When I was lucky enough to visit the Scent Bar last fall, on my first visit ever to Los Angeles (which you can read about in Fragrance Friday: S(c)en(t)sory Overload), I asked the lovely sales associate to show me some lily-of-the-valley fragrances. One of those she selected for me to try was Ann Gerard’s Perle de Mousse, which means “pearl of foam” but can also mean “pearl of moss.” (In French, oakmoss is “mousse de chene”). The name conjures up lovely images of the pearl-like white flowers of muguet against a dark green background, which is one way gardeners and florists like to force lilies-of-the-valley in pots and planters covered in moss, through which the flowers grow. I came home from LA with a sample of Perle de Mousse from the same lovely sales associate.
Here’s the copy about Perle de Mousse on Scent Bar’s website LuckyScent:
In a masterful reinvention of the green floral chypre, Bertrand Duchaufour stretches out the muguet theme until it becomes a full orchestra. The greenness of the spring flower is conjured in different stones: the tartness of green mandarin, the deep resinous glint of galbanum, the leafy aromatic ivy and an overdose of lentiscus – also known as mastic – standing in for the moss in a classic chypre. Green-tinged florals – gardenia and hawthorn – draw this verdant palette into a rose and jasmine heart whose narcotic richness counterbalances the vibrant top notes. As the fragrance dries down, the “moss pearls” come to rest on a smooth amber bed with a tinge of saltiness reminiscent of sun-kissed skin.
This is the most compelling interpretation of the genre we’ve experienced in years: truly original, but with the balance and elegance of a contemporary heirloom piece.
First, it is truly a lovely perfume. Fragrantica describes it as a “a spicy chypre, which provides top notes of aldehydes, pink pepper, bergamot, green mandarin, galbanum and ivy. Green and sparkling notes are expanded with citrusy-green lily of the valley, combined with hawthorn, Bulgarian rose, cloves, jasmine and geranium. Base finishes with lentic absolute, ambergris, musk and vanilla.” Second, my nose is not sophisticated or trained enough to pick up all these well-blended notes. The opening is certainly a lightly spicy mix of citruses; I’m not sure I’m correctly identifying the aldehydes, but there is a whiff that reminds me of Chanel No. 5, so that’s probably from the aldehydes. As it releases its heart notes, the scent becomes much more floral, but again — it’s a blend, albeit a lovely one, and I can’t really distinguish the lily of the valley from the other flowers at this stage. Fragrantica also says that the scent is intended to evoke “a woman walking barefoot through the woods at dawn, listening to its secrets.” It does not seem as green or casual or woodsy to me as that description suggests.
As it dries down, I get a pleasant powdery vanilla with an undertone of musk, but again, I don’t know if I’m smelling ambergris or not. Conclusion: this is a very beautiful scent, but it does not smell to me like lily-of-the-valley or anything reminiscent of forests or woodlands.