This is an odd little niche but it’s also one that I have a certain overwhelming fondness for so you’re just going to have to listen. Or not read the post, that is also an option.
So lavender. It’s a widely identifiable note, both in fragrance and without. So many people (myself included) have lavender plants (five, to be exact) or have smelled the plant’s aroma in sachets or skincare products. Because of it’s use in barbershop products, manly tweedy fougere fragrances (literally ‘ferny’ scents), and calming bath products, lavender has kind of developed a reputation for being a little dusty, old-fashioned, and stodgy. Which I won’t argue with. Unadulterated lavender is not my favorite scent (whatever the five plants in my garden might say to the contrary: they’re mostly there to attract pretty winged creatures, and because they like our soil (which is actually just varying sized pieces of New England granite)) but when a new life is breathed into it by novel companion notes, I frequently find myself loving the result.
One of my favorite treatments of lavender is ‘lavender as a yummy delicacy’. Picture lavender ice cream, lavender macaroons, and lavender honey. Very different feeling than the old sachet in your underwear drawer. From staid, lavender can become quirky, sumptuous, even sexy? I think so. Here are my three favorite exemplars of the gourmand lavender genre, with one more that I haven’t tried (yet) thrown in for good measure.
Hermessence Brin de Reglisse, Hermes
Brin de Reglisse is a dry, almost burnt and caramelized lavender licorice. It’s surprisingly natural- the combination of notes is both sharp and sweetly crackling, evocative of that particular smell of the hot noon sun on a field of lavender. But if fields upon fields of sun-scoured lavender sounds overwhelming to you (with you there), you can rest assured because this scent is done in the characteristic Hermes style: delicate and semi-transparent. Vaporous. Actually I found that the biggest disappointment regarding this scent was its lack of power after only an hour or so- I would have liked it to be a bit more overwhelming. It’s a perfect harmony of salty, sweet, and herbal (with just a bit of crushed hay thrown in). Interestingly for me it kind of evokes some of the Dolce and Gabbana ads from a few seasons back. The ads that have that peculiarly Mediterranean warm and sepia light (I completely adore that pepper-print outfit, have for years 😉 )
1725 Casanova, Histoires de Parfums
From black licorice sticks to the pastry shop (sounds like a good day, no?)
Forgive me, but I need to include the brand’s ad copy:
“Venice, the riparian city of love. In that year of 1725 was born the man whose name would symbolize seduction: Giacomo Girolamo Casanova.
« What is love then? An illness to which man is prone to any age », claimed the one who was one after the other abbot, officer, scholar, writer, banker, con artist, magician, infantryman, spy, diplomat, but always claiming his Venetian origins. For every Casanova, here is an eau de parfum inviting intense pleasure, an amber fern mixing fine wooded tunes and touches of lemony freshness, sublimed by the elegance of lavender. Warmed with heady spices and colored by sweet fruits.”
More because I get a smile out of imagining a reprobate like Casanova elbow-deep in dough and speckled over with flour, which is what the scent makes me imagine. There’s a sparkly citrus opening like blue skies, and then a lavender embedded in a sugar-crystalled pillow of vanilla, almond, anise, and woody notes. But don’t worry about the sweetness. You’re more outdoors, outside the bakery, catching the waft, rather than balls deep in it with our friend Casanova. It’s a light curtain of scent riding a warm spring breeze. Thank the citrus for the freshness. However delightful it is, I didn’t get attached to it. I saved that for this next one. 😉
DjHenne, Parfumerie Generale
DjHenne is the quirky and unexpected one, but I can’t imagine a set of odd-fellow notes combining better than these. Here’s the short little blurb, which I don’t think casts any real light on the scent, but is interesting for background purposes: “Inspired by a place called Djenné in Mali, surrounded with greenery and river flow bathing in the scorching African sun.”
It does have a dusty desert feel, particularly if the sand of your desert is a sifted combination of cacao powder, wheat, and myrrh. And of course lavender springing up in tufts rather than cacti. It’s a delightfully powdery, milky-smoky-bready fragrance. The feeling is comforting and tender. I’m sad to see it gets very mixd reviews- it appears as though some people get a strong mint note that doesn’t show up on my skin at all (and that does sound rather dissonant). But do try it, because if you have skin like mine, you just might love it and its gentle strumming.
I would say that the three of these are seasonally versatile fragrances. Warm enough to take you into autumn- though probably not the coldest days of winter- and airy enough to see you through summer with a smile. Herbal notes in gourmands is an excellent concept. So often gourmands tend toward the dull and soporific, like an over-stuffed armchair. Giving them that hint of the outdoors wakes you up a bit and gives you more to think about, I find. But of course, there are still always days when a suffocating does of loukhoum is what you need (Witness Edmund from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe with his weakness for turkish delights (even if that turned out relatively poorly)).
And here’s the last one!
Frollino Lavanda, Kyse Perfumes
Kyse Perfumes is a small brand (as in I remember speaking with the owner on Facebook when she started it a few years ago, while I was in high school) that makes inventive gourmand fragrances, no two of which are alike. Because I didn’t fall in love with any of the original releases (though I do still hoard my sample vial of Douceur Brûlée) and because of the advent of college, I haven’t kept up with the brand’s more recent fragrance editions. And looking at the line I do have regrets on that score! Florin Lavanda lists notes of lavender, sugar, butter, caramel, beeswax, vanilla, and blackberry. I can’t quite imagine it (which means I’ll probably need to try it at some point). On the Fragrantica page, I’m seeing mentions of lavender dipped in butter, lavender scone, and buttered shortbreads with lavender stuffing. Well, no one will confuse it with lavender aftershave 😉
As I wrap up this post, I begin to suspect that I used to many winking emojis…