I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but something scary has happened to the price of fragrance in the last couple of years. It’s not just raw materials increases, although those are set to soar further: The Scent Critic is hereby issuing a warning, actually, that due to the devastation wrought on harvests by the tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia, the droughts in Africa and flooding in Asia and South America, prices of ingredients like orange oil, geranium, lavender, clove oil and mint have recently rocketed by up to 40%, which will eventually trickle down to what scentophiles pay.
No, what I’m talking about is the fact that for anything but mainstream/mass fragrances, now, you’re looking at splashing out £100 before you can splash them on. (Or – at those prices – dot, more like.) Of course, those upmarket niche perfumers have to spread their development costs across far fewer numbers of sales – so yes, I get it. But still, it’s a lot. Especially when you’re looking at a double-dip, while you double-dab. And so it is a special joy to discover a scent which will set you back all of, oooh, £13.49, yet is utterly divine – if you’re partial to the soft sweetness of violets, anyway.
Ever since Yardley London relaunched this, a few months back, I’ve been fairly compulsively spraying it, on my non-blog days (can’t risk a scent-clash when I’m working). Yes, it’s old-fashioned, like something your great-aunt must have worn – only you’d have been looking to liberate this off her dressing table, while she was having a snooze. Yes, it’s decidedly reminiscent of those breath-freshening cachous made by Devon Florals, which are sadly hard to find now.
But for me, there are also far more sophisticated hints of Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Rose about this – and it’s Guerlainesque, too: I’d put money on the notion that somewhere lurking in their signature Guerlinade is a bunch or two of violets. In fact, Yardley London April Violets is s a bit like putting your nose in a box of Guerlain Météorites powder, with their pillowy, marshmallow-soft sensuality.
It’s baby’s-head clean, rather than sexy, though the overture’s quite green – more violet leaf than Parma violet, till the sweetness wafts in. There’s a subtle lemon note, too, in the overture. A few minutes in, and swirling round the violetiness is iris – sort of a smellalike ingredient to violets, if you ask me – as well as the teensiest garland of iris and ylang ylang. My nose doesn’t ‘get’ the promised tuberose, but the warm, vanilla base delivers right on cue: so, so comforting. There’s nothing harsh about April Violets at all. It’s a cupid’s cloud. A featherlight eiderdown. A box of – of naturally! – Charbonnel & Walker Violet Creams: indulgent, sensual, truly an uncomplicated pleasure.
If you don’t like violets, of course, you’ll hate this. But that’s your problem, and in that case you might also like to know that for the same very reasonable price, Yardley London also offer a Lily of the Valley that would satisfy any Diorissimo fan, and – of course – their Classic English Lavender, as fine an eau de Cologne-ish scent as anyone could wish for. In time, The Scent Critic will get round to those, too. Maybe sooner rather than later, since everyone’s cash-strapped right now, what with tax bills and the Christmas credit cards both hitting at the end of last month. (What kind of cruel practical joke is that, by the way?)
In terms of staying power, it’s slightly wimpy – but again, at £13.49 you can afford to keep spritzing, which is what I’ve been doing all day. Because right now, on a seriously grey afternoon, April Violets is a veritable breath of spring: a welcome reminder that soon enough, I’ll be outdoors, looking for the tiny violets that have naturalised under various plants in my garden, and which taste almost as good as they smell, even in their pre-crystallised form.
The irony, meanwhile, is that before April Violets was relaunched by Yardley London, bottles were changing hands on eBay for over £100. Which only goes to show that, actually, a perfume’s worth whatever you’re happy to pay for it…