Farewell Violette Precieuse - Perfume Review and a Lament
The original Violette Précieuse, created by Ernest Daltroff in 1913 as an homage to his “muse et conseillère” Félicie Wanpouille, was a violet scent unlike any other. A dry, austerely-elegant creation, if it were a woman, it would have been the kind of woman who wears masculine suits, speaks in a husky voice, leads what an average mortal would consider to be an unconventional life and generally does not look or behave, as Adorno and Horkheimer said about Garbo, as if you could say “Hello, Sister!” to her. Luca Turin thought that Violette Precieuse was fit for Colette, and it certainly was. It had the nonchalance, it had the attitude, it had the refinement. The new Violette Précieuse, released so far exclusively at French Sephora, is the aforementioned woman, let’s say Garbo or Colette, played by a contemporary, D-list, Hollywood actress, in a bio-epic made for TV. She sort of has the right looks, but not for a millisecond is she capable of hypnotizing you into believing that she is who she pretends to be. And no wonder, since the producers did not dare to tell the whole truth about their controversial subject and toned down, smoothed and softened as much as they could.
Violette Précieuse was the first violet I ever loved. It demonstrated to me what I thought was impossible, that violets were not all dainty and delicate and ladylike in a boring sort of way. It was the violet with a kick, with an attitude, with a dark, brooding Caron base and I loved it. Although incredibly elegant, it was a forceful, atmospheric scent. The violet had an almost oily, rich quality and the greenness was earthy and shadowy. The new release has none of that refined opulence. It is a pale, almost ethereal, very green violet with a subtly-peppery, understatedly-woody undertone. If I have not known her Garbo-esque grandma, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in the Violette Jr. But, because it displays all the qualities that I do not like in violets scents (daintiness, coy subtlety), I still wouldn’t have loved or even liked her. I am especially displeased with the amount and the kind of greenness in the new Violette Précieuse. The striking, earthy green of the old scent has been replaced with the brighter, fresher verdancy of young leaves and the first grass of spring. At times, I smell something vaguely fig-like in the new Violette, a green accord with a disturbingly coconut-like undertone. The green and the violet in the classic Violette Précieuse balanced and played off each other perfectly. Here, the spring-like greenness overwhelms the shy little violet. One very pleasant thing about the new Précieuse is the sandalwood in the drydown, a soft, slightly sweet note, which, however, can’t even attempt to recreate the richness of the base of the original. The new Violette has a younger feel about it; it is an understated, neutral scent, an inoffensive rendition of a striking classic, made to fit the overly-cautious, politically correct environment.
To conclude the long rant, the re-released Violette Précieuse was a disappointment for me. I will not buy it when and if it is sold at the Caron boutique in NYC. I will instead search high and low for the remaining bottles of the old Violette Précieuse in good, wearable condition. Wish me luck.
The new version is available at Sephora.fr, €51,30 for 50ml of Eau de Parfum. Notes: violet flowers and leaves, iris, orange blossom, lily of the valley, jasmine, musk, sandalwood and vetiver.
The first image is from imbd.com, the second from sephora.fr.