Heliotrope, otherwise known as tournesol or turnsole, derives its name from its tendency to move with the sun. The many varieties of this plant are popular with gardeners for their heavenly scent. Blooms are most often white or lavender colored, and yes, there is a difference in scent: The purple colored shrubs emit a fragrance most often reminiscent of almondy vanilla or cherry pie, while the ones that bloom in white emit a fragrance which has been likened to baby powder.
My two favorite heliotrope perfumes are Etro’s Heliotrope and L.T. Piver’s Heliotrope Blanc. They are very different, yet both are charming and well made. Etro’s Heliotrope is as straightforwardly close to what people have learned to expect from heliotrope scents as can be. The opening is intensely almondy, instantly reminiscent to me of the bitter-almond essence my mother used to flavor the dough of the traditional baked goodies she used to make for Christmas. The very recognizable, Play-Doh quality that most haters of heliotrope scents despise soon follows, I’m afraid, but for those of us that love the smell this is a good stage, bringing back pleasant memories of innocent childhood play. And true, Play-Doh is not what you want to smell of when you are all dressed up for an evening out... But what about the times when you just want to de-stress at home, or one of these hectic mornings we are all bound to have from time to time? I’ll admit that this youthful reminder has helped me shut the world out a number of times while rushing to do the day’s shopping in the crowded city streets. The drydown is just as wonderfully comforting, or perhaps even more so, with gourmand, cookie-like notes of vanilla that feel warm and tender, enveloping the skin in baked goodness. The only drawback of this scent for me is that lasting power is not its strongest point.
L.T. Piver’s Heliotrope Blanc is definitely my favorite of the two, and I must say, the huge price difference makes this all the more pleasant! Heliotrope Blanc’s almond opening is much creamier than Etro’s, lacking the bitterness of the latter. It feels more natural too: instead of almond essence, I am left envisioning picking a yet unripe almond straight from the tree, still in its velvety green casing. There is a lively freshness to it and a nutty flavor Etro’s offering lacks. Once warmed by the skin the fragrance becomes sweeter and it is this sweetness that I find so attractive. Its character remains soft and gentle however: this is a semi-transparent, loving sweetness that wishes to caress. It never becomes cloying or heavy. Heliotrope Blanc is also gently floral, but while the official notes report jasmine and ylang ylang, I am completely unable to pick them out. These are both heady scents and Heliotrope Blanc is anything but. Instead, its tender floral undertones seem to me just an accent, like a distant memory whose meaning is forgotten, while the emotions related to it remain, making the heart beat a little faster each time a piece of the image’s puzzle floats into consciousness. The drydown combines a baby soft, faintly talcumed effect with a delicate balsamic feel, making it at once comforting and rather sensuous at the same time. I am reviewing the Eau de Cologne, I have to say, but the lasting power is excellent. This is a fragrance that wears close to the skin, but will linger and surround the body for hours.
As always when I review a hard to find fragrance, I offer a sample of Piver’s Heliotrope Blanc to one of the readers. Let me know in a comment if you would like to be entered in a drawing for this large 3ml spray sample.
Images: Photo & Artistic interpretation of Sunflower by Sakis Alexiou, Image of Kourabiedes (the baked sweets I was talking about) and macaroons from Flickr – originally uploaded by l&coolj, image of Heliotrope Blanc bottle from www.piver.com