We often think of violet notes as being sweet, sugary and slightly powdery. The sweets Parma Violets come to mind and the scent associated with them is slightly old fashioned. Most people are quite surprised when smelling the natural violet leaf absolute as it’s very green, wet and mulchy – really different from the synthetic violet notes we’re used to.
The sweet powdery violet notes come from a group of materials called the ionones – alpha, beta and methyl ionone which add a sweet cosmetic violet note to rosy florals as well as being a great link to woody notes in the base of a fragrance. Methyl Ionone is a fabulously versatile material that creates a link between florals and woods in a composition. It was used in Sophia Grossman’s Tresor for Lancome which led to a whole new style of perfumery which are often referred to as Monolithic Fragrances. We cover lots about this style in my Artisan Perfumery Weekend workshop. This woody violet note is also present in Paris by Yves Saint Laurent (also by Grossman)
Other notes that fit in this category are the orris notes which are either natural and excruciatingly expensive (orris concrete) or from a synthetic such as Orivone or Orriniff by IFF
The Alpes-Maritimes in the south of France is worth a visit in February for their Fete des Violettes held in the village of Tourettes sur Loup each year. It’s very close to Grasse and out of holiday season so less crowded than the summer season.
My favourite perfumes in this genre are the darker violets: Genie des Bois by Keiko Mecheri, Black Violet by Tom Ford and Serge Lutens Bois de Violette but I also love Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle which is a rosy violet reminiscent of my first Chanel Lipstick.