Five of the Best Violet Perfumes

V._sorroria_Red_Giant_sweet violet GrovesSince 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.

parma violets double4)      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.

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8 Responses to Five of the Best Violet Perfumes

  1. mals86 says:

    The Unicorn Spell! I love the raw-green-bean thing in that. I only had a sample, but it made me ridiculously happy. And there’s a strange, hmm, frostiness to it, too – a silvery metallic thing. I do really enjoy the Violetta, which has a dry earthiness that appeals to me in spring and fall.

    CdG Stephen Jones is freaky. Violets and lava rock, who thought that was wearable? It is fascinating, though.

    I didn’t like Le Dix. I don’t know why. Didn’t like Violette in Love, either. And I don’t like modern, or even modern-ish Jolie Madame, but I can tell you right now that I have, ahem, six little mini bottles of vintage Jolie Madame parfum I treasure – about equal parts combat boots and violet nosegay.

    Really should try the Great Empresses of Japan, as I adore Iris Poudre and like the Ferre.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Yes, I think you would like the Great Empress. Try the samples. They’re cheap and if you like Iris Poudre, I’d say there was a good chance for them being on your wavelength.

      Jolie Madame is SO Kick- Ass ;-). I just wish modern perfumers would not be comparatively niminy piminy about their productions ( I’m wearing Ma Liberte which is making me unusually sassy). Of course some of my folks went and lost the Civil War so, there might possibly be a flaw in this plan… Le Dix is pretty pretty and I cannot wear it but my daughter loves it-the vintage especially.

  2. bloody frida says:

    I know nothing about any of those perfumes – but I have to say, just reading this post made me happy as this darned winter/cold/snow crap has got to end soon. Thinking of violets gives me hope. Thank you!

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      The violets are wonderfully spring like, a relief this year. I hope you’re not getting our next 8-10 inches!

      I found this place in the UK where you can buy the sweet violet seed: Groves Nursery. I was very excited because it is next to impossible to find nurseries that specialize in violets in the US. Up to now I thought Logees in CT, was the only one. Now however, I can order the seed which is only available from July to November, but still! Something for us to tuck into corners of the garden, they survive harsh winters if you have a cold frame or can make one.

      Am planning to wheedle the Hub to build me one :-)

      • Liza says:

        Blacknall, have you made it out to Well-Sweep? It’s not that far from you, and they have a number of sweet violets (as well as other wonderful scented plants).

        • Blacknall Allen says:

          No, actually I haven’t, but I’m all ears, or rather all fingers ready to do a Google search. I mean I’d raise the little guys from seed, but if I can buy some established plants- I’m in. Thank you for the heads up :-)

  3. Vanessa says:

    I got Le Dix on eBay five years ago or so very cheaply, like under £20 – no idea of age but I do love it. It is my alternative to Bois des Iles and No 5. Not big on violet notes otherwise. I must have tried that Great Empress one as I had samples of the whole line, but my mind is a blank! Will rummage in the sample box…

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Le Dix is my daughter’s vintage fave, some thing she likes even better than No 5. I think it’s gorgeous but can’t quite pull it off myself. Glad to hear that you can, as it is glorious.

      The Great Empress is a dry version of Iris Poudre, a bit more nuanced and more violets than iris …maybe? It got overlooked I thought.

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