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.
Not many lily of the valley fragrances have been launched in recent years, although they were very popular during most of the 20th century. Their very popularity during that era may have pushed them to the back seat in our own day, as many today associate the fragrance of muguet with older relatives, even grandmothers (I happen to think that smelling like an elegant grandmother is infinitely preferable to smelling like an insipid celebrity, but chacun a son gout!). It is even more rare for a niche brand to launch a muguet fragrance these days, one exception being By Kilian’s Kissing.
Byredo, however, launched a muguet-centered fragrance in 2013: Inflorescence. The brand describes it thus: “A celebration of Spring’s early blooming flowers. A floral scent capturing the strength and delicacy of wild garden blossoms, as they reach their breathtaking beauty.” It is also described as having the following notes:
- Top: Pink Freesia, Rose Petals
- Heart: Lily of the Valley, Magnolia
- Base: Fresh Jasmine
As The Candy Perfume Boy notes, Inflorescence has a very appealing combination of creamy petals with fresh, light, green-tinged floral notes. That jasmine base really lasts a long time — I sprayed some on a card last week in Liberty London’s famous fragrance department, and it still wafts strongly from its little white envelope, a full week later! And it’s not a standard long-lasting woody or musk note — it is still fresh, lemony jasmine with a creamy undertone. Inflorescence would be a standout for that alone, but there is much more to it. He found the opening a bit harsh; I did not. I got a nice burst of freesia, which I love, followed quickly by those pretty rose petals. The lily of the valley follows soon after and takes center stage; but the magnolia note also clearly presents itself.
Those white flowers merge seamlessly into each other and then into the jasmine base. Inflorescence is deceptive in that it gives the impression of being quite fragile and, one would assume, quite fleeting, but no. It is delicate but tenacious — like the so-called Confederate jasmine that festoons the brick wall on one side of my garden. It is a really lovely modern floral — not in the same league as some of the legends like Diorissimo, but a classic in the making on its own terms. It is modern in that it accomplishes its stated goal with relatively few notes, almost like the more minimalist approach of modern architecture or interior design. I wish the price were not so high, as that takes away much of its accessibility and thus its appeal. I won’t be forking out for a full bottle any time soon, but it is a gorgeous light floral and if you like those, I think you would be happy to try Inflorescence.
Do you have any favorite Byredo fragrances?
Welcome back to the May Muguet Marathon — I was away in London for a week or so and took a break from blogging, but had many perfume and scent adventures which I’ll recount this summer. Today’s lily of the valley is Fleur de Cristal, by Lalique, launched in 2010 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rene Lalique, founder of the famed crystal maker. Lalique crystal is instantly recognizable, with its flowing Art Nouveau forms, inspired by nature and often featuring female figures, flowers, and animals. M. Lalique created many beautiful perfume bottles, including in collaboration with legendary French perfumer Francois Coty. One of them is the gorgeous “Clairefontaine” bottle, which depicts sprays of lily of the valley blossoms emerging from a crystal globe. (In fact, Jessica McClintock put out a limited edition perfume splash bottle of its eponymous fragrance that has a lily of the valley stopper inspired by the famous Lalique Clairefontaine bottle). I love Lalique crystal; maybe some day I will own one of their iconic perfume bottles! Many are available through online auctions and antique sellers. Lalique has also launched a number of well-received fragrances under the house’s own name, and most come in very beautiful bottles of the house’s own design.
Fleur de Cristal comes in its own striking bottle, a clear, heavy flask whose top is embedded internally with rings of single lily of the valley bells.
It is an eau de parfum marked as having 69% alcohol by volume, an unusually low percentage for an EDP. (Most EDP will show about 80% alchohol by volume). Although this doesn’t mean that the Fleur de Cristal EDP is thus 31% fragrance oil, which would make it an extrait de parfum, it does seem to show that there are additional non-fragrance contents, which I’m guessing may be fixatives to help with clarity and/or longevity. After all, if one is selling a fragrance with “cristal” in the name, one can’t have it turn cloudy! Also, Fleur de Cristal does seem to have unusually good longevity for a light floral fragrance. The other day, I applied a few sprays in the morning, did not reapply all day, and twelve hours later, my husband commented that he liked my fragrance although I could no longer smell it on myself.
