The always curious Guts, noticing the pending arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, asked me if there was much in the way of Irish perfume in general or clover perfume in particular. I referred him to Le Trefle Incarnat (L.T. Piver) and to Yanky Clover (Richard Hudnut 1920-21), but it did make me wonder. Two perfumes only? This was pretty slim pickings
I vaguely remembered stumbling on an article on perfumery written by Jean Carles. It was mostly a general lecture given to young perfumers (he inaugurated the perfumery school at Roure in 1946), it was full of practical advice on how to cobble together new scents. What struck me was his list of four perfume types to practice on and the basic components of each. He included fougere and chypre, but also foin (hay) and trefle (clover).
It’s not surprising, of course, that basic recipes for perfumes should differ from what dominates retail displays now. A number of receipts go back to the 18th century and earlier – you can find them referenced in old perfume books. But the ingredients Jean Carles cited for a clover perfume – anisic notes, or eugenol, coumarin, musk and bergamot- probably didn’t exist much before the late 19th century. Notice that, excepting bergamot, all of these were synthetic.
So where have all the clovers gone? Were there ever more the Trefle Incarnat and Yanky Clover?
Yes, indeed. A quick look at Perfume Intelligence Encyclopedeia tossed up dozens of perfumes all called trefle, or some variant of that, even more under clover. The earliest came from John Gosnell in 1873 and the last from Dubarry Parfumerie in 1940. The latest perfume listed with the word Trefle in the title is Ateliers Trefle Pur and there’s no coumarin or eugenol in that.
You will notice just how many have been discontinued, and why is that? It sounds as though, despite the green-ness of the name, clover fragrances smelled spicy and who knows? might not appeal to modern consumers.
Still, we are in the age of niche marketing and individualized taste. I smell market opportunity here. Maybe someone should revamp the formula and call it Eau de Donegal?