We have a guest poster, Chris, while March is gone, who has done this great piece on Lavender.


Lavender has become a mild obsession lately, so I picked a few full bottles and samples of lavender and lavender based things to smell and ponder. The NoCal weather has taken a turn for the ridiculously hot and the idea of lavender is cooling, even though the reality of the smell reminds me more of densely packed earth and arid xeriscapes.

Norma Kamali’s LAVANDE is something I have never seen mentioned anywhere. People love or hate her INCENSE and CEREMONY and this one (to me) is a sleeper. First, the bottle is minimalist, functional and big. A whopping 50 ml. A spritz is cooling, astringent, medicinal and head clearing in a way that reminds me of eucalyptus. The juice is like going out to my garden, picking a woody piece of plant, squigging it between my fingers and filling my head with that hot/cold, dry/oily odor I love so much. This has decent lasting power and does not change much from beginning to end.

Guerlain’s MOUCHOIR DE MONSIEUR eau de toilette is supposed to be the gentleman’s version of JICKY. I do love a nice gentleman and I detest Jicky. MdM is not pure lavender. It mixes bergamot, civet, vanilla and amber in a mannerly way and reminds me very much of cozying up to a well barbered man right after he has completed his morning ablutions and is about to step into the Bentley to chair a board or cause some heads roll. It takes the starkness of Lavande and injects it with a few generations of boarding school, bespoke suits and a more than a trace of haughtiness. It softens and gets powdery from the vanilla and amber as the day wears on. I usually find the combination of lavender and vanilla gag making, but this is so smoothly done that my gag reflex is sleepy and purring.

In the interest of science, I did prod the above mentioned gag reflex, somewhat accidentally, with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s SWEET DREAMS. The result was not good. This one gives 3 or 4 seconds of a semi-dry lavender then whaps me across the bridge of my nose with 75 pounds of vanilla nougat. Remember the candy that was popular in the late 50s and early 60s-Turkish Taffy? This is that. If you wish to smell like vanilla cake batter-I’d say wedding cake-and want just the merest nodding acquaintance with the oily purple stuff, go for this. I can’t, I shan’t and I won’t.

The final and less fatal but so bitterly disappointing sniff was of Andy Tauer’s REVERIE AU JARDIN. It opens with (so says the description) high altitude mountain lavender. And so it does, like Dawn’s, for 2 seconds or less. Since I love getting gassed with galbanum even more than I love the note I’m exploring today, I felt I could forgive the wham bam of the lavender. Vanilla again reared it’s sappy, platinum blond head and looked at me with huge, long lashed saucer eyes of those chilling Keen kids paintings popular many years ago. I was sent reeling and wretched, wondering where the hell the high mountain lavender had gone.

The moral of the story? Vanilla is best in creme brulee, a little civet in the mix is a chivalrous thing and lavender is at its best when mucked with as little as possible.

  • Bognor Regis says:

    I had a lavender plant in my backyard as a child, and I used to pick the little leaves, rub them between my thumb and my forefinger, and sniff them until the smell went away.

    That said, it’s hard for me to recognise lavender in an actual perfume; I’m so used to the raw leaves of that little potted plant that nothing else smells like the real deal.
    I absolutely love MdM and it’s my favourite scent, but it’s certainly not because of the lavender note. What I love about Mdm is probably the civet and the general ‘fougere’ flower and oakmoss mix.

    I’ve heard that the point of a fougere is that no single note stands out, by the way.

    PS. I love Jicky as long as it’s dry.

  • Solander says:

    There is a Moustache perfume, by Rochas! I’d love to smell it… 😉

    Another Jicky fan here. Not a lavender fan, but when it doesn’t smell “violet” and old-lady-like, but green and herbal and playing well with other notes, like in a good fougere, I can appreciate it.

  • zztopp says:

    I must have tried almost every lavender based fragrance there is and these are to me the best of the best:

    1. Creed Royal Scottish Lavender
    2. Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande
    3. Acqua Di Parma Lavanda Tonica
    4. Truefitt & Hill Grafton (a barbershop fragrance in the same style as Caron pour un homme, but better executed)

  • winterwheat says:

    oops, that’s $100 — even better 🙂

  • winterwheat says:

    Love, love, LOVE real-life lavender (the plant), can’t take more than a tiny amount of it in perfumes. Such a shame. BTW, if you want a really big bottle of Norma Kamali Lavande (or any of her scents), head to 500ml for $120 — not bad!

  • Dusan says:

    Welcome, Chris!
    You know, this time last year I wouldn’t have bothered to read this article through. I have since learned to appreciate lavender, but I still have a long way to go to get (if ever) where you’re coming from. I quite liked Andy’s Reveries (surprise, surprise) and LOVE EeL. Have you tried Mauboussin PH? It’s hardly a lavender you would like, although it does have a nice herbal kick before patchouli and vanilla are whipped into the mix.
    Anyway, thanks for a lovely article!

