5 perfumes: Mimosa

yellow mimosa

I have always liked mimosa in fragrances. Rather, I should clarify: I have always liked Acacia farnesiana (cassie) and/or scents with heliotropin. The term "mimosa" is a bit of a moving target, even in botany, as there are about 400 species or cultivars of plants under this genus, mostly with pink or mauve flowers, in addition to many other shrubs or trees that produce poofy, cartoonish blossoms and were historically lumped in under the name by the public — silk tree being an example. The sweet, warm, powdery smell we encounter in perfumery, with its facets of almond, honey, violet, craft paste and fresh cucumber, comes from distillation of the soft, feathery yellow petal clusters of the acacia species that most of us in the West know as mimosa flowers. One of my most vivid and happy memories of visits to France is the bushels of mimosa branches tossed out during "La Bataille de Fleurs" or flower parade during the Carnaval de Nice, which winds its way along what must be one of the world's most beautiful thoroughfares, the Promenade des Anglais.

For all its cheerful straight-forwardness, mimosa appears to be a hard note to use in perfume. There are very few credible soliflores and many mainstream fragrances with a strong mimosa presence come off as airheaded and shampoo-like. With the IFRA restrictions on heliotropin, it has become even more difficult, if not impossible, to base a fragrance around the flower. Looking to include perfumes with some availability in this list, I found that almost all the mimosa fragrances I'd enjoyed at the beginning of my perfume education in the mid-noughties were discontinued or reformulated. Caron Farnesiana, long the great classic of mimosa perfumes, has gone through so many versions that it is hard to keep track of them all; by the time I became interested in fragrance, it had already morphed from a high-pitched, frost-white floral to a rich yellow gourmand, a sort of cherry jam trifle with marzipan decorations. Now it is a pale non-entity, not smelling of much, let alone cassie. Summer by Kenzo, with its quiet, sweetly sad notes of mimosa and fresh milk — gone. Winter Flowers, also by Kenzo, a mimosa-amber oriental, like a swan-down powder puff covered with a brulée crust — gone. My beloved Dior Cologne Blanche — gone. I've ranted about the discontinuation of Slatkin Persian Lime and Mimosa before (here). My apologies that some of the scents on my list below have recently been tinkered with or are only available now through selected channels or discounters. I guess it requires a fair amount of work to be a perfumista these days.

Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie: Probably the strangest mimosa perfume in existence, this is cassie as high art, or in Malle's PR-speak, "haute-couture".¹ Flashes of almond, leather, newsprint and glue, civet, powdered décolletage, buttered popcorn and thyme revolve past as this beautiful oriental fragrance develops. Recent samples seem less animalic than previous versions. Elegant, aloof and a bit difficult, this is mimosa with none of its usual sunny simplicity. For a more approachable interpretation of heliotrope, try perfumer Jean Claude Ellena's L'Eau d'Hiver from the same line, where gentle caramel, iris and honey notes are emphasized.

Parfums de Nicolaï Mimosaique: The freshest, most euphoric breath of Côte d'Azur air, this is a green, fruity take on mimosa and the closest soliflore in spirit to the original Caron Farnesiana. Mimosaique has a delicate yet radiant sillage, and it rarely fails to solicit compliments when I wear it. While it is no longer available from Parfums de Nicolaï directly, several online niche stores still stock it.

Yves St. Laurent Cinema: A sweet, quiet yet lush mimosa-amber, full of vanillic warmth. Cinema is now discontinued. If you can find it, it's a great example of the sort of fragrance Yves Saint Laurent used to be good at.

Guerlain Après L'Ondée: What more can be said about this one? For more mimosa, try to find a vintage bottle of either the Eau de Toilette or the ridiculously priced Parfum, as recent reformulations have tilted the balance of this fragrance more towards the violet and iris.

