A bit of History
True Violets have been in cultivation by ancient Greeks sicne 500 BC or even earlier. Greeks and the Romans valued Violets for its herbal properties, made wine from them and sweetened food. Using the flowers in love portions, the Ancient Greeks believed the Violets symbolized fertility and love. By the way people wearing a garland of violets above the heads credited they ensured warding off headaches and woozy spells.
Napoleon Bonaparte selected the violet as his signature flower. When Josephine died in 1814, he had her grave covered with violet plants and when he left for Elba he promised his confidential friends that he would return in the violet season. He became known as Corporal Violet. When it was known that he had landed at Fréjus, a multitude of women appeared on the streets of Paris selling violets for his friends to wear without arousing suspicion. The code was, ‘Aimez vous les violettes?’ (do you like violets?) and by answering ‘yes’ it was certain they were of the party, and not the confederation. Shortly before he went was finally exiled to St Helena Napoleon visited Josephine’s grave and picked some flowers from it. After his death, these were found in a locket he had always worn around his neck.
A bit of Literature
Photo credit: Syed Zain
A bit of Literature
Violets have made their appearance in literature and painting as symbolic of human emotions. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia, upon learning of the death of her father, Polonius, speaks to the queen in the language of the flowers, a convention much observed in the 16th century. Her allusions are to the tragic event which has taken place and the emotions and attributes which are symbolized by certain flowers: rosemary for remembrance; pansies (of the violet family) for love; fennel for flattery; columbine for ingratitude; rue for repentance; daisies for faithlessness; and violets for constancy or devotion.
In act IV, scene 5, she sings distraughtly while in the company of the queen:
“I would give some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end”.
Violets were so appealing that Shakespeare even dared to play Turin and describe the scent as “Forward, not permanent; sweet, not lasting”.
A bit of chemistry
Although natural violet is used, it is the discovery of the ionones in 1893 by Tiemann and Krüger that led to the substitution of the violet toned synthetics for the extremely expensive violet flower oil.
The ionones and methyl ionones, which were also discovered by Tiemann in 1893, are among the most important and versatile aroma chemicals. This discovery was revolutionary, changing the face of modern day perfumery as the ionones (along with their analogues and derivatives such as irones, damascones, iso E super, koavone and timberol) are currently incorporated into almost every fragrance.
The ionones range from a scent that is reminiscent of violets in full bloom to an aroma of soft wood overlaid with violet sweetness. The methyl ionones are stronger, with a more pronounced orris and wood tonality.
Methyl ionones played a major role in classic fragrances such as L’Origan by Coty (1905) and L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain (1912). Created in 1947 by Francis Fabron, Le Dix by Balenciaga is often compared to Chanel No5 with violets; the violets radiate from top note to fond. Other classics influenced by these chemicals include L’air du Temps by Nina Ricci (1948). In 1975, the radical Grey Flannel, created by fashion designer Geoffrey Beene targeted the male market (the bottle was swathed in flannel) and had a distinctive violet scent, a theme made truly popular by Dior’s Fahrenheit in 1988.
“Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, And so are you”
This is one the most popular short rhymes of all times. But historically, roses and violets were already enchanting lovers since 1590, with words of poet Sir Edmund Spencer.
So when Sophia Grosjman translated a long lasting poem to the world of perfumery, she ended up creating one of YSL’s most famous perfumes: YSL Paris EDP, said to be the first modern perfume to have a violet-rose accord.
You will find out that many perfumes of this article contain this duo in their compositions. In fact violet accords are pretty much limited in terms of combinations.
Violets perfumes can be divided into the following groups:
The powdery, the green & the pulpy-woody
Most powdery violet perfumes have a combination of iris-rose-musk in violet accords. The greener ones bring violet leafs instead of blossoms, and a common duet with cedar notes. Pulpy-wood violet perfumes bring a combination of berries, black or red currant or plums, with a deeper base with vetiver and leathery notes.
I simply love violets, so no matter how limited violet perfumes can be, I will always find beauty in them.
Violet blossoms are found mostly in feminine fragrances, due to this powdery, iris-like scent, while violet leafs bring a greener cucumber-like touch to masculine fragrances.
Blanc Violette – Histoires de Parfums EDP- violet, bergamot, iris, ylang, ylang, star anise, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, rice powder. This is a powdery perfume. Very unusual, interesting. It is different than all others. One of the best I have tried.
Violet Blond EDP – Tom Ford – violet leafs, pink pepper, mandarin, Tuscan iris absolute and orris butter, Jasmine Sambac, Sampaquita, suede, leather, musk, veriver, benzoin. It is chic, elegant, feminine and alluring. It has the Italian fragrances approach. It could easily fit into Acqua di Parma line. I loved it. It is in my wish list of my future purchases. Beautifully crafted. As a violet perfume it is a bit disappointing. I would even dare to say that this is in fact, a jasmine scent.
Noir EDP – Tom Ford – bergamot, verbena, caraway, pink pepper, violet flower, black pepper, nutmeg, Tuscan iris resin, Egyptian geranium, Bulgarian rose, clary sage, opoponax, amber, Indonesian patchouli, vetiver, civet, vanilla. Eager to try.
Verte Violette – L’Artisan Parfumeur EDT – violet leafs, raspberry leafs, rose, heliotrope, cedar, iris, white musk.
Violette in Love – Parfums de Nicolaï EDT– Italian lemon, black currant buds absolute, raspberry, essence of Turkish rose, violet-iris accord, coriander essence, pink pepper, black pepper and musk.
Bois de Violette EDP – Serge Lutens – violet leafs, iris, grass, white cedar wood, musk. The woody floral character of the ionones is central to the composition
Voile de Violette EDP – Sonoma Scent Studio – violet, iris, rose, cedar, vetiver, violet leafs, tonka, hay, myrrh. For a complete review, click HERE
Wood Violet EDP – Sonoma Scent Studio – violet, plum, cedar, cinnamon, clove, sandalwood, violet leafs, musk. For a complete review, click HERE
Veloutine EDP – Technique Indiscrète – violet leafs, red berries, violet flowers, rose, leather, musk, salycilates. Very juicy, very pulpy, very refined. Distinguish and uncomplicated. I liked it.
La Violette EDP – Annick Goutal – violet flowers, violet leaf, Turkish rose.
Violet Empire by CB I hate Perfume – violet flowers, violet leafs, palisander wood, rosewood, elemi, leather
Violette Precieuse - Caron – violet, violet leafs, orange blossoms, iris, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, raspberry, vetiver, sandalwood, nutmeg.
Insolence EDP – Guerlain – Violet, raspberry pulp, berries, rose, orange blossom, iris, tonka, resins. Not my favorite Guerlain, and I would even dare to ask ”what was that?” and complete with “I hope this was only a phase”.
More Violet Perfumes:
Black Violet EDP by Tom Ford
Violet Splash by Marc Jacobs
Violet Angle EDP by Thierry Mugler
Love in Black EDP by Creed
Violetta di Murano EDP by DSH
Violetta EDT by Penhaligon’s
N07 Violette by Prada
Violettes de Toulouse EDP by Berdoues Parfums Paris
Violettes de Toulouse EDP by Berdoues Parfums Paris