There is no sight more pleasing than the sight of rolling fields of lavender.
Lavender is beautiful, whether you like the smell or not you cannot fail to be moved by the sight of purple fields of lavender rolling under the summer sky.
Lavender is a smell that I have learned to love. For many years I couldn’t abide its smell, which to me was reminiscent of old ladies, underwear drawers and cleaning products. These connotations give lavender a bad rep that it absolutely doesn’t deserve for it is one of the most complex and pleasing fragrance ingredients available.
What I have found most interesting on my lavender scented journey is despite the fact that it is such a bold and distinct smell, it is also incredibly versatile and there are a melange of superb perfumes that showcase the note in unique and fascinating ways.
Lavender is part of the mint family and there are approximately 39 species within its genus. It grows in abundance across the world, mainly in; The Canary Islands, Madeira, North and East Africa, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Arabia and India. 
The smell of lavender is arguably one of the most distinct smells on the planet. It has many facets, it is herbal, sweet – like burned sugar, fresh, green, minty, menthol and floral. Despite its distinctive aroma, lavender is an incredibly versatile material that can be interpreted in a plethora of interesting and surprising ways.
To me, lavender is the smell of summer.
Reference Lavender Fragrances
These are the fragrances that anyone exploring lavender should smell, they are, in my opinion, the best of the bunch as it were:
The Comfortable Lavender
Antiheros by Etat Libre d’Orange
Antiheros was the catalyst that sparked my interest in lavender. I bought it at the Etat Libre d’Orange boutique in Paris (if you’re ever in Paris you MUST go) and wearing it around the streets of the world’s most beautiful city, under the summer sun is one of the best olfactory experiences of my life so far.
This anti hero is a clean, comfortable blend of lavender and musks that is strikingly reminiscent of lavender soap. It emphasises the herbal facets of lavender and pairs them with a waxy, soapy musk that is most pleasing.
If you’re not a fan of lavender then I implore you to try Antiheros, it does have a very strong lavender note but it’s so clean, comfortable and easy that it may just convince you that this little flower is nothing to be afraid of.
The Pure Lavender
Lavender by Caldey Island
In Perfumes The A-Z Guide, Luca Turin described Caldey Island Lavender as “simply the best lavender soliflore on Earth” (p. 350) and he’s absolutely spot on. Lavender, which is produced by the monks of Caldey Island off of the coat of Wales, is the simplest, cleanest and purest of lavenders.
A lavender soliflore always has the potential to progress into ‘granny’ territory, but thankfully this one doesn’t. It opens, bright, sweet and herbal with a touch of minty menthol. It becomes sweeter and more powdery with time and I would recommend it to those who were looking for a lavender without any accessories, it is pure and simple summer air.
The Transparent Lavender
Brin de Reglisse by Hermès
Lavender and liquorice seem like an unlikely pair, but each plays to the herbal and anisic qualities of the other in this masterful composition by Jean-Claude Ellena. As you would expect from Ellena, Brin de Reglisse is the transparent lavender, it feels neither floral nor gourmand, it strikes a weird balance somewhere in between.
Brin de Reglisse is very much a fragrance of contrasts; dark and light, sugar and spice, herbs and anise. I feel as if it is lavender seen through gauze; light, airy and transparent.
The Forbidden Lavender
A Taste of Heaven (Absinthe Verte) By Killian
A Taste of Heaven is so good, so dark and so irresistible it feels as if it should be forbidden. It is yet another unusual lavender composition that creates a juxtaposition between the rather innocent lavender and naughty absinthe and caramel.
This is a rich, honeyed lavender that is quite unlike anything else out there, it has a wonderfully dark, mossy base and once you had a taste, it sure is hard to kick the habit. In my review, I described A Taste of Heaven as “pure, unadulterated love at first sniff” and I needn’t say much more than that!
The Masculine Lavender
Pour un Homme by Caron
Lavender is a staple in masculine perfumery, it is the main ingredient of the good old masculine genre ‘fougére’ and it’s use pre-dates the many washed-out masculines that seem to be in vogue today. Pour un Homme has to be, hands down, the best masculine lavender, it’s refined yet rugged and it is inherently masculine but cosy and cuddly too.
To my nose, Pour un Homme is a dry, herbal lavender paired with über-snuggly vanilla and a touch of moss. It is impeccably balanced and so warm and cosy it screams ‘hug me for I am man’.
The Classic Lavender
Jicky by Guerlain
I guess it’s slightly misleading to class Jicky as a lavender perfume, in fact it’s quite misleading to class Jicky as anything other than a classic. That said, Jicky (especially in EDP and Parfum) displays a wonderful lavender note.
As old as the Eiffel Tower and as classic as an E-Type Jag, Jicky is one of those perfumes that you can’t help but love. It may not be as entirely thrilling as other classic Guerlain’s such as Shalimar or L’Heure Bleue, but it possesses a wonderful, refined quality that makes it incredibly versatile, it simply works in any situation.
I see Jicky as the best lavender that doesn’t really focus on the lavender, it shows how lavender, which has an incredibly distinct aroma, can be used as a supporting act within a composition. The supporting acts here being citrus, civet, coumarin and vanilla.
The Cheeky Lavender
Kiki by Vero Profumo
In my review I described Kiki as “the most joyful of lavender perfumes” and that’s exactly what she is. Kiki is a flirtatious lavender filled with vivacity, charm and cute sensibilities. She’s the girl that all of the boys fall in love with whilst she stays completely oblivious to their affections.
Vero Kern of Vero Profumo has cleverly paired the lavender with a wonderful, fuzzy soft caramel that amps up the flower’s ‘burned sugar’ facet and takes Kiki into the fringes of gourmand territory.
I see Kiki as a fun loving lavender akin to flying round the streets of Paris on a hot summers day.
Join the Discussion!
Do you love or loathe lavender?
What are your reference lavenders?
Do you agree with my choices?
Which perfumes do you think should be included in this guide?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below!
All descriptions of perfumes in this guide are based on samples or bottles from my own personal collection.
Image 1 tonyspencer.wordpress.com
Image 2 daisygreenmagazine.co.uk