Bvlgari Pour Femme: Created by perfumer Sophia Grojsman (with Nathalie Lorson), Bvlagri Pour Femme seems to be another classic Grojsman variation on Après L'Ondée, this time with the flat, craft paste element of the mimosa and hawthorn smoothed over and the tenderness clipped into something a little more elegant and angular. Unlike, say, Yves Saint Laurent Paris, Bvlgari Pour Femme has very discernible bone structure, though it loses very little of the rain-kissed lightness of its fresher predecessor. The Bvlgari Rose Essentielle scent (in a similar bottle to Pour Femme), which also features mimosa, is to be avoided.

 1. Isn't the Frederic Malle website so cool? I liked it before, when it assigned a color to each fragrance, but it has been recently up-dated to include a "smell painting" background to each scent list page. I find some more successful than others. To see some of my favorites, check out the cursor wave-overs for Bois D'Orage, Carnal Flower and Noir Epices. 

Note: image is Mimant la primavera [cropped] by Ardet at flickr; some rights reserved.

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63 Comments

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  1. thenoseknows says:

    One must also Remember Guerlain’s Masterful Interpretation of Mimosa in the Elegant and Very Pretty and Joyous Champs-Elysee!!!!

    • Erin says:

      Luca Turin seems to have been very offended by that one. Its fan base is not really large here – even a Guerlain SA told me it was “not special enough” – but I’ve always thought it was quite pretty.

      • breathesgelatin says:

        I like Champs Elysees, but I’ve seen it savaged. You can find it cheap at the discounters, so I’ve been thinking of getting a bottle.

        • Erin says:

          Sometimes it’s better if nobody else likes it, right? I have a newly single friend and she keeps saying her taste in men is so unusual – like it’s a bad thing! More for you, I say ;)

  2. Celestia says:

    The EDP and Extrait have Guerlinade so they smell slightly different than the EDT and obviously have more depth. Back in 1996 in Guerlain school, we were taught that J-PG wouldn’t sign his name to C-E because of the omission of Guerlinade but I have since read that he wasn’t the nose for C-E. At the launch, it was touted as the first fragrance to use mimosa (leaf & blossom). I wonder now if that’s really true.

    • Erin says:

      I very rarely believe any company that says they’re the first to use a natural ingredient. I have to confess I haven’t smelled Champs-Elysee in quite a while, and I don’t remember what concentration I tried, though it was likely the EdT.

    • Thalia says:

      I’d love to hear more about Champs-Elysees — I know it doesn’t get much respect, but the notes always sound so pretty (except the dreaded melon) and you can find it reasonably priced. I’ve been looking for a pretty, undemanding but not dull spring/everyday perfume when I’m just not up to some of my favorites; would Champs-Elysees work for that?

      • Erin says:

        From what I remember of it, it could work well, if you didn’t mind that it has fairly loud sillage, as most Guerlains do. I think I might prefer L’Instant for more regular wear, but I don’t know the pricing on that one and it’s admittedly less spring-y.

        • Merlin says:

          Hi Erin! The owner of one of the only, and biggest supplier of niche fragrances in SA, only wears L’Instant. I think she told me the dominant note was magnolia…
          Anyway, I found it quite funny that she doesn’t wear the perfumes that her 3 up-market stores sell – but has stocked up on about 20 or 30 bottles of L’Instant!
          Even funnier is that her staff all articulate ‘department store fragrances’ with an air of marked derision!

          • Erin says:

            I know it has magnolia *leaf*, and wouldn’t be surprised if it also “contains” magnolia flower – which would explain why I kind of like it, because magnolia is another oft-maligned, sometimes airheady note that I like. Funny about the niche store owner!

  3. Abyss says:

    Yup, I’d say that Une Fleur de Cassie smells of what I know as acacia (genus Robinia, I believe) rather than what I know as mimosa. L’Eau d’Hiver, on the other hand, smells uncannily like fresh mimosa flowers (the one with tiny fuzzy yellow ball flowers). I like ‘em both but L’Eau d’Hiver is the only Malle that I’ve tried so far that I could imagine owning a FB of. Early spring in a bottle!

    • Erin says:

      Checking out the taxonomy sections of botany entries on both mimosa and acacia, I found I was more confused then ever. It seems this has been a very hot, controversial topic for botanists (who probably need a little drama in their lives anyway?!) I don’t wear L’Eau D’Hiver, because it smells like a mediciation with yucky fake caramel-flavoring that I was forced to take as a child. But I can see that it is the more wearable of the two FMs if you don’t have that association.

