Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Heliotrope : Two Sides of the Same Coin

Opinions seem to be split down the middle when it comes to heliotrope. Some love it and seek its warm, comforting scent, while others hate it with a passion, reporting aversive reactions to it. Rarely are there any indifferent comments to be found when it comes to heliotrope scents. But that is a good thing, isn’t it? Something that sparks such intense emotions, whether these belong to one side of the continuum or the other, is surely worth a second glance!

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


21 comments:

italiangirl said...

I love Heliotrope!!! Please enter me in for the drawing for the large spray--as I have never smelled either of the scents you hightlighted.....
I especially love the note of Heliotrope I sense in Donna Karan's Cashmere mist... the powderish quality is really comforting. Your descriptions are unbelievably on the mark!!
Thanks Divina...

Jenavira13 said...

Ah heliotrope one of those lovely notes that I adore, so please enter me in the drawing. It is definately one of those notes that makes you feel like you are surrounded my a fluffy white cloud.

tmp00 said...

you know, I used to dislike Heliotrope in fragrances (as well as almond...) but I have come around as of late. I'd love to try the Piver, so please enter me in the draw!

maitreyi1978@yahoo.com said...

I love almonds so I think I will love heliotrope. Please enter me in your drawing.

Janet said...

Davina- What a beautiful review. It sounds like a lovely fragrance, something I would like to spray on a cozy sweater and sniff all day.

Please enter me in the drawing.

TMH256 said...

Too late for the drawing but I love the comparisons you made, dear Divina! Since I adore Etro Heliotrope it sounds like Heliotrope Blanc is one I should certainly try. Thank goodness I didn't get a full bottle of Etro! Nice piece and I hope you're having a wonderful week!

queen of caffeine said...

this sounds exactly like it would be a love of mine...please enter me in the drawing and thank you for your generosity!

Divina said...

Hi Italian Girl! I remember you liked heliotrope :) Thank you for your kind words!

Divina said...

Ah, another heliotrope proponent :) Our group is getting larger ;) You're in, Jen.

Divina said...

Hey Tom :) Was there a particular scent that helped changed your mind, or did you just start growing fonder of the note with time? You're in of course.

Divina said...

Hi maitreyi! Sure thing.

Divina said...

Janet, it is indeed very comforting. I love that while it is soft I keep smelling it all day long. It is just perfect :)

Divina said...

Hi T, dearest! Of course you are not late for the drawing! I am gonna put everyone who has expressed interest in the randomizer page coming wednesday morning and announce the results on the day, so the draw is open until then.

Divina said...

Queen of Caffeine, you're so welcome!

parisa said...

I love draws!!!! I can't say that I've actually know what heliotrope smells like but I'm sure that it's in one of my perfumes...maybe in the summery-floral ones. Would love to explore the note so please enter me in the draw:).

Divina said...

Hi Parisa! I always do a draw when I review a hard to find fragrance so you're at the right place :) The thought of bringing a smile to someone's face when my little packet finally reaches them makes me really happy! Also, that is part of the reason why I started this blog ..the community feeling, all of us sharing in engaging our senses! Thanks for commenting and of course you're in the draw.

chayaruchama said...

I love heliotrope, too !
Somehow, I feel that it gets slighted a lot, because it's not 'edgy'...
I ask you- what's WRONG with wanting comfort and beauty in a scent ?
And a little softness in life, hmm ?

Enjoy the w/e, folks !

helg said...

Dear D, I didn't know you had been raised in the US! (I am saying this because of the "Play Doh" mention ~an american product popular in the 70s-80s). I find new things every day: you're trully multicultural.

What a shame heliotrope and the aromachemicals copying it are usually not for me: not when dominant, in any case.
Glad you found comfort in those. The Etro is very popular.

Divina said...

Morning Chaya, dear :) Hope your weekend was great. You know, I never thought that it might be the lack of edgyness that turns people off - seems like you have something there though.

Divina said...

Helg! Where do you get those ideas from? I have never even been to the USA to visit, unfortunately. I am very much looking forward to my first visit next year though. (New York, baby!)

As for Play Doh, I grew up in Greece and we had plenty of the stuff over there. A very vivid memory I have is receiving a gift a set for it actually... I don't remember the name of the set any more but it was a hair-salon (or barbershop) setting. You would stuff the Play Doh in some hollow plastic dolls, screw them on the little barbershop chairs and press..and the play doh would grow as hair from little holes on their head! God, describing it, it sounds really funny! (and wrong!) Then you would cut the "hair" with a pair of plastic scissors. ... :) Do you remember this at all? Maybe we were children in different decades.

greeneyes said...

I am clearly too late for the drawing, so I'll search for the Piver on my own. I do love the Etro...it's one of my comfort scents. I bought a decant after Chaya suggested it.