This morning I was shelling some peas and this fragrance came immediately to my mind. Its green, woody, green beans odd sweet opening used to put me off from further sniffing, but today I'm finding it much more gentle, much softer and much more on the barely sugar coated violet side than I remembered. A violet fragrance that successfully avoids the cosmetic, powdery- lipstick- soap association and sticks to the vegetal, the woodsy, the frost covered grassy feel, on the same wavelenght of L'Artisan Verte Violette. A nice fragrance, for violet lovers.
Cold, so cold. I love it!
Having recently splurged on this I'm in heaven. Not your average sweet, cloying violet, this smells of cold slate washed with freezing sping water, a bank of violets near but earthy and slightly crushed under foot. The starlight is palpable. This is the older more lonesome cousin of Nuit Etoilee, almost emo - no crowd pleaser, a quiet dreamer. Just enough musk to smell the unicorn on the dry down. Next to no sillage, this one is just for me, at home, snuffling at my own wrists. Not for little girls this violet, and probably not for everyone - try before you splurge.
07th November, 2014 (last edited: 28th November, 2014)
Violets in perfume clearly come via the world of just a few large flavour and fragrance companies. This is a long history, as ionones, the chemicals that indicate violet to our noses, and their offspring chemicals were early along in fragrance chemistry. To give an idea of their ubiquity over perfume history just two of these offspring are damascones and iso E super, waning and waxing stars respectively.
Ionones are also safely edible in certain concentrations and have thus been much used in such products as candies and lipsticks. How novel these scents and flavours must have appeared at the turn of the 20th century I shall never fully appreciate, but the retro-olfactive pleasure of violet in a Haigh's, Swizzles, Leone or Flavigny Violet candy or a vintage high end lipstick is unfashionable enough to have regained some surprise for a new generation. The world of the perfumed consumable moves slightly slower than the edible consumable, so this shared flavour and fragrance history, the fact that these products are devised by the same companies has meant that the received sensibility of "violet" in perfumes has often been a sweet or candied one and the accords used in perfumes can be informed by these associations. Sometimes the associations from edible confectionery or cosmetic applications loom much larger in scents than the shrinking flowers themselves.
Mind you, I'm not averse to a candied or cosmetic violet! I love those candies I named above, and take great pleasure in Ralf Schweiger’s Lipstick Rose for Frederic Malle or Olivia Giacobetti’s Drôle de Rose which both riff on cosmetic violet and rose masking fragrances. But what I love about what Isabelle Doyen has done with the Unicorn Spell is that her composition departs from the historic flavourandfragrance corporate idea of a perfume violet and returns to the flower itself. It also goes beyond the frequent functional use of ionones to add a sense of softness, fullness, or plushness or using their longevity to provide a bridge between perfume ingredients of differing volatility. Instead she brings the violet to the centre of the composition, but in a fresh way.
The composition creates something quite true to the violet flower not by presenting a natural-seeming violet accord in isolation, that might be a one note symphony. Instead she does it by placing her violet in an original context. In the Unicorn Spell violets blooms as they do in nature, in the coldest part of winter. Here the damp chilliness is imparted by rootlike and woody undertones (faint whispers of vetiver/patchouli and cedar), the greenness of the violet leaves is present, and her violet accord is remarkable and true as you will recognise, if like me you gather bunches on chill mornings with numb damp fingers for the pleasure of that scent.
I suspect that a large part of the composition is ionones producing that naturalistic violet (which to me reads like a syrupy liqueur of idealised flowers, powder and soap) and methyl ionones bringing weightier cedary aromas. These are presented in combination with the cucumbery, grassiness of violet leaf (green and "wet" smelling, if you like!). Together these elements resolve for me to produce a beautiful vision of dark purple blooms just visible amongst green heart-shaped leaves in wet soil on a foggy morning. Serge Lutens with Bois de Violette does a scent with some similar elements, but with no sharp, cold, wet or green notes, just ionones and methyl ionones violets and cedar - a different, warmer picture and pure pleasure for me :-) Interestingly, hours on, Unicorn dries down to something quite like the Lutens, violet and warm woods: as though the flowers were picked from the cold green bed and taken indoors to a cosy room to be savoured.
The opening is minty cool and freshly vegetal, as you follow the scent trail of crushed leaves, broken stems and trampled grass. Dawn has broken, the air somewhat chilly still. It is another 15 minutes or so before you come to a forest clearing strewn with the royal hues of violets - bittersweet and green. Of the unicorn there is no sign.
Strictly for fans of violet or green florals. And I happen to be one.
On paper: bitter green notes and violet for an overall effect that is not very far from Gray Flannel or Fahrenheit (but not as good as).
On skin: mainly violet reminding of those violet candies wrapped in purple tinfoil. Very efemeral, kind of cloying. If you're into straight ahead violet fragrances, go ahead. Not for me, sorry.
Isabelle Doyen is surely a very talented perfumeur but this time she simply didn't hit the target
23rd June, 2011 (last edited: 05th August, 2011)