The violet is a capricious and fascinating raw material whose perfume is not revealed to the first comer. To reproduce the notes of violet, both floral and powdery, perfumers rely on synthetic chemistry and in particular on a family of compounds called ionones. These ingredients are now widely used by noses in search of intensity. From the flower to the leaf through synthetic molecules, you will know everything about these floral and powdery notes.
History and botany: the violet
There are many species of violets, but only one of them is of particular interest to perfumers: the fragrant violet. This small perennial plant blooms in the spring to colonize our gardens and color the surrounding areas with its beautiful blue and purplish shades. Today, the fragrant violet is mainly cultivated for perfumery and cosmetics but also for cooking thanks to its subtle taste.
Violet is synonymous with beauty, simplicity and modesty. In mythology, Zeus ordered the Earth to create a flower in honor of the beautiful Io, with whom he was secretly in love. In the Middle Ages, this flower was considered a magical plant with aphrodisiac powers! A few centuries later, it will be the favorite flower of Napoleon and Josephine, to become the emblem of the Bonapartists.
In its natural state, the bewitching scent of the violet is very pleasant. However, it is also very short-lived. In fact, it slightly dulls the olfactory receptors, which is why its scent escapes very quickly. It is necessary to wait a few minutes before being able to smell the flower again.
The violet in perfumery
A capricious flower…
The sweet fragrance of the violet notes will become very popular in the 19th century. At that time, to extract the essence of the plants, the technique of hot enfleurage was adopted. The flowers of the plant were infused in vats filled with fat, which were heated in a water bath. It was necessary to let macerate the mixture while stirring it during several hours. At the end of one day, the flowers “emptied” of their odorous compounds were withdrawn, to replace them by fresh flowers. The operation was repeated at least 10 times! But the process was far from over. The fat saturated with odor had to be collected, gently heated and washed with alcohol. The mixture was then cooled and finally distilled to obtain an absolute.
This expensive and time-consuming technique required a lot of labour for a low or non-existent yield. The extraction of the smell of the violet flower was therefore quickly abandoned.
…with tender leaves
While it is very difficult to extract notes from the violet flower, the leaves of this plant are more cooperative! Indeed, these are much easier to extract. The technique of extraction with volatile solvents is used on the leaves, to deliver an absolute with a radically different smell from the flower. Its fragrance has green nuances, is quite powerful and intense, with a slight smell of hay. Its scent is also reminiscent of cucumber or cut grass, quite different from the sweet, powdery scent of violet flowers…
A note of violet thanks to the synthesis
To recreate the “violet flower” note, perfumers use organic chemistry and synthetic molecules. They skilfully play with the compositions by adding other materials, such as ionones, to obtain this soft, floral, powdery and warm note, like violet candies. Ionones are a family of fragrance molecules that have been widely used since the 20th century in soaps, creams and perfumes.
The discovery of ionones and methyl ionones
This fragrant compound was first isolated from the iris root. It was then synthesized from the essential oil of citronella. It is the reaction of citral, contained in this essential oil, mixed with acetone, which makes it possible to obtain a mixture of two compounds, alpha-ionone on the one hand and beta-ionone on the other. Today, ionones are used in various forms, including methyl ionones, in a wide range of perfumes. Ionones evoke a very floral fragrance, with woody and sweet accents that translate into warm, powdery notes. Methyl ionones are stronger, with a more pronounced woody tone.
Violet notes in your perfumes
The green grassy scent of the violet, combined with earthy undertones of moss, is very different from the scent of other flowers in the perfumer’s palette. The notes of the violet, powerful and intense, are usually found at the middle of the olfactory pyramid of a composition. It is frequently associated with floral fragrances where it adds a touch of elegance and depth. Violet and rose represent an excellent olfactory association, refined and romantic at the same time. But its subtlety also illuminates woody compositions by bringing freshness and moisture. This is also the case with oriental fragrances, in which violet delivers its smooth and powdery scent.
Violet by Carrément Belle
This mysterious and precious plant tickled our nose and inspired one of our creations.
A bouquet of liquid flowers with label rose
An olfactory bouquet of liquid flowers blossoms in the heart of label rose. This fresh and precious composition offers a green and citrusy start that gives way to a heart of flowers. Alongside the beautiful Damascena rose, a peony accord and jasmine flowers, the violet reveals all its elegance and power. It also brings sensual and powdery notes, while its wake ends up revealing woody and musky notes that do not lack character… A spring fragrance, to be adopted all year round!
Did you know the story of this ingredient and do you like the scent of violet?
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