Violet & Moss

June 22, 2014

Violetta de Bosco: Violets in a Rainy Orchard

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ViolettaProfumi de Firenze lists Violetta de Bosco’s notes as simply “sweet violets in the Italian woods”, and while I’m sure this perfume contains many ingredients, that short description does in fact sum up the feel of the overall fragrance. At first sniff on skin, there’s almost an apple undertone to Violetta de Bosco. Only mildly candied, and tart and wet and woodsy. I’m not sure what’s causing that impression but I like it very much. It doesn’t smell fruity in the sense of modern fruity florals, but rather tangy in an old fashioned way that gives the fragrance further complexity and sets it apart from any number of powdery candied violet scents.

To me, Violetta de Bosco smells like nothing more than clumps of violets blooming in an overgrown orchard during a gentle rain shower. There are apples just ripening in the trees and a lightening struck tree is slowly decaying into the moss in the heavy humidity of late Summer. Somewhere in the distance you can hear the sea and there is a hint of salt in the air. On Makeup Alley, a user named darkharbour said:

il_340x270.565728789_9dt2“This is the Italian version of violet, so you know it will be one of two things: extremely stark and modernistic, or extremely voluptuous and over the top. This is the latter. This violet does not shrink, and in fact it expands mightily. Large, candied, rounded, fruity, and somewhat mossy it blossoms on the skin. This is the smell of the violet flower faeries on May Eve, wildly ecstatic, potent and lush. Can a note associated with all things shy and demure be overtly sexy? Indeed it can.”

This is certainly a woodland violet, and one that glimmers with an underlying fae magic that only this particular flower can have when presented in a composition true to its dusky yet earthen nature. Violetta de Bosco is semi-transparent in texture, but there’s also a polished feel to it, as apple wood inlaid with fresh violets had been sanded to a silken finish. I’ve seen a few comments by women saying that it’s too masculine for them, but it doesn’t seem to have any those sharp, splintery edges that aftershave can have… it’s glossy and smooth, especially in the opening, a cluster of cool violet blossoms with damp woody undertones. I think that this smooth texture contributes to what a few interpret as a plastic feel to it. Other reviews comment upon the innately feminine nature of the fragrance, as well as its natural feel:

“It is the first I’ve found that is voluptuously beautiful, so totally feminine. I get no plastic scent as some have mentioned, it is just like a nosegay of violets that I want to bury my nose in forever. Makes me think of my favorite opera, La Traviata, this is definitely what Violetta would wear!” – flannerygrace on Makeup Alley

violetsTo me, this perfume could easily be worn by any gender, as long as they love woodsy, wild violets! I’m not one for gender designation on fragrance to begin with, but I cant see this skewing in either direction.

In the drydown, Violetta de Bosco  becomes darker and muskier, less about the apple tinged violet, and more about earthy, woody violet. I still smell the sea, or perhaps the memory of the sea, bringing to mind the mythic Isle of Apples of mythology. But don’t be deceived by all this talk of other notes, they do exist, but the violet remains center stage for the entirety of the perfume’s life, with the slightly soapy scent of decaying wet wood just behind it. 

I’ve seen several people call Violetta de Bosco the single best violet soliflore currently available, and there are some rave reviews on Makup Alley, a few of them referring to the wine-like untertones of the fragrance:

“An explosion of voluptuous flora in this. No shrinking violet, this is a serious violet fragrance that is pervasive, somewhat fruity, and long-lasting. Less green and more candied than some. What violet wine would taste like, if it existed. ” -AngelZoe

 I do think it’s very lovely, and I enjoy wearing it, but it’s not my absolute favorite violet focused perfume. It’s not a criticism of the fragrance that I don’t find it melancholy enough to fulfill my primary violet cravings. Not everyone wants to cry every time they put on a perfume, and this one is tranquil without being hysterically happy or even annoyingly chipper. In fact, this is one the violet perfumes I tend to get the most compliments on, with people looking up when I walk into the room to sniff the air and ask what that wonderful smell is. 

purpleI think Violetta de Bosco is an excellent choice for those wanting to avoid both powder and syrup. It’s a well balanced fragrance that avoids the typical violet cliches common to the genre. I do have some trouble with the bit of soap in the drydown, it may add depth, but it’s one of my least favorite smells. However, I’m not at all sure that it’s notable enough to bother others less sensitive to it than I am. If Violetta de Bosco was a textile, I think it would be layers of raw silk in a rich purple.

