Sunday, 17 June 2012

Agua Lavanda


The parcel arrived a few days ago. A surprisingly large box, and buried in green plastic bubbles inside, the bottle of Antonio Puig’s fabled Agua Lavanda.

I knew it came in a plastic bottle, that this is a fragrance splashed on daily with abandon in Spanish bathrooms by both men and women. At £7.50 plus p&p this is not by any means an expensive purchase. But the size of it – the size of a wine bottle! And so, the moment of truth…could the scent possibly live up to expectations?

The answer is a resounding yes. Forget any ideas that cheap lavender scent will be thin, sharp and unpleasant (as, I’m sorry to say, too many English lavenders are). This is sweet and mellow from the first contact with your skin, and surprisingly deep. Its advocates are right when they say that the balance of the different elements is perfect: the dominant note is sweet lavender but the presence of rosemary, bergamot and geranium give it some zest too. There’s a slight zing of ginger too, at least that’s what the chemistry smells like to me.

Then, after ten minutes or so, the base notes of tonka (vanilla), cedarwood, moss and a tiny hint of musk begin to assert themselves. From then on it’s fresh and clean, but slightly dreamy too, redolent of the fields and hills of the Catalan region where it was first made.


From what I read, Agua Lavanda has been part of Spanish life for more than seventy years. For that to happen, the perfumier has to achieve a special alchemy, a magical element. If that’s there, the perfume will grow ever more powerfully down the years, in part due to the sense of history surrounding it. Imagine all the sensory memories it carries, for so many people.

So yes, too, to the notion that Agua Lavanda could be a real Lavande de Nuit. Not in every element of scent, but in the sense that it is a perfume made of the simple country fragrances of southern Europe, so beautifully made that it has never gone out of fashion and has captured the imagination of generations. Coincidentally, and yet crucially, it was created near Barcelona in 1940 when the war in Europe and the political situation in Spain necessitated manufacturing companies to be self-sufficient in the raw materials they used – just like my Distillerie Musset in Provence.


I couldn’t resist an experiment though. I decanted some Agua Lavanda into an old Annick Goutal spray bottle and added just a few drops of Hypnôse by Lancôme which I thought might bring some bright white flowers into the mix, along with vetiver and more woody vanilla. Then – very, very carefully as it’s so overpowering – I squeezed a tiny drop of Serge Luten’s Un Bois Vanille onto my arm to get the vital smoky element I was looking for and then sprayed the mix into that. Five minutes later, I think I came very close to smelling the fictional Lavande de Nuit.

8 comments:

Lisa Erin said...

Such a vivid post. I almost wrote "smells" wonderful, as your description is so vividly aromatic I feel as though I can catch it's scent over here. Lavender has always been one of my favorite scents. 'Agua Lavanda' sounds wonderful.

Cornflower said...

This is wonderful, Deborah; should you ever decide you want a change of career, you'd clearly have a great future as a parfumeuse!

Julia Munroe Martin said...

I must have some of this -- absolutely the most amazing fragrance possible. And you've described it so tantalizingly! I wonder if it's available in the states?!

Spangle said...

I love your ability to transport scents over to your readers by only using words. A beautiful post.

An Eye for Detail said...

Oh, how absolutely, charmingly, wonderful.. I want some! Your description of the scent (smell??) is superb. Now I will go on line to see how to get it in the States (minus your small addition!).
Thank you for following through on this, and sharing with us...

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

That sounds lovely. I could smell it as you wrote.

Elizabeth Young said...

Sounds absolutely wonderful Deborah, good enough to eat!

Marcheline said...

Wow... will have to go online and see if Agua Lavanda is available in the US!

I think I asked you this someplace else but never saw the response... have you seen the movie "Perfume"? I think it's right down your alley.

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