It has been a while since we did a comprehensive guide, but here we go with Best Violet Perfumes! I feel like I’ve covered violets so much, including a 12 Days of Violets post the first year of the blog. I have to note that wearing this many violet perfumes has been a treat. I love violet, but assumed I’d be quite sick of it, as I normally am of the note I’m reviewing, by the end of the post. Oh, no, I’m more in love with violet than ever. Try it sometime, spray on about 10 violet scents and just sink down into the beauty of it. There will be a giveaway, details at the end. As always, these are violet-centered fragrances or where violet is used in an unusual way, not just perfumes with violet in them.
I’ve adopted Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey as the icon for violet. I love that the costumers for the show put her in violet a lot. She is the perfect violet. You think it’s frail and feminine, but find out it is also tough, beautiful, underestimated, persistent, cranky and quirky.
Such a dainty little flower with a delicate scent that can just kick your butt with persistence. It’s amazing. Part of the VioletPerfumeProblem seems rooted in its heavy use in early perfumery. Many vintage perfumes have violet and the perception becomes violet is old-fashioned. I don’t find that true, but I get why it sometimes is perceived like that.
[pullquote]Oh, Certainly. All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite. – Violet Crawley[/pullquote]
Violet Perfumes – Classics from the Past Brought to the Future
Caron and Guerlain have been full of violet love for decades. Guerlain Apres L’Ondee is the gorgeous iris/violet standard-bearer. Yes, it’s a blend, but such a beautiful blend. The iris so beautifully grounds the violets, and it has a joyful melancholy (yes, I know, these two words don’t really go together) that perplexes me. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes when I put it on. Guerlain made some modern violet scents as well – Guerlain Attrape Coeur and Guerlain Insolence – one for the classic fan and one for the mainstream audience. Of course Attrape Coeur is now gone, and it was never really one of my favorites, too powdery, but I admired its craftsmanship. Guerlain Insolence is a violet perfume truly made for the modern perfume buyer, a little candied, warmed Guerlain vanilla violet perfume. It’s one of the perfumes I thought I knew and had dismissed Taking another look at it reframed it as a violet to love.
Caron houses a couple of my very favorite violet perfumes – Aimez-Moi and Violette Precieuse. Caron Aimez Moi was created in 1996 by Dominque Ropion, which was a major coup that was a little out of character for Caron. The result was great. Using Caron N’aimez Que Moi as a reference, Dominque created this gorgeous warm spicy violet. I’m not as fond of Caron N’Aimez Que Moi, the urn extrait. It’s just not that interesting, and the reformulation has pretty much rendered it a nonviolet perfume. Caron Violette Precieuse is my violet Holy Grail. Dry, dark peppery violet that starts out as Violet Gym socks (as I referred to them back in 2005). Violette Precieuse is a violet perfume that just doesn’t give a shit what you think of it. It is what it is, and it makes no apologies. Tough, a little tender when you draw in closer. It had character, and I still mourn its passing. There is/was a modern version that I don’t see anymore, so I think they discontinued it. I didn’t hate it like most everyone else did, but do be aware there is a difference that is quite dramatic between the two.
Balenciaga has a vintage violet perfume and a modern one. Balenciaga Le Dix is from the 1940s and is an uber-feminine violet. There are parts of it I’m not crazy about, but in the end I really do love it for what it is. It is a step back into time, when perfumes were elegant femininity with a powdery feel. Balenciaga sold the rights to make perfume under their name to Coty, and they released Balenciaga Paris. Peppered green violet, it’s a really solid violet perfume. Coolly elegant and something I really liked seeing in the mainstream perfumes.
Balmain Jolie Madame (just get the vintage version. The newer one isn’t absolutely horrible, the vintage is far more interesting) is violets, smoke and leather, which is weird because nowhere in a list of notes is violet listed. I kept wanting to leave it out of this guide because of that omission, but everyone, including me, smells the violets, so in it goes! March reviewed it years ago, and Muse in Wooden shoes has a great review of it as well.
Yves Saint Laurent Paris is a little more in the rose department, but I get a lot of lovely violet along with the iris and roses. It is the happiest violet perfume out there, and that’s saying a lot. It’s perky and pretty and a joy to wear.
Candied Violet Perfumes
Alexander McQueen My Queen is all candied violets on the open, blended with almonds and vanilla. Want to make your head explode? Wear it next to Alexander McQueen Kingdom. Skanky violets supreme. Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse is like a violet pez dispenser. I mean that in the best way. If you are going to candy a violet perfume, you should go all in like Berdoues did. There is plenty of room in this world for candied violet perfumes. Tom Ford Black Violet is a jammy little violet that I had a hard time placing because it disturbs me. It’s sorta dark, but then it’s sorta sweet and a little boozy, and I keep thinking of it as my perfume version of a scary violet clown. I like the idea of it, it’s just a hard one for me to love or wear. Now the damn thing is torturing me because it knows it doesn’t belong in this category, and so do I, but I’m leaving it here to punish it for scaring me and I didn’t have any other entires for a category called “SCARY Violet perfume.”
