If you picture lavender as the peculiarly pungent powdery stuff that’s gathered into sachets and used to ward off moths from knicker drawers, it’s the perfect time to re-educate your nose and acquaint yourself with lavenders it’s okay to love…
We may gasp in pleasure as a sudden patch of purple flashes past us on a train journey or glimpsed from a car window as we pass a lavender farm on holiday, but many still recoil in horror at the thought of actually wearing a lavender perfume. There’s no doubting this vivaciously coloured and highly fragrant flower has long been part of historic perfumery and apothecary traditions, but over the past decade or so we may have fallen in to the trap of regarding it as fuddy-duddy – to be sprinkled on embroidered handkerchiefs by disapproving elderly aunts, or dabbed on the temples of delicate ladies being confronted by moustache-twirling cads in historic romances.
We should of course say that there’s lavender and then there’s proper lavender. The cheapest kind is used for mass-market bath products and the like. The very best – and therefore most expensive – lavender is grown at high altitude (the lower it goes, the more it smells like your grandma’s bath salts), and it’s this fragrant crop that sets it aside. In fact, when you sniff the oil of this lavender crème de la crème, it barely smells of lavender (as we know it) at all. Dry, smoky and really very sexy, it’s certainly an eye-opener.
Lately, lavender is enjoying something of a resurgence – perhaps it’s the popularity of the Cologne and fougère styles crossing over from gentlemen’s bathroom cabinets to grace the dressing tables once again; or like the cyclical nature of the fashion industry which contstantly re-invents itself – looking to history for inspiration and fresh ways of referencing the past in a truly modern way. For our edit of true classics and some modern contenders to the throne, cynical noses should sniff this way…
Known as ‘the first modern perfume’, you may not be aware of the origin of the slightly odd name. According to Guerlain, from his student days, Aimé Guerlain kept the enamoured memory of a young woman (nick-named Jicky) ‘to whom he paid a beautiful homage with one of his most wonderful olfactory creations…’ Well it’s certainly lasted longer than a measly Valentine’s card, that’s for sure. Truly revolutionary, this is a fragrance that’s still as surprising as they day it was launched, way back in 1889 – perhaps even challenging to some, like all truly great perfumes it definitely divides opinion. Dry vanilla spiciness with a lemony lavender heart, it leaves a magnificently evocative trail that beguiles through the ages.
Guerlain Jicky Parfum £218 for 30ml parfum
Les Exclusifs de Chanel Jersey Parfum
Paying homage to Chanel’s revolutionary use of the fabric in her designs of the 1920’s – previously only used for sailor’s sweaters and men’s undergarments! – Jersey was created by master perfumer Jacques Polge and released in 2014. A masterfully deft blending of lavender with musk, vanilla, wildflowers, grass, rose, jasmine and tonka bean, it’s supremely comforting and slinks like a purring cat as it winds its way around your skin for the chicest nuzzle ever.
Les Exclusifs de Chanel Jersey Parfum £100 for 75ml
Yardley English Lavender
Fresh as rolling naked across a dew-sprinkled lawn (we suggest checking for thistles beforehand) this lavender is perhaps the most obviously discernible, but beautifully clean and with a contemporary sparkle. Instantly cooling, our Editor, Jo Fairley, swears by this as her ‘summer saviour’ and it’s the perfect pick-me-up to rub on pulse points (particularly good for headaches when applied to the temples) at any time. Combined with bergamot, clary sage, eucalyptus, geranium, jasmine, chamomile and a crisply un-sugared violet; the heart melts into a woody vanilla base and the softly calming caress of patchouli.
Yardley English Lavender Cologne Stick £4.50 for 20ml stick
Atkinsons Lavender On the Rocks
We love the typically English eccentricity of Atkinsons, who play up to their heritage with a nod and a wink from the styling of their bottles to the fragrances themselves. True to the cocktail-esque name, this one has a double-shot of lavender to tickle your fancy. From the bracingly fresh opening with geranium and basil to the honeyed hay-like dry down with almond, guaiac wood and saffron, every facet of lavender’s complex character is allowed to shine.
Atkinsons Lavender On the Rocks £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Creed Aberdeen Lavender
An Oriental fougére created as a historical nod to early perfumista and Creed patron, Queen Victoria, and her enduring love for Scotland. The intriguingly anise-scented note of absinthe is added to rosemary, bergamot and lemon before succumbing to a powdered, musky lavender ramped up with tuberose, iris and a dusky rose. Dark, dry patchouli, smoky, animalic leather and deliciously cool vetiver make for a surprisingly sexy flourish suitable for both sexes. We’re not sure how Queen Vic would have reacted, but we are amused!
Creed Aberdeen Lavender £165 for 100ml eau de parfum
Written by Suzy Nightingale