As part and parcel of being the sort of person who gardens for fragrance, I sometimes go looking for off beat versions of well known plants, hoping to come across something that I don’t ordinarily smell. A case in point is white lavender. Everybody knows and loves the purple variety in gardens, and of course it was used in perfume a lot before the IFRA restrictions on lavender went into force. But there are white lavenders, and they do look pretty good in combination with roses and delphiniums and the sorts of plants you find in June, only around here they’re uncommon.
I was grousing recently about the fact that I couldn’t find much listed in US nurseries and was beginning to think that finding white lavender in the States was going to prove very frustrating, when I went out on one of my customary treks about the neighborhood and what did I find in a nearby garden but…white lavender. Looking wonderful you must admit – see picture.
Is the smell worthwhile? Yes! Actually I like it better than the lavender lavender I already grow bucket loads of. It is drier, lighter, and has a slight mineral undertone to it that is practically irresistible, and that recalls the smell of dry earth after rain: petrichor. I have to admit to running my hands all the way through the stems and coming away really pleased with the whole operation. Now I understand why it is that the cat sometimes has a good roll in the catmint. Same idea. Certain resinous plants just perfume you as you brush past them and a good wallow must be the equivalent to us of three spritzes of something we love.
It turns out that you can find a couple of White Lavenders Stateside, “Jean Davis” is the most widely available. In Britain you are spoiled for choice and some of the whites are wonderfully clear and really white, to judge from the photos with no admixture of residual lilac tones, or grayish pinks.
The next question for me was does, anybody use this stuff in perfume? I mean specifically white lavender? The only perfume house I’ve found so far that seems to is Strange Invisible Perfumes. Now they not only use naturals in their products but either source them, or grow them, and it’s surprising and interesting that they’ve hit on this white lavender oil as an ingredient. It’s in their Fire and Cream
But, being the scent hound that I am I cannot help but think of all the perfumes you could make using this. It could make something wonderfully light and dry and effervescent, like a drier Chanel 22 or an even gigglier Bain de Champagne. I would want aldehydes and then the white lavender then maybe some white lilac and light jasmine and white cognac in the heart, and finally the (yes, banned) opopanax in the dry down. It would be something different, not so chemical smelling as some of the recent boozy scents, but equally lively. Not gonna happen, but a gal can dream, and perhaps I’ll just grow white lavender and roll in it periodically.
By the way, champagne is the theme because we have now passed the one year mark. One hundred thirty two posts and plenty more where that came from. Thank you all for reading. (Also by the way, if you have enjoyed the husband’s contributions, you might enjoy his newly launched ahistoryblog.com.)