May Melange Marathon: Trillium

As regulars here know, in addition to being somewhat obsessed with fragrance, I’m also a gardener. I would say, perhaps, a longtime or experienced gardener, except that one is brought up short by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to a friend: “Tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.” So true! One is always learning in a garden, always making new discoveries.

However, the house we bought so many years ago (our first and only) came with an old garden that had been lovingly cultivated over decades by a couple who raised their own family here. They were master gardeners, and a former neighbor who knew them told me that she thought the husband had actually been a landscape architect. For years after we first moved in, every season brought new discoveries of their plantings and how cleverly they had designed and planted our garden. One such discovery was a planting of the American native wildflower, the trillium. I call it a discovery because trilliums famously appear suddenly in the early spring, then go dormant and disappear completely until the next year. I was so surprised when I came across a large clump in the wooded, back part of our garden that had seemingly come out of nowhere, and then equally surprised when I went back several weeks later and it was completely gone, like magic.

Which brings me to an intriguing artisan perfume line, House of Matriarch High Perfumery, and its fragrance Trillium.

Founder and perfumer Christi Meshell, based in Seattle, focuses on natural ingredients, and the brand says: “High Perfumery is rooted in the rich history of magic and alchemy — mysterious, powerfully rendered and recalling the craft of the apothecary.” HOM launched its first fragrance in 2011 and has created more than 60 fragrances since then, collecting a number of awards along the way. Trillium was created in 2015, as a “tea and white floral fantasy.” Christi has more to say about it here:

Perfumer Christi Meshell talks about her fragrance Trillium, for House of Matriarch.

The opening of Trillium is a very fresh green, with chamomile quite prominent to my nose. Fragrantica lists its top notes as Chamomile, Mimosa, Aglaia and Green Tea. I wasn’t familiar with aglaia, other than as a name of one of the Three Graces of classical mythology, so I looked it up. In perfumery, it refers to Aglaia odorata, also known as the “Chinese perfume tree” for its Asian origins and highly fragrant flowers, which apparently have such strong citrus aspect that it is also sometimes called “mock lemon.” That citrus aspect is evident in the opening of Trillium; it provides a liveliness to the opening notes that nicely sets off the chamomile, which is very herbal and green, the sweet mimosa, and the green tea. I really love the opening of Trillium, it is unlike anything you are likely to experience from any but an artisan perfumer.

The middle notes are listed in various places as black tea and coffee blossom, but in the video above, Christi herself describes additional notes of sake and shiso, and on her website, she describes using “a blend of exotic tea absolutes (red, white, black, green, honeybush) with tart rooibos.” I’m not familiar with the scent of coffee flower, so I turned to another natural perfume expert and creator, Charna Ethier of Providence Perfume Company, whose blog has an extensive description of coffee flower:

Coffee flower smells unlike anything else.  If I had to draw a parallel, it is a bit similar to jasmine sambac.  It’s sweet and round and complex.  I can get hints of overripe fruit, with a very faint whisper of espresso, almost a hint of burned coffee hidden behind the floral notes.  To me, coffee flower has a cool floral element.  Whereas jasmine grandiflorum and orange blossom absolute smell “warm” to me, coffee flower smells “cool.”

“Cool floral” is an excellent descriptor for Trillium; I would add “green”. To my nose, shiso (a mint native to Asia) smells cool and green, and I’m glad that it is mentioned in the brand video. In Trillium, it doesn’t smell minty to me but it does contribute to the cool, green floral nature of the fragrance. As it dries down, base notes of jasmine tea, tolu balsum, amber, and “cashmere musk” emerge, bringing a warmer, woodier aspect to the fore. Trillium is a unisex fragrance. It does not project far but it has good longevity; I believe its concentration is eau de parfum.

It seems fitting for a perfume house called “House of Matriarch” to mark Mother’s Day, which in the US is celebrated on the second Sunday of May (so May 9 this year); and HOM currently has a special Mother’s Day discount code, FOREVERFLOWERS, for 40% off and free gift-wrapping. (I have no affiliation and bought my own samples). Have you tried any House of Matriarch fragrances?

Three Graces dancing in springtime
The Three Graces; detail of “Primavera”, by Botticelli; image from the Uffizi Galleries,

5 thoughts on “May Melange Marathon: Trillium

  1. The Great White Trillium is the provincial flower of Ontario, where I was born and raised. I recall the Trillium’s being plentiful growing the wild in the summer. I never detected any scent from them, although at the time I never thought to smell them. This fragrance sounds complex and interesting. I can’t really imagine it in my mind. House of Matriarch is new to me, I’ll take a look at their website.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is complex, definitely an artistic creation more than a commercial one. The trilliums in my garden don’t have a scent either. HOM has some nice discovery sets, and it’s possible the discount code may apply to those.


  2. Pingback: May Melange Marathon: Thank You – Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities

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