October 15, 2006


Violet as a color and what you might associate with the floral smell are two very different things, but many have strived to combine them.

Violet as a color has a depth and spiritual quality that is difficult to translate through the medium of the light sweet floral scent that comes from real violets. The true depth may come from direct experience of the early blooming flowers, which seem to come from a dark damp earth that is still cold from the long winter.

I recall once realizing I was lying on a hillside covered with violets, they are somewhat camoflagued by early uncut grass and it takes a while to realize how many there may be around you, they are self propagating and come up from runners underground, therefore creating swaths and clusters of plants, colonizing an area.

Violet scent is associated with the nineteenth century, and therefore is somewhat out of favor today, though still used in its chemical form, one of the earliest, if not the first fragrance molecule created. Interesting that at the same time, aniline dyes came in, creating intense magenta violets, the first strong colors for use in clothing created by chemistry. Until that time, the more subtle dyes and scents derived from botanical means were the only ones available, and people kind of went overboard with their use and delight in the strong violet color and scent available once the dyes and the ionone molecule made them affordable. All the factory and office girls making their own money for the first time in history, having some disposable income went perhaps a bit overboard wearing intense violet clothing and perfume, which may be the reason why we are still somewhat hung over with it all to this day.

Still, I think we are all still fascinated with the depth and clarity of the color, and hopes are raised high every time a new perfume appears that seems to promise to attain the actual synthesis we imagine.

Cuir Amethyste by Armani (thoroughly reviewed by the inimitable Bois de Jasmine here) promised what what one would expect to be a deep violet leather, but seems to provide instead a resinous and powdery effect of the floral violet.

JARS Diamond Water, from the reviews I have read (see this one from Perfume Posse for the full vicarious experience) seems to be the closest to what I would want as a translation of the word violet into a perfume, but at the entry price of $750 I must remain distanced. (I have seen that decants are available, but I was thinking of first trying the Bergdorf experience as described in the Posse review, since sitting in a dark room with the perfume soaked chamois seems like the most ultimate of full immersion experiences of perfume testing available, outside of whatever they may do with you in Paris).

For now, I am looking forward to the coming weekend with Sniffapalooza in NYC. Going on a perfume safari with so many knowledgable and enthusiastically appreciative perfumistas will be wonderfully educational and pleasurable. I will be keeping my quest for a deep dark violet scent in mind.

Violet botanical watercolor above, anon.
Here is a link to an Italian parma violet fragrance, made the old way as an accord with natural materials.
Copyright 2006 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.


Gary said...

Hey Lucy,
Great site though much of the info is over my head ... er ... nose.

My sniffer is one of the worst for detecting scents, but at least I don't smell too many of those New York odors either.

Keep up the good work, you should definitely start your own meetup.


Anya said...

Lucy, what a nice tidbit of info on the synchronicity of the development of the synth violet scent (alpha-ionone, I suppose?) and the corresponding color of violet in the analine dye process. Love little things like that ;-)

chaya ruchama said...

Hi, L-
It was in Germany where the color discovery occurred, I believe...

I enjoy all those tendrils of related information.

Also,I'm a huge violet fan-
Violet can present so many faces, depending on pairings, but I often crave it, be it soft and powdery or sparkling,intensely green, or darkly veiled and mysterious.

Thank you, as always, for sharing your ongoing research with us !

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the interesting article on violets.

I recently had the opportunity to smell "violet absolu" and "Methyl Ionone" side by side - as Isabelle Doyen presented ingredients of the "Unicorn". The absolu had this strong green note almost harsh and the Methyl Ionone came across lovely but a little one-dimensional.

René Schifferle from LesNez