Decoding Obscure Notes Part IV: Violets - Purple or Green?
Violets have been long regarded for their delicate and sublime aroma. Although for the most part they are considered a shy, lady-like scent and are associated with Victorian times, when violets were most popular in history. Violets are also considered aphrodisiacs – though usually a “proper” and “well mannered” aphrodisiac. There is a hidden darkness and duskiness about violets that does not come through in all violet fragrances.
A quick visit to the most infamous violet scents will lead to the conclusion that there are no two violets that are the same. There are some green ones – such as Verte Violette, Ormonde and Viola; There are powdery ethereal ones such as Apres l’Ondee, and there are others that are sweet and floral with no question about their violetness, such as Violetta and Meteorites (a Guerlain limited edition).
The differences lays with the fact that the part of the plant that is used commercially is the leaves. However, the nostalgic scent that was so prized in Victorian times was the flowers themselves. These are sweet and powdery at once and quite unusual; Their unmistakable scent is very delicate – in fact, almost invisible in the fresh flowers themselves. Since violet flowers are for the most part man made compounds, the interpretations are limitless, ranging from powdery to green, floral and even gourmand-like, inspired by candied violets.
Violet Flower Absolute
Although violet flowers can be distilled into an absolute, the process is labour intense and non-cost-effective. When I use violet flower note in my perfumes, it is a compound made if various oils that are rich in ionone - such as orris root, violet leaf absolute, boronia along with other floral oils or absolutes to round off the accord and give it a soft flowery impression.
Violet Leaf Absolute
This dark green liquid from the violet leaves smells cool and green, just like cucumber. When diluted, it exposes its powdery and floral characteristics, rather than leafy green.
Boronia comes from the shores of Tasmania, and is one of the most precious absolutes. It contains a lot of ionone – a key component in violet and orris. It has undertones reminiscent of sandalwood and hay, a yellow freesia and violet like body and a slightly fruity, almost like cassis and apricot top notes. More than anything else – it is reminiscent of fresh yellow freesias - fruity, green and spicy all at once.
Orris has an important role in the creation of violet flower compounds. As much as orris root butter is expensive – it is far more cost effective than harvesting violet flower absolute. Along with chemicals from the ionone family, it helps to duplicate the delicate scent of violet flowers.
Besides its innumerable roles in perfumery and aromatherapy alike, lavender has affiliation with violets. It is floral, herbaceous, powdery and sweet all at once and also, well, purple. The softness and warmth of lavender promotes the powderiness of violet compounds.
I have already mentioned before, in the article about musks, the unique characteristics of costus. However, it’s dusky, dark and slightly oily quality is not only valuable for creating vegetale musk accords, but also as a deep and delicately sweet and rich foundation for violet accords – especially when seeking a dark, more mysterious (rather than purely innocent) violet.