May Muguet Marathon: Lilia Bella

May Muguet Marathon: Lilia Bella

To start off our month of muguets, I’ve chosen discontinued Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lila Bella. Created in 2001 by Jean Paul Guerlain himself, it was one of the early entries in the Aqua Allegoria line. Monsieur Guerlain, the blogging expert on all things Guerlain, writes that perfumer Mathilde Laurent collaborated on the first five Aqua Allegorias, but that would not include Lilia Bella. Like all the earlier Aqua Allegorias, Lilia Bella comes in a bee bottle housed in a pretty box with a botanical watercolor of the featured flower and the Guerlain monogram:

Bottle and package of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lilia Bella.

Aqua Allegoria Lilia Bella, by Guerlain.

Lilia Bella launched early enough to be included in Turin and Sanchez’ guide to perfumes, where it got a dismissive “A pleasant, well-executed lily soliflore, if you like that sort of thing” and three stars. Well, I do like that sort of thing, and I like Lilia Bella. It opens with unspecified “green notes” that smell a bit like wet grass, not at all like the powerhouse green notes of, say, Chanel No. 19. This dewiness suits the original idea of the Aqua Allegoria line, which is meant to suggest a morning walk through a garden. There is almost a tone of green cucumber, but not actually cucumber; that impression is fleeting, but it is enough to remind me of Jean-Claude Ellena’s last Hermessence for the house of Hermes, the lovely Muguet Porcelaine.  Very quickly, the lily of the valley (or muguet) note appears, paired with lilac. The lilac sweetens the lily of the valley and tones down its green notes while complementing it overall.

One lovely touch in the packaging is that the little bells of the muguet flowers, normally pure white in nature, as above, are tinted to make them visible against the white background of the box. The tint is a very pale lilac-mauve-pink, evoking the muguet’s floral partner in this fragrance.

There are, actually, pale pink lilies of the valley; I have had one in my garden for several years, although it doesn’t flourish and spread like the white ones. On the other hand, in the warm climate where I garden, the white ones aren’t nearly as aggressive as they are up North, either. In any climate, the pink one, Convallaris majalis “Rosea” is not as fragrant as the white ones, but it is very pretty.

Blossoms of pink lily of the valley Rosea

Convallaris majalis “Rosea”; photo from http://www.jacksonandperkins.com

Monsieur Guerlain has written that Lilia Bella originated as a new Guerlain Muguet, sold under that name in 1998 and 1999. This was a successor to the much earlier Guerlain Muguet, created in 1908 by Jacques Guerlain, and discontinued in 1960. The new Muguet was off the market from 2000-2005, the period when the same fragrance seems to have been launched and sold as Aqua Allegoria Lilia Bella. In 2006,  Lilia Bella was discontinued under that name, and Guerlain began its new tradition of issuing the Muguet fragrance in a limited edition annual bottle every May 1, the May Day when the French traditionally give bouquets of muguet. The Muguet limited edition bottles are very beautiful, and very expensive. In 2016, Guerlain launched a new Muguet fragrance, created by Thierry Wasser, in the limited edition bottle that I think is the most beautiful.

Bottle of Guerlain Muguet 2016 fragrance

Guerlain Muguet 2016

Monsieur Guerlain also writes, in comparing Jean-Paul’s muguet to that of Jacques: “The lily of the valley note was still romantic, but effortlessly lifelike and fresh like an expensive bar of French soap. The addition of lilac gave it a very spring-like sensation of femininity, while rose and jasmine added natural depth and bloom. We recognize the cheerful, sunny style of an Aqua Allegoria.” I agree. As the rose and jasmine take their places behind the lily of the valley note, they add depth without diminishing the muguet. And yes, as Lilia Bella dries down, it does smell like a bar of expensive French or Italian soap, in a good way. On my skin, the sillage is moderate, and longevity is mid-range (5-6 hours). This is a very pretty scent, and it does evoke the scent of a dewy garden in the early morning of what will become a sunny day. Now, who doesn’t like that sort of thing?

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear?

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear?

This weekend I will be attending a major gala event, a centennial gathering that will include a former President, Senators, and a range of attendees from middle-aged millionaires to current students. I’ve narrowed down the outfit to two options: a navy lace top over a floor-length navy, bias-cut, skirt covered with tiny navy sequins, or a floor-length sapphire blue gown with a “portrait” off-the-shoulder neckline. I’ve figured out that I should do my hair in a simple up-do. But which of my many fragrances should I wear from my collection???

This is an opportunity to wear something much more formal than I usually do. I have the Modern set of Amouage Miniatures for Women:

Set of six miniature Amouage fragrances for women

Amouage Modern Miniatures for Women

It includes: Lyric, Epic, Honour, Memoir, Interlude and Fate. I also have Amouage Gold for Women. I’m leaning toward an Amouage fragrance as they tend toward the formal and last so long. Also, if I use one of the miniatures, I can take it along with me in my evening purse.

On the other hand, I have dozens of lovely samples, any one of which would be enough to last me for one evening, including some Chanels and Guerlains. I have a few sprays left of vintage Chanel No. 22 eau de toilette, from my “salad days.” And I live close enough to a Neiman Marcus that I could, in fact, walk in and drench myself from a Roja Dove tester or one of their many other fragrance delights (I love NM and their nice fragrance sales associates. If I ever bring myself to buy the Guerlain Muguet 2016 in the silver-encased bottle, it will be there).

