Casta Diva

We always got them in February in Rome, silly fluffy little bouquets that made some people sneeze but which delighted others.  They were so bright and saffron and yellow, after a Roman winter of greige and beige and gray, mimosas in flower markets signaled an abrupt change of season.

To this day, mimosas are the true heralds of spring to me.  I may appreciate snowdrops, but they are northern flowers, and go along with winter jasmine, in dense yellow starred hedges, and primroses.  None of them have much scent.  The yellow winter jasmine has no scent that I can detect.  Every year I try to smell snow drops, but it is an undignified exercise at best, with me bending nearly double and failing to smell anything after all.  If I’m going to pretzel myself, it’s probably a better bet to wait until the lilies of the valley are  in bloom, then I’m sure to get a payoff for my impromptu yoga position.  It should be called the Ostrich.

My default position, much less uncomfortable to perform, with mimosa is Farnesiana, the old Caron perfume from the 1950’s.  It’s still in production and I have heard so many times that the perfume is not what it used to be, that it’s become received wisdom.

What Farnesiana used to be is above: see?

Now it’s this little bottle, and it’s not just the bottle.   The scent is a muted diminished ambery mimosa perfume with a distinctly powdery end.  Farnesiana is pretty these days, but not imposing. By all accounts though, the perfume was imposing back in the day: a perfume that a diva could wear.

By the time I knew it, the flamboyance had been contained, the mood swings medicated, and even such a low key person as I am could wear it. In fact it was my Spring perfume for years when my daughter was small, and needed frequent diaper changes.  Farnesiana was maternal but counteracted A&D ointment and its tell-tale smell.

But what, I always wondered, what if mimosa could be cranked up to Diva flamboyance again?  And, thanks to a sample sent me by Undina, I know what a mimosa diva perfume smells like, namely, Amarige Mimosa. Givenchy started releasing millesime versions of their most popular perfumes a few years ago. (Here’s a brief aside about the word. Creed uses this term, meaning vintage, a lot, and have been roundly criticized for  passing off mediocre perfumes so designated.) Givenchy around 2007, began creating versions of its best seller scents featuring high quality naturals, and this one from 2007, is one of the nicest ones I’ve smelled.

The mimosa comes out at once in the first few breaths of the scent and then goes on to affect the body of the perfume in a delicate way.  But the effect is kind of symbiotic, the Amarige formula raises the volume on the mimosa, and the mimosa in turn stops the Amarige from singing Casta Diva at full volume. This is a real white flowered perfume, but it doesn’t have the metallic abrasiveness you can sometimes find in what I call cranky white flowered perfumes (see Le De, since we’re on the subject of Givenchy) – instead it devolves into a purring, caressing alto.

I wish there were more mimosa perfumes.  They seem not to be in vogue at the moment. Since Annick Goutal’s Mimosa, I don’t recall hearing of any.  It’s a shame. Mimosa fragrances are so cheerful, they are a real bright spot in the otherwise drab interval before spring begins.  Who wouldn’t want a yellow fuzz-ball of a scent?

The answer seems to be:  current perfume customers.


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17 thoughts on “Casta Diva

  1. Hey, I’ve done that bend-double-to-smell-the-lilies-of-the-valley thing too. I can’t resist.

    I’ve still not smelled any true mimosa, being only familiar with the erroneously-so-called “mimosa” of the American south, which is really silk tree. (I think it smells nice.) I *have* smelled some mimosa perfumes and can’t say I fell for any of them: the AG, AA Tiare Mimosa, Kenzo Summer (really hated that one – I thought it smelled like butter that’s gone off), and the FM Fleur de Cassie.

    There are, to be perfectly honest, very few “cranky” BWFs in my book, but Amarige is one. Oh, and La Chasse aux Papillons, which is straight-up Comet on me.

    • You’ve jogged my memory. When I was in NYC at the Sniffa thingy, a nice brand rep from Jo Malone gave me his recipe for recreating the scent of the silk tree using Jo Malones. Here it is:

      vetyver x1 spray
      orangeblossom x3 sprays
      french Lime x1 spray
      nectarine x2 sprays

      You’d be surprised but it really does recall the smell of the silk tree flowers.

