La La Lavender

I’ve reviewed lavender-based fragrances a few times and been mean about all of them. Lavender is a not a note that works well on me.

So, why am I writing about lavender? Because in most other permutations I love it.

I have a lavender plant in a pot (I used to have another in the ground but the builders killed it). I use lavender oil when I feel I’m a bit pongy (like if I stay in my yoga clothes after yoga and go off some place where there are people).

I have some quite old lavender sachets that my mother gave me which still do their job. Years ago, we (my father and son) stopped at a lavender farm in Norfolk (mid-east coast of England) on the way to a short beach holiday. I think I came away with a plant, some lavender honey, and some lavender sweets, but it was a long time ago.

The lavender experience I do recall clearly relates to taking my father out for a fancy lunch decades ago in New York City.

If you were a New Yorker in the 1980s and 1990s maybe you’ll remember that in the summers there was a programme of cheap (relatively) three-course set lunches at fancy restaurants. You paid the year with a decimal in the middle (eg, $19.88 for 1988).

At that time I worked for a while in midtown Manhattan and on the lower West Side. Each year, us youngers (investment assistants, editors, secretaries) would get together over the list and choose a few places to go. Three or four truly outstanding lunches for under $100 in total. Incredible.

I can’t recall most of the places we went as most of them are now gone (damn that NY restaurant rotation). But I do recall once having lobster risotto for lunch which was so good I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the afternoon.

I do also recall one lunch at the long defunct but totally incredible Chanterelle on Hudson and Harrison Streets. I think we had chosen it one year because a friend of mine knew the pastry chef and said she did great things (she did).

Anyway, after that I ended up taking my Dad there for some sort of special outing. I recall the room was fancy but not stodgy – you saw people in jeans (clean ones). I don’t recall what we ate except that my father got lavender ice cream for dessert. Ya see, lavender in a good form. I even recall it being a beautiful pale lavender colour.

I remember him having his first spoonful and stopping – just getting that faraway look in his eyes. You know the one, where you taste something so special speech is lost briefly and you need to focus all your attention on what you’ve got in your mouth.

He swallowed and then this huge smile: “You have to taste this”. Which I did. And fully appreciated the wonderfulness.

Interestingly, while this wasn’t a subtle flavour the impact of it was gone after that first spoonful. It still tasted really good, but that shock of tasting lavender had disappeared.

We would have had this lunch probably early 1990s. My father died nearly five years ago but this memory of time with him is still incredibly sharp.

So, are you a lavender perfume lover and if so which fragrances? And have you ever eaten something containing lavender (beyond shortbreads – lavender shortbreads seem to be a thing in this country)?

  • Tom says:

    Lavender is in quite a few things that I like but can go wrong pretty easily.

    I have had that lavender ice cream and it may have been at Chanterelle- I had the same thing happen. The first taste was a revelation: I was tasting lavender! Then, good, but not so much. I’ve had it since and had the same thing. I think were it served on something like a little piece of puff pastry as a tidbit it would be perfect. Consuming a pint (like I can do with rum raisin) isn’t necessary.

    But oh that first taste..

    • cinnamon says:

      Loved Chanterelle. Only went a handful of times but so wonderful. Interesting idea: if used in smaller amount would have more impact. What about as flavouring for a macaron? Rum raisin has never been my thing. I’m on the salted trend: salted caramel, salted honeycomb …

  • hmwzero says:

    Love love love the original Helmut Lang edp….( haven’t tried the 2014 version) but wouldn’t say I like the smell of lavender sachets, soaps etc but this is just wonderful…..

    • cinnamon says:

      I still want to return to a lavender farm. The smell was astonishing. Never done the HL — in fact, not sure where I might find it around here (the boonies, with one decent department store nearby).

  • Zazie says:

    Love the scent of lavender and its uses in the kitchen! I love the classic pairing of lavender and honey and creams. But the best lavender based food to me is lavender honey: it has a pale white opaque color and tastes like an almond cream with a just a hint of the actual flower and of classic honey. It is interesting and delicious. Santa Maria Novella used to make the best I’ve ever tried.
    Lavender perfumes are not my thing though, Jicky being the exception, but I don’t get much of the lavender note.
    Since I always have one plant of lavender or two around my place, when we got married my husband took two strands of flowers to put in his lapel and two to put in my hair. It didn’t really go with my bouquet (or my perfume: OJ Frangipani absolute) but I didn’t care.
    My theory is that the things one loves always go together well. If they don’t, beware. 😉

  • Marsha Smith says:

    I love lavender essential oil. My favorite lavender perfumes are Jicky and Caron Pour un Homme. But I have seen some great suggestions here.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Cinnamon,
    I love all things lavender, including perfumes.
    Funnily, Jin had lavender ice cream this weekend in Tasmania. He had one taste and got very cross because it tasted like soap to him. He still ate every bit.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      Soap… and he still ate it? Why not get another flavour he’d actually enjoy? It’s a vacation, after all? The best ice cream I’ve ever had was from Ample Hills in Brooklyn (yes, the lavender stuff from Chanterelle was wonderful, but AH is another league all together).

