Review: Annick Goutal La Violette — 4.0 points

Nothing spells quaint like a good old violet scent. It was a defining note of perfumery during the early twentieth century when most, if not all, down puffs, toiletries, and fragrances were perfumed with violet notes. Therefore, anything that boasts violets certainly has a vintage vibe.

But for La Violette (Annick Goutal, 2001), it is not just about reminiscing that vintage powder puffs, violet corsages, and candies of era past. There is also a natural quality and an interesting accent to it that make La Violette a special soliflore.

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Perfumer Isabelle Doyen must have revisited this seemingly old-fashioned and outworn note with such a focus. One is greeted with the veiled sweetness of rose and fruity raspberry. These come on strongly at first and settle into a palpable element throughout. Along with these is the characteristic powdery note of violets. Here, La Violette contains as much as 48% of isomethyl-α-ionone and 19% β-ionone, mirroring nature’s very own proportion of 35.7% α-ionone and 21.1% β-ionone. And, with a green violet leaf touch, the composition is convincingly photorealistic.

But these overdosed ionones are just part of the violet story, for there is a special peppery, woody touch to La Violette. It becomes more prominent as time passes and lasts until the musky dry down. I find that this adds an interesting dusky contrast to the sweetness of the ionones.

It is by no means a complex or ornate composition, but the simplicity is key. The nuances that make violets charming are captured here along with the subtle but assertive peppery, woody contrast. Simply put, La Violette keeps it short and sweet, which is why it is a memorable delight.

Sources: annickgoutal.com; M Cautschi, JA Bajgrowicz, P Kraft, Chimia 2001, 55, 379; Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

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Review: Hermès Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate — 4.0 points

Rhubarbs are strongly tart. They can add freshness to even the most syrupy of cuisine. The resulting mix of intense sourness and sugary sweetness in rhubarb compote is vibrant. This simple match also applies to perfumery, in which the green tart rhubarb pairs well with and tames the sweet notes of berries, rose, and violet.

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Perfumer Christine Nagel similarly employs this idea in Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate (Hermès, 2016). She pairs fresh rhubarb and sweet berries to create a lively eau de cologne with a sultry suggestion. The tangy citrus and green acidic notes conjure the crunchy stalks at first. These are, then, contrasted by a blend of fruity rose, violet, and musk. In effect, it is a dynamic between tart rhubarb and musky raspberry.

Such pairing of fresh tart notes with sensual sweetness give the composition its character. Towards the dry down, the lingering tangy promise keeps the sweetness at bay, and the richness of musk lends a soft caress. Refreshing and flirtatious at the same time, Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate demonstrates that fruity-floral perfumes are not necessarily bland, when executed well and with a character.

Its rhubarb compote and raspberry sorbet is luscious. It is also surprisingly long-lasting for an eau de cologne. It lingers close to me, like a second skin. It may be a polished fruity-floral cologne, but make no mistake, the character still pops out and is as bold as its scarlet flacon.

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A note on the shower gel: The development follows exactly that of the perfume. Upon lathering, the tart-sweet rhubarb and rose intensify. Its dewy rose and musky berries linger on skin afterwards. I am very happy with the shower gel.

Source: photograph of Philippe Jarrigeon