Like many people, I first took notice of British fragrance house Illuminum when Katherine Middleton chose to wear Illuminum’s White Gardenia Petals on the occasion of her wedding to Prince William. At that time, Illuminum’s fragrances weren’t even available in the United States; over the past year, however, the brand has been making gradual inroads into the American niche fragrance market. Illuminum offers a daunting range of personal fragrances and home fragrances; Tomato Leaf, from the “Haute Perfume” line, is one that has made an impression on me.
Illuminum says that “a vegetal freshness is central to this green and pleasing scent,” which includes top notes of carrot seed, osmanthus and tomato leaf; heart notes of dew drops, seaweed and water lily; and a base note of musk. (Freesia is also mentioned in a description of the fragrance.) However, after wearing it three or four times, I’d file Tomato Leaf under “misleading names” and “not at all what I expected.” It begins with a really unusual blend of mint, ripe peaches and moist green leaves, like a summer salad assembled from ingredients freshly picked in a garden or purchased that morning at a farmers market. I suppose the osmanthus notes contribute to the fruity element, but there’s no mention of mint in the official description, so the somewhat mentholated opening took me by surprise. This accord doesn’t remind me of anything else I’ve ever worn. Moreover, it doesn’t remind me of tomato leaves, either: it lacks their sun-warmed, lemony-peppery effect.
Tomato Leaf loses some of its piquancy as it develops, although it remains fairly interesting. The green notes stay shady rather than bright, and some very quiet white floral notes peek out from time to time. One time I wore the fragrance, I thought I could identify the marine-floral notes of “dew drops” and “water lily,” and I was briefly reminded of Kenzo Parfum d’Été as it smelled in the 1990s; another time, I barely noticed the watery hints at all. The musk in the base is woody rather than animalic, and it prolongs the fragrance nicely as a whole. Tomato Leaf has average staying power for an Eau de Parfum and it diffuses pleasantly but not intrusively. It could easily be worn by men or women, especially since its floral notes are so discreet.
I don’t typically wear many “green” fragrances, but I’ve enjoyed my sample of Tomato Leaf and I’m still puzzling over its composition a bit (a good thing, since that means it’s not just business-as-usual). Illuminum describes this fragrance as “a perfect perfume for anyone who wishes to escape the City,” and I agree, since I’m wearing it as I endure the grimy, sticky dregs of another New York summer. However, I still don’t understand the name of this fragrance. Something more general like ”Greenhouse” or “Trellis” or “Summer Garden” would make more sense to me. If you’re really in the mood for a tomato leaf fragrance, you should stick with CB I Hate Perfume’s Memory of Kindness or even Diptyque’s Eau de Lierre. But if you’re looking for a new twist on a fruity-green fragrance, you might want to seek out a sample of Tomato Leaf.
Illuminum Tomato Leaf is available as 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($225). For purchasing information, see the listing for Illuminum under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image [doubled] is Tomato leaf via Wikimedia Commons.