May Melange Marathon: Lily

May Melange Marathon: Lily

Parfums Christian Dior is responsible for possibly the most famous muguet fragrance of all time, Diorissimo. A less-known, discontinued muguet fragrance by Dior is the lovely Lily, launched in 1999. The perfumer behind it is Florence Idier, who also created Comme des Garcons’ Series 1 Leaves: Lily, another lily-of-the-valley fragrance. There is another fragrance called Lily Dior, but the one I have is just called Lily; it is an eau de toilette.

Advertising illustration for Lily eau de toilette by Christian Dior
Lily, by Parfums Christian Dior; image from Fragrantica

Fragrantica (which has a photo of the wrong bottle on this fragrance’s page, btw; it shows 2004’s Lily Dior) lists its notes as: Top notes are Green Notes, Fruity Notes, Bergamot and Brazilian Rosewood; middle notes are Lily-of-the-Valley, Lilac, Lily, Jasmine and Rose; base notes are Musk and Sandalwood.

I acquired my bottle of Lily within the past year, so it has never featured in my frequent “May Muguet Marathon.” It wouldn’t be May for me without some reviews of muguet fragrances! I like Lily very much, and if I didn’t already have several true-love muguet fragrances, it would be among my top dozen. Even as a vintage eau de toilette, its top notes are clear and strong, with a noticeable fruit note at the start that reminds me of a green pear. The only listed top note that I don’t really smell is the rosewood; the opening is very fresh and green.

The lily-of-the valley note steps forward quickly and it is very natural-smelling (although LOTV notes famously rely on clever combinations of other substances, as the flowers’ natural essence cannot be extracted). The companion notes of lilac and jasmine are evident, with the lilac slightly more obvious than the jasmine. At this stage, Lily reminds me a lot of the 1998 version of Guerlain’s Muguet, which was created by Jean-Paul Guerlain and launched the year before Lily.

Hmmm. The list of notes for each fragrance is almost identical, according to Fragrantica. The clear presence of both lilac and jasmine in the middle stage, as part of the evocation of lily-of-the-valley, is very similar in each fragrance. Lily‘s opening is distinctive, though, with that green pear note that gives it some zing together with the bergamot. I’m going to give Parfums Dior the benefit of the doubt here, though: Christian Dior’s association with the muguet, his favorite flower, goes back decades and prompted the creation of Diorissimo; the flower appeared regularly in Dior fashions: dresses, scarves, hats, jewelry, and apparently he had a tradition of giving sprigs of lilies-of-the-valley to employees every May Day, which the fashion house continues to this day. Don’t you just love this hat?

Hat decorated with artificial lilies of the valley silk flowers
Lily of the valley hat by Christian Dior

The Christian Dior name is also attached to a wide variety of household goods featuring lilies of the valley as his signature flower, everything from sheets to fine porcelain. A new collection of muguet-themed housewares was launched by Dior last year, and they are quite beautiful.

As my regular readers know, I truly love muguet fragrances. I struggle to grow them here in the South, as it really is too hot and humid here for them, but I have a few plants I have nursed along in dedicated planters on the shady edge of our front terrace, where I can keep them well-watered and mulched with the rich humus compost they love. Lily is very true to the natural scent of lilies-of-the-valley and it doesn’t smell soapy at all to my nose, unlike some LOTV fragrances. It doesn’t last more than a few hours, which is the norm for most muguet fragrances, especially in eau de toilette concentrations. While it lasts, though, it is very pretty. However, most of the prices you will see online for Lily are too high, considering that one can easily find lovely, newer, muguet fragrances that are more affordable, or at least fresh (see my “May Muguet Marathon” posts for some suggestions!).

For a lovely post on lily-of-the-valley scents, check out one of my favorite blogs, Bois de Jasmin. Its author, Victoria, mentions Dior’s Lily briefly in the comment section. She writes about muguet fragrances pretty regularly, as it is a favorite scent of hers. I know lily-of-the-valley scents can be polarizing; people tend to like them very much, as I do, or not at all. How do you feel about them?

