May Muguet Marathon: Final Round-Up

May Muguet Marathon: Final Round-Up

As today is the last day of my self-imposed May Muguet Marathon, I’ll do a brief wrap-up. Some of you who were reading this blog the last time I did this, in 2016, will know that I previously discussed some of the all-time greats among muguet fragrances. I did not repeat most of those, so I list them here if any newer reader is interested:

Diorissimo

Vintage ad and current bottle for Diorissimo eau de toilette, by Christian Dior.

Diorissimo, by Christian Dior.

Guerlain Muguet 2016

Bottle of Guerlain Muguet 2016 fragrance

Guerlain Muguet 2016

Coty Muguet des Bois

Coty "When You're in Love" ad for Muguet des Bois fragrance, by Eric

Coty “When You’re in Love” ad for Muguet des Bois

Caron Muguet du Bonheur

1960 advertisement for Caron's Muguet du Bonheur, with green and white lilies of the valley.

1960 advertisement for Caron’s Muguet du Bonheur.

Premier Muguet

Premier Muguet Bourjois

Premier Muguet by Bourjois

and some new classics:

Annick Goutal’s Le Muguet

Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley and Ivy

Jo Malone Lily of the Valley and Ivy fragrance

Olivier Polge’s Always in Bloom

Always in Bloom fragrance by Olivier Polge for Longwood Gardens

Hermes’ Muguet Porcelaine

Bottle of Hermes' Hermessence fragrance Muguet Porcelaine

Hermes Muguet Porcelaine; source http://www.uk.hermes.com.

VCA’s Muguet Blanc

VCA Muguet Blanc

Ann Gerard’s Perle de Mousse

Perle de Mousse eau de parfum; fragrance by Ann Gerard

L.I.L.Y. by Stella McCartney

L.I.L.Y. fragrance based on lily of the valley or muguet, by Stella McCartney

L.I.L.Y. fragrance by Stella McCartney. Photo: http://www.boots.ie

Lily, by Lili Bermuda

Lily fragrance collector gift set from Lili Bermuda

Lily, by Lili Bermuda

Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Decou-Vert

Bottle of Laboratotio Olfattivoa eau de parfum Decou-Vert

Decou-Vert

Last, if you haven’t overdosed on muguet by now, here are Fragrantica’s picks in 2018:

Best in Show: Lily of the Valley

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Muguet Lane! Thank you for joining me on the journey! If I’ve overlooked some muguet fragrances you’d like to suggest, please mention them in the comments!

May Muguet Marathon: Miu Miu

May Muguet Marathon: Miu Miu

Fashion house Miu Miu launched its first fragrance in 2015, Miu Miu. According to Fragrantica, it was meant to emphasize lily of the valley:

The composition of the fragrance is signed by perfumer Daniela Roche Andrier, known for her creations for the house of Prada (as well as Bvlgari, Marni, Bottega Veneta). As Danielle explains it, the focus is on lily of the valley flowers supported with floral notes of jasmine, rose and green notes, as well as a special ingredient created by Givaudan, akigalawood, which develops the scent of patchouli, notes of pepper and woody aromas of oud. The composition of Miu Miu fragrance opens in a fresh and floral manner, and as it develops it begins warmer and woodsier, says Danielle.

I was disappointed when I tried it, though I liked it, because to me the lily of the valley note was not evident enough. Miu Miu felt to me like a pretty, greenish floral, but I really didn’t experience it as a muguet-centric fragrance, in spite of the stated focus and the promotional materials featuring a gorgeous lily of the valley textile design.

