Perfume ingredient of the week: rosemary

Right now, on warm summer evenings, this herb is making an appearance on barbecues across the nation. But it’s also a very useful weapon in the perfumer’s arsenal.

Pungent, lavender-like, aromatic:  nothing smells quite like rosemary.  (Well, camphor and eucalyptus and even mint smell a little bit like rosemary – but most of us could still make out its distinctive ‘whoosh’ if blindfolded). Julie Massé, whose many fragrance creations include Shay & Blue‘s portfolio, explains: ‘I use it to give a Mediterranean sensation – to create the impression of a cocktail of herbs…’

Because of those herby qualities, rosemary’s used with only the lightest touch in female perfumes, though more widely in so-called ‘men’s scents’.  Its use actually goes way, way back: the Ancient Greeks burned rosemary as incense, and it became part of religious ceremony (and even exorcisms):  the smoke of rosemary is deeply cleansing.  Rosemary wasn’t known to the Arab perfumers, but it started to be distilled as an oil in the 15th Century, and was a key ingredient in one of the first ‘modern’ perfumes, known as Hungary Water.

A woody evergreen, rosemary has super-fragrant needle-like leaves, and white, purple, blue or pink flowers, depending on the variety.  It’s seriously low-maintenance:  the name ‘rosemary’ comes from the Latin for ‘dew’ (ros) and ‘sea’ (marinus), because all it needs is the humidity of a sea breeze to flourish.  Today, no home herb garden’s complete without rosemary – which was once planted to repel witches.  This somehow led to the idea that where rosemary grew outside a house, it symbolised that a woman ruled the household.  (And around the time of the 16th Century, not a few men could apparently be found ripping out rosemary bushes to show that they, not their wives, were boss.)

It’s also said to be good for memory (as well as for stimulating hair growth), and is used symbolically in weddings, funerals and war commemorations in the UK and Australia: ‘Rosemary for remembrance’.

Smell rosemary in:

Dior La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Granville
Diptyque L’Eau de Hesperides
Guerlain Jicky
Jo Malone London Grapefruit
Lancôme O de Lancôme
Miller Harris Fleur de Sel
Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps
Yardley English Lavender

And read about many, many more perfume ingredients here

Recommended Posts