      • Lil says:

        So sorry L’Eau d’Hiver has that unfortunate association for you; it’s one of my favorite heliotropin scents!

        • Dilana says:

          Silly me. I always thought Eau D’hiver was an attempt to capture the smell of snow.

          Maybe it is intended to be a tropical winter.

          • Erin says:

            The FM website calls it an “Eau Chaude” and wants you to wear it in the winter. It’s apparently crisp but also warming – they go on about it’s paradoxical nature – and, actually, the warm-crisp is a pretty good description of it. So your confusion (if it is confusion!) is not at all unwarranted…

        • Erin says:

          Lil, it’s a well-crafted enough fragrance that I can see objectively that it’s great, I just shiver to think of wearing it. I don’t often have associative problems with perfumes – this is one of the very few I can’t do, so I guess I’m lucky.

          • Lil says:

            Erin, today I wore Une Fleur de Cassie in your honor!

          • Erin says:

            Hope it was a good day for it! It’s a little tricky to wear, I find, but beautiful under the right circumstances…

  4. annemarie says:

    I’m perpetually confused about acacia/mimosa too. I live in Australia, where over 900 species (known locally as wattle) are native. Wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem.

    The Queen apparently has a favourite wattle brooch that she wears when she wants to be identified with Australia, and have a look at this stunning Norman Hartnell ‘wattle dress':
    http://www.nma.gov.au/collections/dargies_wattle_painting_queen_elizabeth/

    And yet I have never detected any smell in wattle flowers, at least not the ones that I have in my local area. Is it just a few species that have the distinctive scent? Or am I anosmic to it, I wonder?

    Anyway, thanks for the post. I did not know Cinema has been d/c. I think it is too sweet for me, but it is a lovely thing.

    • Erin says:

      In fact, I believe many types of wattle are scentless. I think the only kinds of “mimosa” you are going to encounter in perfumery are Acacia decurrens and Acacia farnisiana. Cassie is only the essential oil from the distallation, I believe. Great dress, by the way!

      I didn’t know Cinema had been discontinued either, until I went to the YSL counter. According to one of my trusted discounters and the YSL SA, it’s been d/c for a few years now.

      • annemarie says:

        Thanks for the clarification on the scented species!

    • debbie says:

      Most of the wattle we have growing has a scent but we tend to get rampant hayfever when its out-its just finishing flowering here. Bright spark husband, planted one close to the washing line, so it gets into everything. Did you see Bud Perfume has a new scent-Scarlett-they sent me a sample with an order and its lovely. Smells, to me, of dark red roses although they are not mentioned in the ingredients.

      • Erin says:

        Ack, I can see the pollen all over the laundry in my mind’s eye. Still, a lovely thing to grow!

      • annemarie says:

        Damn! I was avoiding Bud Parfums until the autumn, when I plan to pick up a FB of their lovely Sophia. Now I just may not be able to resist temptation!

        • debbie says:

          It was a small bottle of Sophia that I ordered! So nice!

  5. breathesgelatin says:

    YSL Cinema seems to be getting a lot of love on the blogs lately. Makes me happy. I bought a bottle of the EDP right after it came out, long before I became knowledgable about perfume. I wore it yesterday!

    • Erin says:

      Yes, I was similarly happy to see it getting so many recent positive reviews. Oddly, I’d thought of writing about both it and mimosa last month — and then all the blogs were suddenly talking about it. Synchronicity! Must be a good time of year to dig out your Cinema…

  6. Dionne says:

    Erin, if you don’t mind my asking, what online niche stores are still carrying Mimosaique? I’m doing some sampling of the PdN line this month, but I don’t want to fall in love with something I can’t easily find. (I’m enough of a perfume geek that I actually made a spreadsheet detailing who sells what from her line to help me decide what to sample.)