Bottle of Miu Miu fragrance and lily of the valley textile

Miu Miu fragrance; image from http://www.internetwhatever.com

Next came Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue, in 2017. Ah, that’s more like it! The dewy greenness of this flanker correlates better, to my nose, to lily of the valley. The fragrance reads as crisper and greener than the original. Also, I greatly prefer L’Eau Bleue’s bottle over the first Miu Miu — the clear turquoise glass and light yellow top really appeal to me, and the brightness of the clear blue glass matches the brightness and transparency of this fragrance. It is a happy, cheerful, spring-into-summer fragrance. Later in the summer heat, I will probably want Un Jardin Sur le Nil, which is marvelous in really hot weather, but for spring and early summer, L’Eau Bleue is a lovely choice. Perfumer Daniela Andrier clearly has a way with floral notes; when I looked her up on Fragrantica, I was surprised to see how many of her creations I know and like, including many she did for Prada, like the marvelous Infusion d’Iris and dozens of others. (Ms. Andrier was also the perfumer behind Tiffany’s new fragrance, Tiffany & Co., an elegant floral scent launched in 2017 and a new favorite of mine).

Fragrance ad for Miu Miu L'Eau Bleue, with bottle and kitten

Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue; image from http://www.store.miumiu.com.

And now comes Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee. Yes, as the name suggests, it is pink. The muguet heart note is joined by peony and rose, as well as peach and pear, and this third flanker is more of a fruity floral than the first two scents. It isn’t sugary or sweet, though, and it has a pleasant gingery, spicy, light woodiness to its drydown, which lingers for several hours after first application. Like the other Miu Mius, it has a playfulness and sprightliness that is youthful and appealing.

Bottle of Miu Miu L'Eau Rosee fragrance with kitten

Miu Miu L’Eau Rosee

The lily of the valley note is present, albeit one created by hints of gardenia, tuberose, jasmine, and honeysuckle, according to the notes listed on the Miu Miu website, but the pink peony note is the most dominant. They blend well together, and this flanker retains the dewiness of its predecessor. It is also an appealing option for spring and summer, but if you really want muguet, you should look to L’Eau Bleue or some of the other fragrances in this May Muguet Marathon. Have you tried the original Miu Miu or either of its flankers? What did you think?

 

 

 

May Muguet Marathon: I Love NY for Earth Day

May Muguet Marathon: I Love NY for Earth Day

I haven’t tried many Bond No. 9 fragrances, partly because of their prices, partly because they sometimes seem a bit gimmicky, and partly because their bottles don’t appeal to me. I don’t often think of myself being that affected by a fragrance’s bottle, although I really love some of the beautiful bottles one sees and can sometimes be swayed to buy a fragrance because of one (have you seen the adorable new Nina Ricci Bella? I’m hoping they will do a coffret of minis with the other “apple” bottles!). But I’ve rarely felt put off a fragrance because of the bottle. Daisy is another bottle that doesn’t appeal to me AT ALL, though I love the Daisy Dream bottles. I’ve successfully resisted buying any of them, though.

Bottles of different Bond No. 9 I Love NY fragrances

Bond No. 9 I Love NY fragrances; image from http://www.parfumo.net

Today’s fragrance with lily of the valley in it is Bond No. 9’s I Love NY for Earth Day. I found it at a great discount at a local store, with I Love NY for the Holidays, and thought, why not? So they both came home with me. I lived in New York for several years, and grew up outside The City, as we called it, and I do appreciate how Bond No. 9 has worked to create scents that capture various aspects of New York life and different New York neighborhoods. I really enjoyed For the Holidays and have been looking forward to trying Earth Day.

Here’s the thing: Earth Day is a lovely fragrance, very floral, but I get almost no lily of the valley from it! From reading other reviews, I know that my experience differs from others’, as a number of commenters and reviewers have said they found the lily of the valley to be very prominent. My experience of the fragrance was much more like the review by John Reasinger at CaFleureBon: all about the tuberose. And in fact, this seems more like what its creators intended, based on this excerpt from their promotional materials when Earth Day was launched in 2011, which I found on The Candy Perfume Boy blog:

“Like New York, this lush green tuberose is also sophisticated and assured. Its wakeup opening notes, sprightly tangerine and orange flower water, blended with more tropical orchid, segue into the heart of the scent: a stunning floral composed of intoxicating tuberose, lily of the valley, and orris. Base notes of durable musk, amber, oakmoss, and sandalwood sustain this heady bouquet.”

