Scent Diary : Winter Jasmine

Four years ago I bought a jasmine plant. It was a puny little thing, but it was completely covered with flowers. After it finished blooming, it started growing profusely, but it hasn’t produced a single blossom. My husband took care of it, consulting numerous websites and books, but the jasmine refused to bloom. I suspected that there was not enough sun for it in our northern land, and soon enough my husband left it to its own devices. The jasmine spent all summer outside, watered by the generous Belgian rain. Apparently, neglect was the right approach, because this winter it started blooming once I brought it back inside. As I’m writing, the snow is falling, but here I sit surrounded by the aroma of jasmine.

Unlike other types of jasmine, Jasminum auriculatum–and that’s what my plant is–has an animalic, indolic fragrance with a spicy, cinnamon-like edge. Even dry flowers have a strong scent. This heady fragrance can only be matched either by Serge Lutens A La Nuit or an Indian jasmine attar.

You can write about anything you wish in this thread, but those who would like to use the Scent Diary to sharpen their sense of smell, I will give a short explanation. As I wrote in How to Improve Your Sense of Smell, the best way to sharpen your nose is to smell and to pay attention to what you’re smelling. It doesn’t matter what you smell. The most important thing is to notice whatever you smell around you. It’s even better if you write it down. So please share your scents and perfumes with us.

Merry Christmas! May it be a joyful one.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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30 Comments

  • Ariadne: This morning I went out to fill the bird feeders in my very crunchy brown yard and it smelled like snow. I love this smell, it is full of anticipation. December 22, 2017 at 10:01am Reply

  • Gabrielle Langley: Victoria! I am completely enchanted by your post, imagining the diminutive jasmine blooming in the snow!!! Something about the unexpected combination of indoles and ice captures the imagination. Thank you this deeply poetic story. ❄️ December 22, 2017 at 10:07am Reply

  • Lynn LaMar: Yes, indeed Victoria. I have always had an extremely sensitive sense of smell along with taste and hearing. I consider myself blessed by these senses and use them as completely and multi-faceted as I possibly can. Each new place I go I must close my eyes and inhale deeply through my nose to get ‘the lay of the land.’ No matter where I am, either in the middle of a forest in Oceanside DownEast Maine, or walking to the El in Brooklyn, the assault on my senses is always such a joy to me!! Even the ”icky” smells contribute to that all glorious landscape of sense!! December 22, 2017 at 10:15am Reply

  • Justine Jones: I have been struggling with writing in my scent diary. I can describe scents in metaphor and simile but find my scent vocabulary sorely limited. I wonder if it might be possible to compile a scent vocabulary in the new year. Perhaps it could be a community effort? We could start with specific terms like formal,and woody but move much further on. What do you think? December 22, 2017 at 10:53am Reply

    • Jacinta: Like this idea 🙂
      Jacinta December 22, 2017 at 11:09am Reply

    • Becky K.: Yes, I like the idea of building a scent vocabulary, too! December 22, 2017 at 7:30pm Reply

    • Maya: What a great idea, Justine! December 23, 2017 at 1:01pm Reply

  • Richard Potter: Great post. Almost made me get up to spray on some A La Nuit. Restrained myself, as I am already wearing Rose de Nuit. I like to spray my bed linens with A La Nuit.❤️ December 22, 2017 at 11:43am Reply

  • Jillie: How lovely. You reminded me of how I planted my little houseplant jasmine in the garden after she had finished flowering – I didn’t know what to do with her and thought I would give her a chance of freedom. Years later she was as high as the roof and rampant! I wept when we had to cut her down in order to stop her taking over and to paint the front of the house …. but little root fragments remained and she arose again.