  • CH says:

    Mmmmmmm…I love lavender-infused honey. Good gosh, sounds like another Christopher Sheldrake creation! Arrrrggh!
    them!!! @-)

    BTW…I love Christopher Sheldrake’s creations. ;;)


  • Lauren says:

    I don’t like lavender, but did like these lavender reviews, Chris.

    Thank you for writing.

  • carmencanada says:

    I keep thinking I don’t like lavender, but the Guerlain take on it is wonderful: like Lee, I’m a Jicky lover (that cool/warm juxtaposition with civet really gets me) and like Iris, I adore its combination with aromatic spices in Sous le Vent (Iris, do try Jicky if you love SLV). Mouchoir de Monsieur, which was long kept in fabrication exclusively for French actor Jean-Claude Brialy, is truly wonderful too — I picked it for a very beloved man whom I am not seeing anymore and don’t even dare to smell it again for the bittersweet memories it would summon. Like another Guerlain classic, Habit Rouge, it’s amazingly “feminine” for a masculine scent by modern standards, but it’s well worth seeking out. It brings to mind Caron’s Pour un Homme, but it’s more complex.
    Oh, and Chris, Mr Mouchoir de Monsieur was indeed a major player in his field though he drove a vintage Ferrari: you weren’t too far off.

  • IrisLA says:

    I love the wafts of lavender from Guerlain Sous le Vent. Other than that, I have not found any lavenders to love. Need to re-try Jicky since most seem to love it.

  • violetnoir says:

    I am laughing out loud. Great review!

    I’m not a big lavender fan. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the 1800’s when lavender was found in many of the popular fragrances. Ugh! 🙁

    Thank you for posting!

  • tmp00 says:

    Welcome Chris! Great to read a fellow Californians posts!

    Sorry RduJ didn’t work for you- I thankfully did not get vanilla, that would have put a kibosh on my ardor right there. I may wander over to the perfume shops on Broadway and grab a bottle of Mouchoir..

  • pitbull friend says:

    Hey, Chris: Thanks for writing this! Seems like lavender has such a strong character that it’s hard to get it to play well with others. (I’ve thought this while trying to love Encens et Lavande, which should be just the thing for me.) I’ll have to try the Mouchoir — been curious about that. Thanks, too, for the warning about the Lavender Turkish Taffy (though if something were named that, I might get a decant for the perversity of it).

    As I write, I am enjoying a square of lavender CHOCOLATE that I just happened to have in my desk. It’s by an organic/fair trade co. called Dagoba and is actually dark chocolate/lavender/ blueberry with 59% cacao content. Very good & rich. But I don’t think I want to smell like it…. –Ellen

  • Elle says:

    Great reviews! 🙂 Like Patty, I’m more of a fan of lavender in the garden (under my roses) than in perfumes, but I do love Encens et Lavande and Sous le Vent. I actually really like several of NKs scents, apart from the Incense, NK and Ceremony and remember thinking the Lavande was very well done. If I were more of a lavender fan, I think I’d have gone for a full bottle.
    I’ve tried that DSH. It really was scary stuff. I tend not to like many of her Essence scents, but, if I recall correctly her Eau de Vie from the Beaux Arts line was something I thought would be a really nice lavender for someone who likes lavender. For me, however, it was a bit too bright and had a geranium note in it, which deep sixed it for me.

  • Patty says:

    I’m not a lavender fan in perfumes, though I love it muchly in the garden, especially at the base of an antique rose bush. But I do wind up liking it in Encens et Lavande and Gris Clair too, but those have been the only lavenders that I can tolerate very well.

    I still haven’t smelled Mouchoir de Monsieur, but I keep thinking I can give it a miss.s

    Thanks so much for writing this, Chris!

  • Lee says:

    I’m sometimes a lavender fan, though I’m best when it’s contemplative, a la Encens et Lavande. and some days, I just need the skank touch of Jicky, a true love in edp and parfum. I’ll have to test out the NK and DSH sometime – never have. Though I might do the DSH on someone else’s skin.

  • judith says:

    Really funny review! But most of my faves aren’t here–I adore PdN Maharadjah (world’s most calming perfume; went to sleep with it last night) and SL Encens et Lavande and Gris Clair. And I also love Jicky!\:d/ But I’m quite fond as well of Mouchoir, the NK, and, yes, Reverie. I guess I just like lavender!:)

  • benvenuta says:

    Vanilla is best in creme brulee, a little civet in the mix is a chivalrous thing and lavender is at its best when mucked with as little as possible.
    ITA. I think Reverie au Jardin is lovely, but it`s not about lavender.

    Wanna hear something funny? For a long time I thought Mouchoir de Monsieur means Gentleman`s Moustache. :)) I just did not think about it. The first time I saw translation I realized how absurd was my “translation” and what a bizarre perfume name would it make? Who would want to smell like “gentleman`s moustache”?