The violet

7Objects_7

Until now, the scent of a violet has been thought of as, well, a little old-fashioned and prim. But, like many perfumes beloved by Victorian ladies, the fragrance of this most velvet of flowers is muscling its way back into fashion and scenting the smartest spaces once again. Violets are part of the scent of the St. Regis “Caroline’s Four Hundred Candle”, made by Carlos Huber of the perfumer Arquiste, in homage to the glory days of Caroline Astor, the matriarch of the original St. Regis hotel’s founding family, who hosted some of the most glorious parties New York has ever seen. “The violets in this scent formula would have been the same as the ones Mrs Astor would use as centerpieces in the St. Regis ballroom in the Gilded Age,” says Huber. Why is the flower such an olfactory hit? “The scent is intriguing,” says Huber. “It comes and goes. One minute you smell it, and the next it’s gone. This chemical characteristic makes them attractive and ever-new.” Oils extracted for perfume come from the Viola Odorata, also called the Sweet Violet, which grows in the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor and produces delicate purple, white or variegated flowers that appear in early spring. The scent itself comes from ionones in the plant, which create its trademark sweetness and powdery, woody-floral characteristics that have been popular for centuries. The French Emperor Napoleon was a lover of violets (they are thought to have therapeutic properties, and help to ward off colds, asthma, rheumatic pains and infections) as was his Empress, Josephine, who wore them on her wedding day. And it’s safe to say there was nothing prim about them.