  • Dina C. says:

    I’m not crazy for lavender because it often skews barber shop masculine to my nose. But I love it in a scent a fragrance friend introduced to me: Burberry Brit Rhythm for Women. It’s got lavender, aldehydes, neroli, orange blossom, orris, iris, vetiver…it’s well-rounded and very soft-edged. Great scent to wear to bed. Another good thing about this one, it’s super cheap on ebay and discounters.

    • cinnamon says:

      Yes, that, and it can be really weird how it interacts with certain wood notes. Interesting on the Burberry Brit Rhythm. Maybe the orange blossom mutes some of the screechiness of lavender?

  • ElizaC says:

    I adore the smell and taste of violets, roses and most other flowers (I could happily live off of Chowards violet candies and rose turkish delight while wearing Lipstick Rose perfume) but not so much lavender. It is wonderful when a taste of something makes an unexpected, emotional impact – one of the great joys of life.

    • cinnamon says:

      Love me some Turkish delight. Those sorts of strong emotional memories are wonderful. And to be cherished.

  • Alityke says:

    What a wonderful memory of eating with your dad. Sharing a moment like that with a parent is a blessing.
    Have you come across Katie’s White Lavender sheep’s cheese from the Shepherd’s Purse Dairy?
    I first tried it around 25 years ago in a cheese course at a hotel in Grassington, near the dairy. The cheese was moist & crumbly, bright white & had been rolled in lavender flowers. The flavour was sublime, floral but almost anise. We had to ask our waiter what it was as neither DH or I recognised it. Sadly, the cheese now has lavender oil added rather than the flowers, as the weather affected the flowers & if they weren’t perfect they spoilt the cheese. It’s still good but no longer has the complexity that those flowers brought to it.
    Lavender perfumes? I adore SL Fourreau Noir, use Caldey Island as linen spray when I can’t sleep & Jicky was my first grown up perfume purchase.
    I’ve also been known to use Dr Bronner’s Lavender Liquid Soap as laundry liquid

    • cinnamon says:

      He adored those sorts of restaurants — ie, really great food and ambiance, upmarket but not stuffy. No on the cheese. Will have to have a better look at the farm shop’s cheese offering. Love Dr Bonner’s soap — all through child- and early adulthood had it in the house.

  • Kathleen says:

    I have had lavender honey. I love lavender plants, and when seen on walks, I rub my hands on the flowers for the scent. I’m not sure what species we have in Colorado, but they smell glorious in nature. I’ve never been attracted to lavender in perfume that I wear but I also love lavender essential oil. Perhaps I prefer lavender in its natural state? Although years ago Bath and Body Works made a beautiful lavender vanilla pillow spray and bubble bath.
    I so glad you hold dear a special dining memory with your Father.

    • cinnamon says:

      The local farm shop has all kinds of lavender and other floral honeys. Would be interesting to do a side by side tasting, but I use honey so infrequently it’s not going to happen. Love lavender pillow sprays. So soothing. Tx regarding meal with father. It really is one of those wonderful memories.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    Gawd yes! Encens et lavande! I forgot this. Make it Three Great SL lavenders.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    I adore lavender. I hear all the time from other perfumistas how they “hate lavender” followed closely by “hating roses”–two of my few favorite floral scents. I’m not as big a fan of other white or yellow florals, skipping right ahead to ouds, incense woods and animalics. But lavender: love it. My top favorites are both by Serge Lutens, “Gris Clair” and “Fourreau Noir.” USA based Solstice Scents (the best in customer service) makes a cozy comfy “Lavender Vanilla,” and House of Matriarch (USA) also makes “Madrona–love. These are all lavenders with a twist, and not your grandma’s lavender, though I’d love that too! And then my go-to “only sheet spray” lavender is the underrated “Burberry Brit ‘Rhythm’.” I also do like the Tom Ford F Fabulous well enough (I haven’t tried his extreme lavender). These are a handful, plus my essential oils of lavender. Honestly, someone could give me any kind of rank ole lavender and I’d love it. Dry? Yes. Herbal? Fine. Sweet and soapy perfumey? Yes. Harsh and medicinal–right on. I LOVE it.

    • Dina C. says:

      Yay! Another fan of Burberry Brit Rythm. I love that stuff! 🙂

    • cinnamon says:

      I am ok with roses. I particularly like SL Rose de Nuit, but the genre is not my fave. The US has a whole slew of independent artisanal producers that sound just great.

  • Tara C says:

    I’ve had lavender ice cream, tea, honey and syrup. All very nice. As for lavender perfumes, I’m partial to Lancome Lavandes Trianon, Vero Profumo Kiki, and SL Fourreau Noir.

    • Tara C says:

      Oh, and how could I have forgotten SL Encens et Lavande? The only non-sweet lavender in my collection and a big favorite.

    • cinnamon says:

      lavender syrup sounds very interesting. do you put it in fizzy water or on ice cream? Love other VPs and SLs.