No doubt because of the intense labor needed to accumulate enough violet flowers, violet flower absolute disappeared from the market many years ago. Perfumers use violet leaf absolute instead. While violet leaf has a nice green aspect that fits well with the flower, it doesn’t smell like the flower itself.
Because of their rarity and expense, violet perfumes were chic and desirable in the 19th century, but when ionones were discovered in the first part of the 20th century, the scent of violet was no longer rare. For a while, violet perfumes were all the rage and by the 1950s, violet began to seem old fashioned.
Now that it’s been long enough that none of us remembers their overuse, the time may be ripe for a violet perfume.
The best starting point is alpha ionone combined with methyl ionone and a little dihydroionone beta which has a woody aspect. I made an accord inspired by an article I found on basenotes.net, that describes a violet made with alpha ionone and methyl ionone, with violet leaf absolute, anisaldehyde, heliotropin, orris, bergamot, cassia and leaf alcohol. The accord is good, but it didn’t get exciting until I started to modify it with some of the suggested ingredients in the article. I made 10 test tubes, each with the synthetic violet base, and added lavender, orris, costausol (the original calls for costus, now forbidden by IFRA), opoponax, vanilla, tonka bean, rose, ylang, sandalwood, and boronia, one for each test tube. Each compound gave a twist without obscuring the original accord. Orris works wonders (of course, it’s expensive), as does costausol, ylang, and, most of all, boronia, which has an irresistible mildewy floral quality. Unfortunately, the stuff is super dear so that it’s only practical to use a trace. Sandalwood provides a beautiful dry down, but doesn’t contribute to the floral aspects. I’m still looking for something more violet. Perhaps I’ll try some cedar.