When first applied, it has very significant projection for a violet perfume. Within two hours the projection drops a great deal, and then hovers a couple of inches above the skin for most of the rest of its life. Longevity is very good (and really exceptionally good for a violet soliflore) on my skin, one spray lasting about nine hours, with the last hour being just a skin scent.

Violetta de Bosco is available in a 50 ml bottle of unknown concentration (but wears like an EDP) for $110 from Beauty Habit in the United States.

viola_violets

Posted in: Uncategorized
June 10, 2014

The Scent of Tears: An Introduction to Violet Flower Perfumes

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Violets by Henry Meynell Rheam

Violets by Henry Meynell Rheam

Once upon a time, I hated the scent of violets. Not because of the actual smell, but more because of the way it made me feel. As soon as the scent hit me, melancholy wistfulness would come rushing up to the surface like an unstoppable tide. It was my opinion at the time that perfumes should evoke sensuality and luxury or replicate something in the natural world. I resented the rush of emotion triggered by simple wildflower’s scent when more favored flowers such as Rose and Jasmine couldn’t seem to evoke anything close to that intensity, no matter how much I admired and enjoyed them.

My understanding of fragrance’s effect on emotion has changed since then, despited my initial resistance, and I now deeply value perfume’s ability to comfort, vitalize, inspire, bemuse, and so readily shift the mood the wearer. Being somewhat inclined to melancholy myself, I’m now much less resistant to the nostalgia and darker feelings certain scents can trigger in me. With this change came a dramatic shift in my feeling about Violet, going from one of my most hated notes, to one of my absolute favorites, alongside Oakmoss, Orange Blossom, Tuberose, Rose, and Labdanum. For a while, Violet became an obsession, and every perfume had to contain at least a little Violet in it, and even now my shampoo is Violet scented, my soap is Violet scented, and yes, many of my favorite fragrances contain the note. Hell, even my little silver colored kitten is named Pearl Violetta!

April Love by Arthur Hughes

April Love by Arthur Hughes

The scent of Violet seems to most often inspire feelings of melancholy, wistfulness, otherworldliness, nostalgia, and sometimes outright tears. And of course, Violet also has an association with death. For example, in England, it was long believed that Violets blooming in autumn were an omen of death for whoever had the land that the plants were growing on. 

European folklore and literature is rich with references to this wildflower. A kind of Violet, love-in-idleness, was used by Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by squeezing the juice of the plant into Titania’s eye so that she would fall in love with the ass-headed Bottom when she woke. In the British Isles, there is still a belief that picking Pansies during good weather will cause it to rain.

a88369cf0c87dad33774804583c5bbcaViolets for beauty and perfumery is nothing new, and the ancient Britons specifically steeped violets in goat’s milk to apply to the skin to increase the beauty of the complexion and Violet often appears as a symbol of beauty in Irish mythology. There is also the tradition of adding Violet scent to cosmetics, perhaps especially lipstick and powder, leading to the common perception of some powdery Violet fragrances smelling like makeup and some perfumers playing off of this by purposely creating scents that smell like expensive vintage makeup. 

So we see that the current associations of Violet with rain, sadness, death, and beauty have longstanding roots in both story and superstition. My preferred violet fragrances tend to be of the melancholy and dark sort, the ones that remind me of cold dew in a lost woodland or of the scent of tears falling. Even Guerlain’s Insolence edp, with all of its pretended brashness and coy looks, is at its heart a  sad and dreamy perfume with the power to pull its wearer from the brightly lit ballroom right back into some strange primeval woodland in old Europe where Sweet Violets bloom in the dark shadows of autumn, portending death and invoking a cold rain on the forest’s mossy floor.