Modern Violet Perfumes (wide distribution or mainstream)
Lolita Lempicka led the modern charge back into the violet field carrying the Angel gourmand banner. It almost feels like it should be in the candied violets category because it is gourmandish, but while it flirts with it nonstop, it just stays flitting about the rim of the gourmand cocktail without falling in. A gorgeous modern violet perfume. Creed Love in Black was created as an homage to Jackie Kennedy. It veers from the powdery violet perfumes of decades ago and updates violet to a slightly green, sweet violet that is easy to wear, but it has this nice little black tarry note running around. Tom Ford Violet Blonde is his violet entry in the mainstream market. A cool, chic iris/violet blend that is better than the marketing surrounding it.
Van Cleef and Arpels Feerie never got the love I thought it deserved, which makes me quite sad. Yes, it’s inexpensive and comes in a weird bottle with an annoying oversized weird cap, but it is just joyful to wear. A little sweet with some fruit, but never too much. I reviewed Van Cleef & Arpels Feerie back in 2008, and I really haven’t changed my mind about it, and I don’t care that no one else seems to love it. Except, well… you.are.missing.out.
Annick Goutal Eau de Ciel is an airy green linden/violet slice of spring. It’s probably more about linden than violets, but there’s enough violet whisked in that makes this as joyous as Feerie is, but in a very different way. If you want to OD on happy, just spray Feerie on one wrist and Eau de Ciel on the other. Violet heaven.
Classic Violet Perfumes – Soliflores
There are a bazillion soliflore violet perfumes in existence, and I’ll just mention a couple of my favorites, but this list is in no way exhaustive of the best violet perfume soliflores. Santa Maria Novella Violetta is a great little violet with the Italian feel to it – meaning it has a nice citrus twist. Borsari Violetta di Parma is cheap and chic and the violet soliflore I probably recommend the most as a place to start exploring violet in its solitary existence. Penhaligon has a great violet perfume, as does Molinard and many, many more.
Modern Violet Perfumes – Soliflores
This category isn’t quite right. There’s not that many violet soliflores, but the perfumes in this category really concentrate on the violet note much more than most others. CB I Hate Perfume has two in this category, CB I Hate Perfume Wild Pansy and CB I Hate Perfume Violet Empire. Both are great violet perfumes, but with differences. Violet Empire is green, a little leather and then lovely green violets, but far less than Wild Pansy. Wild Pansy is much more violetful, slightly sweeter, still green, but with the earth thrown into it. Brosius has done a great job capturing violet with these two. He has another, but that’s later in this guide.
L’Artisan Verte Violette is a gorgeous violet scent, a little sweet. It has a pretty freshness that is hard to resist. Prada Violette snags some leather and galbanum to add interest, and it works. This is a parfum, so it is pricier than a lot of the others, but it’s one of my favorites of the purely violet set.
Annick Goutal La Violette is a scent i don’t have, so I’m using the review from Muse in Wooden Shoes, which describes it as “The whole thing is about as girly and innocent and sweet as you could ever want.” You know, some days when I want to remember days when I was that innocent and sweet, that sounds perfect. Thierry Mugler Angel Garden of Stars Violette Angel is one of the deconstructed perfumes from Angel, and it really has almost no Angel in it, but a lot of violets. Not my favorite violet scent – far from it, but it’s worth mentioning.
Niche Violet Perfume Beauties
Niche perfume houses have done some amazing things for violet perfumes. The only place to start in this is Serge Lutens Bois de Violette. The offspring of Shiseido Feminite du Bois, Bois de Violette is woody violet wrapped in candy It’s an intoxicating violet perfume that is unlike anything else. I reviewed Bois de Violette back in 2005. I’m not sure it’s still my very favorite violet scent ever, but it is still in the top five. The other Serge Lutens scent that has not so much violet, but treats violet in a way that moves me is Serge Lutens de Profundis. It is the joyous violet laid against the funereal chrysanthemum that gives de Profundis its beautiful both/and conflict. If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you know my love for de Profundis. Well, and Tom’s love for de Profundis. Pretty sure both Musette and Ann came ’round to at least admiring it. It’s a scent I use as a reference for anyone if they want to know what conflict smells like in a perfume. Is it fall or is it spring? Is it death or is it life? Complex, soaring and beautiful, and it is the violets that gives it that tension. Big job for a teeny flower.
Frederic Malle has a couple of violet perfumes that added a lot to the violet library. Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose is a rose/violet blend, and it appeared in the rose perfume guide. It’s a unique perfume that really does feel like that pearls-clutching ’50s dame who never left the house without her lipstick for afternoon cocktails. I admire it so much, love smelling it, but I never wear it because, no matter how hard I try, it is that rare thing, a violet perfume that just won’t fit me. Frederic Malle Dans tes Bras is my violet perfume from Malle. I reviewed it in 2008 and then weirdly forgot about it! Or at least forgot it had violet in it. I squealed with delight when I re-found this perfume I loved so much when I first tried it and then lost it under 145 new releases. For me, this is the delicate tension perfume featuring violets from Malle that is a counterpart in a weird way to Serge Lutens de Profundis. The violets are used in a similar way, it is a hopeful floral note when mixed in with other notes that have a more ponderous, dark or sensual feel. I think you could leave me Dans tes Bras and de Profundis on my deserted island, and I’d be pretty content.
