Post by Ainslie Walker
Portia gifted me recently with a bottle of Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’oeillet. I cherished the bottle and violet coloured juice, only giving it a good airing yesterday. It was perfect for a late afternoon BBQ in autumn. Powdery, airy and floral it felt beautiful and delicate to wear.
Vitriol d’œillet by Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens 2011
Photo Stolen Fragrantica
Fragrantica gives these featured accords in one line:
Nutmeg, clove, pink pepper, pepper, paprika, carnation, wallflower, lily, ylang-ylang
Initially waxy and slightly creamy, carnation and some sweet nutmeg. I expected it to be a clove spice bomb, but its pretty and floral on me. It is like smelling a bouquet of carnations in a vase, without any fresh or green notes. It’s also reminiscent in parts of a good powdery pot pouri, however not grannyish or dated. The ‘clovieness’ that people complain about on me is rounded out and far from medicinal.
An hour in, after a little soapiness something deeper is revealed: ylang ylang! An essential oil I used to wear a lot as a teenager, but I seem to rarely see now in the perfumes I wear. I really enjoy it in this fragrance. Chilli and pink peppercorns bring a sparkly element in for me. The chilli is not as strong as the chilli infusion in Arquiste’s ‘Anima Dulcis’ but the sharp lash of its tongue is most certainly present.
From Serge Lutens: “What is it, Doctor Jekyll?” Listen, my child, and I will tell you everything. Take a carnation and a sufficient quantity of Cayenne pepper. Firmly drive it into the very center, using the “nails” of a clove. Before committing the final act of violence, let wallflower throw in a few punches.
Photo Stolen WikiMedia
So what exactly is wallflower (botanical name: Erysimum)? It’s a little yellow / orange flower from the mustard side of the brassicaceae (cabbage) family. Known as the ‘fragrant kings of the cabbage family’ they don’t sound glamorous to me! Found commonly in public parks and gardens as they are easy to grow. Originally from rocky parts of Syria, Turkey and Greece. They flower through spring and summer bringing a scent that is sweet and heady, somewhere between carnation and sweet peas.
In perfumery wallflower is a fantasy note, a unicorn of sorts. Thus ‘wallflower’ is usually made from a combination of salicylates, geranium oil and acetate, para cresyl acetate, eugenol, carnaline rhodia and nerol. Interestingly many of these ingredients are used when making carnation and sweet pea too – it’s all in the ratios for these flowers with similar chemical makeup.
Photo Stolen Geograph
To train your nose to pick Wallflower, first smell some at your local nursery and then try the following:
1991- Dior’s Dune mixes wallflower in the floral heart with jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lily, wallflower, lichen. Accentuated with bergamot, mandarin, palisander, aldehyde, peony and broom in the top notes. Base notes include vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.
2014 – Fendi’s Furiosa contains top notes of Calabrian bergamot, wallflower at the heart and amber in the base.
2000- L’Artisan’s Oeilet Sauvage is a honeyed carnation made of pink pepper, rose, carnation, ylang-ylang, lily, wallflower, morning glory, resin and vanilla.
Do you have wallflower growing in your garden? Can you pick it in a fragrance?
Ainslie Walker XX