    That fragrance is wonderful. Give your little jasmine a kiss from me. December 22, 2017 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Merete: I’m cursing my weak sense of smell, requiring everything to be almost pungent before I can smell it. That is not a good combination with being a perfumista! Today I was out walking in the woods. It was wet, cold and misty and I was actually thinking about noticing smells as I walked. I could smell wet earth and rotting leaves, pine trees, and a manure-like smell from a freshly dug ditch. I must say Richard Potter’s habit of spraying bed linen with A La Nuit sounds very attractive! December 22, 2017 at 12:31pm Reply

  • Trudy: A lovely post for a winter morning. I also love A La Nuit and one day will purchase a full bottle. For the time being I have a sample vile that I save for times when I just have to experience that intoxicating fragrance….and, after reading this post, I think today is such a time. December 22, 2017 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: There are “paper whites” blooming in our rather chilly house right now and they are intoxicating. Their scent makes me think of high notes that a human might not hear. The fragrance comes and goes. I catch a whiff and then it’s gone again. Please bottle it for me. Wishing everyone a happy, merry Winter/solstice/Christmas. December 22, 2017 at 2:33pm Reply

  • Fleurycat: I have a fairly green thumb but have had little success growing one of my favorite jasmines: jasminum polyanthum, outside for more than one season. Not enough sun or not enough heat, I fear. I love the intoxicating but powdery scent of this particular Jasmine, probably my favorite and a note I pick up on in Lys 41, though a different variety is listed. The other Jasmine I love, is “night blooming” Jasmine, the kind that you smell in the air long before you see it or locate the source, but I digress, because that is a warm weather Jasmine. I am finally growing a Jasmine that I have successfully trained on the rail leading up to our front door, and it blooms intermittently all year and the leaves are waxy and evergreen: Trachelospermum jasminoides, not really a true Jasmine but just as sweet. Funny how neglect is often best, ultimately the plant has to like the the conditions! December 22, 2017 at 3:46pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Attar: the name and the concept is buzzing all around increasingly. Andy Tauer released an attar; Victoria refers to one on her post above; other blogs write about it ever more.
    So, I thought, I want one too, and I bought an Amouage attar relatively cheap via ebay—”Al Shomoukh”. Cheap, because nobody else seemed interested…
    Well, I was in for quite a shock. It smelled first of tar, like a road being asphalted on a hot summer’s day. Only very late, did a rose begin to bloom ever so slightly.
    Next interesting revelation: after using the attar a few times ever since, that piercing smell of pitch isn’t so strong any more, and the rose is far more prominent. Did contact to oxygen change the initial forbidding smell?
    Anyway, even though my introduction to attars wasn’t a real success, I’m intrigued. I wonder what my next attar will be? December 22, 2017 at 6:26pm Reply

  • Becky K.: That is a lovely photo of jasmine. Today’s scent observation came from an antique bottle of Lilac Vegetal produced by Lady Grey, a Boston-based perfumery from the 1800’s. I noticed the bottle several months ago at an antiques shop, but I told myself that I did not need it. After months of regret, I went back to the shop, and it was there! The scent reminds me of older, heavy fragrances. I did not detect lilac at first, but the more I think about it, I think it’s there. I hope to smell lilacs again in Spring! December 22, 2017 at 7:27pm Reply

  • Maria: Lovely post! I would love to know if your jasmine variety would survive to Montreal’s winter, I think we are almost at the same latitude, despite of being colder here. I have a wonderful cardamome plant at home and I love to touch the leaves and to feel the spicy and sweet smell they left on my hands. It would be really nice to have a jasmine plant close to it! December 22, 2017 at 8:13pm Reply

  • Mariann: I’m home for a visit and I am struck at how much I’m enjoying the air here. Such a contrast to Santiago where I live. But it smells of water and ice, stone and frozen earth and then at the markets of pine and spices and the occasional whiff of woodsmoke. Ive missed it it seems 😀 December 23, 2017 at 5:16am Reply

  • Maya: As always, you bring out the poetic in the mundane. In the past couple of months I have planted narcissus and hyacinth bulbs in succession and have been enjoying the indolic rich fragrance of the narcissus blooms. No hyacinth yet- that will bloom in about a month or more. On the issue of growing plants successfully, I’m renowned for my “green thumb” but have always felt that if someone hasn’t had success with plants it simply means they haven’t found the right plant for them. Like everything else in life (perfume included) – you must have the right chemistry. December 23, 2017 at 1:10pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: I just got back from a trip to Bombay where I stayed in the Vivanta Taj President Hotel in Colaba. Their entrance lobby and reception area has a number of trays full of jasmine. The whole area smells powerfully (almost overwhelmingly) of jasmine. It’s quite unique, but your post immediately reminded me of it.