    • Erin says:

      DARN!! Up until just a month ago when I last checked, both Naz at The Perfume Shoppe and Luckyscent still had bottles, but I don’t see them now. Sorry, D! Maybe with the IFRA restrictions, she really stopped making new stock altogether and the old ran out. I hope not – because otherwise I’ll no doubt be bidding against all of you on auction sites for the last bottle. ;)

      • Dionne says:

        Thanks for doublechecking, Erin (for a bit there I was wondering if there were a bunch on online niche resources I’d never heard of.) I ordered a sample of Mimosaique, but at least this way if I do enjoy it, you’ve given me alternatives. :)

        And considering that I’ve also ordered Sacrebleu, Odalisque, Vanille Tonka, Number One, Maharanih and Le Temps d’une Fete, I’m pretty sure this won’t be an order to be bummed over.

        • Erin says:

          Certainly not!! Odalisque is one of my very, very favorite scents, and Le Temps d’une Fete is right up there, too. I just ordered a big decant of Sacrebleu through the TPC Nicolai flash sale – was that you, too?! – and have owned decants or small bottles of the others, too, as it’s a favorite line. You are going to have FUN, I think…

        • dolcesarah says:

          I can’t imagine anything better than Sacrebleu. I’ll be wanting the 250ml forever. ODELISQUE may be good but not as good as my all time favorite. Acqua Chiarra by I Profumi de Firenze and Senza Fine are second in line Kalamantan by Chanticaile is up there. Calypso is coming and the tuberose by L’Artisan. I love Dyptyque too. Apree L’Ondee I want to try by Guerlain. Sacrebleu is the best going and I found it all by myself. Are other Nicolai’s this good?

  7. Apparently says:

    How timely! I have been obsessing over mimosa for the last week or so, after discovering that many of my favorites contain this note. Two mimosa-based scents I am jonesing to sample are L’Artisan Mimosa Pour Moi and Santa Maria Novella Gaggia.

    • Erin says:

      The L’Artisan is lovely, with a very realistic top-note, though the base is more violets. Drole de Rose from the same line is also a fruity violet with heliotrope/mimosa powderiness, too, so you may want to try that as well. Sorry to say I’ve never tried the SMN.

      • Apparently says:

        Thanks for the Drole de Rose tip! Along with your other suggestions I will be wallowing in Mimosa well into the new year.

  8. Omega says:

    I just sampled Cinema..it’s a nice scent, a bit mature smelling of a scent to my nose.. though still a nice, cozy, warm, ambery vanilla. It fits with this cold weather..I think of a night in while wearing a sweater with this scent than going out on the town. I only sampled this once..I will give it another go:D. I was maybe going to give some samples away for stocking stuffers..but who knows, I may keep them for myself:).

    • Erin says:

      I have that trouble with samples and fragrant gifts, too. Bought my bro some Hermes this year and my mom just asked for Chanel 31 Rue Cambon lotion for Xmas. From your lips to the ear of God, Mom, I’d be first in line for it, if it existed!

  9. KRL says:

    Thanks for this article – I love to learn about notes! You didn’t mention Tauer’s Zeta or Mac’s now-discontinued Naked Honey. Would you consider those mimosa? I’m having a hard time with this note and am completely anosmic to Malle’s Cassie – can’t smell a thing (recently, this happened to me with Prada’s Candy – I wonder if they have anything in common.)

    Thanks!

    • Meg says:

      I have the same issue with Candy.

      • Erin says:

        I also find it very weak, and don’t share what seems to be the general enthusiasm for it.

    • Erin says:

      As far as I am aware, Zeta is mostly about linden? I had heard similar things about Naked Honey – linden-centred even though it wasn’t in the listed ingredients – but I can completely see mimosa being behind the “honey” note. It’s also true that linden and mimosa have a similar sunny, airy quality.

      • KRL says:

        You’re right – for some reason, though, I thought linden and mimosa were pretty much the same. But now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t “get” Cinema either, so maybe linden is the way for me to go in this category.

