I got an email out of the blue recently with this photo from my friend A in London (she works in the Houses Of Parliament and doesn’t like to be identified), saying :
“I blame you”.
There was a photo of a flower attached.
“I was re-reading something you wrote about Keats and Rome and violets …..”
“So I blame you.”
It turned out that A had also coincidentally been to the very same cemetery that I used to languish in as a university student many years ago, and through the intensity of those recollections had now felt compelled to order some quite expensive violet plants to place on the balcony of her London flat ; a selection that had included
Viola Odorata ‘Alba’.
Viola Odorata ‘Colombine’.
Viola Odorata ‘Donau’.
She sent me a picture of another one – a rather unimposing little thing – that had just flowered.
‘YES’ – came the reply.
Somehow, violets have come up several times in our conversations (we met thirty years ago at Cambridge and then again at my book launch last year at Rouillier White – an amazing gathering of people I hadn’t seen for decades). She was persuaded enough by my review of Geoffrey Beene’s green-violet heavy Grey Flannel to go and check it out (now a staple, I believe);both of us love the scent of these passionately timid flowers in their mauve and green vulnerability, and are always on the lookout for a new one.
While it is sometimes satisfying to wear a florid, regally powdered number like Violetta Nobile , or a sweet, fluorescent violetta such as Insolence, it is also rare to find a more natural, violet perfume that isn’t overly concentrated on the bitterly head-piercing note of natural violet leaf absolute, which I only personally enjoy in traces. Mandy Aftel’s new Violet Ambrosia does have an undertone of that sharply green oil, but it is blended skilfully with a classically floral proper violet heart note as well as an unexpecteddance partner of genista monspessulana :: broom absolute.
This is an interesting choice of contrast : the cheering, yellow floral broom note makes a sunny counterpoint to the more doleful violets, even if on my own skin there is a slightly sour, oily, ‘vintage Caron’ aspect for a few minutes before the violets decrescendo into a calming and soothing mimosa-soft finish with violets still apparent throughout (and probably more so on paler, more delicate skin types). Samantha at I Scent You A Day fell in love with this one immediately, and it is definitely recommended for anyone who likes the small privacy of violet flowers respiring from a carefully appointed place on morning wrists. A scent to potter around the house to.
A – I don’t know if Violet Ambrosia quite has that edge you seem to like in scent (and I don’t know if you would go for the hints of sandalwood and vanilla in the heart), but for its deceptive simplicity, and the lovely gentle and sincere finish on the skin – a perfume ‘for a new day’, I do think you might want to add a sample of this one to your violet purchase list. X