If you ever grown sweet peas in your garden, you know how cheerful their smell is. It is sweet as the name suggests, and has spicy and green elements, make is why it also feels very balanced – not cloying or heady or indolic like lilies, for example.
Both Arctander and Poucher mention orange blossom, hyacinth and rose to describe the scent of sweet pea flowers.
Arctander writes that the scent of sweet pea (aka lathyrus) flowers “(...)recall that of freesia, certain roses (e.g. the wild rosa canina, also called hip-rose or hedge-rose) with a very delicate touch of orange blossom or hyacinth. However, the most typical feature of the fragrance of lathyrus is its suave lightness, almost balsamic (like the non-aldehydic part of hyacinth), sweet (like rose-freesia) and yet honeylike sweet, subdued floral (like orange flower) with
a light bouquet and top of mild greenness” (Stephen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, p. 605).
Unfortunately, although the flowers yield themselves to extraction with solvent, an absolute is not produced commercially at the moment, so whenever you see sweet pea mentioned in a perfume, it is actually a sweet pea base, not the absolute or essential oil. A base is a harmony of notes created by the perfumer to reproduce the impression of the flower.
Poucher's compounding instructions for a sweet pea base stress the importance of methyl anthranilate in the heart. This molecule is the characteristic in orange blossom note, present in neroli, orange blossom absolute and petitgrain - as well as tuberose, ylang ylang and even in jasmine absolute). He offers the following guidelines for compounding a sweet pea base, which include the following :
Green top notes: Linalol, Petitgrain, Benzyl acetate
Orange-Blossom heart notes: Neroli, Methyl anthranilate (fruity orange flower), Broom absolute, Ylang Ylang
Base notes (sweet, warm and spicy): Methyl naphthyl ketone (sweet and powdery orange blossom), hydroxylcitronellal (sweet orange blossom/lily), Penyl acetic aldehyde (for the hyacinth and clover effect), Styrax, Tolu balsam, Vanillin
I'm quite curious to see if it would be possible to create a match to a floral without its actual essence (i.e.: essential oil or absolute), using just floral absolutes and essential oils. It's very challenging to create the illusion of a flower with only naturals, unless there is actually an essence from the flower itself (i.e.: essential oil or absolute). I also feel that heliotropin is really important in this one, yet is not to be found in any essential oil or absolute that I'm aware of (and heliotrope absolute is not available either). I will need to start by creating a heliotrope base before creating the sweet pea.
For sweet pea I would start by using the following notes:
Top notes: Rosewood or ho wood (because of the high linalol content), Bergamot, Narcissus Absolute, Sweet Orange, Petitgrain
Heart notes: Guiacwood, Styrax oil, Broom absolute, Jonquille absolute, Rosa rugosa (hedge rose) essential oil, Ylang ylang absolute, Orange flower absolute, Jasmine absolute, Tuberose absolute, Neroli, Heliotrope Base
Base notes: Benzoin, Ambrette seed, Styrax resin, Tolu balsam, Vanilla CO2