Comme des Garcons Stephen Jones is another violet that perplexes me why it does not get the love and approbation that it deserves. Yeah, it got a lot of good reviews when it released, but never really got the following it should have. FFS, this thing came in the most cunning little hat box with netting around it you could imagine. That alone was enough to release the credit card locks, but add in a bucket of aldehydes, carnation, heliotrope, gaiac wood and black cumin, that smells like violet love to me! I loved it in 2008 when I reviewed it, and I still love it because it is quirky and some weird cross between Lipstick Rose and Bvlgari Black. Robin at Now Smell This loved it, Tania Sanchez said “Chanel No 22 with a top note of fried green peppers and overheated inkjet printer” when describing it. It’s just not a serious violet perfume, and that’s the best kind.
Parfums de Nicolai Violette in Love is a violet I haven’t spent much time with, which is odd. I love Parfums de NIcolai, and I love violets. A slightly peppery raspberry violet. It’s fun to wear, doesn’t take much thought, but I don’t really get much else from it. Laura Tonatto Eleanora Duse is one of the little known violet perfumes that need/deserves/should have a much bigger following. I think it’s hard to find – not sure why some italian perfume companies have such big distribution problems. Mossy, green violets.
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman is in my top three violet perfumes. Violet, hemlock and woods. This is beautiful violet elegance, nothing being revealed straight-up, it just slowly unfurls.
Violet Perfume Gems from Indie Perfumers
Smaller indie perfumers have put out some of the best violet perfumes with unique features. Musette is totally smitten with Soivohle Violets and Rainwater, and I can’t seem to find her review of it so you can see what she said exactly. She has it exactly right as far as the unfettered love. It is a beautiful spring day, a little dirt, violets and the rain. Soivohle Purple Love Smoke is dirty violets with a wee bit of smoke. Unique, and I believe back in stock! I would have bet my last bottle of vintage Mitsouko that I had reviewed Les Nez The Unicorn Spell at some point, but if I did, I can’t find it. Cool, chilly, violets peeping out of frozen earth with scads of ripe vegetation around. Oh, hey, that’s NOT a bad thing. It’s a unique point of view on violet that I really love.
Two violet perfumes I didn’t have that get mentioned frequently. Histoires de Parfum Blanc Violette (review at Olfactoria’s Travels) and Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette (review at EauMG and I Smell Therefore I Am). Huh, I need to hunt down that SSS one, it sounds amazing. There are many more indie perfumer violet scents, and I’m hoping if you have a favorite, you’ll mention it in comments.
Now for something completely different violet-wise
These are my special violet perfumes, the ones that take a unique angle. Top of the list is Mona di Orio Violette Fumee, which I just reviewed. I don’t really have more to add to it, it is just smokey violet perfection and such a unique approach to the violet, it deserves trying. You may love it, you may hate it, but if violets interest you at all or how a perfumer deals with an old note in a fresh way, this is one to test. Giorgio Armani Cuir Amethyste marries violets and leather in a stealth way. By that, I mean you can’t smell it exactly. March and I reviewed it back in 2006. We both concluded that some of the notes in it are like a dog whistle, only men can smell them both at the same time. Brilliant. I got the leather, March got the violets. Fortunately, things have improved, and now I get both. Best thing about Cuir Amethyste, it’s my favorite perfume to put on with abandon, then go traipsing around town. Compliments just stack up like cord wood.
CB I Hate Perfume Room With a View uses the movie of the same name as its inspiration, meant to capture the smells of the hills above Florence – vineyards, grass, violets. It has an earthy quality that permeates that’s hay and dirt. It’s not a candied violet in the least, it is a violet set in nature. The Non-Blonde reviewed it and I reviewed it as well in 2009 (ignore all that yammering at the beginning of the post about completely frivolous crap), saying “That pretty much nails it. It is an earthy grassfest with violets peeping up and cascading out of every nook and cranny, and the longer it is on, the more the violets invade your senses nestling in a bed of hay. In simpler terms, think Black March, the Hay accord merged with one of CB’s violet scents.” Parfum d’Empire Equistrius is a violet unlike any other. There’s, of course, a review of it by me in 2007. Hey, have you guys noticed how many violet perfumes I’ve reviewed since 2005? I didn’t even link them all. If I was ever in doubt about how much I love violet, this confirms it. Equistrius is an iris/violet gourmand’ish thing. You could argue it is more iris than violet, but I can’t separate out the violet from the iris, so it has to fall in the interesting use of violets category because I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything quite like it. I still don’t get the horse part of it, though there are moments when I get my favorite horse’s neck smell. Iris, violet, doesn’t matter, Equistrius is an unusual beauty.
That is our violet perfumes roundup! If you would like to be entered to win a sample set of most of these violet perfumes (most, some I don’t have), just drop a comment below. You can do some other activities to get additional entries, but you must comment on the post to be officially entered. The drawing officially closes on November 4, 2013. Winners are posted sometime after that. Do you love violet, hate it, have any favorites? If you have a favorite I haven’t mentioned, please tell us!