cassie: 4 posts

A Branch of Mimosa for Carmen

“I will bring you cassie, if you still enjoy its perfume,” wrote French novelist 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 José? Une fleur de cassie.

Cassie and mimosa are two closely related plants from the acacia family. The branches covered with masses of lemon yellow pompoms not only look beautiful, they also have a rich scent valued in perfumery. Native to Australia, mimosas were brought to France in the 18th century by the British explorer, Captain James Cook, and they have flourished in the mild winters of the Mediterranean coast. Every February the Massif de Tanneron in Provence turns golden yellow as the mimosas come into bloom, a Fauvist painting come alive.

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Seasonal Flowers : Mimosa

My new video is about one of my favorite flowers, mimosa. First, I will clarify what flower I am talking about, since the whole topic of mimosa can make a botanist despair. The mimosa used in perfumery is either Acacia decurrens var. dealbata (called simply mimosa in the perfumery trade) or Acacia farnesiana (called cassie). The former is the pompom like yellow mimosa that I am holding in the video, the latter has a less dramatic appearance but is equally fragrant. The essences don’t have similar scents, but they are used for similar floral-violet, green and powdery effects in perfumes. Most of the mimosa absolute comes from South India and France.

Mimosa or cassie, the fragrance is beautiful–radiant, bright, with an addictive honeyed almond facet. A green leafy and cucumber peel accent lends an interesting twist, which is why mimosa and cassie fit so well in violet, green, fruity and spicy compositions.

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7 Mimosas and Carmen

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.

mimosa and tea

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.

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Mimosa, Cassie, and Honeyed Almonds : Perfume Note

In the depths of winter, when I begin to lose faith that spring will ever come again, the yellow pompoms of mimosa lift my spirits. No matter how rushed I am, the slender branches arranged in the florist’s windows tempt me to slow down, and I walk out of the store burying my face in a large bouquet. The fluffy flowers caress my cheeks and dust them with lemon-yellow powder, and the scent is vivid and joyful to match the explosive color–a mixture of green violet and honey soaked almonds. It’s delicate, but remarkably persistent, filling the room with the aroma of Provence within minutes.

Even if you haven’t smelled real mimosa*, chances  are you’ve encountered it in perfume. This material is one of the most intriguing and complex. The mimosa used in perfumery belongs to a related family, Acacia, with two varieties processed commercially for their fragrant oil–Acacia decurrens var. dealbata (called simply mimosa in the perfumery trade) and Acacia farnesiana (cassie). The former is the pompom like yellow mimosa in my photo, the latter is simpler and more austere but equally fragrant.

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