So now that we’ve put the muguet to bed, so to speak, what is Earth Day like? To me, it is very tuberose-forward, teetering on the brink of too much without tipping over the edge. If I applied more than a couple of modest sprays, though, I think it would overwhelm. Tuberose is such a complicated fragrance note: in real life, the flowers’ scent is intoxicating, so much so that an oft-repeated legend is that in some countries, young women were forbidden to walk among gardens of tuberose lest they be overcome by lust! Perfumer Pierre Benard spoke at length about the note with Fragrantica, and the interview is well worth reading, as it leaps from science and chemistry to perfume to history: Tuberose: Flower, Scent, History, and Perfume.

tuberose flower

Tuberose flower; image from http://www.attarperfumes.net

Earth Day is supposed to be a unisex fragrance, but to me it is very feminine, because of its strong floral nature and the voluptuousness of the tuberose. I don’t think of men as “voluptuous”, although that may be my own limitation more than anything else! And this is a somewhat voluptuous scent, though not languorous. The city of New York has an energy and liveliness that is captured in this fragrance. What comes to mind? Princess Giselle in Central Park, in the movie Enchanted:

Princess Giselle in Central Park, NY, from Disney movie Enchanted

GIselle in Central Park; image from http://www.disney.com

Not a muguet, but definitely a happy, lively, green floral scent, with, as another reviewer said, a “sprightly tangerine” opening. It is very appealing on the right day and in the right weather, which to me would be spring and summer. Try it! But not if you dislike tuberose. Have you tried any other I Love NY fragrances? Which do you like, and why?

 

May Muguet Marathon: Live in Love

May Muguet Marathon: Live in Love

Another affordable muguet-focused fragrance comes from Oscar de la Renta: Live in Love. Launched in 2011, it was created by Jean-Marc Chaillan, Carlos Benaim, and Ann Gottlieb, according to Fragrantica. Top notes are hyacinth, galbanum, bergamot, lily-of-the-valley and orchid; middle notes are jasmine, african orange flower and rose; base notes are sandalwood, virginia cedar, woodsy notes, amber and musk.

Racked published an interview with M. de la Renta when this fragrance was launched:

… the notes in the fragrance were inspired by his own vast garden, which includes a sparkling ginger orchid that was flown in from France. De la Renta, if you didn’t know, feels very passionate about flowers, particularly their scents: “I think that a flower that doesn’t smell is like a woman with no fragrance. For example, one flower that they say is an unbelievable flower is the camellia; it’s a shame that it doesn’t smell. It’s such a beautiful flower but it has no scent. I wonder why Chanel decided to use camellia.”

The bottle itself is very pretty, eight-sided with a sectioned top. According to the Racked interview, the name came from a tattoo that M. de la Renta glimpsed on the arm of one of his colleagues during the creation of Live in Love; he was so intrigued by the phrase that he made it his new fragrance’s name.

The opening isn’t particularly reminiscent of lily of the valley, though it is very pleasant: bright bergamot that morphs into a light, fresh floral. As it evolves, the fragrance actually gets a bit greener than that very first stage when the galbanum emerges. Fragrantica readers find the lily of the valley and hyacinth notes most prominent, but I don’t. Most of what I smell is the African orange flower. Again, very pleasant, but not muguet! As it continues to dry down, it continues to be a fresh, pleasant, light floral, but not one where it is easy to pick out specific notes. Live in Love would be a good everyday office scent, especially in spring or summer, but if you’re looking for a true muguet-centric fragrance, it will disappoint you.

May Muguet Marathon: Gucci Envy

May Muguet Marathon: Gucci Envy

One of the great pleasures of reading Turin and Sanchez’ guide to perfumes is the occasional surprised snort of laughter when one of their reviews snarkily turns a phrase that perfectly captures their — and your — experience of a fragrance. One of my favorites: “cK IN2U Her: OMG PU. Insanely strong fruit meets insanely strong woody amber. KTHXBYE.”

