Last month I was given a sample of Louis Vuitton's Pacific Chill – the perfume equivalent of a coastal yoga retreat. It is one of a bumper crop of perfumes with vegetable scents currently enjoying a moment in the beauty spotlight.
Without a doubt, fragrance is the new frontier for wellness. Symrise, one of the word's leading fragrance producers, has even gone so far as to collaborate with nutrition experts to create the Garden Lab collection, which captures the natural oils of real vegetables – artichoke, cauliflower, leek, onion, asparagus – for perfumers to use in fine fragrances.
There's no denying that vegetable-infused perfumes are a motley crew and you'd be forgiven for thinking they sound more like something you'd find on a grocery list or chuck into a blender.
Scratch that, Pacific Chill actually is inspired by a detox juice. Its story begins in LA and the fresh carrot, ginger and orange morning smoothie perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud had been drinking. Its energising effects inspired Jacques to create what he calls Louis Vuitton's first “wellness fragrance”, using ingredients that aren't often associated with perfumery.
Starting with the same carrot as his smoothie, it muddles May Rose with herbs (peppermint, coriander and basil) and a slosh of sour blackcurrant to “break the sweetness” of the apricot note, Jacques says.
The smell of vegetables is hard to describe in a perfume. Is it savoury? Will your colleagues be hit square in the nose by the smell of eau de compost? In fact, do these fragrances even smell good?
The short answer to the latter is yes. Pacific Chill smells crisp and bright yet also earthy – like driving through the LA hills in a convertible with the top down, the breeze in your hair, while sipping Hailey Bieber's favourite Erewhon smoothie. “It is a cocktail of wellness and energy,” Jacques says. “The first notes are green and dazzling…they are then softened by the fruity and pulpy side [of the perfume]."
Vegetables, like any fragrance note, can be pushed to add freshness or pulled to create something moodier or more herbaceous. Jacques says the carrot note he used is velvety and silky, adding that it brings “depth to the fragrance” and “an iridescent, slightly woody effect”. For David Moltz, co-founder of DS & Durga, green peppers give Bistro Waters "a fresh green vegetal snap". While for Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel, white musks temper the crisp, tangy freshness of rhubarb in Eau De Rhubarbe Ecarlate.
Arguably, vegetables are also the cooler, more grownup gourmand sister to candy floss, marshmallow and fruit, all of which are reminiscent of the sugar high at a child's birthday party.
But, of course, it's the way perfume fires off neurons and evokes emotional memories that makes it such a powerful self-care tool. For me, the beauty of vegetable perfumes is that they make you dig deep and feel more grounded. They're like a salve for unraveling stress amid the uncertain times we're currently living through. “Fresh green plants – whether vegetable or root – bring us home and remind us of the Earth," David agrees.
This connection between vegetables, nature and feelings of calm is also supported by research from natural beauty brand Weleda. It found that during the pandemic 26.7 million Britons grew their own fruit and vegetables, with almost two thirds claiming that “connecting with nature has had a positive impact on their mood.”
And as some fragrance brands barrel towards AI, with perfumes chosen for you by algorithms, vegetable-infused scents are a convenient reminder that going back to basics and huffing on a scent in real life is a powerful mood shifter.
So if you want to try an offbeat but addictive scent, here are some of the best perfumes with vegetable scents.
Louis Vuitton Pacific Chill
Much like an actual smoothie, the blend – woody carrot, herbs, apricot, sour blackcurrant – is the perfect ratio of fresh and green vs sweet and fruity. While it has the same sun-drenched appeal of the other LA-inspired perfumes in the collection, there is a pulse of electricity running through it that makes it too energising for slouching around Venice Beach in a ribbed vest and jogging bottoms.
Loewe Tomato Leaves Scented Candle
Given that we've been gripped by tomato girl summer, it seems only apt to be transported to a leafy allotment with this candle as we move into autumn. Using the purest essence of tomato leaves (solanum lycopersicum, to be precise), the scent is fuzzy and herbaceous rather than sharp – a little like when you crumple the leaves between your fingertips.
DS & Durga Bistro Waters Eau de Parfum
DS & Durga has always had a nose for an offbeat scent – and Bistro Waters is no different. Inspired by a buzzing 90s New York bistro, it smells both fresh and savoury courtesy of grassy green peppers, just-chopped herbs (think basil and coriander) and a dash of nutmeg. It's the type of perfume that fizzes on the skin before warming up, and would most definitely finish the night in a red leather booth nursing a peartini.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Tonka Blanc Eau de Parfum
Tonka Blanc is the very first fragrance on the market to feature a natural vegetable extract – in this case, cauliflower oil from Symrise's Garden Lab collection. Combined with citrus, almond and creamy tonka bean, it smells nutty and sweet, not unlike a fork breaking apart a warm lemon sponge, topped with mascarpone.
Assouline Mykonos Muse Candle
The freshness of rhubarb steers this candle's scent away from the Greek island predictability of almond and wild fig. It's all about balance: heat simmering off white-washed buildings, tempered by the cool blue-green waters of the Aegean Sea.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Media Cologne Forte Eau de Parfum
According to perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, "by creating heat in a fragrance, you push the fresh notes." True to his word, warm musk and patchouli are overwhelmed by a rush of Italian bergamot, verbena and crunchy fennel. All of which is to say, this perfume is bracing from first spritz to dry down, like the moment a frothy, white-capped wave hits your sun-warmed limbs.
Hermès Eau De Rhubarbe Ecarlate Eau De Cologne
Freshly-snapped stems of rhubarb and tangy verbena spar with nuzzly musk for a perfume that comes alive on your skin but still feels delicate.
This article was originally published on Glamour UK.