      On the subject of mimosa perfumes you have to add Eau de Charlotte much nicer (I hear) than the new AG mimosa, PdN Mimosaique quirky and quite sweet, and this version of Amarige which is tamer than the usual Amarige, a kinder gentler Amarige if you like. Then there’s LArtisan’s Mimosa pour Moi. I always thought it was too sweet, but wore it anyway, and there was a big fat mimosa note in old Caline. We’re forgetting Champs Elysees, the thundering nineties mimosa. There was a not at all bad mimosa note in Folie Douce the Gres perfume. It must be dirt cheap online these days. As to Kenzo Summer, it smelled like peanut butter to me, thought I’d skip the Eau de Jif.

      La Chasse was pretty, but I’ll wager it’s been re-done. Always seems to happen. The one that never seems to change, and for once where’s the harm, is Jardins de Bagatelle. Can’t wear it.

      • I have a sample of Folie Douce I’ve not tried. Might have to pull that out soon, though I am probably hampered by not having smelled mimosa. I’m fairly certain I didn’t like Eau de Charlotte (ugh, cocoa notes) or Champs-Elysees, but I got on rather well with Jardins de Bagatelle.

        Kenzo Summer peanut butter? Okay, I can see that – there is definitely an oily, something-not-right-here vibe with it.

        Also have a small split of vintage Eau de Caline that I bought blind and then did not like, and I’m not sure whether it’s age-damaged or whether I just don’t like it. I’m leaning toward age damage; there’s a definite nail-polishy thing that usually indicates deteriorated aldehydes, but usually that goes away within 20 minutes, and it stuck around for a good hour before I washed off the Caline. I should probably give it another go before I declare it bad.

        Thanks for the further list.

  2. I love mimosa (and did not one but two posts on searching for the perfect scent). Perfumes I tested (in addition to Amarige Mimosa) were: Mimosa by Calypso Christiane Celle, Mimosa pour Moi by L’Artisan Parfumeur, Le Mimosa by Annick Goutal, Library Collection Opus III by Amouage, Une Fleur de Cassie by Frederic Malle, Mimosa by DSH Perfumes, Tiaré Mimosa by Guerlain and Champs Elysées Parfum by Guerlain. None of them smelled exactly as mimosa I remember but I decided to settle for Champs Elysées for now.

    • Oh so do I (obviously). The one you mention here that intrigues me, is the Opus III, because Michael at Perfume Patter liked another from that series, Opus VI, and he knows his stuff. The DSH disappeared on me and then re-appeared. Basically it played peek a boo on skin, which was a little disconcerting. Une Fleur de Cassie I do not know what to make of- complicated. Oh, and there’s the Krigler, Chateau Krigler, sparkly aldehydic, with a big natural smelling mimosa, very pretty. But I have to hand it to you, you were thorough.

  3. Have you tried Caron’s Montaigne? Mimosa is part of its top notes and to me, it strongly brings to mind my time in the South of France where I was pretty much surrounded by either mimosa or lavender. It’s not a pure mimosa scent, though I think that part is quite noticeable. To me, it’s a very sunny smell with narcissus, orange notes, amber and sandalwood. I like it, though I wear it infrequently. When I do, I *always* tell myself, “Why don’t I wear this more often?!” It’s very heady and sophisticated. You should look it up and see if it sounds interesting. 🙂

    As for Amarige Mimosa, it sounds fascinating. I’m one of those rare people (the lunatics?) that loves Amarige, regular. I believe we’re a closeted, secretive, utterly shamed bunch, but such is the infamy of Amarige. Still, a Mimosa version of Amarige…. how utterly transfixing a thought!

    I’ve always been so curious to try Farnesiana. I love vintage perfumes and there is so much talk about the glory of that one, once upon a time. Alas, it goes for KKKRAZY prices on eBay, even by vintage standards. One day, maybe.

    • Yes, I do know Montaigne – you see I am a sad Caron addict – but haven’t smelled it in some time. Montaigne smelled like yellow flowers and money, old French money, to me!

      Farnesiana is still quite pretty. Haven’t ever gotten my hands on Farnesiana that was older than about 2000, but vintage hounds swear that it was much more sophisticated than the current version, which is very heliotrope-y and very mimosa-ish, and sometimes a play-doh note pops out of the composition, and sometimes it doesn’t, BUT usually in the EDP not the extract.

