• The Many Colours of White
  • CategorizationLettersLily of the ValleyPerfume AdviceWhite Florals

The Many Colours of White

Gardenias, originally uploaded by Jim-AR.

"Dear Ayala,

First, I would like to say that I very much enjoy your perfumes (Fête d'Hiver is my favorite!) and your blog, and that I hope you are having a blessed holiday.

I know that you are an expert on perfumery, so I would like to ask a question that would settle a debate I am currently having. The question is: Is Lily of the Valley considered a white floral? My friend insists that it is, but I have never thought of it that way. To me, a "white floral" has always meant the heady scents of tuberose, orange blossom, and jasmine, with those wonderful, indolic aromas. Lily of the valley doesn't seem to fit there. I have always thought of it as a fresh floral note.

Thank you so much in advance,


Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you so much for your email – I am very pleased to hear you love Fête d'Hiver and are enjoying my blog!
I hope you have a wonderful holiday too!
As for the floral debate - you are right - Lily of the Valley, although white in colour, is considered "green" in terms of its fragrance.
The langugage of perfumery borrows terms from other art forms (i.e.: the “notes” of music) and senses, such as taste (sweet, sour…) touch ( textures such as soft, sharp, powdery) and sight (colours such as green and white).
Green florals tend to be heady and piercing, sharp, with a crystal-clear association to fresh flowers and greenery (as in the flower shop). Lily of the Valley is one of the best example for a “green floral” note. The reknown perfumer Edmund Roundiska described his perfume “Diorissimo” (in my opinion the most true-to-nature rendition of Lily of the Valley) as depicting not only the flower, but also “the forst where it grows”.
Other floral notes of the green floral category are hyacinth, linden blossom (which, like lily of the valley, is high in its farnesol content), neroli (orange flower essential oil), violet leaf, boronia and freesia. Although some of those are still "heady" and some may even have a fair amount of indole, they have very strong fresh and green elements which render them green rather than “white” in that context.

White florals are the indolic, narcotic, heavy and heady floral notes, at times also creamy – jasmine, tuberose, ylang ylang (even though its colour is yellow!), orange flower absolute, narcissus, jonquile (again, this flower is yellow in colour), etc. Lilies are another great example – even though some lilies are pink or orange (like the tiger-lily), their scent is so heavy and narcotic they would be considered white florals as well.

Warm regards,

  • CategorizationLettersLily of the ValleyPerfume AdviceWhite Florals
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