Violet: 40 posts

Fascinating Perfumery : What Do Modern Violets Smell Like

The discovery of ionones gave modern perfumery a distinctive violet inflection. In the first article on this topic, I’ve described how ionones were discovered, what was significant about them and how they were used in classical perfumery. Today, I would like to talk about contemporary fragrances.

The fragrances mentioned in this episode include

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Why Violet Perfumes Retain Their Timeless Appeal

Swan down puffs, lace camisoles, ivory fans, tulle skirts, satin shoes… If these words evoke an appealing vision for you, then you’re the right candidate for a Victorian violet perfume. While the 19th century under the reign of Queen Victoria is often described as conventional and stuffy, the favorite aromas of the period might likewise be seen as uninspiring. Nothing could be further from truth. Despite its reputation for being overly dainty and demure, violet has a complex aroma with a fascinating history–and it retains its timeless appeal.

The Victorian era was a period of great changes in society, and the simple example of a violet cologne is a good illustration for the dynamics of the time. Violet waters became popular long before Victoria was crowned a queen, and they were highly sought after for their sweet scent with nuances of raspberry and rose.  At first, fragrances based on this flower were derived from Parma violets via the painstaking process of collecting tiny blossoms and extracting their essence.  It made violet a costly and luxurious perfume available only to the select few.

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Carine Roitfeld Parfums George : Perfume Review

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In a memorable scene in Joris-Karl Huysman’s novel Against Nature, his character Des Esseintes is so inspired by reading Dickens that he decides to visit London. Yet, having traveled only as far as grey and rainy Paris, he feels that he has experienced London’s atmosphere enough in his imagination and abandons the whole idea. No doubt, Des Esseintes would have been sympathetic to the efforts of perfumers who attempt to satisfy the wanderlust of armchair travelers. One such venture is Carine Roitfeld Parfums, created by the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris. The line includes seven unisex fragrances, Aurélien, George, Kar-Wai, Lawrence, Orson, Sebastian and Vladimir, inspired by travel and by fictional lovers.

My ideal lover is George. He is elegant, suave, and soft-spoken, yet whatever he says keeps my interest piqued. (He has certainly read Huysmans, although decadence is not his favorite art current; he is more into realism.) I travel to Tokyo with George, where we stroll through autumnal temple gardens, take baths with iris petals and visit painting exhibits in those typically Japanese galleries filled with silence, soft light and a whiff of wood polish. With George on my arm, everything smells of violet leaves, moss and crushed green leaves. He doesn’t smoke, but the leather jacket that he wears so well is redolent of ashes and fine tobacco.

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The Art of Scented Candles

When my mother travels, she packs with her a votive candle in her favorite scent, rose, violet or mimosa. A familiar scent makes even the blandest hotel room feel cozier and brighter. I started following her example some years ago. Should one want to select from the range of excellent scented candles, the choice these days is overwhelming. So, in my new FT column, The Art of Candles, I’ve selected my current favorites.

Here is one, for instance.

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How to Candy Violets

Last spring I found myself short of sugar sprinkles to decorate a cake but I did have a big bouquet of violets from the garden. My grandmother, never at loss for ideas, flipped through her notebooks and found a simple recipe for making candied violets at home. “Brush each petal with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and leave on a rack to dry,” was the only instruction. So I followed it and ended up with pretty candied flowers. They not only lasted for a few months in a tightly covered tin, but also retained their bright color and delicate flavor.

Unlike commercial candied violets, homemade flowers don’t have an aggressive purple color nor the strong scent of synthetic ionone. If your violets are scented, you can taste the real violet flavor, which is a combination of raspberry and rose. It’s more subtle, but also more nuanced and complex.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Old Herbaceous in What Makes A Perfume Great: What a clear explanation of this technique! I especially appreciate the analogy to Balanchine’s choreography. September 17, 2021 at 10:02pm

  • Nancy Chan in Corsican Eucalyptus and the Scent of the Maquis: Hi Cornelia, Oh do try these soaps. The Imortelle (uplifting range) soap was on my next shopping list, but Diptyque’s Tam Dao soap beat it to the front of the… September 17, 2021 at 5:19pm

  • Cornelia Blimber in What Makes A Perfume Great: I love your descriptions of these iconic perfumes. I smelled all of them; Vent Vert was one of my first perfumes. No 22, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, and… September 17, 2021 at 4:38pm

  • Fazal in What Makes A Perfume Great: I love vintage Vent Vert. Since this article focuses on Roudnitska, too, I would take the liberty to ask if you have ever come across a properly preserved vintage Eau… September 17, 2021 at 10:24am

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