      I liked the Amarige Mimosa that Undina sent me. Really nice, as close to understated elegance as Amarige can get, but still a diva perfume, which Amarige just is, complete with tantrums, tears, and a huge bouquet of mimosas from a former lover on opening night.

        • You might really like Montaigne it’s very…French, and sort of.. I want to say formal, but the word’s not quite right…properly reared possibly, or, as my husband says, “brought up nicely”.

          As to your old Caline it does sound damaged, and also, Caline is SOAP, nice soap, expensive soap, but…by now you’ve got the point. Actually, going to post about Caline in conjunction with a couple of others.

          You have got the world’s best skin for white florals. It’s official, because you know how you get Comet with La Chasse? Well, with Bagatelle I basically get Flowers ‘n’ Ajax !

          • Yeah, I was surprised to get Comet out of LCaP, because, to steal Roxie Hart’s words about audiences, white florals generally “love me. And I love them. And they love me for lovin’ them, and I love them for lovin’ me. And we looooooove each other.” It’s perfumery linden, I believe, that tends to go bathroom-cleanser on me.

            I do not do well with soapy perfume. Bleah. NOW. Where is that Montaigne?? (starts tossing samples over shoulder…)

        • I have Montaigne and it is extremely French, like you say, the house in the country. In my bottle the mimosa is prominent. It’s the modern formula but doesn’t smell modern to me!

          • It was the customary problem with the Carons: make a very good perfume and then reformulate it. They seem to reformulate so often that I have given up and assume that whatever I am smelling is simply this year’s version of whatever.
            Montaigne was very elegant, and very yellow flowered, nestled in that sweet spot the French ferret out between what is irretrievably frivolous and what is soberly elegant. Now it is much less interesting. Why do they do it? It can’t always be IFRA.

  4. I did a major examination of the mimosa and heliotrope notes last spring, partly because it often seemed like the two were used interchangeably to describe perfumes and I was confused. Now that I’ve worked through the notes, I’m even more confused, because to my nose they smell quite different from each other. Full disclosure: I live waaaay too far north to have ever smelled real mimosa, so I’m just going by the perfumes I’ve smelled.

    So I’ve tried Mimosa pour Moi, Mimosaique, AG’s Le Mimosa, L’Occitane’s Mimosa, Champs-Elysee, Cinema,
    SMN Gaggia, Molinard’s Mimosa, Angela Flander’s Mimosa, Fleur de Cassie, Farnesiana, Calypso Christian Celle’s Mimosa and Demeter’s Mimosa. (When I explore a note, I REALLY explore a note.)

    The majority were a real bust, but that’s mainly because my skin chemistry really does battle with most florals, so lots of sourness/shampoo accords/chemical-ly smells. sigh. So it was a tiptoe-through-the-tulips moment to smell Mimosa pour Moi. It’s puuuuurty on me. No big surprise I bought a decant within a day of smelling it.

    • But the good part is, you found your mimosa! Although I still wear Farnesiana, don’t think it’s ideal, not sure there is an ideal mimosa note out there currently, for me anyway. Possibly I’ll go smell Petit Guerlain because there’s a mimosa note in that.

      Don’t you envy people who can wear flowers perfectly? I do. It’s better now than it once was, but still, am not ideal material for floral notes. Is it possible to “curdle” them? Cottage cheese, nearly every time.

      • Yes, it was grand to discover a mimosa that I love. And I do wish I could wear the florals, (I’ve wondered for a while if there’s such a thing as a “neutral” skin chemistry – someone who smells good in everything) but the upside is I can wear stuff a lot of women can’t: the incenses, woodsy notes and spices smell fabulous and feminine on me.

        • Maybe the neutral skin chemistry people work as “scent models”, apparently there are- or were- such people, used to test perfume.

          You’re lucky on the woods and incenses, they can smell over the top on some wearers,that’s useful. Myself I can upset an oriental too, just like a chemical applecart.

          Once totally threw off a Guerlain SA who was trying L’Heure Bleu on me: “Goodness,it’s not supposed to smell like that!”

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