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Jaime B's Blog

What Goes with Green?

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Recently, I have been re-smelling and thinking about a number of green scents that I've picked up along the way. I alway enjoyed green scents because they recalled the outdoors, springtime, freshness, and the bright color of foliage.

Of course, the bases of green scents are various herbal and grassy materials and quite often, galbanum, extracted from a plant resin derived from the stalks of plants native to the slopes of the mountains of northern Iran,
Ferula gummosa, syn. galbaniflua and Ferula rubricaulis. Among the herbs, thyme, sage, and basil are most common, but others, too, though more rarely, such as marjoram and even cilantro. In more recent times, other notes have been added to the usual suspects, notably things called "ivy" and "violet leaf," of which the latter is sometimes distilled from actual violet leaves, but the former is usually an accord of various natural and synthetic materials.

The really fascinating thing about green scents, for me, though, is what gets added into the mix. On the one hand, there are green chypres, which use the classic bergamot and oakmoss (sometimes with labdanum or patchouli added in). These often feature clary sage in the heart or head to bring out some of the wine-like aspects of greenery. On the other are green fougères, with bergamot and coumarin (often with lavender and geranium in the mix). The fougères are named after the fern family of plants (fougère means "fern" in French"), because they are said to evoke a "woodland" feeling of lush greenery and damp forest hollows. Green notes are natural in these two types of formulations because they feature forest-like and astringent or resinous plant materials.

Beyond these additions, we often see other types of scents added in to texture or color the composition in a particular direction. Lily of the valley and cyclamen or carnation come in to bring some field-and-forest floral shading; carnation also has a clove-like nature, and often spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and the anise-like notes will contribute a non-floral sweetness and piquancy to take things in a slightly different direction. Coniferous notes also come in to underline the forest associations, such as pine resin, fir balsam, and occasionally even laurel leaves and juniper berries.

Apart from the chypre and fougère styles of green, there is a purer form, if you will, a "dedicated" green bouquet, in which galbanum assumes a dominant role and herbal notes abound. I think my favorite of this style is Gucci Nobile, much missed and now very hard to find. I admit I felt an intense jealousy when a fellow Basenoter reported recently buying what he thought were the last four bottles in existence in Argentina. Another such green-grounded scent which I prize highly is Patou pour Homme Privé, also disappearing rapidly from stocks everywhere.

There are still many good green scents out there, although the genre seems to be largely neglected among newer offerings. In my scent universe, this lack is sorely felt. Some of the all-time greats have been in this genre, and I fervently hope to see more green-tinged and green-dominated scents in the near future.

I hope among some of you reading this there are those who are with me.

Updated 29th January 2011 at 11:12 PM by JaimeB

The Art of Perfumery , Personal Reflections , Perfume History



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