Suzanne's Perfume Journal

November 19, 2009:

Imagine you are Adam at that crucial moment in the Garden of Eden. You’ve been foraging around in your part of the garden all day – nothing new – and then around the corner of a certain tree you see Eve sashaying toward you, and she’s looking a bit wonky. Her eyes are slightly glazed over but there is also a sly gleam to them; her lips are wet and berry stained, as if she’s spent the day partaking of every fruit; and then you see it, the apple in her hand, and you know she's partaken of every fruit. A sense of trepidation mixed with curiosity washes over you as she tempts you with this apple. Though you know well enough not to eat it, surely it wouldn’t hurt to kiss the lips that have tasted it?  She flicks her tongue at you, and you can smell the sweetness of familiar fruits and then something else that you will later identify as “tart,” but which for now is the thing you know is alien and forbidden.

This is what the opening stage of Quinacridone Violet, a fragrance from indie perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, smells like to me. Like a first kiss – mouthwatering and, at the same time, approached with a sense of hesitancy; like THE first kiss – on a mouth that has been corrupted by wicked fruits, but only recently corrupted, such that there is still a whiff of something naïve and innocently sweet about them.

Violet flower, with its strange combo of candied sweetness and queer aloofness, is the enigmatic star note of this fragrance, which takes its name from an actual paint color: “an intense, man-made, fuchsia–pink–purple artist hue,” as described by the perfumer on her website. And that is actually a perfect description, as this fragrance does trigger a synesthetic response; I believe that most people, upon smelling it, would identify it as having a pinkish-violet “color.”  In fact, as the sweet-and-sour piquancy of the top notes fades – which, alas, it does rather quickly – the fragrance becomes much more abstract in its “feel” and somewhat difficult to describe. I enjoy this stage of the scent as well (though not as keenly as I do its initial vibrant smack), and will try to describe it, but first let’s take a look at the composition for Quinacridone Violet. The scent has:

Top notes of Cherry Blossom, Lime Peel, Plum & Quince;
Middle notes of Aglaia Flower, Neroli, Osmanthus, Sweet Pea, Violet & Violet Leaf Extract;
Base notes of Atlas Cedarwood, Cassis Bud, Incense Notes & Musk.

I have no idea what cherry blossoms smell like, because the cherry trees that grow in my part of the world are bereft of scent, but when I smell these top notes they resemble a fusion of odd fruits – including cherry – as well as lemon, apple, grape, plum and apricot, with a tinge of almond that seems to thread itself around this assemblage and hold it together. The top and heart notes are experienced simultaneously, such that violet emerges from the get-go, and in this regard, Quinacridone Violet shares a similar vibe with the violet-rose perfume marvel that is Lipstick Rose (by Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums). Both start off as sirens singing the same olfactory tune, something along the lines of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” (“and I liked it/The taste of her cherry chapstick…”). But QV’s pucker is wilder and a bit more shocking – in the beginning anyway.

How quickly, though, it begins to fade!  And while it doesn’t lose much in terms of its signature smell – the tart fruits married to candied violets – it does lose impact, dissolving into a quiet wash of its former “color.”  The greenness of violet leaf becomes more evident, expressing itself in a cool and remote way, as if it has a wallflower fear of getting so involved with these passionate fruit notes. And cedar and musk come along to smooth everything out, further contributing to this sense of remove. It’s like a retreat to safety, yet it is not without its charms. No longer pumping out the throbbing notes to a sexy song, QV settles into something resembling the space music of that long-running, pioneer program, Hearts of Space … something that makes you feel blissfully stoned and connected to the Divine, but with no fear that you’ve partaken of wantonness that will get you kicked out of the Garden.

Quinacridone Violet is from the Parfums des Beaux Arts line of Colorado-based, independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. It can be purchased from her website in a number of different concentrations, in prices ranging from $13 to $125 (as well as an individual sample for $4). My review was based on the fragrance in the “oil essence” concentration, which comes in a dram-sized roll-on bottle for $42.

Image: "pink-violet eternity fractal" is from

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The Cosmic Lip Smack of Quinacridone Violet