Scent Semantics #6: VERNAL

Today is the sixth episode of the collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (eau là là !), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass). Because of all the events happening in Ukraine, I missed the fifth episode – even though it was my word, and I have a story to tell! Maybe I’ll do it anyway later. And this month I’m a little late, but I decided to do it. Hopefully, by now you’ve read all other participating blogs (I haven’t yet – will do now) and still don’t mind to check out one more take on the topic.Scent Semantics Project Banner

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This month’s word is: VERNAL

This month’s word surprised me: after more than two decades in the US, I didn’t have it not only in my active vocabulary but even in the passive one. Considering its quite mundane (though poetic) meaning, I’m amazed I haven’t come across it until now. A small consolation: Google search returns 4.6B of results for “spring” and just 15.9M for “vernal.”

As I was thinking about what that word means to me (after checking its meaning), I started thinking of Spring and remembering how it was back when I was experiencing it. I realized that living in an almost unvarying climate, while I do not miss Winter or cold weather, I miss that longing for the end of Winter and happiness from watching the Spring awakening of nature from the frozen sleep.

In my childhood and adolescent years, winter clothes that most of us got to wear were ugly. Those for adults usually weren’t much better, but at least theoretically better choices existed. But for the ages until late teenage years, those clothes weren’t something one would look forward to wearing. So, at first glimpses of Spring sun, we were eager to start taking off at least hats and scarves or maybe even putting on something less bulky and shapeless. And since by that time our immune systems were suffering from the lack of sun (read vitamin D3) and almost complete absence of fruits and vegetables (we won’t count potato, onions and beets, will we?), oftentimes that combination was enough to bring us down with a cold or flu.

Getting outside after a week spent in bed was magical: you could see and feel how Spring had sprung while you weren’t watching. And then, with every next day, Spring was claiming more and more territory with warmer days, longer days, young foliage and of course blossoms and flowers.

And if the early Spring days (those pre-flu ones) mean tender snowdrops, shy mimosa and timid daffodils, real, “full-fledged” Spring came with lavish lilac bushes.

One other drawback of not having cold weather in our area is that lilac grows here very reluctantly. In decades of living here, I saw a couple of sparse bushes in gardens and bought three or four bouquets of lilacs – far more expensive and smaller than what I used to see in my childhood.

Last weekend, while still playing with the word of the month in my head, for the first time while living in the US, I saw a white lilac bouquet. That was my vernal moment! And I immediately thought of a very fitting perfume for it.

Ineke After My Own Heart

After My Own Heart by Ineke is the first perfume in their Alphabet line. Notes: bergamot, raspberry, green leaves, lilac, sandalwood, heliotrope and musk. When I tested it the first time… 11 years ago, I thought it was nice, but I didn’t love it: the lilac seems too simple and soapy. My first discovery set went off at some point, so I had just my memory of how that perfume smelled. But recently I got a fresh sample set (with the purchase of Field Notes From Paris for my father), so I was able to revisit After My Own Heart.

After My Own Heart is a beautiful lilac, still slightly soapy in the opening, but this time it didn’t bother me much. It is a lush, warm, slightly green and quite a realistic lilac. It smells stronger than my small white lilac bouquet in my bedroom. And seeing that bouquet while wearing After My Own Heart conjures that feeling of happiness from the Spring that has finally arrived to stay.

 

Image: my own

25 thoughts on “Scent Semantics #6: VERNAL

  1. YAY Undina! You’re back.
    Lilacs! Francesca Berlanger and I found a flowering bush in Paris a couple of years ago and unashamedly stuck our heads into the flowers. We were surprised at the scent, yes, fresh, crisp, pretty and vernal but an undercurrent of something vegatally musky. Sensual spring!
    Portia xx

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  2. What an uplifting post. Thank you. Here in the Lowlands snowdrops are the first harbingers of Spring, to be followed by crocuses, daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths and hyacinths. Lilacs follow in May. We call them seringen. Traditionally lilacs were given on Mother’s Day here, but they are considered a bit old-fashioned so I don’t think that happens anymore. I don’t have a lilac bush in my garden, but will plant one! If anything Spring must be the season of hope. So I will cherish it even more this year.

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  3. Spring in Northern Europe always feels incredibly sudden to me. Probably because winter often calls back just to remind us not to shed those bulky layers too soon.
    I adore lilacs, those long lilac & white blooms made up of 100s of tiny individual flowers. The air is thick with their bitter/sweet fragrance in May.
    My lilac scent of choice is Aerin Lilac Path. Linear & photorealistic which is just what I want in a lilac scent. I find it doesn’t always play nicely with others!

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  4. We do get lilacs here, although I don’t see many around my neighborhood, our previous home had a lovely white lilac. As a child, I walked past a whole row of lilac bushes on my way to school – heavenly. I need to pull out my Ineke discovery set and retry After My Own Heart. I also have a bottle of Pacifica French Lilac somewhere, I don’t remember loving it though.

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  5. What a lovely reminiscence! I adore lilac flowers and their scent; somewhat sadly for me, I have vivid memories of living lilac shrubs from my childhood in New England and then my late mother-in-law’s house, also in New England, and nothing else quite measures up. I haven’t tried After My Own Heart, though, so maybe there’s hope yet! As you know, I love to garden but I live in a warm Southern climate which doesn’t suit most lilacs. I do manage to grow two dwarf Korean lilacs in pots, as they tolerate heat and humidity better; and they smell wonderful when they bloom (which will be soon — I was checking out their buds this past weekend).

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    • I read some suggestions to put ice over lilacs’ roots a couple of times in winter to trick it into thinking that there was a real winter. I’m not sure how serious those suggestions are though :)

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  6. Would it surprise you to know that I don’t normally notice flowers except when there are endless instances of them displayed outside buildings? Anyway, Puredistance Opardu is my choice for a perfume that reminds me of spring. I do need to look through my collection to see which others – Delrae Wit for sure, Penhaligon’s Ostara is another, etc.

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  7. What a lovely post. And I can relate to the problem of getting a cold or flu when the seasons change – I used to do that regular as clockwork spring and autumn but not anymore for some reason. I love the distinction you draw between tentative and lavish spring and I’m glad you found your lilac bouquet.

    I remember in the first lockdown walking around my area sniffing lilac bushes of every hue – I think I even blogged about it – because you had to get your small pleasures where you could back then…and now, to be fair.

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  8. Lilacs… I used to associate them with products trying too hard to smell good, but recently I smelled some real ones (around this time last year – hopefully soon I’ll see them again) and would stick my nose into the bunches of them growing on bushes. So fresh yet creamy.

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    • Since it’s impossible to get natural lilac essence, I’m also usually quite skeptic about that note and suspect it would smell cheap. And every time it doesn’t happen, I’m genuinely surprised :)

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  9. I love lilacs and the smell of them..so much so that Sarah Horowitz made me a custom blend in 1998 (back then her company was called Creative Scentualizations) with creamy lilac as the star.

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  10. Vernal means green and spring florals to me. Puredistance’s lilac scent is a vernal scent to me, as well as green perfumes like diptyque Venise and Dusita’s Issara, with notes of green conifers.

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  11. Pingback: Saturday Question: What Would Be Your Signature… Note? – Undina's Looking Glass

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