Lavender


28th April, 2008

Creed Royal Scottish Lavender is my favourite fragrance but I cannot wear it anymore.

Lavender is quite possibly the perfume note I enjoy most of all. It takes a very interesting position in the mix, straddling the top and heart notes, not as effervescent as most citrus heads but lighter than most floral hearts. It seems to me it often acts as a kind of bridge, allowing a smooth transition in the early developments of an olfactory construction. It has a light airy quality, herbaceous, floral and ephemeral. It sits in the air like a ghost of summer fields, not to be held, just loved and lost. It is a very important factor in many fragrance styles, not least in that most unspecific of categories, the fougere, in which it is usually blended into a complex mix. However, I particularly enjoy it as a featured note.

Lavender has a reputation for creating a calming effect. I am not certain but I believe this has some physiological basis. I suspect there would be differences in opinion about this from various people who would profess to know for sure. Anyway, it certainly has a learned psychological truth for me, acquired over years of high altitude lavender essential oil drizzled into the bath, on the pillow and other relaxing places.

I knew the meeting would be stressful. I stepped inside, pushing my not-quite-two year old son asleep in his pushchair, this in itself quite unusual for that time of day. They were both there; the thin Italian who always smells of Friends by Moschino and the big, tall, hairy one who never wears fragrance. I am sure he has me mentally filed in a category because I do. I hesitate to imagine what name he gives that category. He used to be a policeman and before that, a second hand car salesman.

Of course, I had sprayed on lots of Royal Scottish Lavender to help support me through the imminent trouble, reduce my anxiety levels and help me feel confident and focused.

They thoughtfully (and this will give you an idea of what I was up against) offered that their receptionist could look after my child. I had never met her and nor had my sleeping one year old. The idea that I could leave him with her seemed absurd to me, but not to them. So, he accompanied me into the meeting. It was me, a sleeping one year old and too many spritzes of Royal Scottish Lavender versus the world.

I had been told that I must attend this meeting or I would lose my job. Of course I went and of course I lost my job. I threatened them with legal action over their behaviour. Never a great way to keep your employers happy. Stress levels rocketed. Words were exchanged. All the while, an aura of expensive calm floated around and engulfed me. I remember that even while the meltdown was occurring, that fragrance-obsessed part of my mind was wondering if they were smelling it and if so what they were thinking. The meeting ended badly, I lost the job and went on to a better employer but my inner fragrance demon was laughing.

Ever since then, I cannot bear to look at the stuff, let alone smell it. I am told that smell is closely associated with memory. The memory associated with that smell is liable to raise my blood pressure. I have lost the calming effect of that one anyway, the learned environmental trigger outweighing the physiology, if it indeed exists.

No worries, I have other lavenders in my life. I have only slightly mixed feelings about these since those troublesome events. The Acqua di Parma Lavanda Tonica is my choice for noisy urban settings and for when I am tired. It creates a bubble of herbal/floral ease, which travels with me and reminds me that I will be able to relax again soon. Trumpers very fine Lavender Water is the most cooling and notably masculine of the ones I regularly use. The mint is uplifting and the patchouli grounding in an old fashioned style. It feels so refreshing at first as it flows around me freely. Then, after a few hours it stays close to my skin and it smells astounding, as if the lavender is captured by raw earth and held there for the pleasure of any who get close enough to smell it.

The legendary Caron Pour un Homme comes out occasionally too, though to me it seems like it is an unrefined, dirtier and all together funkier take on the Royal Scottish Lavender and makes me uncomfortable with its similarity. I look at it and wonder sometimes if I should risk a spray. Then there is the Caldey Island Lavender. Some time ago, the great perfume writer Luca Turin mentioned it in a published interview. Like many other perfume addicts, I had to investigate. I googled away and found I could order at a very reasonable price. I found it to be a very fine aromatic light but present herbal lavender underscored with a musc of some depth. I wonder if the monks knew what hit them after the publicity, I have an image of a sweating, stressed overworked lavender-squeezer monk struggling to keep up with demand. Every now and then he stops to inhale deeply of the oil, a dreamy look overtakes his face and everything is alright again.