Top notes are: jasmine, bergamot, pink pepper; heart notes: lily of the valley, stephanotis, ylang-ylang, carnation; base notes: sandalwood, cashmeran, amber, musk. The perfumer was Raphael Haury. Chant Wagner called it a “solar muguet” on her blog The Scented Salamander, and I would agree with that description. The opening is sunny and bright, thanks to the bergamot and jasmine, with a touch of green. I don’t smell the pink pepper, but it probably adds some rosiness to the opening and ties it nicely to the heart notes, which include carnation (another lightly spicy floral note). The lily of the valley emerges as shyly as the real flower does, peeking out from behind the opening notes and gradually coming into olfactory focus, supported by the other floral notes, especially the stephanotis. Fleur de Cristal reminds me a bit of Something Blue, launched only a few years later, and they have a number of notes in common. The only fruit note in Fleur de Cristal, however, is the bergamot in the opening; and overall, the impression it leaves is more flowery than Something Blue. It also lasts longer on my skin than Something Blue.
If you are wary of lily of the valley scents, this might suit you. It isn’t a soliflore or soapy at all, it is a light, fresh floral with a very pretty progression of gentle flower notes leading to a soft base. It is widely available online for reasonable prices, and I’ve seen it still for sale at Neiman Marcus. Have you tried this, or any other Lalique fragrances?
In northern climates, the scent of Lily of the Valley is a harbinger of spring after the winter snow has melted. The lovely aroma from the small, white flowers has been sought after since the early days of perfumery. And yet, no essential oil of this flower is available, which is interesting considering the abundance […]
I’m re-blogging this excellent post about the chemistry of muguet fragrances, from the blog The Perfumer’s Craft: Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft
Woods of Windsor’s Lily of the Valley is a true soliflore: it is meant to smell only like that one flower, although it uses a few notes to achieve that. Listed notes include white lily, mimosa leaf, and orange; followed by lily of the valley, geranium, and “May blossom”; with base notes of sandalwood and amber musk (which I believe refers to ambrette). Of course, “lily of the valley” accords are only possible by combining aromachemicals. This LOTV is quite strong on first application and a bit harsh. It smells very soapy, and it’s not a surprise that the same fragrance has been turned into a set of bath and body products too. The original Woods of Windsor company was acquired in 2016 by the company that also owns Yardley London, its former competitor.
It comes in an eau de toilette concentration, and this may be its saving grace: it quiets down pretty quickly to become a fresh greenish floral scent, identifiable as lily of the valley albeit synthetic-smelling. I find that it is best used as a layering partner with another fragrance that has more depth but could use a stronger muguet note; I tried that with Tom Ford’s White Suede, with happy results. I can’t say that I smell most of the listed notes separately; the opening stage is all lily of the valley and geranium leaves, to my nose, with a bit of lemon and maybe bergamot, which isn’t listed, not orange. I think the description would be more accurate if it just listed unspecified “citruses” among the top notes. And what, exactly, is “May blossom”? As it turns out, May blossom is a common phrase for hawthorn, which actually blossoms in either May or June in England.
Woods of Windsor’s version of lily of the valley isn’t unpleasant (after the first harsh minutes of its opening), but it isn’t special, either. It is a utilitarian muguet, better suited to the bath products in which it also appears, and the soap and dusting powder that were among its other formats (now discontinued, I think). I wouldn’t choose to wear it on its own as my primary fragrance, but it is a pleasant companion to layer with other scents.
Have you tried this, or any of the other Woods of Windsor fragrances?
Giulietta, by Tocca, is described as “a romantic and muse … sweet pink tulips and green apple mingle with a floral delicacy of lily of the valley and amber.” It comes in eau de parfum strength; other notes include Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, pallida iris, vanilla orchid, lilac, heliotrope, cedar, musk, and sandalwood. It is one of the “Tocca Girls” fragrances, each of which is meant to have a distinct personality; Giulietta’s is described as refreshing, feminine, delicate. The fragrance’s name is also meant to refer to actress Giulietta Masina, wife and longtime artistic collaborator of film director Federico Fellini.
