What is a green scent, exactly? According to my beloved Haarmann & Reimer Book of Perfume, green notes are "the youngest branch of the family tree" and:
"All in all, 'green' describes the fragrance conception of leaves, meadows, grass. The family is subdivided into fresh and balsamic, in light and cool notes of lemon and herbs of the green direction; and also in the soft, warm notes of natural odorants used mainly in perfumes of the chypre type."
Notes you'll find in green perfumes, which smell fresh, bracing, and outdoorsy: Galbanum, pine, leafy green accords, petitgrain, coriander, lily-of-the-valley, spearmint, bergamot, angelica, artemisia, citrus oils, juniper berries...
Below is a random list of my favorite vintage green perfumes. If you think I've left anything out — let me know! Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's time to get your green on...
Aliage Estee Lauder's sport scent that's so tart and refreshing I want to drink it.
Vent Vert This rosy-green floral smells so fresh you can almost see the bent, peppery-smelling flower stems that were crushed for your pleasure.
Silences What's that sound? The ghostly Sound of Silences. Proceed with caution. This one doesn't smile much.
Chanel No. 19 "Woody, oily, and vegetal, with muted florals and a hint of fresh cut leaves and watery cucumber, Chanel No. 19's song sounds like piano notes played with the damper pedal down."
Calyx Guava, grapefruit and a cheery freshness that's anything but bland. This one makes me happy.
Coriandre This rosey, herby, funky thing is pure 70s. Chic and weird.
Givenchy III "A green/floral chypre, Givenchy III is pretty much perfection. It starts off with a mouth-watering combo of green/citrus notes (galbanum and mandarin) and fruit/flowers (peach and gardenia), which add luscious candied juiciness to the dry, refined, and elegant greenness of this chypre. You almost forget its coquettish brightness as it dries down to a woody, powdery, spicy (sandalwood) and warm ambery base."
Weil de Weil "It starts off with a wonderfully bitter green accord — galbanum, leafy green notes, and facets from neroli and narcissus. Just as these tart, minor key notes sing out, Weil subtly evolves into something softer and dreamier, thanks to a plump gardenia note and a powdery — and almost rotten-sweet — hyacinth note."
Inoui by Shiseido Like a bracing walk in the woods, the green in Inoui veers toward the coniferous (pine needles, etc.)
Jean-Louis Scherrer This sexy green chypre is the epitome of chic. Not for the young girlies.
Ma Griffe Galbanum, gardenia...and cinnamon? It shouldn't work, but it does.
Diorella What can I say about this one that hasn't been said? My desert-island scent, it's fresh, dirty, and funky. A sparkling good time.
Bandit Mmmmm. Elegant, green, bitter, and smooth all at once. This green leather chypre is not for amateurs.
Cristalle "Bursting with a green citrus at the beginning and settling down into something light but warm and spicy on your skin, Cristalle reminds me a lot of Diorella, but without the funky, garbagey fruit undertones. Its dryness, in part from vetiver, gives it some olfactory texture, like scratched glass. In addition to oakmoss, the vetiver in Cristalle makes its drydown complex: woody, incensey, grassy."
Muguet des Bois Dior perfumer Edmond Roudnitska's favorite lily-of-the-valley scent: "No better lily note was ever made. It pushed the green note of the flower. As a lily note, it was magnificent. It was much better than the one I had made myself. I wondered how they had managed to create such a masterpiece in the Thirties, with so little means." (Perfume Legends, Michael Edwards)
(This was originally posted in 2011.)