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Message in a Bottle: Guerlain and Lush/Gorilla Perfumes


ingredients: violet, ylang, rosewood

There used to be a wonderful Caron fragrance called Violette Précieuse, created by Ernest Daltroff in 1913 and completely mangled in 2006 by Caron’s in-house perfumer, Richard Fraysse. Structured with Daltroff’s characteristic chic, it was a poem dedicated to one of the loveliest molecules in organic chemistry, the violet smell of alpha-ionone.

Ionones were arguably the greatest discovery of fragrance chemistry before 1900 and, for the following 20 years, were served up so abundantly that they became synonymous with what the French call a sent-bon, meaning a cheap fragrance. They instantly connect in our mind two territories, cloying-sweet and dry-woody, which we are apt to consider mutually exclusive. Smelling ionone is like falling in love with someone whose temper shifts from tender to tempestuous in seconds. Violette Précieuse, while not cheap, managed to resist the temptation to smell expensive.

The proud inheritors of Daltroff’s elegantly austere tradition are Lush’s perfumers, Mark and Simon Constantine. Their creations, humorously packaged in low-rent stock bottles and window-cleaner sprays, are antidotes to perfume as plush contrivance and sparkle with edgy wit and intelligence. Violette Précieuse set ionone against a powdery lemon base. Kerbside Violet opts for a rosewood background with a touch of jasmine and if anything, is even truer to the contradictory spirit of violets than its predecessor. Brilliant.

woody violet

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