Today's Sunday walk took me to the hitherto undiscovered gardens of Inveresk Lodge, just outside Edinburgh. Late August sunshine cast its hazy spell on lush flowers and foliage and, as I drifted through the garden, the week's irritants and distractions gradually melted away...
The scent effect was textured, I felt I could almost swim through the density of soft, pudding-sweet exotic jasmine, and I realised that part of the reason it wasn't immediately recognisable was because I'm used to the Sambac variety (the species used to scent Chinese jasmine tea) which is heavier, slightly more green, though still quite sweet..
This particular variety was Jasmine Officinale, probably the most intense jasmine scent, though its power is less heady or animalic than Grandiflorum or Sambac.
I've yet to smell Grandiflorum in its natural flower state, but it's definitely recognisable in perfume. Grandiflorum and Sambac being the two most common types of jasmine in perfumery.
Everyone experiences these scents differently, since some of us are anosmic to
certain aspects, such as the camphor-like edge of jasmine, or indoles (notes that are described as animalic and interpreted as urinous or fecal). I've mentioned these effects elsewhere on this blog, and though this is subjective, to my nose grandiflorum is urinous, lighter and more transparent, sambac seems more camphoric, soft-textured and pudding-like, though depending on how it's handled by the perfumer it can echo the effect of jasmine tea - pretty, green and quite leafy.
Few perfumes can interpret the precise effect I experienced today, and as soon as
you snip off a blossom the scent fades to something more grass-like, with just a hint of the variously milky, sweet, fruity, green or animalic scents of jasmine, but I've listed some of my jasmine perfume likes and dislikes below (and as always I'm wearing a few dabs of some of these for comparison!)...
A La Nuit, Serge Lutens
Opens with a blast of what seems to be banana-scented acetate, and it's this opening that leads some to believe this may be 'death by jasmine', but within five minutes it calms, while still exuding a deliciously green, dense and slightly camphoraceous juiciness.
If you can imagine the heaviest, most languorous aspects of jasmine blossoms lingering on the air as twilight descends that's the effect of the appropriately named A La Nuit. To my nose it combines the green piquancy and indolic aspects of Sambac, with grandiflorum jasmine tickling the nose with that powdery almost honey-like effect. The animalic accents are there, but by no means overwhelming.
I find it greener in dry-down, Lutens hasn't tried to soften or prettify it too much with, for example, powdery iris or delicate violet. Having lent a squoosh of this to a friend quite recently, I can confirm that the initial blast calms very quickly to a very pretty natural green floral effect. As others have noted, it's very 'close to skin' after a few hours.
Others to try in this heady style are Montale's Jasmin Full or perhaps Nassomato's Nuda
Jasmine Rouge, Tom Ford
Since A La Nuit and Jasmin Rouge are two of the best known high quality jasmines, I've dabbed them on my left and right wrists for comparison..
The most notable difference is the initially more restrained and prettified quality to Jasmin Rouge, in contrast to A La Nuit. I immediately experience the sambac green-tea fragrant effect here, also a pleasant dewiness that's quite different to the raw, even slightly rough juiciness of A La Nuit.
Underlying this though, is the bite of pepper, ginger, cardamom and leather. They're background notes, but perfectly balanced so that the dewy green florals are given a backbone, the greeness enhanced by cardamom. The effect is elegant, poised and definitely less full on flirty than A La Nuit, like an elegant French soprano trill as opposed to A La Nuit's Callas, cat-like intensity. (god these reviews bring out my pretentious streak!). The effect of cinnamon into drydown is almost powdery, again very lady-like. This is probably my favourite Tom Ford since the others can be a bit 'in your face'.
In dry down A La Nuit becomes more relaxed and natural. Jasmin Rouge seems less so, and more linear.
Depending on your sensitivity to animalic notes, this may remind you of Lust, by Lush Perfumes, though to me Lust is far more floral, I prefer the spice and leather background of Jasmin Rouge.
The jasmine tea effect can also be found in By Killian's Imperial Tea, and a beautifully light, green, summery version in L'Artisan's The Pour Un Ete
Gelsomino Nobile, Acqua di Parma
This has some of the pudding-like aspects of jasmine officinale, but it's given depth with a hint of tuberose, and citric bite with orange. It's very summery and has a shady green quality that I really like, though I can't see which notes lend that green effect other than jasmine. It's refreshing, also quite unlike other jasmine florals so it could please those who tend to find jasmine cloying. Also it's not animalic.
Jasmin T, Bruno Acampora
This perfume is proof that all noses do not smell alike. Though I've read reviews describing this as natural, pretty etc, I think it smells like a toilet. It's overwhelmingly pissy, reminding me of facets of Joy by Patou. It must be genetic since my mum also gags at this sort of jasmine. No doubt it's high quality and authentic, but I don't find this beautiful as some others do.
Olene enhances the soapy aspects of jasmine, and though pretty I find it lacks the natural quality of those mentioned above.
Bearing in mind that a good jasmine perfume has to use aroma chemical effects to recapture the actual effect of the real flower (lost in the extraction process) this probably has little to do with quality, or lack of natural notes, since Diptyque usually do include natural absolutes for depth and authenticity. It's more to do with the addition of honeysuckle I believe, which I always experience as synthetic in perfume in its effect. Olene is soapy, yet with slightly urinous notes I find unpleasant, but many love this perfume so again it's purely subjective.
Songes, Annick Goutal.
Songes, meaning dreams in French, a very appropriate name for this soft, dense, slightly sweet tropical floral. I've yet to hear of a perfume afficionado who doesn't admire it.
Having said that, it does have the fecal or animalic aspect of sambac jasmine and to my mind if it had a bit less of this it would be my ultimate jasmine perfume. Then again, it might lose a certain dense humidity with less indoles.
Songes reminds me of the actual effect of real jasmine florals in the late afternoon - it exudes a warm, soft dewy quality even in the temperate summers of the UK. This is genius perfumery really and very typical of Annick Goutal perfumes, which seem to mimic the actual atmospheric effects of the outdoors. Perhaps the most effective being Un Matin d'Orage which makes you smell as though you've spent the afternoon picnicing in a meadow then ran indoors after a rain storm, bringing the scent of rain-soaked trees with you (thanks in part to the aroma chemical petrichor maybe, though I'm not sure if that's the note)
What other jasmine-centred perfumes lose in terms of soft floral tropical effect, Songes captures with the inclusion of tiare, ylang and really lovely natural vanilla.
Lastly some more photos from today, let's make the most of summer while it's here...