The snarky humor applies evenly to perfumes they praise, such as Gucci Envy:

Envy (Gucci) ***** green floral $$

Maurice Roucel has a knack for putting together perfumes that feel haunted by the ghostly presence of a woman: Lyra was a compact, husky-voiced Parisienne, Tocade a tanned, free-as-air Amazon. These have another Roucel hallmark, the spontaneity of the unpolished gem. When subjected to the full grind of the marketing department, Roucel’s style can become cramped and tends toward brilliant pastiches of classical fragrances: 24, Faubourg; L’Instant; Insolence. Envy is to my knowledge the only time when the balance between Roucel’s magic and the real world gave rise to a work that, like a diamond, needed both heat and pressure to form. My recollection is that Envy was panel-tested again and again while Roucel adjusted it until it outperformed Pleasures, then at the top of its arc of fame. It is amusing to think that such a comparison between apples and pears could be considered meaningful. However, it did constrain the woman inside Envy to be at once seraphic and suburban, complete with the sort of suppressed anger that such a creature would feel at being reincarnated as a florist in eastern New Jersey.

Why a florist? People describing fragrances often describe very green, hyacinth-dominant scents as smelling like the inside of a florist’s refrigerator. And that is the major impression of Envy after the sharp, tangy-green opening. Envy’s heart notes are: hyacinth, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, violet and iris, after an opening that is dominated by bergamot and freesia with support from minor top notes of peach, magnolia, and pineapple (for the record, I don’t smell pineapple, but that could be because my bottle of Envy is several years old; it was discontinued).

The muguet note is very prominent in Envy, but it isn’t soapy AT ALL, unlike some lily of the valley scents. It is green all the way, with hyacinth hot on its heels and gaining ground throughout Envy’s progression. Fragrantica has an interesting summary, describing it as a “metal accord surrounded by a floral bouquet”:

Envy could be compared to a breeze that brings spring into the city. Its architecture is modern; it denies gaudiness, accentuating minimalism. The composition starts with green notes with a cool metal note that freezes the senses. Gradually the scent warms up due to woody notes and musk.

Envy does start off as a very cool, contained, green scent, and I can understand the comparison to cold metal, given the “florist’s refrigerator” vibe it gives off, especially in the first hour or so. Maybe the seraph of Luca Turin’s imagination is trapped inside the florist’s refrigerator, not reincarnated as the suburban florist.

Gradually, Envy starts showing glimmers of — not warmth, exactly, but a mossy woodiness that grounds it. The base notes are oakmoss, sandalwood, cedar, musk, and jasmine. The green notes from the muguet, hyacinth, and freesia are still powerfully present, but the fragrance takes on an earthiness that brings them back to ground. The progression of Envy resembles the slow descent of a winged, green creature whose feet lightly touch the mossy floor of a forest.

Novel Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green Angel, by Alice Hoffman

I haven’t yet read the book Green Angel, whose cover is featured above, but in my search for an image that captured the final stage of Gucci Envy, this popped up and it seemed just right. The College Gardener has a brief review of the book, and it may have to go on my reading waitlist. That’s for another day. In the meantime, I have to go liberate a green seraph who has been imprisoned within a tall bottle of eau de toilette.

Bottle of Gucci Envy eau de toilette

Gucci Envy

Featured image above from Angels, by Olga Rezo.

May Muguet Marathon: Queen

May Muguet Marathon: Queen

For such a modest looking plant, lily of the valley keeps some surprises up its green sleeves. For one thing, the power of its fragrance is surprising; its flowers are so small, often partly hidden behind its upright green leaves, that one wouldn’t necessarily expect them to send out such a strong scent. But they do, and it can waft across an entire garden, surprising the casual visitor with its presence, and not necessarily revealing its source without a search. The “pips” of the plant are unprepossessing; they look like a small bundle of tangled roots topped by a growing tip. One plants them in the faith that a green plant will emerge — and when it does emerge in the spring, it can do so overnight.

