The Bee’s Eye View

Once upon a time, as a matter of fact quite some considerable time ago, Guts and I lived in Vermont.  I almost said that we inhabited it because then the state actually contained more cows than humans then.

As you might expect the state was full of meadows.  I used to pass by on my daily walks and smell them, quite different smells at different times of year.  In spring when many of the meadows were still wet underfoot, the smell was green and damp, full of violets (non-smelling ones, very few violets have a scent detectable by human noses) dandelions and the tall fluffy heads of Queen of the Meadow.  Later on the smell was dominated by grasses and the pink clover which grows all over the state, and that is the state flower.  Then you lost the smell to the first haying, generally about the middle of June.

Meadow scents are very far removed from the smells of the domesticated plants in the front garden.  Those are often selected and bred for their smells but there is something faintly foolish about them.  You get what in the insect world might well be scent overload, bringing a gun to a knife fight as it were.

There used to be an old French perfume recipe meant to catch the scent of meadows called Millefleurs.  It means a thousand flowers and in point of fact I don’t know if the intention was to create a meadow scent but judging by the old Crabtree and Evelyn bottle I used to have, it may well have been. These days I’m not sure if anyone produces the old Mille Fleurs, except possibly Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.  She has one in her line-up of French Court perfumes.  I haven’t smelled it and can’t speak for it, but I certainly hope it resembles those Vermont fields.

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4 Responses to The Bee’s Eye View

  1. Wesley Hall Parker says:

    Hi there – I just wanted to let you know that I wore C&E’s Millefleurs as a teenager in the late 80s – and recently remembered it, and wanted to smell it again – and lo and behold my wonderful Mom still had my old bottle of the EDT (or what’s left of it). It had been tucked away in its box in my old dresser, out of the light. So I think it’s in decent shape. It smells pretty darn good, actually! It went on a little harsh and bitter at first, in a way that fleetingly reminded me of a chypre – which made me wonder if something in the chemistry had been bruised or damaged over the years, or if the opening was always a little mossy and chypre-esque? But the dry down is definitely the same! Do you have any idea what the notes are? Definitely floral – hard for me to isolate any one note – with something else that adds complexity and depth. A touch of musk? What is that? And there’s this faint, hard to describe sweet “waxiness” to it that reminds me a little of Gucci Rush. Like, synthetic – and yet very pleasant for all that. Not sure if those are lactones or what. Anyhow! I’ve been searching the web to see if I can find any note listings – but so far no luck. Let me know if you know of any reference!

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Hey Wesley! The MilleFleurs recipe notes in the two versions I found on line contain:lavender, rose ,violet iris and bergamot. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has a Millefleurs for sale through her website, notes are: cassis, lavender, lemon, orange
      heart: geranium, otto rose, jasmine, orange blossom, orris, rosewater, violets and violet leaves
      base: ambrette seed, Brazilian vetiver and vanilla. Out of curiosity, I checked the basenotes for Gucci Rush and found vanilla, patchouli and vetiver in its notes so there is a similarity. and you smelled it out. I could not find the notes for the Crabtree & Evelyn itself. Crabtree & Evelyn might help you directly, they nicely sold me back stock of one of my husband’s fave shower gels. Worth a try.

  2. Wesley Hall Parker says:

    Aha! Thanks so much. I’d been thinking “what is that – rose and something. Rose & jasmine? No…sweet, but without the voluptuousness of jasmine.. something else…”

    Violet.

    I think it’s rose & violet in the heart. Jasmine might be there too – but there is that very very sweet violet note I’m getting. Also *possibly* iris b/c there is that fuzzy, velvety feeling – and yet – this was such an inexpensive little perfume – could it have iris? The opening is definitely herbaceous, unisex almost masculine. I suspect lavender and bergamot.

    So my guess is the pyramid goes something like:
    Top: lavender, bergamot
    Heart: Rose, Violet, Violet Leaves (Jasmine? Orris?)
    Base: vanilla, vetiver

    Which does explain why it would have a lovely field of flowers smell :) The herbaceous bits and the woody note of the vetiver keep it spritely and more unfussy than many feminine florals.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Yes, I think you’ve got it about right. As to the iris note you’re smelling, I think it is indeed there in the form of the orris, which was the old powdered iris root. It was a fixative back in the day, and folks used to use it in potpourri. It’s too expensive now, alas.

      Anyway cheers, and let’s hope somebody decides to do a few more field of flowers scents, they are, as you say, wonderfully unrehearsed and natural.

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