After talking about green notes or spicy nuances in perfumery, the time has come to look at other scents present in the perfumer’s palette: powdery notes. These sweet and sensual smells evoke cosmetic perfumes or childhood memories. So, what is behind that soft and fluffy shades that tickle our noses? Find out how perfumers create this olfactory sensation and how they blend it into your compositions.
The history of powdery notes
As its name suggests, the powdery fragrance is reminiscent of talc powder, lipstick and vintage cosmetics. Moreover, the origin of this olfactory sub-family comes directly from rice powder. It is one of the oldest beauty secrets in the world. This powder, obtained from ground grains of rice, comes from Asia and was highly prized by geishas.
In Europe, flour was used to whiten the skin, a sign of wealth and refinement. But the famine of 1740 made this commodity very rare. Rice powder became the alternative and sprinkled all the faces and wigs of the good society from the 17th century. To these ground grains, we add rhizome powder of different plants, such as iris, which will then become a key ingredient of these tones. Legend says that it was Catherine de Medici who was responsible for this discovery, adding ground iris powder to her skin care products. This was the birth of powdery notes.
Slowly but surely, these delicate scents spread through our daily lives and reflect a certain form of beauty and softness. It was not until the early 1900s that the first perfumers really took an interest in these tones. At a time when romantic floral fragrances were enjoying great success, powdery notes added a touch of sensuality and a deeper dimension to these “clean” juices. In 1912, Guerlain unveiled L’Heure Bleue, one of the first fragrances to feature iris and violet alongside musk and vanilla. Other creations would later expand this olfactory heritage and the powdery notes would be imagined in different ways.
In recent years, these “rice powder” shades, sometimes a little outdated, are moving away from this vintage aspect to modernize themselves by combining with gourmand or amber notes.
How to create a powdery note?
To recreate the olfactory sensation of rice powder or talc powder, the perfumer can resort to several methods, using various types of ingredients. Powdery fragrances often reveal similar raw materials, but they can show themselves in new ways, depending on the inspiration and the nose!
Plants and flowers
Since Catherine de Medici, iris has been the undisputed natural star for creating powdery notes. Considered as an exceptional raw material, iris is a very expensive ingredient. This plant is used in perfumery for its rhizome, i.e. its underground stem. After a succession of technical processes, we manage to recover the irone, the most noble and fragrant component of the root. It is thanks to this material that we obtain a delicate and dry powdery note with woody undertones and violet accents. This scent is airy and light, while lasting on the skin or clothing.
The violet also delivers a powdery perfume. But this flower has a very low yield. Indeed, more than a ton of flowers is necessary to obtain about 30 grams of extract. That is why these notes are mostly created through synthetic chemistry. In the late 1800’s, alpha ionone, a powdery odorant molecule naturally present in the violet flower, was identified.
On the synthetic side, there are several molecules with powdery scents. We find thus the ionones whose odor is soft, floral with a fruity aspect, almost “candy”. We also think of heliotropin, a molecule synthesized from the heliotrope flower. Its perfume is also powdery and floral with an almondy side. Another molecule with a powdery smell: coumarin. This active ingredient, present in large quantities in the tonka bean, evokes the smell of hay and almond powder. Its notes are dry and it is also used in vanilla accords.
Olfactory combinations of powdery notes
By creating a lasting olfactory sensation, powdery notes are generally positioned at the middle or the base notes of a composition. They blend with almost all olfactory families to bring a touch of sweetness but also sensuality. They are found in oriental fragrances, to soften powerful ingredients such as amber, vanilla or patchouli. The powdery notes also agree wonderfully with the floral and fruity fragrances by bringing them depth and roundness. If they are found more in so-called feminine fragrances, these notes also seduce gentlemen who are looking for airy and elegant fragrances.
Carrément Belle and the powdery notes
At Carrément Belle, we also like delicate and cottony scents. That is why these notes are featured in some of our fragrances, alongside emblematic ingredients or more mysterious accords.
kilim : the orient at your fingertips
In the kilim oriental fragrance, powdery notes are subtly placed at the middle of the composition to bring roundness to the floral and fruity ingredients. Thanks to a hint of tonka bean, this oriental and woody fragrance is dressed in a bewitching wake.
555 : powdery and iridescent notes
In 555, you will find the powdery sweetness of iris in the base note. This delicate scent is combined with the power of pepper to create an atypical and unisex essence. In this unclassifiable fragrance, the iris is also combined with a sparkling and citrusy start, to fade into a very sensual and warm amber base.
Enveloping original musc
In just a few drops, original musc wraps you in a warm and powdery wake with wild notes. The powdery nuances are expressed here thanks to the iris which gives off a comforting and sensual olfactory sensation, as well as floral nuances. A perfume with a unique character!
Do you like powdery notes, and can you recognize them in fragrances?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article