My bottle of Lily, in front of my muguet

May Melange Marathon: La Vierge de Fer

May Melange Marathon: La Vierge de Fer

Today’s floral is Serge Lutens’ La Vierge de Fer, which means “Iron Maiden” in English. The Iron Maiden was a notorious (though possibly apocryphal) medieval torture device, an upright metal box shaped like a person, in which spikes were set into the interior of the opening, which, when closed, would pierce a prisoner locked inside the device. Lovely.

I don’t follow Serge Lutens very closely although I have and appreciate several of his fragrances, and I would love to visit his boutique in the Palais-Royal in Paris some day. So I don’t really buy into the self-consciously arcane descriptions of his fragrances, but here is what the brand writes about La Vierge de Fer:

Let there be light! And darkness no more. He who wishes does not have a black soul! “I will come as a thief …” said Christ; certainly in silence and probably, for him, wearing shoes. To deserve his title, the Thief must act under the wide-open eye of the absent owners. In this case, it is not that tenuous eye with which Cain stares without regret, but another, which in some way will make an accomplice of Abel. If the fetishes, idols and charms of the Museum of Man, in Paris, had not met the 20th century, everyone would have missed that incredible mockery of Eros which The Young Ladies of Avignon certainly is. “The Negros had understood that everything which surrounds us is our enemy”, the wizard Picasso said to his paintbrush. Who, if not one of them, decided on life, by death, would dare, to unclench the teeth of this sex of the world: fear. Since it is the fruit of our entrails, it must be elevated. For that, not fearing incest, we will embrace it. In this way, she will give birth to our most beautiful monsters. That is how, a little rusty by dint of doubts, my steps have rejoined La vierge de fer (the Iron Maiden); that lily amongst the thorns.

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May Melange Marathon: Layering Zara Emotions

May Melange Marathon: Layering Zara Emotions

Today’s fragrance is a true “melange”, from the Zara Emotions line, a series of fragrances created by the perfumer Jo Malone for Zara, the clothing retailer that is known for its inexpensive yet effective fragrances. In interviews, Ms. Malone has said that the line uses raw ingredients similar to the ones she uses in her own (much more expensive) line, Jo Loves, taking advantage of Zara’s enormous global buying power; there are just fewer separate ingredients in each Zara Emotions fragrance. The Zara Emotions fragrances are pretty simple but several are very appealing, and they are designed to be easy to layer with each other. So today, I am wearing one of the brand’s recommended combinations, Waterlily Tea Dress and Amalfi Sunray.

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May Melange Marathon: Chamade

May Melange Marathon: Chamade

Not quite as legendary as some other Guerlains, Chamade nonetheless has its passionate devotees. Luca Turin gave it five stars in the original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide”, though it’s not clear whether he was reviewing parfum or eau de toilette. The most recent version I have is the eau de toilette in the “bee bottle”; it has recently been reissued by Guerlain as part of its 2021 “Patrimoine Collection”, for which six of its most famous fragrances have been bottled in the design of the original Mitsouko bottle with its hollowed heart stopper. (The list of notes for the reissued Chamade, by the way, is much shorter than that for the original, and puts some of them in a different order).

Originally created by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1969, Chamade seems to have been an attempt to bridge earlier generations of Guerlain fragrances to a new generation of fragrance that would appeal to the ascendant youth culture, catering to the Baby Boomers who entered their 20s during the 1960s. Chamade is by no means an avant-garde or hippie scent, though. It reminds me of the most senior girls at the Belgian convent school I attended for a couple of years as a young child — young ladies from good families, many of them minor aristocrats, who were picked up after school on Fridays by dashing, slightly older boyfriends driving small sports cars. The senior girls were also allowed to change out of their school uniforms on Friday afternoons, and I have a dim memory of admiring their bright A-line dresses: ladylike, expensive, but youthful. That is how Chamade strikes me: like the kind of fragrance a chic European mother or grandmother would have given then to an 18 year-old as her “first Guerlain.”

