One of my favorite off-beat notes in perfume is immortelle. It also goes by the name everlasting flower or helichrysum. When asked to describe the smell of immortelle most will tell you it smells like maple syrup. Even though the harvest of maple syrup takes place in the early spring as the sap rises back into the defrosting maple trees I have always associated it with autumn. Immortelle is not one of the most common of notes found in perfumes. When I looked it up in Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World I found that there have been 101 perfumes made which contain immortelle. Most of those fragrances use it as a bit of added texture; but for the perfumers who embrace it here are five which give you the most immortelle you can get.
Annick Goutal Sables by Isabelle Doyen– Prior to its release in 1985 I can only find two perfumes which contain immortelle. Mme Doyen takes immortelle and she not only embraces it she adds it in overdose. This much immortelle could have been as treacly as to be unpleasant. Mme Doyen recognizes this and adds a healthy dose of pepper as foil to the sweet and balances it perfectly. Creamy sandalwood, amber, and vanilla finish it off. Sables has become an autumnal rite of passage as I never really feel it is fall until I’ve worn it.
Guerlain Cuir Beluga by Olivier Polge– In 2005 Guerlain invited M. Polge to be one of three perfumers to compose the initial L’Art et La Matiere collection. It was interesting having perfumers whose last name was not shared with the brand, design for Guerlain. M. Polge turned in one of the most un-Guerlain Guerlains with Cuir Beluga. An opening of mandarin and aldehydes full of sparkle and light shifts dramatically to an immortelle and patchouli heart full of depth. The patchouli is really a supporting mote to the immortelle. The sweetness gives way to a supple leather accord in the base. Cuir Beluga does contain the Guerlinade in the base but in many ways that is the only trace of the brand to be found in this perfume.
Etat Libre D’Orange Like This by Mathilde Bijaoui– This is perhaps the very pinnacle of celebrity inspired perfume as actress Tilda Swinton was the creative director for Like This. It is Thanksgiving dinner in a bottle minus the turkey. From ginger on top through to a pumpkin pie accord matched with the immortelle. The latter reminds me of those sweet potato casseroles with mini marshmallows melted on top. It all finishes with vetiver and musk.
Nez a Nez Immortelle Marilyn by Karine Chevallier– Marilyn Monroe has been a favorite muse for many perfumers. Mme Chevallier under the creative direction of Stephane Humbert Lucas makes one of the most intricate immortelle perfumes I have smelled. They take the traditional beauty of orris and leather and wrap it in immortelle. First in all of its gourmandy maple syrup quality matched with hazelnut and pinch of raspberry on top. Then later the immortelle returns and now it has a slightly salty dried flower quality as the syrupy character is dialed way down. A judicious use of ambroxan helps enhance the late arriving immortelle.
Arquiste Infanta en Flor by Yann Vasnier– Arquiste Creative Director Carlos Huber sets a time and place for each of his perfumes. Infanta en Flor is set in 1660 as the infant Maria Teresa of Spain is offered to French King Louis XIV as a peace offering. This perfume captures the innocence of the infant as it opens with a halo of orange blossom. It leads to a leather heart where the immortelle more than holds its own as a complement for the animalic leather. The base is a mix of musks, benzoin, and tonka. The leather and immortelle heart of this is something I would like to see more perfumers try as the foundation for a perfume.
If you have never tried any of these perfumes give yourself over to the potential pleasure you will get at discovering a new note. If you have already come to enjoy immortelle as much as I do hopefully there is a new one on the list for you to try.
Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfume reviewed.