Since I started this whole month with a look back at the nostalgic violets of the turn of the century (and their descendants in the perfume world) maybe I had now better step back and consider some more contemporary violets.
This is slightly difficult. If you want to smell nothing but violets, Penhaligon’s Violetta is a perfectly good way to go, these violets being the green leafy peppery sort. That is, if you want straightforward violets, but since you’re here, maybe what you want is a few recommendations that take the humble violet and give it sophistication. If you know the violet theme, in other words, maybe it’s time to look for some variations. Here are some of the best. Most of these are still in production, where they are not, I’ve checked that there is a plentiful supply online at reasonable prices.
So here goes:
1) Balmain Jolie Madame: If you do not know this lovely oldie but goodie that is a mixture of leather and violets then you should. The leather is of the high end sort, the exhalation of expensive handbags. I cannot think of too many perfumes that manage to be so many things at once. Jolie Madame pulls off sensuality, elegance, charm, and somehow or other propriety simultaneously. This is a lady’s violet, men can approximate it with Grey Flannel.
2) Romea d’Ameor’s Great Empress of Japan: This very short lived line was composed by Pierre Bourdon ( the Cool Water, Iris Poudre and Dolce Vita creator), but along with Louis XIV’s Mistresses, this perfume is the best of them. It has marked similarities to Ferre by Ferre and some to Iris Poudre, but is more violet-ty than either of those and a bit less aldehydic. Samples are available online so trying GEoJ is not so difficult as you might suppose, and fairly cheap.
3) Balenciaga’s Le Dix: I don’t like the new Balenciaga, sorry. But Le Dix is a deathless classic, No 5 with violets it’s called for a reason, and if you like floral aldehydes and violets, then this delicate scent is perfect. Still quite affordable on Ebay.
4) De Nicolai’s Violette in Love: As with all the de Nicolai fragrances, more than the sum of its parts. This is a marriage of cassis and violet, and what feels like a lovely red wine, something fruity and full bodied. A beautiful evocative fragrance that would go out to a wine tasting very well indeed. Usually floral scents kill a Cabernet Sauvignon, but this is an exception.
5) Les Nez The Unicorn Spell: The work of Isabel Doyen who has done so many of the Annick Goutals, and whose Mandragore for that house was so interesting. This is her essay on violets, at first strong and green (with a topnote of green bean say some posters on Fragrantica) but then soft and dry. The Unicorn Spell is a modern violet to wear every day.
I find that most of my selections tend not to be on the cutting edge. There’s a reason for that, violets are and remain rather old fashioned flowers. CDG’s Stephen Jones to cite a case of attempted violet innovation, swirls around an odd burned note that I think should have been edited out, and too many also-rans either turn this flower into cotton candy or else cook down the violets with chemical heat. To compensate for being unapologetically violet though, all of my choices (except The Unicorn Spell at 125.00 USD) are reasonable chic, and so your budget will thank you for your violet selection. You could always have opted for tuberoses after all…
My photos come from Groves Nursery in the UK where they sell both Parma violets and sweet violets, “Red Giant” is the first a sweet violet, and the second double violet pictured here is “Marie Louise” one of the most fragrant of all the parma violets.