Cover of Mademoiselle magazine, girl in yellow dress with gloves and hat
Mademoiselle magazine cover, 1960.
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May Melange Marathon: White Peacock Lily

May Melange Marathon: White Peacock Lily

D.S. & Durga is a niche brand I haven’t experienced very much, partly because of their price point (high, even for samples). But when I had an opportunity to buy a reasonably priced decant of White Peacock Lily, I jumped at it, because it sounded so intriguing when it was launched in 2016. It is indeed a very lovely lily-focused fragrance. Its notes include: Top notes of Oleander, Cabreuva Rouge, and Grapefruit Pith; middle notes of White Lily, Egyptian Jasmine, Cream and “Alabaster Violet” (which I assume means white violet); base notes of Ambrette (Musk Mallow), Vanilla, and Fog. The perfumer, D.S. of D.S. & Durga, also mentions on the website that it has notes of bergamot, melon, and rose Otto.

One thing I like about the brand’s website is that each fragrance comes with detailed “liner notes”, describing the inspiration for it, with references to literature, music, etc. The liner notes for White Peacock Lily state:

The piece that inspired this perfume is called “The White Peacock” by Fiona Macleod — a Scottish woman famous throughout the highlands for her dreamy works—and set to music by Griffes. It is one of the few tone poems based on an actual poem. The music, scored for a small orchestra, takes direction from the words. Mercurial/magic harps, winding strings, quirky brass horns, and the comical buzz of clarinets describe the beautifully soft language: “cliffs of basalt, fronds of cactus, where the bulbul singeth, cream-white poppies.” In Griffes music, the listener can hear the cream white poppies, the sweeping seas of flowers, and most important the silent noble glide of the grand bird that floats above the fields of flowers.

The composer mentioned is unfamiliar to me: Charles Tomlinson Griffes. Sadly, he died of pneumonia at the age of 35, at the outset of a very promising career, in 1920 at the height of the last century’s global pandemic, influenza. Apparently one of a few of his works that are still performed is “The White Peacock”, inspiration for today’s “May Melange Marathon” fragrance.

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May Melange Marathon: Trillium

May Melange Marathon: Trillium

As regulars here know, in addition to being somewhat obsessed with fragrance, I’m also a gardener. I would say, perhaps, a longtime or experienced gardener, except that one is brought up short by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to a friend: “Tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.” So true! One is always learning in a garden, always making new discoveries.

However, the house we bought so many years ago (our first and only) came with an old garden that had been lovingly cultivated over decades by a couple who raised their own family here. They were master gardeners, and a former neighbor who knew them told me that she thought the husband had actually been a landscape architect. For years after we first moved in, every season brought new discoveries of their plantings and how cleverly they had designed and planted our garden. One such discovery was a planting of the American native wildflower, the trillium. I call it a discovery because trilliums famously appear suddenly in the early spring, then go dormant and disappear completely until the next year. I was so surprised when I came across a large clump in the wooded, back part of our garden that had seemingly come out of nowhere, and then equally surprised when I went back several weeks later and it was completely gone, like magic.

Which brings me to an intriguing artisan perfume line, House of Matriarch High Perfumery, and its fragrance Trillium.

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May Melange Marathon: La Colle Noire

May Melange Marathon: La Colle Noire

Happy May Day, and welcome to the May Melange Marathon! In previous years, I have written blogging marathons in the month of May, celebrating the lovely lily of the valley in a “May Muguet Marathon“, and my beloved roses in a “Roses de Mai Marathon.” This year, I wanted to write about a number of the green fragrances I love, but I didn’t think I had enough to post about one daily for 31 days. Also, I have some new (to me) muguet and rose fragrances. So the solution is to go with the theme of “April showers bring May flowers” and write about a melange of scents that evoke different aspects of a garden, with a mix of florals and greens.