Maybe I should have learned not to mix parenthood with lavender but the trouble did not stop there. While passing my neighbour’s lavender, in a fit of aspirational educative over enthusiasm, I pointed out the bees and how they pollinate the lavender. I now have the options of either a ten-minute detour or a ten-minute bee/lavender-viewing stop followed by screams on departure. I will keep him away from the flowers though, I recently read reports in the press of some research reported that suggested that the oil in certain forms could cause problems for pre-pubescent boys. I have not read the research itself, only the reports, but they suggested that it caused development of female characteristics. This is horribly un-scientific speculation, I know, but I wonder if this is the roots of the reason this smell is associated with GENTLE-men. Perhaps in times long gone to smell of lavender indicated a reduction in masculine aggressiveness, like a social signal that this man is civilized and safe to be around. Maybe our cultural scent associations have some biochemical reality?

Recently I got my neglected bottle of Royal Scottish Lavender off the shelf in order to share with a friend and the glorious smell of bright clean lavender underscored by vanilla and a little ambergris with some spicy clove came floating up to me, reminding me of a very pleasant evening spent with friends sometime before the meeting. I am considering spraying it on now, but I am not sure which memory association will win. It has this going for it: at least it is not Friends by Moschino.

 

(Image: Elena Elisseeva / iStockphoto)

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About the author: Walker Minton

Walker Minton is a Jasmine award winning freelance writer and jazz musician with a lifelong interest in scent. He lives in North London with his partner and two sons.

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Comments

    • Indie_Guy | 29th April 2008 10:01

      That was an excellent piece, Walker, as were your previous ones. It was interesting to read your thoughts on the theory of lavender having a negative effect on male hormones and the association of lavender with being a gentleman-- well done.

      Also, I just bought a blind bottle of Moschino Friends Men and it's possibly the worst thing I've ever smelled. Disgusting. I could just imagine some prick smelling of this while firing me.

      Keep em coming!

    • Renato | 29th April 2008 12:09

      The article makes me really wish that I had one day come across Creed's lavender.

      Interesting your comments on the Aqua di Parma Lavanda Tonica and Caron PH which I do have. Lavanda Tonica is a special scent for me, it was the scent I was wearing when I rang up my ladyfriend and proposed marriage.

      Maybe I'm being heretical, but I also do really like Azzaro's Pure Lavender, which most everyone round here refers to with disdain.

      Renato

    • mikeperez23 | 29th April 2008 16:37

      Wonderful article - I too found out, very quietly and non-descriptively that lavender prominent fragrances do something special to me, when I wear them.

      I absolutely love Caldey Island Lavender Water, and will always perhaps judge all future lavender fragrances by this simple yet perfect lavender water. Another lavender I hope to own soon: Lavande Velours (AA) by Guerlain.

    • HDS1963 | 29th April 2008 17:54

      My favourite Lavender scent at the moment is L'Eau L'Occitane. The lavender in that is beautifully transported throughout. An absolutely underrated classic.

    • zztopp | 30th April 2008 03:56

      Enjoyed the article. Memories and scents are linked. RSL is a superb lavender composition and one-ups Carons' simpleton pour un homme in every way possible.

    • DreamerII | 1st May 2008 16:54

      ditto

      I also like top notes of lavender in Eau Noire

    • alpine | 8th May 2008 17:07

      I usually like Creeds, but I HATE this one. The particular combination of scents produces a strong dog poo odour to my nose!

    • beachroses | 8th May 2008 17:16

      Are you talking about the original AOC Lavender that is no longer featured on their website? Beautiful, but I'm not sure if it's been discontinued or what. I was sent a small decant of Eau de Lavande by Annick Goutal recently and I like that one even better! Wow!! To me, it's more of a masculine or unisex scent, but I love sniffing it. Too bad they d/c it in the US, I'd buy a bottle just to have around. (I usually wear softer Provencal lavender fragrances, like L'Occitane's Eau de Recolte Bleue with a freesia note. My husband loves lavender on me.)

      Nice article, Grant. Smells do have memory associations and tend to avoid anything that reminds me of the past for some reason. Not sure why. I smell it and think "Oh, that was me five years ago, I am different now. Move on."

    • interludeINC21 | 8th May 2008 23:55

      Great thread. I love the smell of Lavender as well - I'll keep an eye out to see other fragrance recommendations based on Lavender.

      I know Cool Water for men has Lavender in it.

    • NearFantastica | 9th May 2008 02:41

      The original Dunhill for men (1934 version) has one of the best lavender openings I've ever encountered. Jacomo's discontinued Anthricite also makes good use of this note.

    • SirSlarty | 9th May 2008 03:27

      Speaking of lavender, it reminds me I need to get a bottle of Penhaligon's Endymion. Wonderful lavender and sage opening with a creamy coffee base. Quite stimulating.

    • atrac | 9th May 2008 08:49

      Personally I'm a fan of Atkinsons English Lavender. :)