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

Perfume Chat Room, May 7

Perfume Chat Room, May 7

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, May 7, and it is Day 7 of my “May Melange Marathon.” Thank you to the Perfume Chat Room regulars who approved that name for my annual blogging marathon! I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, check out my daily posts!

The house repairs and updates continue: plumbing and plastering are done, next come tile and trim repair and painting. Painting is really the fun part; most of the rooms will be repainted the same colors, but some will have different shades and two will be an entirely new color. For instance, the pink bathroom that our kids shared for many years will remain pink, but now it will be a more sophisticated shade with some grey undertones, called “Proposal” (though I’m still debating another shade called “First Light”). The blue bathroom off our son’s room will be a darker blue than it is now, a wonderful shade called “Wedgewood Gray.” That bathroom is also getting new light fixtures, a new medicine cabinet, and new mirrors and shelving to go with the rebuilt shower. I’m excited about it, small as it is; it will look great when it’s done.

Now that my house is coming back together, and the school year is almost over, I am feeling way more motivated to tidy up my perfume collection, which has slowly spread into all available space in the bedroom I share with my patient husband — and some space that’s not really available! I have two weeks of “staycation” coming up, so I hope to get a lot done. I have some great IKEA storage boxes I use, but they need reorganizing. I’m thinking of using some of those storage labels with QR codes one can associate with photos of items or keywords — have any of you used those? Thoughts?

Photo: my own, taken at Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561, Florence, Italy, July 2019.
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: 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, March 26

Perfume Chat Room, March 26

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, March 26, and we’ve just had some of the worst thunderstorms I can recall, all night last night. The thunder and lightning were truly epic — as in, my whole garden was lit up like a fairground every time the lightning flashed. Fairgrounds are on my mind, because I’ve been sampling Serge Lutens’ Bapteme du Feu, and that is apparently what it is meant to evoke, with its offbeat combination of gingerbread and gunpowder. It’s actually very intriguing, and I’m going to order a discounted tester.

The vaccinations continue apace; my son is now eligible, and he will get his first shot tomorrow. I’m very relieved, although it appears he must have had COVID-19 already in 2020 — we had him tested for antibodies when he came home from college for winter break, and he had them! He and we still have no idea when he might have had the virus, as he never felt unwell or showed symptoms, or tested positive under a regular screening program once he was at college. Anyway, it’s a great relief that he’ll get the protection of the vaccine and also help protect others by having it.

Spring has truly sprung in my part of the world; if it doesn’t keep raining this weekend, I plan to go out and take many photos of all of blossoms, including the spectacular pink azaleas with which my garden was blessed by long-ago owners. Their only flaw is that they aren’t fragrant. What are your plans for the weekend?

French fairground carousel
Carousel in Nice, 2019
Perfume Chat Room, February 26

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

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, February 26 — almost the end of the month! We are two months into 2021 — how is this year going for you so far? On some of the other blogs I follow, readers are sharing their experiences of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and their relief at having done so. I’m very happy for them, and I look forward to achieving that milestone myself as soon as possible. It seems so strange to think that it has been just about a year since the world began to shut down. I remember helping to distribute information to university students last February, about a new virus that had recently appeared, and the recommended (at that time) precautions such as frequent handwashing. At the very start of March 2020, we kept to our plan of taking our son to Jamaica as part of an organized trip by many seniors’ families; it was his “big” graduation gift. I took sanitizing wipes with us and wiped down our seats on the plane, to my son’s chagrin, then the high-touch surfaces in our hotel room although at that time, Jamaica had not yet had any cases of the novel coronavirus.

We had a wonderful time, we came home, and by the end of March, my husband and I were both working from home, school went remote, spring sports were canceled, and all the traditional events of our son’s senior spring in high school and our daughter’s senior spring at college were canceled. Her graduation was entirely remote; his was postponed until the summer, when it was held outside with limited, distanced, and masked attendance. We were so glad that at least we took that last trip, since we had to cancel all our other travel plans, which had included a family summer trip to London, Paris, and Normandy to celebrate the two graduations, two big birthdays in 2020, and a major wedding anniversary. Our oldest daughter moved home after having lost the two jobs she was working, one in theater and the other in trade show planning. All of that and more, just within the last 12 months.

Yet I’m very thankful that no one close to me has suffered the worst of COVID-19, though sadly some friends lost elderly parents, and we haven’t been able to visit my father-in-law in a year. He was safely vaccinated in late December, so we hope to be able to see him as soon as we get vaccinated ourselves. Miraculously, the continuing care community where he lives had not one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff in all of 2020 (and to date, as far as we know). One daughter, who teaches, had COVID herself in the fall but she had a fairly mild case and seems to have recovered fully. I was thankful to have her living at home where we could take care of her. We haven’t yet revived any travel plans further afield than anywhere we can drive to, but Paris is still calling! Think of all the $$ I will have saved to spend on perfume by the time we get there …

This has turned into more of a “What Went Well” post. So in that vein, what went well for you this week, or month, or year so far? Or, to bring it back to fragrance, if you were planning a trip to Paris, what fragrance sites would you visit and what fragrances would be on your Paris shopping list?

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

I recently obtained a mini of vintage Dioressence eau de toilette, in a blue-marbled box with a small, squarish splash bottle that resembles the vintage houndstooth bottles of other Dior fragrances from the 1980s. It is so well-suited to the current fickle weather we’re having in mid-February! I love all my spring floral fragrances but I don’t yet feel ready to pull them out again, other than an occasional spritz of Ostara to remind me that the daffodils are on their way. We’ve had weeks of cold and rain, though I’m thankful to have missed the deep freeze and unexpected snowstorms that hit other parts of the country this month. But Dioressence feels right today, as the sun shines brightly over a still-chilly landscape and my garden, where I have new raised beds that are full of soil but not yet planted.

The version I have dates from the 1980s, and it is a 1979 rework of the original, done by Max Gavarry, who worked with Guy Robert to create the original in the 1960s. I love the story of its origins, as told by Luca Turin to Chandler Burr and described in Burr’s book “The Emperor of Scent.” Apparently Guy Robert had been tasked with creating a new scent for Christian Dior that would launch with a new collection of Christian Dior ready-to-wear furs, and the brief was to create something very animalic but related to earlier Dior fragrances like Miss Dior while also contrasting with them. He was wrestling with this problem when he went to a broker’s office in London to assess some real ambergris for potential purchase. Turin’s recounting, via Burr:

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