First up: Christian Dior’s La Colle Noire. Launched in 2016, it is named for the Provence estate of designer Christian Dior, outside the legendary perfume city of Grasse. One of the reasons that Grasse became so important in perfumery is the abundance and quality of the roses that are grown there for their essential oil, especially the “Rose de Mai”, or centifolia rose, also known as the Provence rose. Perfumer Francois Demachy wrote of La Colle Noire:

“In the springtime, the Centifolia Rose takes over the garden of La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s beloved home in the Grasse region. It is an extraordinary time, when the flower’s plump, honeyed and fruity scent lingers in the air. This fragrance is an ode to that magical place and the unique rose that grows in the land of my childhood.”

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Perfume Chat Room, April 16

Perfume Chat Room, April 16

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, April 16, and spring flowers are slowly giving way to summer blossoms in my garden. I have several roses that have started to bloom; they are almost all very fragrant, as most of the ones I grow are David Austin English Roses, which he hybridized over decades to regain the strong scent and old-fashioned form of the Old Roses. In the 20th century, many hybridizers bred for color and shape, which gave us so many beautiful, classic hybrid tea roses like Chrysler, John F. Kennedy, Peace, etc., but they weren’t as fragrant as their forebears. Other hybridizers bred roses for large-scale landscaping, like the Knockout Roses, but they are barely fragrant at all. So Mr. Austin’s goal was to take some of the best qualities of 20th century roses, like disease resistance, innovative colors, and repeat blooming periods, and marry them to the shapes and scents of old classics like the “Old Roses”.

This week, I was delighted to get in the mail my long-awaited sample of a new, soon-to-be-released perfume from Parfums Dusita, which is the subject currently of a naming contest! Perfumer and brand founder Pissara Umavijani invited members of the Eau My Soul group on Facebook to suggest perfume notes we’d like to see combined, then she chose from among those and created a fragrance. Now members who took part in suggesting the notes have been sent a generous sample of the unnamed fragrance and we get to submit up to three suggestions for names! The winner will get a large bottle of the fragrance.

I just love this project. Ms. Umavijani has done something like it before in 2019, when she launched what became Splendiris, a name I love and a very beautiful fragrance. I think that fragrance was the subject of a similar contest for readers of Fragrantica, if I recall correctly.

This new scent has notes of: petit grain, Rose Damascena, tuberose absolute, white freesia, Jasmine Grandiflora, oak wood, oakmoss absolute, sandalwood, vanilla absolute, and patchouli. I haven’t tried it yet as I wanted to wait until the weekend when I could focus more on it and less on work. Don’t those notes sound gorgeous, especially if (like me) you like florals?

P.S. WordPress has just informed me that this is my 500th post on Serenity Now: Scents & Sensibilities! Wow, that feels like a lot, but it has been so much fun and still is. Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey!

Perfume Chat Room, April 2

Perfume Chat Room, April 2

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, April 2, and it is Good Friday, for those who celebrate Easter. I love Easter! Today is a solemn day in the Christian church, but it is also the start of one of my favorite holiday weekends, during one of my favorite times of year. In my part of the US, we are enjoying a full outbreak of spring, with daffodils, tulips, and other bulbs blooming in profusion, flowering trees in full blossom, green leaves tipping the tree branches, and longer days of sunshine. The fact that this week has been unusually cool and wet is letting me make up for some lost time in planting seeds that prefer to germinate in colder temperatures. There’s always a silver lining! And today, while chillier than usual, is bright and sunny.

My lilies of the valley are getting ready to bloom outdoors, which is always an opportunity for me to compare muguet-centered fragrances with the real thing. I also have a potted Easter lily for indoors, and some forced hyacinths to bring inside, so my weekend will be filled with the scents of spring. Now I just have to decide which fragrances to wear myself! As many of you know, I lean strongly toward greens and florals, which work well for spring and Easter. I’m sure my perennial favorite, Ostara, will make an appearance this weekend.

I’m happy that all three of our kids will be home for the holiday; one has also invited a friend. Our church has set up for outdoor services, with groups of seats appropriately spaced, and other safety protocols. I’m looking forward to that; they did that last week for Palm Sunday, and it was very meaningful to be back onsite, even outside. I’ll cook the usual Easter Sunday feast, with roast lamb and spring asparagus plus other assorted side dishes. If you celebrate Easter, do you have any special plans?