Penhaligons’ perfumes always come in these lovely bottles that are like vintage vodka bottles. Indeed perfume and drink have a unique connection – they both exploit the properties of alcohol and are valued by numbers, with both an exciting drink and special perfume holding personal, social or romantic meaning to the drinker or smeller and bringing them great delight. In fact it might partly be because I don’t drink that I place such a profuse love on perfume – the best of them, I believe, being more romance-inspiring, euphoric, and addictive than any alcoholic beverage could be. And so I have found myself to be in love with Penhaligons’ ‘Violetta’.
I discovered and obtained Violetta quite a few months ago, but my habit and addiction for it has grown. My initial instinct to use it carefully and sparingly stemmed from the fact that, I was told, Penhaligon’s was soon to discontinue Violetta; I might not be able to get hold of it again. I actually planned to keep this bottle for life and never truly ‘use’ it; I wanted it as a special perfume that never properly expires from its bottle, and maybe to be buried with me as though it were an expression of my intact spirit. In truth, I don’t think I could ever condense my soul into a scent; I just know I find myself so infatuated with the aroma of sweet violet, as though it were a lover I could die for. Although I was hesitant about exuding Violetta from its lovely bottle at first, over time I just couldn’t come to help myself. I would rather the perfume run out and live knowing Violetta fully lived out its life with me, than having me ‘run out’ with Violetta still full and feeling awkward and unused.
Violetta is ultimately a Parma violet scent; it has that profoundness in its sweetness, the sort that when I ate it as a child, stood out from the other sweets like a fey sparkle and stirred in me a sense of wonder. But Parma violet isn’t the only sweet that this dusky scent whispers of… there is also a precious touch of romantic, majestic Turkish delight. The lemony-ness of this Turkish delight is very light and dreamy, like late-afternoon sunshine in a muted woodland. This soft glow refreshes the pure lilac-ness of the Parma violet, as would a wash of silver in a sleepy sky of baby-indigo.
A powdery quality is definitely present, not at all cosmetic but instead floury and teasing at the prospect of cupcake crumbs. This owes partly to the underlying vanilla which lends a soft creamy character to the whole ambrosial spirit. I sense a note that’s sharp in quality yet there’s such a subtle dose of it that the result is tastebud-teasing. It’s like a sweet rhubarb or a tart raspberry jam, although what exactly this hint of tempting fruit is, Penhaligon’s leaves a mystery. Along with this gorgeous garnet fruit is precious musk, but it’s delicate and Bambi-esque rather than pheremonic. This certainly harmonises more with the sweet, pretty, affection-inspiring charm of the scent, but it’s not without that ancient quality classically associated with musk. Here this ancient quality is expressed as the breath of an old book – perhaps filled with faiytales, for how captivating it is.
I feel that what grounds Violetta and keeps it profoundly enchanting, as opposed to air-headed pleasure, is the geranium, which is softly green and dewy. And at the end, Violetta dissipates into the fresh nectar sweetness of wild pansies in springtime. All of the incomparable wonderfulness of Violetta is condensed into liquid of a lovely light blue…like that of mild eyes, or sweet tears, or the waters of Mermaid Island.