It opens with a pop of the green apple, fruity but a bit tart. It then becomes more floral, and I smell heliotrope more than any of the other listed floral notes. It is quite sweet at this stage, with a vanilla note that becomes more evident as the floral notes fade. The white musk base note emerges less than an hour into the drydown, and I think it is this note that prompted some Fragrantica readers to note that Giulietta reminds them of Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. It’s pretty, but to my nose not very distinctive.
Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies had a more positive reaction than I did, in a review at Olfactoria’s Travels, calling it a “perfect summer fragrance.” It’s nice, but there are many better, even less expensive, options. For example, for the $76 list price for 50 ml of Giulietta, one can get 100 ml of Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil from online discounters, a much more interesting and distinctive summer fragrance, to my nose. I agree with Portia that after the opening, there is a pleasant, blended floral bouquet in which it is hard to pick out individual notes; also like Portia, I do smell heliotrope early on and throughout the drydown, which quickly becomes a soft vanilla musk. Like Jessica’s review at Now Smell This, my overall impression is that Giulietta is a nice summer vanilla. It does last reasonably well, and it would be a perfectly appropriate and safe office fragrance, or gift.
Although Tocca chooses to highlight lily of the valley in its copy, I don’t smell it at all in Giulietta. As in — not AT ALL. Nor do I smell the lilac that readers of Fragrantica rate among its most noticeable notes. Giulietta also comes in a hair fragrance format, like some other Tocca scents (two of which I’ve reviewed, Colette and Liliana). I think the photograph on the Tocca website is more accurate than the copy:
Bright, fruity, sweet floral with a clean white laundry background — to me, that’s Giulietta. Very pleasant, and indeed a nice, light, floral vanilla for summer — but not a muguet in sight.
Are there any other Tocca fragrances you particularly like? I did like the two hair mists I’ve previously reviewed, although I think those two have been discontinued (several others are available).
If you have ever visited the South of France and its open marketplaces, you will know that there are usually several stands selling fragranced soaps, with scents such as lavender, rose, violet, mimosa, and muguet (lily of the valley). Lily of the valley-scented soap may seem redundant, as many people perceive the smell of real lilies of the valley as “soapy”, but this isn’t a coincidence: the smell of lilies of the valley, which has to be artificially re-created, has been so popular in non-perfume, or functional, fragrances for items like soap that in Western culture, at least, we tend to merge them in our minds. That overuse in functional fragrances has been blamed for the relative dearth of muguet fragrances among modern scents; while I tend to agree with that, I also think that the note became associated in many people’s minds with older female relatives, because it was so popular among personal scents about 60-100 years ago.
Luckily for me, I still love a good lily of the valley in most formats, and actually there have been some very interesting muguet fragrances released in recent years, such as Kissing, from By Kilian, and the 2016 Muguet from Guerlain. On my January trip to Nice, I wandered through the market in the old part of the city and saw many lovely muguet soaps, so of course I brought some home as gifts and kept one for myself.
I also own a set of Crabtree & Evelyn “Lily” soaps, which I think have been discontinued. That is unfortunate, because they smell remarkably like the flowers, even more so than my bar of Muguet soap from the market in Nice. Do you have any favorite floral soaps, that smell like lily of the valley or other floral scents?
A nice little oddity in my collection of lily of the valley fragrances is a NIB bottle of “Lily of the Valley” by the California Perfume Company — predecessor of a favorite brand of Sam’s (of the blog “I Scent You a Day“), Avon. The California Perfume Company’s first five fragrances, in 1886, were all florals: Heliotrope, Hyacinth, Lily of the Valley, Violet, and White Rose. The bottle I have is a reissue by Avon, in a vintage-looking apothecary-style square bottle with a round glass stopper. Under the name on the label, in tiny type, are dates: “1886-1999.” So I believe this must have been a special edition reissued in 1999, but I can’t say for sure. There is an entire community of collectors dedicated to the original products of the California Perfume Company; I must say that the true vintage bottles and packaging are very charming, and the history of the company, the pioneer of direct selling by a female sales force, is fascinating.