Leaf

When reading about Violet perfumes the differences between the leaf and the flower, but the scents of the two are quite different. The leaf tends of have an intensely green, crisp, and slightly peppery scent, and can even tend toward leather in certain situations.  It’s frequently used in classic fougeres and green chypres to impart a lush grass-like  note. 

More about this important perfume component can be found on the highly recommended Perfume Shrine website http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2011/02/perfumery-materials-violet-violet-leaf.html 

Blossom

Not all violet flowers are fragrant, and many species native to North America only have a faint green smell rather than the strong sweet aroma we associate with violet perfumes. The most commonly known fragrant violet is probably Viola odorata, well known in Europe, and now considered a weed in many parts of the United States. 

Violet flowers are not distilled or otherwise used to extract the scent of violet blooms these days, but instead the ionones they contain are synthesized to replicate their scent. In natural fragrances, ionones may be extracted from other plants such as cassis into a natural isolate and used in that form to impart a violet scent to a perfume. Additionally, fragrant violet flowers can be tinctured in alcohol to capture some amount of their smell, and enfleurage can also extract the scent into absorbent fat. Neither of these latter methods are efficient for the perfume industry and are thus very rarely used at this point in time.

Looking at a modern perfume box or label one can generally ascertain the presence of violet or iris note by looking for alpha-isoethyl-ionone amongst the listed ingredients, along with any other ionones. This includes many perfumes that do not list violets (or even iris) as a note, including Parfumerie Generale’s Bois de Copaiba and Rochas Tocade and Femme. 

Conversely, I have noticed that since violet as an aroma has fallen out of popular fashion many people cannot actually place the scent when smelled, and additionally, several well known perfumes with violets in the name or notes do not actually smell of violet flowers, but rather of the leaf or some other vaguely purple floral note.

For some reason, ionones have always stood out to me strongly in perfumes, and for a good long while I actually avoided anything that had THAT NOTE even if I didn’t yet know what it was. Despite the cliche of the shrinking Violet, and the way Violets are often subdued or placed in the background in many modern fragrances, I find their scent remarkable and worthy of study and regard. Which is exactly why I’m beginning this series on Violet perfumes, were I’ll be looking at more than a dozen of my favorites, covering the range from delicate, quiet Violets to lush, opulent Violet orientals that take the note to a sensual crescendo few expect from such a small flower.

More about violet flowers in perfumery can be found again at

The Perfume Shrine http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2011/02/perfumery-materials-violet-violet-leaf.html

Bois de Jasmin http://boisdejasmin.com/2005/11/ionones-violet-methyl-ionone-powdery-perfume-materials.html

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Resources

Perfume Shrine Violet series

Perfume Posse Comprehensive Guide to Violet Perfumes

The Non-Blonde’s Favorite Violet Perfumes

Bois de Jasmin Violet 

Posted in: Fragrance
June 3, 2014

Welcome to Violet & Moss

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Welcome to Violet & Moss! This blog will revolve primarily around scent, including reviews of specific perfumes, discussion of aroma materials, looks at popular plants used in perfumery, the sense of smell, and many other fragrant elements. It’s very likely that other aspects of beauty will also creep into my posts, especially fairy tale inspired fashion, historical/mythological adornment, and any body/skin care items I happen to be excited about at the moment.

I’m a bit obsessed with certain perfume notes, most especially violets, orange blossom, tuberose, oakmoss, and amber, so many of my reviews will probably be focused on fragrances that include them. I’ll begin with a series on violet-centric perfumes, both popular and obscure, ranging from delicate Victorian style violet scents to outrageous purple perfumes that defy the whole “shrinking violet” cliche.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings, and thanks for reading!

 

Viola odorata

Posted in: Fragrant Fragments