Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Not being religious nor particularly Irish (though there’s a little bit of that in my ancestry), I’m no expert on the day. However, some basic research tells me that the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day falls on the death date of Patrick, Ireland’s most notable patron saint, who lived between AD 385-461. It is a significant religious feast day, observed by many types of Christians, from Lutherans to Anglicans and Catholics.
In Australia, the religious aspects of the feast day are no-doubt observed by some Christians, but for many, Saint Patrick’s Day is a time to drink copious amounts of green beer, wear enormous, green, shamrock-adorned felt leprechaun hats and dance to Irish music, often U2.
The colour green and the shamrock (a three-leaved clover symbol) have been associated with Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day for the last few centuries. As for the symbolism of the shamrock:
According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans. (Source: Wikipedia)
It seems the shamrock was used as a religious educational tool, possibly as part of converting pagans to the Christian faith. You can read more about the symbolism of the shamrock here.
All of this focus on the colour green today got me thinking about green fragrances, and which green fragrances are my favourites. I’ve written micro-reviews of my four favourites for you below. I hope they inspire you to wear a green fragrance today!
So… what exactly is a green fragrance?
Online fragrance database Fragrantica states that in perfumery, “green” is:
[A] generic term for notes that evoke snapped leaves, foliage, green vegetal scents.
Green notes are fresh and lively and they are used to make a fragrance feel crisp and sharp. Green notes very often include green leaves, tea leaves, the essence of freshly cut grass and even some marine plants. Green notes are most commonly used in sporty fragrances and summertime editions of popular perfumes. (Source: Fragrantica)
Michael Edwards, in his classic perfume reference Fragrances of the World (2010 edition) says:
Green fragrances capture the sharp scent of fresh-cut grass and violet leaves. Despite the outdoors imagery, the impact of the classic resinous galbanum accord is so potent that many green fragrances have a formal rather than sporty personality.
My own definition of what a green perfume is combines elements of both these definitions. I think of green fragrances as employing fresh green ingredients, such as leaves, grass or herbs, and also the classic galbanum accord that Edwards mentions. I don’t personally think of green fragrances as sporty, but agree with Edwards, that they are generally quite formal in style instead.
And herein lies the conundrum: it seems that the perfumes I think of as green are not necessarily considered green by others. And not all databases agree with each other either. Some of the fragrances below are classified as green or floral-green on Fragrantica, but not by Edwards. Nevertheless, all of the fragrances I’ve chosen feature either green notes, herbal notes and/or heavy amounts of galbanum. To me they are all very “green” indeed! Classification is a tricky subject!
Chanel no. 19
The version I have of this classic green fragrance is a 1980s eau de parfum in a silvery plastic canister. It’s astonishingly green, and to my mind and nose Chanel no. 19 is a “reference green” fragrance. This means that when I think of what a green fragrance is and should be, I think of this one, and compare all others to it when judging their relative green-ness! Even the juice itself is even a startling green colour!
Made for Chanel by perfumer Henri Robert in 1970, this is an iconic fragrance. It’s crisp, almost savoury and a little bit scary. It reminds me of a cool and sophisticated woman; one who guards her emotions and is in total control. But she’s a stylish woman, and incredibly beautiful too, thin, grey-suited, neatly coiffed and with chiselled cheekbones.
As for how it actually smells, the green notes dominate entirely and on first spray no. 19 really does smell like freshly-crushed green leaves. I smell a hint of rose, which rounds and vaguely sweetens the crispness, and the peppery oakmoss and cool vetiver are a wonderful compliment to the green notes.
Ma Griffe is another very green, vintage fragrance, but with a twist. It was created for Carven by Jean Carles in 1946. I own a vintage (c.1990s) parfum de toilette version of this. At first this fragrance is almost overwhelmingly ugly, with a blast of the screechiest, dryest aldehydes I’ve ever experienced. But be patient and wait a little while, and this one reveals its complexity and beauty. When the aldehydes calm down and fade away, green notes and oakmoss are revealed, later followed by the sweetest, warmest floral notes of ylang-ylang and gardenia. This vintage version of Ma Griffe is lovely, multi-layered and surprising. I strongly recommend you find a vintage version to really experience the nuanced story this fragrance can tell. However, the most recent release of this fragrance (2013) is also delightful and evokes the spirit of the vintage fragrance very well.
Grand Amour is a vintage-style green fragrance, heavy on hyacinth, which to me reads as a very green, bitter note. It also shares the general character and sophistication of Chanel no. 19, and also several of its notes, including rose, leather and iris. However, this fragrance is a very opulent and rich green, and dries down with a sweet and voluptuous iris note dominant, which somehow warms up the overall tone of Grand Amour in comparison to no. 19. Grand Amour was created in 1996 by Annick Goutal, for herself. This is one of my favourite fragrances of all time.
Un Parfum de Charmes & Feuilles
Un Parfum de Charmes et Feuilles is the one that nearly got away. At first I didn’t understand it, and listed it for sale online. But then I gave it one more spray on a hot day, and I was blown away by the originality of this lovely and light green fragrance. Mint and marjoram present themselves to you on first spray, but the marjoram is hiding. It’s an unusual fragrance ingredient, so the nose has to know what to sniff for, but it’s there, vying for top billing with the cool, fresh mint, which wafts in and out of focus. It’s a sweet and light herbal fragrance and also features sage and thyme (though these are more subtly blended in). Lemon couples the zest of the peppermint and a lovely cool jasmine adds sweetness and depth. Un Parfum de Charmes & Feuilles was created by Celine Ellena for The Different Company in 2006.
So, there you have it, a green fragrance round-up in honour of Saint Patrick’s Day and its association with the colour green! If you’re heading out to celebrate this centuries-old feast day, I hope you’re inspired to wear a green fragrance. Do you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day? What’s your favourite green fragrance? Let me know in the comments box below!