Town & Country magazine published some surprising facts about lilies of the valley a couple of years ago: 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Lily of the Valley. With another royal wedding in the offing this month, it is fun to note how many royal brides have carried lilies of the valley in their wedding bouquets: Queen Victoria, Princess Astrid of Sweden, Grace Kelly, and Kate Middleton, among others.

But here is the most surprising thing I learned from the Town & Country article: Freddie Mercury and Queen wrote and recorded a song titled “Lily of the Valley”! Who knew?

And there is a powerful story behind the song. Guitarist Brian May, a founder of Queen, told a British music magazine in 1999 (several years after Freddie Mercury’s death from AIDS): “Freddie’s stuff was so heavily cloaked, lyrically… But you could find out, just from little insights, that a lot of his private thoughts were in there, although a lot of the more meaningful stuff was not very accessible. Lily of the Valley was utterly heartfelt. It’s about looking at his girlfriend and realising that his body needed to be somewhere else. It’s a great piece of art, but it’s the last song that would ever be a hit.”

According to Wikipedia, that girlfriend was Mary Austin, to whom May had introduced him and with whom Mercury had a long live-in relationship in the early 1970s, until he began an affair with a male executive in the music industry.

Mercury told Austin of his sexuality, which ended their romantic relationship.[59][78] Mercury moved out of the flat they shared, into 12 Stafford Terrace in Kensington and bought Austin a place of her own nearby.[59] They remained close friends through the years, with Mercury often referring to her as his only true friend. In a 1985 interview, Mercury said of Austin, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary [Austin], but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.”[79] He also wrote several songs about Austin, the most notable of which is “Love of My Life“. Mercury’s final home, Garden Lodge, 1 Logan Place, a twenty-eight room Georgian mansion in Kensington set in a quarter-acre manicured garden surrounded by a high brick wall, had been picked out by Austin.[80] In his will, Mercury left his London home to Austin, rather than his partner Jim Hutton, saying to her, “You would have been my wife, and it would have been yours anyway.”[81] Mercury was also the godfather of Austin’s oldest son, Richard.[60]

The song “Lily of the Valley” has been recorded by other artists. Why the title “Lily of the Valley”? No one knows for sure, but one wonders if Mercury had in mind one of several other names for the flower, Mary’s Tears. Regardless, this surprising flower with its secrets seems like an appropriate metaphor for the dilemma of a sensitive, loving man, realizing what his true orientation was and struggling with how to tell a woman he clearly loved deeply Although at one point he had proposed marriage to Mary, they never married because he was honest with her about his sexuality. The flowers of lily of the valley seem to have had ongoing meaning to him; when he and actress Jane Seymour had a pretend “wedding” at Royal Albert Hall at the fundraiser Fashion Aid, she wore lilies of the valley in her wreath of flowers, like so many other queens and queens-to-be.

Queen's Freddie Mercury and Jane Seymour at Fashion Aid, 1985.

Freddie Mercury and Jane Seymour at Fashion Aid, 1985.

Featured image: Freddie Mercury and actress Jane Seymour, pretend wedding at Fashion Aid in 1985; photo from http://www.imgur.com.

May Muguet Marathon: Jessica McClintock

May Muguet Marathon: Jessica McClintock

Raise your hand if you’ve ever owned a garment by Jessica McClintock or Gunne Sax? That’s right — most of us females can put our hands down now. First under the name Gunne Sax, then under her own name, designer Jessica McClintock made the skirts and dresses teenaged girls wanted, from the 1960s until 2013, when she ceased manufacturing and retired. The company long dominated the market for girls’ special occasion dresses, but it also had a strong presence in the market for wedding dresses. Its specialty was figure-flattering, somewhat modest, feminine dresses, evolving from its 1970s-1980s look of prairie-style high necks and puffed sleeves. Thirty years ago, she launched her own fragrance, Jessica McClintock, and it became as ubiquitous as her dresses — maybe more so, as it appeals to a wider age range than the girls and young women who flocked to her racks for prom, special occasion, and wedding dresses. The fragrance continues to be licensed and sold, and you will find it almost everywhere, often in a gift set.

