I’m a sucker for singular note perfumes and perfumes with a strong, distinct top note. If you have a look at my collection, you will see that the bottles that always run low are Jo Malone Red Roses, Serge Lutens Sa majesté la rose, Lily Dior and Aerin Lilac Path. I’m not completely sure why these perfumes appeal to me so much, but I think it has something to do with memory.
I remember the first rose a boy gave me and being so overwhelmed at what a nice gesture it was (I couldn’t believe someone liked me!), I remember the strong scent of lily of the valley that grew outside my childhood home, and having family barbecues near the huge lilac bushes that grow in my parents’ backyard. I associate all of these pretty floral scents with good things that have happened in the past.
One of my earliest memories is visiting my paternal grandparents in Grenada when I was four years old. I remember meeting my grandmother for the first time and being a little scared of her! LOL! She was stern and no-nonsense, but my “kid charm” got the better of her. I remember watching her get ready one day for an outing and her using this fabulous violet-scented skin cream and perfume. I remember thinking that it was the nicest perfume I’d ever smelled…so much better than my mother’s “stinky” perfume (which just happened to be a beautiful classic – Opium).
Fast forward a few years to my first visit back to London after moving to Canada and discovering the Penhaligon’s boutique in Covent Garden. I remember looking at the wall of perfumes, all in their gorgeous apothecary style bottles and my eyes settling on Violetta. I snatched it up. I smelled it. It instantly took me back to that day when I was four years old and watched my grandmother get ready for her outing. I then proceeded to douse myself in it. It was just lovely. I’ll never forget that day as it was the day I found my perfume.
Since then, a trip to Penhaligon’s is a must every time I visit London. Founded in the late 1860s by William Henry Penhaligon, it is one of the oldest English perfumers in the world. Upon founding the perfume house, William Penhaligon soon became Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria. I implore you to also check out Bluebell, their best selling perfume.
Violetta is described as dark, dusky and mysterious. It is green and sharp to begin, and mellows down to a sweet, velvety fragrance. Sweet violets are complemented by green geranium, and finishes with subtle wood and musky notes. To me, it is the most perfect, gentle violet perfume. Best of all, it doesn’t smell soapy or like “chemicals”. I say this because Penhaligon’s managed to capture the true essence of violet. In the 19th century, fragrances based on violet came mainly from the Parma violet. It was painstaking work collecting enough of these tiny violets to create the perfume, therefore making it only available to the elite. Thanks to the discovery of ionones (group of fragrance materials that range from violet sweetness to woody florals), violet perfumes made from synthetic ingredients could better retain their true scent.
Now, I hate to break the news, but this lovely fragrance has been discontinued. WHY OH WHY do companies do this? If you can get your hands on a bottle, I highly recommend you buy it! If you can’t, Annick Goutal La Violette is a nice dupe.
Have any of you had the pleasure of visiting Penhaligon’s? What is your favourite Penhaligon’s perfume? What singular note perfumes are your favourites?
*Header image courtesy of Larken Springs Farm