Given how much gardening is on my mind (and under my fingernails) these days, it seems fitting to write about one of 4160 Tuesday’s quirkier scents, Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor. Yes, it is named for the antagonist gardener in the Peter Rabbit stories, and also in homage to Jean-Claude Ellena’s Jardin series of scents for Hermes (all of which I own and enjoy). Perfumer Sarah McCartney writes that it was created during one of her perfume-making workshops, with a focus on the aroma molecule Hedione, which creates an impression of freshness and floralcy, with notes of jasmine and greenness. The goal was for the class to create the scent of a cottage garden in the Lake District.
For those who may not know, the famous author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books and many others, Beatrix Potter, played a key role in preserving thousands of acres in the Lake District, including leaving 4000 acres of countryside and 14 farms she owned to the National Trust. She was, of course, a marvelous illustrator, but she was also a gifted botanist, naturalist, gardener, and farmer, and the plants in her illustrations for her children’s books are botanically accurate down to the last details. They include many of the plants mentioned in the notes and materials list for Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor.
The 4160 Tuesdays website lists the materials as: orris, tobacco (for Mr McGregor’s pipe), blackcurrant bud, jasmine, parsnip, hay, lavender, cedar moss, vetivert, patchouli, cucumber, mushroom, cut grass, leather, strawberries, lily of the valley, blackberries, celery and musk. More prosaically, the major notes are described as follows: Top Notes: cut grass, strawberry, mint; Heart Notes: hay, rose, lavender; Base Notes: tobacco, moss, mushroom.
This is a very clever, witty fragrance as one might expect from Sarah McCartney. It does indeed start out as a fruity floral but one with green notes, not sugary. The cucumber note is a nod to M. Ellena, who uses a melony note in some of the Jardin fragrances which some people perceive as cucumber (melons and cucumbers are part of the same plant family). The fruity note at the opening doesn’t smell much like strawberry to me but more like some other berry — maybe raspberry or blackberry? But not the artificial flavorings most of us know — it smells like a fruit growing in the garden, thanks to notes like vetivert, patchouli, moss and mushroom, which ground the fragrance with some earthiness along with the green grass.
As those top notes fade away, I smell hay quite clearly, with a touch of celery. I also smell roots, which may come from orris and parsnip materials. I really do smell the parsnip, by the way, which has a particular sweet but earthy smell when raw, which I recognize from peeling parsnips! My English mother brought us up with parsnips, and I cannot roast lamb without also roasting parsnips to go with it. Sadly, my own children claim to loathe them. It’s not the smell they despise, though, it’s the taste. Chacun a son gout!
The heart phase also has floral and herbal notes, but they don’t smell much like rose to me, and not much like lavender either. The heart notes smell to me more like an herb garden, with a melange of floral and green scents wafting on warm air in the sunshine. As the fragrance dries down further and the base notes emerge, it reminds me more and more of St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove and First Cut, both of which I love. There’s a reason why my blogger name is “Old Herbaceous”! A warmth emerges from the musk base note, which Sarah included to evoke soft bunny fur. It isn’t one of those animalic musks, it is a fluffy musk, and it feels just right.
I’m very tempted to experiment with adding some more floral notes to this Jardin, perhaps by layering it with one of the scents by Jo Malone or that perfumer’s newer brand, Jo Loves. Since the Jo Malone branded scents are designed to be combined, I might start there; or I could try the more affordable Zara Emotions line, created by the perfumer Jo Malone and also meant for combining. Any suggestions?