Violet Ida by Miller Harris

Notes: Bergamot, Carrot Seed, Orris Butter, Heliotrope, Vanilla and Amber


When I first heard about the recent Miller Harris release Violet Ida from The Candy Perfume Boy, it sounded like it had my name written all over it. This is because I have a deep affection for fragrances that are reminiscent of old-fashioned make-up.  Examples of this style include Chanel’s Misia, Malle’s Lipstick Rose and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Drole de Rose. Basically anything that smells like the inside of a vintage hand-bag.


Despite being called Violet Ida, this is actually an iris perfume. It’s named after a heroine from a Graham Greene novel, Ida Arnold, who wears violets in her hair. The name conjures the retro feel of the fragrance rather than its contents, given that violets make most people think of the scents of a bygone era.

“…she took care of herself, her lipstick told you that, the confidence of her big body. She was well covered but she wasn’t careless; she kept her lines for those that cared about lines.” – Extract from Brighton Rock

There’s a squeeze of fresh bergamot on opening but the iris is right there front and centre, gloriously rich and velvety. The scent of heliotrope makes its presence known as a sweet Play-Doh aroma. It’s not a note I get along with but I appreciate it works here, employing playfulness to break iris’s cool composure.

The powdery texture of Violet Ida is pivotal to its character. It’s a feather-soft cloud over warm skin, possessing that dressing table haze of cold cream, waxy lipstick and face compacts. What I particularly appreciate about it is that where most perfumes in this vein rely on a rose/violet combination to create the cosmetic effect, the main focus here is on iris. This makes it stand out from the crowd and ups the quality quotient considerably.

While some boudoir perfumes have a hint of something naughty in the mix, Violet Ida is entirely innocent. Its gentle nature may not project far but it does last well, progressing to a fluffy crème brûlée base.

For me, Violet Ida evokes the Ziegfeld Follies movies from the 30s and 40s which I watched on TV as a child with my mother. The studied glamour of those heavily made-up and elaborately costumed women parading down staircases may seem faintly ridiculous now, but it made a lasting impression on me.

It feels good to indulge in a spot of harmless nostalgia now and again.




How do you feel about perfumes that mimic cosmetics? Any favourites?



Filed under Perfume Reviews

22 responses to “Violet Ida by Miller Harris

  1. Jillie

    Oh, that should be just my sort of perfume too! I love the retro conjuring of face powder and lipstick, and get my fix from the two Bvlgaris, Pour Femme and Iris d’Or, and other lovelies like pre-reformulated Iris Poudre, Pierre Bourdon’s La Dame en Rose, Stilettos on Lex and Prada Infusion d’Iris.

    Like you I think this love stems from yearning for the comfort of my childhood, watching those old films and sitting with my mother as she applied her makeup.


    • Those are indelible memories, Jillie.
      Many thanks for sharing your other cosmetic scent favourites. I really want a bottle of Infusion d’Iris Absolue, but it’s so hard to justify any full bottle purchase these days.


  2. Tara, you did an amazing description! I feel like I would like this one on me, especially as the easy days of spring now call for something gentle to wear.


  3. Matty

    I have a sample of Violet Ida, it really is lovely. I bought it on a very special offer from Miller Harris. 3 samples for £5 and free postage.. Bargain.
    I also bought Powdered Veil and Scherzo.


  4. Brigitte

    This sounds gorgeous!!! Excellent review. And I love the look of that bottle.
    I love iris, heliotrope, lilac, lavender and violet..I see them as the “purple” notes and associate them with that lipstick/vintage make up case vibe. There is one from Bvlgari (the name escapes me but it is part of their gem collection) that has this type of vibe (heliotrope, iris and lavender) and it is beautiful. I also owned and wore Le Dix a lifetime ago and it gave the same impression (vintage make up case) to my nose.


    • Hi Brigitte,
      Oh yes, I meant to point out how gorgeous the bottle is. It’s just as lovely in real life, happily.
      You know, I have some vintage Le Dix somewhere. You’ve inspired me to dig it out this weekend.


      • Jillie

        Oh yes, how could I have forgotten my beloved Le Dix! Thank you and Brigitte for reminding me of this sadly discontinued gem. I too will hunt for my bottle now. We will all smell beautiful this weekend (well, when do we not??).


  5. I’ve been dying to try this, but Miller Harris is tough to come by here in the States. Thank you for the review! It sounds right up my alley!


    • Lovely to see you here! I’m sorry Miller Harris is so hard to get over there. I always assume you have access to everything. Another excuse to visit London one day, huh? 🙂


  6. I say, despite being somewhat estranged from iris as a note, and wary of heliotrope and all things Play-Doh-y, I was very drawn to your evocative description of Violet Ida. And this is very much your genre all right! I am also usually agin opaque perfume bottles, but that one is a beaut.


    • Thanks for commenting while across the Channel, V.
      It really is lovely and well done despite the presence of one of our nemesis notes. At least with opaque bottles you can leave them out. You’re right they’re not usually this pretty.


  7. As D. mentioned, “Miller Harris is tough to come by here,” so it sounds like a good excuse to come for a visit somewhere where it’s not an issue 🙂

    Great review! You make it sound quite appealing, which in this case is even easier than usually since I like that type of perfumes and would second all those mentioned by Jillie. As to notes, recently I stopped paying too much attention to what’s listed (unless it’s cumin or agarwood that more often than not do not work on my skin). I mean, in addition to the main note: I do pay attention to the intended main player since usually, even if it’s not a natural ingredient, it’s clear what the perfumer tried to stress, so I’m more inclined to seek those perfumes that showcase notes I like. For example, iris :).


  8. I kind of sense that this left you a little underwhelmed? ( despite the iris)
    I loved the idea of the Ziegfeld Follies though, also a great name for an OTT powdery slightly sweaty perfume 😀
    Anyway, I have a couple of ‘cosmetic’ perfumes, but not a lot. Probably Lolita Lempicka L’eau en Blanc is the most powdery one, and I enjoy that one once in a while. The old Meteorite also comes to mind… I think I prefer a bit more than just cosmetic notes, as you mentioned, if it’s a little naughty too, but then it starts becoming something else as well…


    • I liked it and admired it even more because it’s so well done, but the PlayDoh pushed it over the edge for me.

      I don’t have any problem with purely pretty perfumes but also like the idea of a true Follies perfume with some musk under the surface.


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