  10. donnie says:

    Thanks for another Erin post before Christmas! I enjoy your researchy approach and the way you call out interesting fragrances that aren’t especially under discussion at the moment. You have induced me to sample many that I wouldn’t have considered or wouldn’t have known about, like Aria di Capri and Geranium pour Monsieur. That’s fun. Thanks, too, for calling out another discontinued Nicolai item that I need to try. (You are responsible for the big bottle of N. pour Homme on my shelf.) Keep ‘em coming.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks so very much for the compliment and I’m sorry that the research is so clunkingly obvious! I’m glad at least a few people can put up with my nerdery; I enjoy reading up on things, and so much so that I always get my post to Robin exceedingly late. She’s a saint to put up with my infrequent contributions. I enjoy your comments and hope you’re digging the Nicolai PH.

      • Dionne says:

        Definitely don’t downplay the research or the nerdery, Erin. I’m always glad to read one of your posts.

        • Erin says:

          Thanks! So, if Robin can continue to put up with me…

          • Robin says:

            It is not that easy to get fired around here :-)

            Besides, I like your articles too.

  11. austenfan says:

    Another Mimosa fragrance that is truly lovely, is Divine’s L’Infante. I think I have mentioned it before when Mimosa fragrances were discussed.
    I still want to get my mitts on some Mimosaïque!

    • Erin says:

      I do like L’Infante, as well many of the other Divine scents. I find it a bit girly for regular wear, though. A few times I’ve worn it on one wrist, with Amouage Silver Cologne for men (another mimosa) on the other, and it was heliotrope heaven!

  12. Racine says:

    I remember Sicily from Dolce & Gabbana with a heavy heliotrope note, something between honey and coconut specially on the top notes. Later the jasmin appears and become less sweet and a little greener. It was a complex scent and as it usually happens did not sell well. It will probably be discontnued soon so time to stock up!!

    • thenoseknows says:

      I was JUST About to Post About Sicily from Dolce and Gabbana when i read this! My Sis had a bottle of that way back when (can’t remember if i Bought it for her or she for herself) but it was one of those Magnificent Florals that reminded you of Southern Europe in the Summertime! Champs-Elysee by the way is Light and Vivacious and Playful and was one of my Sis’ favorite fragrances… I can’t smell it anymore really without crying because i remember it was in her hospital room with her and it’s just too hard to bear… but it is a lovely scent!

      • Erin says:

        So sorry to hear about your sister – such happy scents and sad circumstances!

  13. capillary says:

    Cinema is still listed on the UK YSL website, which looks to have been quite recently updated. Perhaps it’s only discontinued overseas? I certainly find it easy to find in local Boots and department stores in case anyone is interested!

    • annemarie says:

      I just saw it on the US and International sites too, and at my local department store, so it seems to be still going. And yet it might still be a good idea to stock up. It’s such an odd beast – the fragrance is so out of character with the name and the marketing. I would not be surprised to hear that YSL were to pull the plug on it.

      • Erin says:

        Weird! I couldn’t find it at any of my local store or YSL counters and several discounters told me they couldn’t get it anymore either – but there it is on the website!

        • Eva S says:

          I see bottles of Cinema all the time in Sweden in department stores, although they might have stock left if it’s discontinued. I’ve never tried it but will make a point of checking it out. Is this a perfume thats been reformulated recently or is it still the original one?

          • annemarie says:

            Not sure. I have never heard of it having been reformulated but you never know these days!

    • Erin says:

      I’d love to have a Boots! Cinema, too – I’ve had lots of samples over the years, but if I need a bottle, it looks like I’ll need to order online.

      • KRL says:

        I’ll be happy to sell you mine! I just don’t “get” this one :)

  14. Rappleyea says:

    Great post, Erin! Interestingly enough, I was testing a new fragrance yesterday that, on me anyway, had prominent mimosa – SSS’s almost-released Nostalgie. See here:

    http://sonomascent.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/coming-soon-nostalgie/

    Although she has moved the release date up to early Jan. It is an incredibly beautiful and well-done scent. And judging from your post, not a moment too soon with all of the discontinuations!

    • annemarie says:

      Oh that sounds marvelous! Thanks for the link.

      • Rappleyea says:

        So happy to enable! ;-)

  15. Antreas says:

    Allright!!!Happy Christmas!!!

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