Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Single Note

Victorian beauties didn’t have the dazzling array of perfumes to choose from we modern women enjoy. Their fragrances were mostly single note toilet waters and colognes – lavender, violet, tuberose – nothing like today’s complex scents. We spritz on multi-layered wonders that combine freakish food scents, hyped-up natural fragrance, with a few chemicals thrown in for shock effect. When a woman of yore wanted to smell nice, she reached for her flask of rose or violet cologne and when she opened it, the air in her boudoir was filled with the solitary note of a single lush flower. The label on her pretty and dainty bottle declared exactly what was inside; a rose was a rose was a rose.

Today's fragrances, as multifaceted as they are, fill a wonderful place in a woman's fragrance wardrobe. However, as the spring garden begins to bloom, I put away my wintry and intricate bouquets and reach for a single note of enchantment. These scents imitate the happy faces of the blossoms that wave to me from behind the white picket fences in my village as I take my daily stroll. Each week, a new bloom shyly introduces herself, first as a slender stem of green and then as a full grown burst of color and fragrance.

Spring opens with the violets. These hardy little charms are stalwarts against early spring's cold temperatures and winds. Their petite purple blossoms elicit the unmistakable scent of the new verdant season. Violet scented oils can be found in boutiques and online and are usually reasonably priced. Next up are the radiant lilacs, honeysuckle, and wisteria. They are also scents that can be found in single note adaptations. A drop or two on the neckline before slipping a silk scarf around one's neck or sprinkled across freshly laundered bed sheets, mimics the burgeoning new world outside the front door.

My very favorite spring scent, however, is lily-of-the-valley. For such a wee flower, it certainly sighs out loud like none of its sister blooms can. Coty's Muget des Bois, although a blend, was created to evoke the single lily-of-the valley flower and both the flower and the perfume are impossible to distinguish. It is no wonder that France ushers in its spring every year with the buying and selling of muget des bois on city street corners and village greens. Nothing shepherds in the softest season and its promise like the “innocent coral bells upon a tender stalk” of the diminutive blooms of lily-of-the-valley. Fortunately, Coty still makes this delightful scent that I call Spring in a Bottle.

There is something tender and chaste about donning a single note fragrance during nature's accolade to hope. Fall can play the symphonies but the spring plays its own delicate notes like the tinkling of piano keys, one by one by one.


  1. Ah,violets. Gladys Taber often wrote about her unicorn that came in the spring to delicately crop the violets. And heroines in old romance novels often pinned a small bunch of violets to their lapels. And while we are thinking about violets, I just ordered Violette Liquid Detergent for hand laundering my unmentionables from this site: www.labouquetiere.com. I am looking forward to spring, can't you tell?

  2. Yes, Judy, Taber DID write about that, but I'd totally forgotten about it! Donna, this is a lovely reminder of the clarity and beauty of a focused scent. My favorite single note perfume is muget-du-bois as well! xo Marline

  3. Would you please share the artist's name for the painting you use - the woman at the table reading? Thank you.