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.