How do you explain the scent of something so ethereal as a violet? A powdery, candy-like sweetness that whispers instead of shouts. A fragrantly carpeted woodland in spring. Soft vintage powder puffs and delicate Victorian posies.
Demure but youthful, shy but sweet, delicate but unmistakable. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, Violet Odorata has been cherished for centuries, its iconic purple petals serving as the symbol of ancient Athens and the boutonnières to Napoleon's army. It adds an ethereal, demure note to classic fragrances, due in part to its unique molecular structure: the same compound that gives the violet its powdery fragrance is responsible for its fleeting, “shy” qualities.
Molecules known as ionones stimulate and satiate our scent receptors, then shut them down temporarily, rendering the violet note completely untraceable for a minute or two. Give it a few moments, sniff again, and it’s back in all its delicate, sugary-soft glory. With such an unusal quality to the note, there's little wonder that it's been a favorite of the great perfume houses for centuries. Today, perfumiers are breathing new life into the demure violet by showcasing it in daring new roles, playing on a natural affinity with notes like rose, cedar and leather.
We've gathered four of our favorites below...
Balenciaga Paris Perfume by Balenciaga
The powdery violet in Balenciaga's Paris perfume is sheered out and layered with cedarwood, oakmoss and patchouli, creating a sophisticated floral that settles into a pale, creamy warmth on skin. Elegant and refined, this Balenciaga perfume envelopes its wearer in a veil of soft, understated chic.
Violetta Di Parma Borsari Perfume by Borsari
Borsari Violetta di Parma takes the sugared sweetness of parma violets and incorporates their sharp, green stems for balance and freshness, creating a delicately beautiful soliflore that captures the true essence of the flower. First distilled as a fragrance for the violet-loving Marie Louise of Austria, the formula of Borsari's perfume has barely changed since its creation by monks in 19th century Italy.
Serge Lutens Bois De Violette Perfume by Serge Lutens
Serge Lutens' Bois de Violette takes its wearer on a journey deep into an enchanted glade, with a carpet of cool moss and velvet-petalled violets underfoot . The flower's fragrant sweetness is tempered with aromatic woods and a twist of clove and honey, to create a beautifully balanced and utterly magical fragrance; another Serge Lutens' perfume that does not disappoint.
Creed Love In Black Perfume by Creed
Creed created the opulent Love in Black Creed as a fragrant ode to the life of Jackie O, taking the shy violet and allowing it to shine in a heady, oriental base. An opening of Grecian wildflowers and buttery violet petals mingle with blackcurrant and rose, descending into a drydown of inky dark spice and Tonkin musk.