    I always think of jasmine as a tropical hot climate flower, but of course I realise it also grows in Europe. So, a winter jasmine is quite an intriguing concept. In terms of perfume, I guess, Songes seems an ideal representation of the first, whereas Un Nuit Magnetique from The Different Company is more like my idea of a winter jasmine from temperate climes. December 23, 2017 at 1:18pm Reply

    • Mayfly: There is a winter flowering honeysuckle bush by my front door. This plant is not much to look at, but such a marvellous smell! similar to Daphne, which I had in my back garden, but it inexplicably died on me last year.. how I wish I could find a perfume that captures these scents! December 24, 2017 at 3:24am Reply

      • Silvermoon: Hello Mayfly,
        I don’t know any daphne based perfume, but I believe there are many plants/flowers that fall in this category.

        For honeysuckle, here are some ideas: Honeysuckle by Fresh, Caprifoglio (Both L’Erbolario and Santa Maria Novella, Italian brands, do a version with the same name), Annick Goutal also has a couple with honeysuckle. It’s not a note I know much about, although always like it when I smell it. Maybe others will have better suggestions, if you ask on the next recommend me a perfume thread. December 27, 2017 at 7:20am Reply

        • Mayfly: Thanks silvermoon, I will enjoy hunting these out. December 28, 2017 at 12:23pm Reply

      • KatieAnn: Hi Mayfly, this is such a coincidence! I was reading the perfume review of Wit by Parfums Delrae. It is based on Daphne. I happened to see this comment at the bottom of the page. I haven’t sample Wit yet, but now I must give it a try. It sounds marvelous. Maybe you ought try to get your hands on a sample too! How funny this was! 🙂 December 27, 2017 at 1:49pm Reply

        • Mayfly: Thanks katieanne, unfortunately Parfums delrae are not available in the UK, but maybe they will be in the future? I read a review of Wit and it sounds delightful! December 28, 2017 at 12:25pm Reply

  • CC: I havd missed this place recently but my lack of time has made smelling even more precious. I have recently come across a couple of unpretentions, charming perfumes locally made in Japan, and apart from many traditional themes like yuzu or… sumo(!), my absolute favourite has been a discrete Bouquet made by Aoyama flowers, a florist chain. If you love that scent of heady blooms, moist basement, green stalls and the rusty metal of flower scissors – well, they bottled it. It feels like that first waft of smell when the door of such a place opens and you walk into the cave. And in spite of its air of nonchalance, its not a flimsy fragrance and it persists well. It’s also inexpensive, but I’m not sure it’s sold outside Japan, or the actual shop for that matter. Happy, happy fragrant Christmas to all. December 24, 2017 at 7:43am Reply

  • Mia: I have also discovered that plants love getting out for summer. Maybe they get some kind of a boost when trying to survive. Thank you for once again lovely post and peaceful and scented holiday time and the soon starting 2018! December 25, 2017 at 3:55am Reply

  • Laura: Unfortunately, I have a winter cold right now, but instead of dulling my sense of smell, it’s sharpened to a ridiculous degree. I filled a saucepan up last night and could literally smell the tap water, all sharp and mineral-y. It was bizarre! December 25, 2017 at 9:46am Reply

  • MmkinPA: I have a bit of a black thumb, but every spring my hyacinth bulbs bloom and I spend an inordinate amount of time in the backyard sniffing them. I also love smelling rosemary, so I try to keep a small plant alive all year- not always successfully. December 25, 2017 at 11:13am Reply

  • Inma: What a lovely post!
    We are in love with A la Nuit at home. My daughter was going to ask for it to the three Magic Kings here in Spain. Finally, we have decided she can use as much as she wants of my bottle of Van Cleef & Arpel Orchidée vanille. It is her new favourite!
    It rained during the night here in Seville, where so much water is needed. This morning I could smell the humid land and the clean air. There was still water in the air and I could smell it.
    As always, thank you! December 26, 2017 at 5:10am Reply

  • Aurora: So happy your jasmine plant is in bloom. The photo is beautiful, and the scent must be heavenly. At the moment I have just been cutting citrus fruit for mulled wine which will be the scent of the evening and have been wearing Tom Ford Youth Dew Amber Nude a warm spicy and ambery fragrance and 2 spritzes are enough to last all day. December 26, 2017 at 10:39am Reply

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