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Roja Dove

Maybe tonight is an opportunity to wear the gorgeous Taif Rose attar my husband brought me from Dubai! I could even layer it with one of the others …

Taif Rose

I also have a new, unopened bottle of Orquidea Negra from The Perfumery Barcelona, which we visited in January. If you ever get a chance to go, do! The owner is delightful and spent quite some time chatting with us and showing us different fragrances. Orquidea Negra is a creation of perfumer Daniel Josier, but the boutique carries other niche brands too; most are unusual and hard to find.

Dear Reader: What would you advise? Scent me, please!

Fragrance Friday: Jackie

This week, I flew to Washington, D.C. for work, and on the plane I watched the movie “Jackie”, starring the beautiful Natalie Portman as the late First Lady. The movie imagines her reactions during the week of JFK’s assassination, including her thoughts about his legacy and her role in shaping it, and her famous interview with Life magazine, when she compared JFK’s White House to Camelot.

Jacqueline Kennedy in pink suit and pillbox hat, riding with JFK in limo in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

November 22, 1963. Photo by Reuters.

It is a powerful, moving film. Ms. Portman’s performance is wonderful, alternating between heartbreak, anger, shrewd calculation, and maternal protectiveness. In flashbacks, we see her work to support her husband’s administration, bringing youth, glamour and style to a White House that hadn’t see much of those under Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, Truman and Eisenhower. We also see her fitting herself into Washington and taking her place as a leader there in society and the arts. That would have been no small task, as I was reminded on my recent visit; I am always struck by the aura of raw power that Washington projects, with its massive, monumental government buildings, the huge Capitol, the wide boulevards, the show of muscular strength, the many statues of powerful men, the many powerful living men who run the nation there. It is so ironic that Washington’s iconic flower associated with the city is the delicate, feminine, evanescent cherry blossom. I see a similar contrast between Jackie, the feminine lover of the arts and all beauty, and the city where she had to find her place.

Jackie Kennedy, JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Eisenhower at JFK's inauguration in 1961

Kennedy Inauguration, 1961.

One especially powerful scene shows Jackie showering, at last, upon her return to the White House as a new widow, right after the assassination. It shows her naked back, with her husband’s blood running down her back in the hot water as it washes out of her hair. We know that Mrs. Kennedy was splattered with blood, as close as she was to JFK when he was shot, and that she wore the same pink suit on the plane back to DC from Dallas. It is reasonable to surmise that the first shower she took washed away blood. Horrible to know this happened to any human being, but it is a very moving, vulnerable moment in the film.

The same scene shows, briefly, an array of fragrances on a shelf. Most appear to be Guerlain, in the fleeting glimpse I got. I think I spotted Shalimar, an unidentifed bee bottle, a bottle of either Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue, and possibly one of Jicky. There was a clear view of Bal a Versailles, from Jean Desprez. Great product placement by Guerlain…

This got me wondering: what perfumes did Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis actually wear in real life? According to one source, she did wear Bal a Versailles and Jicky. She is also said to have worn Joy, and 1000, by Jean Patou, Fleurissimo, by Creed, Lovely Patchouli, by Krigler, and Jil Sander No. 4.

All of those fragrances have very different personalities.  How interesting that a First Lady, whose outer image is consistent with, say, Joy and Fleurissimo, also wore sexy powerhouses like Jicky and Bal a Versailles. All floral fragrances, but oh so different in so many ways! Fleurissimo, said to have been created for Grace Kelly on the occasion of her wedding to the Prince of Monaco: delicate, virginal, a fragrance for a bride veiled in white.

Jackie Kennedy's portrait in wedding dress

Jacqueline Kennedy

Joy, a sophisticated, elegant “evening perfume”, made in France and said to be “the most expensive perfume in the world” when it was launched.

Jackie Kennedy wears Givenchy evening gown to Versailles on state visit to France

Jacqueline Kennedy wearing Givenchy to Versailles

Her choice of Jicky and Bal a Versailles, however, suggest a more complex, assertive Jackie. Female, as opposed to feminine. Bold and confident when necessary, or desirable.

Jackie Kennedy in yellow at Hyannisport

Jacqueline Kennedy

What a complicated, lovely woman she was. I’m glad to have been reminded of her this past week, and also glad to have been able to see the fleeting clouds of cherry blossoms. Let’s not forget that many of those fragile cherry trees have outlived the men who planted them and walked under their boughs. Maybe they are not as fragile as they look.

Blossoming cherry trees and the Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC

Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial

May Muguet Marathon: Guerlain Muguet 2016

May Muguet Marathon: Guerlain Muguet 2016

Deep breath. I am not an experienced perfumista and I’m not sure I can do justice to this new Guerlain, but I will do my best. The new Guerlain Muguet 2016 is an entirely new eau de toilette by Guerlain’s in-house perfumer, Thierry Wasser. It builds on the tradition, begun in 2006, of Guerlain releasing its 1998 formulation of Guerlain Muguet every year in a different limited edition bottle on May 1, the day when traditionally the French present bunches of lilies of the valley to friends and loved ones as a “porte-bonheur”, a good luck token or “bringer of happiness.” So to start, I defer to “Monsieur Guerlain”, the longtime blogger and Guerlain aficonado, to describe Guerlain’s tradition: Muguet.

As you can see, the limited edition bottles are all beautiful, including this most recent one, which is a crystal bottle encased in silver-plated filigree, designed by the Parisian jewelers Ambre & Louise and influenced by the Art Nouveau master Alphonse Mucha. I saw the actual bottle at Neiman Marcus on May 1 this year, which I visited for the express purpose of trying this new Muguet. Continue reading