Jessica McClintock gift set

Jessica McClintock fragrance; image from http://www.evine.com

Like her dresses, Jessica McClintock is a “safe” buy, but also very pretty and reasonably priced. The Washington Post summed up the brand’s aesthetic perfectly in this article addressed to Jessica McClintock herself (yes, she’s a real person):

Your dresses set the stage for some of our most memorable and awkward high school experiences — and you let us feel picture perfect for those moments. (We might not have had Facebook, but as any ‘90s girl knows, disposable camera photos are forever.)

You were our introduction to strapless dresses, our testing ground for colorblocking. You taught us to embrace polka dots and satin ribbons and ruching at the waist (that one we really owe you for). But most importantly, you helped us feel pretty and sexy before we really knew what pretty and sexy felt like. Those sweetheart necklines, those curvy waists — we were Oscars stars, posing for our parents at backyard pre-prom ceremonies like they were red carpet paparazzi.

They were sweet, simple, attractive dresses, ones that we and our moms could both agree on. No zebra print or cutouts or questionably placed sequins — these were classic dresses that “showed off our shape,” as our mothers would say when we waltzed out of the department store dressing room. We thought we looked beautiful and grown-up in those strapless A-line frocks, and miraculously, our mothers agreed. And it’s no small feat to find common ground between a teenage girl and her mother. You, Jessica McClintock, accomplished the impossible.

But then you did more than that: You made us happy with our bodies. There is no more self-conscious creature than a teenage girl, with her ever-expanding hips and chest and her gawky arrangements of limbs. But your body-skimming frocks, cinched in at the waist with helpful boning in the bodice to remind us to stand up straight, worked with our changing bodies, not against them. We felt safe and secure in all that sturdy satin (er, polyester), feminine in those layers of tulle and beautiful with our shoulders (because who doesn’t like their shoulders?) exposed like grown-up women.

Or, as her longtime divisional designer Erena Shklovsky told Bustle magazine:

Even more relieving for parents was the fact that McClintock’s dresses flattered figures without showcasing too much of them. That made the designer an outlier in the increasingly provocative prom market, which now favors cut-outs over class. “Jessica, she had two points of view on prom: She had designs for good girls, and we had designs for sexy girls,” Shklovsky says. “But even our sexy girls were still good girls.”

And that’s what the fragrance is like: sweet but not too sweet, pretty, tasteful, a little sexy but still innocent, and something both teenagers and their mothers can like. And a bargain, too!

The fragrance has remained popular all these years because it really is good. It’s not great, it’s not a masterpiece, it won’t blow anyone’s socks off, but it’s just a really nice, wearable scent with more character than the tidal wave of fruity florals that has drenched the market in recent years. Per Fragrantica: “Top notes are cassia, basil, ylang-ylang, bergamot, black currant and lemon; middle notes are jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are musk and woody notes.” When I first spray JMC, I get a burst of tart citrus, evenly divided between the bergamot and lemon. The cassia, black currant and basil add to the tartness and inject herbal greenness.

Very quickly, the lily of the valley steps to the fore. Or, as Victoria at EauMG says: “BAM. Lily of the valley all up in yo face. Plus some citrus. And some greens.” On my skin, I don’t smell much of the rose and jasmine in the middle stage, but I can sort of tell they are there, hovering around the perimeter and adding some nuance to the lily of the valley. The green, herbal notes of the opening phase persist, and make this more of an aromatic floral than, say, a white floral. Given that the citrus notes, as usual, vanish quite early, the ongoing tartness that provides the contrast to the lily of the valley note is likely from the cassia and blackcurrant. If you know what the plants look like, there is also a pleasing reference to the visual contrast between the shiny black fruit of the blackcurrant and the pure white bells of lily of the valley.

Here’s something worth noting: I ended up having much more to say about Jessica McClintock than I had expected. And that too is characteristic of this fragrance: there is more to it than one might think, and its appeal sneaks up on you.

Close up of lily of the valley flowers

Lily of the valley; image from http://www.pixabay.com

cassis-berry

Blackcurrant berries and leaves