Lavender: a Perfumer’s Perspective
Taking a new look at a classic ingredient.
Nicole Urbanowicz, Associate Editor
Perfumers awaken human emotion through scent, often triggeringstrongmemoriestiedtolovedones, thecarefree happiness of childhood and rediscovery. For Givaudan
senior perfumer Marypierre Julien, lavender is one of those
“All of us have kind of rediscovered lavender,” says Julien.
“It’s so imprinted; you assume you know lavender and that’s it,
but when you go to those fields and you see the plant and you
rub it in between your hands, it has a very different smell than
the oil. It is just part of that magic. There is a big magical part
in perfumery—the inspiration.”
With bottles of her latest lavender tinkerings displayed in
Givaudan’s New York office, Julien says the ingredient has inspired
her from the time she grew up not far from the colorful lavender
fields in Marseille, France. Its allure reentered her life when
she began her career as a young perfumer at Institut Supérieur
International du Parfum de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique
Alimentaire (ISIPCA) in Versailles. Sixteen years later, she is
still using the ingredient.
“I feel sometimes [perfumers] don’t say that they have lavender in their creation because [some think] … it just feels a
little bit old,” Julien says. “I think there’s another way to look at
it. When you go to the market, there are people who are selling lavender. So it’s something we should not forget. It’s a great
smell. We should preserve it because it’s beautiful. There are
just advantages everywhere. Why would you want to bury that?”
Although perfumery has traditionally subscribed to lavender
as a key component in men’s cologne, rather than women’s fragrance, Julien says perfumers can certainly use the ingredient
in both masculine and feminine fragrances to add freshness.
“In the vocabulary of the perfumer we have different olfactive
families, and lavender is part of the herbal, the aromatic fam-
ily,” Julien says. “Lavender has a floral part and a warm aspect
that is not immediate, but that is the part that I am interested
in the most.”
To that end, the perfumer says that through interesting com-
binations, this traditional ingredient has the ability to develop a
new fragrance persona.
When considering costs with a formulation, “[Fine lavender]
is an expensive raw material, so you can combine lavender with
lavandin,” Julien says, pointing to an example of a fragrance that
she created, Freedom by Tommy Hilfiger for Men, which balances lavender and its hybrid cousin, lavandin.
“I use a combination of both, because lavandin has a very
high pitch and brings a lot of freshness, so it’s a nice way for
Senior perfumer Marypierre Julien at Givaudan in New York.
men’s fragrance to have this aromatic, fresh top note,” Julien
says. “And then if you want to carry that freshness after a few
minutes, then you get that by having the lavender, because the
lavender has more body, so then the freshness continues. It’s
nicer to use both of them.”
Use Levels and Suggested Combinations for Men and
A fragrance that Julien recently created for men contained 1%
lavender, although she says she typically works in the 1–5% range
in masculine scents. For women, she says she also stays in the
1–5% range, though she explains, “It is kind of challenging. It
depends whom you work for. If it’s a niche [fragrance] then you
can go a lot higher.”
Julien also created a women’s perfume using 5% lavender, and
complemented it with mimosa and myrtle, which she refers to as
a reminiscence of the Mediterranean’s French island of Corsica.
“Basically, for me, whatever grows around the Mediterranean
belt, all the plants that we commonly use in fragrances, can
go very well with lavender,” she explains. “It’s a very versatile
She continues, “[Lavender] has a very big floral part to it that
complements freesia and rose very well. Rose and lavender is a
very nice association; rose or freesia increases the freshness of
the flower at the lower concentration.”
Several other lavender combinations work well, including
adding the fresh aspect of citrus, root for a masculine smell,