle East, it was a fragrance that works beautifully in the heat.

        That was the beginning of my perfume world being expanded! I’d like to try Serge Noire and Sahara Noir at the same time, I loved Sahara Noir but did not buy a bottle.

        Now with my self-imposed “finish a bottle before buying a bottle “rule”, I have plenty of time to compare! July 19, 2016 at 1:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s a good rule, especially since by wearing the same perfume at length you learn more of its nuances. But with Sahara Noir I probably wouldn’t need a full bottle, just a small decant. July 20, 2016 at 2:17am Reply

  • rainboweyes: Ha, what a timely post! I’m enjoying the warm evening (one of the very few we’ve had this summer here in Europe 🙁 ) on the terrace with a couple of my girl friends right now and guess what we are sipping at? Champagne with rhubarb syrup – one of my favourite drinks (works well with quince too).
    Perfumewise, my rhubarb loves are Aedes Signature and Rhubarb Sherbet. July 18, 2016 at 2:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds heavenly! I definitely must try it. July 19, 2016 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Malmaison: I am very fond of Byredo’s La Tulipe, which is weird because it’s quite an outlier for me – I’m normally all about the orientals or a nice dry incense. But there is something about its fresh green rhubarb note that makes me feel like spring is just around the corner, ni matter what time of year it is. July 18, 2016 at 9:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also like rhubarb when it’s green and crunchy. July 19, 2016 at 12:04pm Reply

  • spe: It is a curse that the flavors I very much enjoy tasting (vanilla, rhubarb, berries, chocolate) are the scents I don’t enjoy wearing. Don’t ask me why – it doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is! If I had to choose I would wear the YSL. July 19, 2016 at 1:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I can relate. I generally don’t like scents that smell too edible. On the other hand, there are times when nothing but Pink Sugar will do. 🙂 July 19, 2016 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Tati: My rhubarb fix is the Aedes, although I only have the travel size. This is for my non-perfume moods and hot weather only so it would take a long time to go through a full bottle.

    Although the notes are different, the other perfume this reminds me of is Diptyque’s L’ombre dans L’eau. July 19, 2016 at 3:25am Reply

    • Victoria: A little goes a long way with Aedes EDP. I like it very much, but I also can’t wear it every day. Not the most versatile perfume in my wardrobe. July 19, 2016 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Eric: I loved your article. I’m going to have to give a good sniff to my Ma Griffe and Miss Dior tonight!

    I love Burberry Brit Red, lotion and EdP. The EdP has more of that rhubarb crispness though I do prefer the lotion, which holds more gingerbread spice.

    I enjoy the new Hermes too though I prefer Rose Ikebana, which is a relative powerhouse for the Hermessences. July 19, 2016 at 1:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Rose Ikebana has stayed in my rotation for several years. It’s a simple perfume, but it’s also an example of how Jean-Claude Ellena can put together these beautiful, polished accords. July 20, 2016 at 2:19am Reply

  • Aurora: Well done for detecting this trend! I enjoy ery much the rhubarb note in Amouage Honour, perhaps it’s because of it that this is one of tuberose centred perfume I can deal with and enjoy without finding it too cloying. July 20, 2016 at 9:39am Reply

    • Victoria: A touch of rhubarb with tuberose or gardenia is a great combination. An olfactory equivalent of espresso with a squeeze of lemon. July 21, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

  • Jennifer: Though uncredited in the list of accords for Jour d’Hermes, I get a distinct rhubarb note at the opening of this beauty. July 20, 2016 at 2:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: I notice a rhubarb like note in this perfume too. I don’t remember if it comes from a specific rhubarb material or a berry note, but it’s pretty. July 21, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

  • Ingeborg: I dream of owning the Aedes scent, it is perfect for early spring. In the meantime I enjoy spritzing the l’Occitane Pierre Hermé Pamplemousse Rhubarbe edt and using the matching body lotion. It is a simple perfume, but nice in the warmer months. To enjoy it, you need to like grapefruit too, of course. It doesn’t last very long, but I find it lasts better than the CdG scent. July 21, 2016 at 7:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: I just tried L’Occitane’s version, and I agree, it’s wonderful. Not as fleeting as I feared, but more like a good cologne. July 22, 2016 at 10:35am Reply

  • Kari: Reading this article made me hungry for my grandmother’s mouthwatering, tart strawberry-rhubarb pie that she made when I was growing up. Utterly delicious.

    I was so disappointed when I first heard about Jo Malone White Lilac & Rhubarb, then learned that it’s not sold in the US! It sounds lovely. July 24, 2016 at 8:52pm Reply

What do you think?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Tijana in Top 10 Perfumes for Reading by Candlelight: Hi Notturno7 – I am Serbian by background so chances are we do! 😀 Small world, thank you for your lovely words, happy to hear we share the same passion… January 21, 2017 at 5:52am

  • Notturno7 in Top 10 Perfumes for Reading by Candlelight: Hi Tijana, I love your pairings for both and I can see why that nostalgic sweetness and ‘kindness’ of L’ Heure Bleue could match Hadley. There’s a gentle sadness and… January 21, 2017 at 5:32am

  • Mia in Recommend Me a Perfume : January 2017: Hi Joy! I recommend you the same scent as Cas above, Molinard Habanita. It answers to at least your sandalwood, nutmeg, vanilla, amber and vetiver cravings – all in the… January 21, 2017 at 3:45am

  • Jacquie in Yves Saint Laurent Opium (New) : Perfume Review: I LOVE Obsession! Both vintage and new, once that initial sharp green blast dried off….it was my ultimate scent back in the late 80s and early 90s. I had Opium… January 21, 2017 at 3:03am

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2017 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved.