I've been, along with many others, attempting to capture it's ethereal aroma in a bottle for a very long time. After working on two violet perfumes for over a year it finally occurred to me that I needed to stop everything I was doing and once again focus on creating a violet accord.
The elusive shrinking violet. The chemicals in them that give them their signature scent are ionones, specifically alpha and beta ionones. After having purchased a bottle of the isolated molecule alpha ionone from the talented Mandy Aftel I thought I was all the way there. What I realized was that it was only part of the equation. I'd been using alpha ionone as the violet note and building around that. What I needed was an accord (including alpha ionone) that I could use as a single note.
I did a little research on the chemical makeup of the violet and found some formulas for synthetic violet accords. Once I had that I searched for natural oils that share some of that chemical makeup. Alpha ionone is a tricky substance to work with. It awards the sniffer with a temporary anosmia after one or two whiffs making it particularly difficult as you have to take constant breaks to allow your nose to catch up. After many trials I finally hit on something that captures the note in a pleasing way. At least I think I have. Alpha ionone is the shapeshifter of all time, it changes constantly.
Now I begin working on my perfume again, basically starting from scratch using the accord as a single element. The one I'm working on currently is really a request from a small group of fans of one of my earliest perfumes, The Nethermead, named after a very special meadow in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. You must traverse The Midwood, an original managed forrest, and cross The Ambergill Ravine to get to the violet strewn meadow. The original perfume used synthetics of violet and amber, which I would never do now, with atlas cedarwood on the top. The amber note is being replicated by an amber accord I made a while back which is mostly labdanum paired with smokey fossilized amber. Violet accord will predominate the heart of the perfume along with coffee flower and nutmeg absolute. I'm playing around with a variety of cedarwoods, primarily Japanese hinoki, and linalool rich ho wood. All subject to change, of course!
Yes, elusive, to say the least. A plant with an aroma that robs the nose of its abilities is very elusive indeed. Stranger still is the fact that those beautiful purple flowers the plant sends up in the spring are not really flowers at all, they have no sexual parts. The true flower comes up later in the season, loaded with seeds.
The violets that grow in my area, although lovely, have no particular scent. The ones that do, viola odorata, are hard to come by. I've attempted starting them from seed to no avail. Last week the talented and darling Dabney Rose sent me four fragrant violet plants in the US Mail. They're now safely tucked away in my community garden plot. May they thrive and multiply! Many thanks to Dabney!
My nose should be rested by now, time to roll around in a meadow of violets.