It’s one of the world’s favorite spices and has been for so many centuries that it’s hardly worth counting them, but it is worth noting that the ancient Greeks are recorded as having a preference for saffron perfumes and for the scent of irises. Perhaps Aristophanes and Pericles would be Amouage customers if they were alive today. At the very least, I like to think that Aspasia would have worn Chanel, 28 La Pausa for preference.
Of course we don’t really know what they wore. It is pretty much guess work, with stray references here and there in ancient writing, but the Greek preference for saffron was remarked, just as the Romans were known for loving roses.
Saffron is plentifully represented in perfume formulas these days. You get lists full of eastern sounding formulas usually containing roses: Czech and Speake’s Dark Rose is an example, numerous Montales and a good number of Amouages as well, Rose de Rosine’s Rose Kashmirie.
That is the sort of saffron-centric perfume out there these days. They tend to be like L’Artisan’s Saffran Troublant, gourmand in a Middle Eastern kind of a way. There is nothing wrong with that, but I do find myself wishing that a perfumer would walk back to the western side of the tradition for a moment, and give us a purely floral saffron designed to smell the way that the note does in crocuses while blooming.
I was reminded of that note the other day when my daughter came home from school with some crocuses that had been nearly destroyed in a digging project on someone else’s lawn. She picked a couple and brought them back to me and I remembered the note, un-mistakable saffron, but without that heavy medicinal edge it so often has in perfumery. It gives the sweet slightly violet like scent of crocuses their distinctiveness, and yet I can’t think of a Spring perfume that uses it.
The only perfume I can think of that approaches what I am talking about is Chamade. Chamade makes you think of pollen which, if you are not an allergy sufferer is one of the great joys of Spring flowers. There is no saffron in Chamade that I know of, though there is a little clove note in there, but it reminds me of the crocus effect.
The first saffron centric perfume I ever remember seeing was a Comptoire Sud Pacifique release called Safranier. It was a strange perfume, being not especially sweet. Some people over at Makeupalley, thought it was entirely too masculine. I didn’t have a problem with that, and nearly bought a bottle, but didn’t and now I could kick myself, because Safranier went in down a route that I haven’t passed by since, floral, spicy and somewhat dry.
As for now, the saffron remains on my wish list if I could have a perfume made. After all, who doesn’t want to stop and smell the crocuses after a long wet winter?