The fragrance itself is very pretty but short-lived. I opened it to write this post, and the ball stopper popped open when released, so a bit spilled on my hand. It was more than I would usually dab from a bottle, so I got a good dose of it! It’s a very clean, light green muguet, but not soapy to my nose. Unfortunately, it is fading away rapidly as I write, but since it was quite a bargain, and still available for a low price on eBay, this isn’t tragic. It doesn’t seem to have any real base notes — what you get is basically top notes of lily of the valley, fading into more lily of the valley before fading away completely. It is quite true to the flower, I think, with an almost lemony facet.
Have you tried any fragrances by the California Perfume Company? Have you seen any of their vintage products?
Last summer (2018), Chanel launched “Les Eaux de Chanel”, three eaux de toilette named after three destinations to which Chanel herself traveled from Paris. The destinations are Biarritz, Venise, and Deauville. Created by Olivier Polge, Chanel’s in-house perfumer, each of these fragrances opens with a strong medley of citrus notes. They are intended to be very fresh and lively, and so they are.
Paris-Biarritz is a tribute to the seaside resort in the southwest Basque region of France, which became fashionable during the time of Empress Eugenie and Napoleon III, who built a grand summer home there. Chanel opened her first true “salon de couture” here, in 1915, during World War I when many wealthy people sought refuge and distance from the war. The international clientele of Biarritz allowed her to earn enough that she became financially independent, and the town is thus integral to the history of her fashion house. Perfumer Olivier Polge describes the intent behind Les Eaux:
“This is a new sort of collection of perfumes, we call them Les Eaux because they’re fresh, fluid, sparkling. My source of inspiration came from Eau de cologne, those combinations of fresh citrus oils,” says Polge. Each scent was inspired and named after a destination vitally important to Coco Chanel’s life: Venice, Biarritz, and the beach town Deauville where she opened her very first boutique in 1913. “The three cities are really important in the history of Chanel. They became a part of our identity and source of inspiration,” he says.
The story of Coco Chanel in Biarritz is best told by Chanel itself, in this short film:
Like its siblings, Paris-Biarritz opens with a burst of citruses, in this case orange, lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, and tangerine. The combination is very appealing; there is sweetness from the orange and tangerine, tartness from the lemon and grapefruit, and some greenness from the bergamot. It takes a while for any heart notes to show up, and the first one I perceive is the neroli, which seems fitting since it is the source of orange blossom absolute. The bergamot lingers the longest of all those citrus top notes, which leads nicely into the greener heart of the fragrance. The words used by Chanel to describe this fragrance include “exceptionally fresh”, “dynamic”, “vivacious”, and I would agree.
As the citruses settle down, the neroli shows up, then lily of the valley and unspecified green notes. This heart phase is floral, but lightly so. Given that both lily of the valley and neroli give off citrusy and green aromas, and bergamot is a very “green” citrus to my nose, the greenness of the middle stage works well and quite smoothly. I think the neroli takes precedence over the lily of the valley, however. The citrus notes last longer than I might have expected, which I appreciate. This is a truly unisex fragrance, very reminiscent of summer colognes but longer lasting.
That doesn’t mean it has great longevity, though, because it doesn’t. Not bad for a citrus-focused fragrance, but after just a few hours, it is gone. The base notes are, to my nose, skin scents, and I can’t even say that I smell any patchouli, just a lingering light note of white musk. Some will enjoy reapplying it often to enjoy the beautiful citrus top notes. If you are seeking a a true lily of the valley fragrance, this isn’t it, but it is very appealing.
Have you tried any of “Les Eaux de Chanel”? Did you like any?
I am slacking off a bit this weekend, as it is Mother’s Day and I’m allowed to do that! So no muguet post yesterday, and today I’ll just wish a happy Mother’s Day to all who are, have, or had, mothers.
I was given a surprise gift: the Le Labo discovery set, with 17 of their fragrances to try — oh happy day! And I ordered something very special with the go-ahead from my lovely spouse: Scenthusiasm from 4160 Tuesdays. Can’t wait for that one! We will pick it up at his company’s office when we go to London later this month, and I’m hoping to visit the 4160 Tuesdays studio too. Have you given or received any fragrant gifts for Mother’s Day this year?
Enjoy the weekend!