Happy May Day!

Lily of the Valley

It is May 1st, and I'm wearing Diorissimo extrait to celebrate whatever this day is supposed to stand for; but more personally because it's a lily of the valley scent that I have a strong personal connection with. I worn it on my wedding day, and to me it will always symbolized non-compromised happiness. Besides, I believe it's one of the best perfumes every made (alongside others by Edmond Roudnitska: Le Parfum de Therese, Eau Sauvage and a few Guerlain classics - Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, l'Herue Bleue) that are reclining comofrtably in a special case dedicated for emergency evacuation); but also because I don't own any other lily of the valley fragrance.

There are some great Lily of the Valley classics that I owe it to myself to wear and experience and give more proper attention - Coty's Muguet de Bois, Caron's Muguet de Bonheur Guerlan's Muguet. If you have more lily of the valley perfumes that you think are exceptional, please leave a comment. The note used to be far more popular as a stand-alone theme in the olden days; but it lost popularity greatly because of its functional fragrance usage - namely masking the stench of the French metro systems; and other bathroom fresheners, soaps and the like. Basenotes only lists about 27 perfumes with the name "Muguet" in them; and 25 with the word "Lily of the Valley". Not insignificant, but not even close to how popular rose or jasmine themed perfumes are. Many of them have also been discontinued, a sign that this note belongs to another era. There are other lily of the valley dominated perfumes, of course, such as the classic Joy and the more modern musky floral Idyle. So I'm sure we won't be running out of lilies anytime soon... And there are even natural lily of the valley inspired perfumes, such as Urban Lily and Grin.

Most of the other less worthy of mention are sitting in my sample catalog pretty much untouched, and I revisit them occasionally only to come to the conclusion time and again that really Diorissimo is my true love. There can be a very conformist, agreeable yet boring air to them and a very flat, interest-lacking evolution. I am quite certain that should there have been a little extra jasmine absolute and rose otto in them to give them depth and naturalness they would have faired better - in my personal wardrobe, SmellyBlog entries, as well as sales wise. i.e.: Muguet Eau Fraiche (Yves Rochas) is a soapy clean, with modern musks and Iso E Super that bring to mind Thierry Mugler's Cologne of all things. Crabtree & Evelyn's Lily of the Valley, which comes in all the matching ancillary products from body lotion, triple-milled white soap to scented talcum powders - has been promptly returned to the store because it just has no personality whatsoever - flat, synthetic molecules with plenty of headiness and little staying power. Yardley's wasn't much better off. All three were to me what you'd call "scrubbers".

Muguet de Bois (Coty, circa 1949), on the other hand, requires some immediate attention on this beautiful warm spring day: It opens up sparkling and refreshing, with notes of lemonade and fresh-crushed green leaves. It has a fully developed heart phase that's definitely lily, but not just that: it is a tad spicy and more rounded floral than how I experience the fresh lily of the valley flowers to be. I detect resinous styrax and lilac, rose and hints of jasmine. The "Bois" (or woods) part is subdued, and is interpreted as a woody base of sandalwood and musk.

Lilies on the Rocks

Lilies on the Rocks by Ayala Moriel
Lilies on the Rocks, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Happy May Day!
With the lilacs blooming early, and glimpses of sun penetrating the thick blanket of clouds that usually conceals Vancouver - one thing is certain: spring is here!

These delicate flowers were spotted last year in the garden of the lighhouse keeper at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. They are especially stunning when their delicate blossoms are set against a rocky backdrop.

Today I'm wearing Grin - a perfume that similarly to lily of the valley's delicate white bells - always puts a smile on my face. Lilies don't lend their aroma to the distiller's efforts, and it can only be enjoyed naturally from the fresh flowers. Grin is as closest to that giddy feeling of spring that I get inhaling the fresh flowers and feeling their cool blades caress my cheeks. It's all thanks to the magic of boronia absolute, a rare flower from Tasmania with a peppery-freesia aroma, paired with green galbanum, sultry jasmine and demure rose.

Urban Lily

Day 374: Lily of the Valley, originally uploaded by amanky.

Many great perfumers have attempted to re-create the scent of Lily of the Valley, a modest looking white flower that in fact does not belong to the lily family at all. Unlike the showy flowers of the true lily, Lily of the Valley bows to her own green leaves with its little bells of white, as if to conceal itself from sight even further.

For those looking for a Lily of the Valley perfume, I will share that my search came to end an before it even began – one of the first perfumes I’ve ever worn is Diorissimo by Edmond Roudnitska. I did not know what lily of the valley is or how it smells, but this perfume captured my heart on first sniff. In my mind, there is yet a lily of the valley perfume that comes even close to it’s precise and haunting beauty. Like the gowns from the couturier it was created for, its strict structure creates an illusion of freedom and eternity.

But just because I have already found a Lily of the Valley to my heart’s desire does not stop me from curiously trying other attempts, the latest one being Urban Lily by Strange Invisible perfumes. The perfumer here had the added challenge of not being able to use any of the essential molecules for replicating this unique scent for replicating this unique scent. Instead, perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis uses the sharp greenness of galbanum and the raw-earthy carrot-seed & iris notes to create that crystal-clear charm of the lily bells, and underlines it with sultry notes of narcissus, jasmine and vegetal musk. I think I'm also noticing a touch of lotus... It is neither as accurate nor as clean as most lily of the valley fragrances tend to be, but I find it intriguing, nevertheless. And I like it's abstract and less than straightforward botanical feel.

Happy First of May!

Lily of the Valley, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I don't know what is it about lily of the valley that makes it smell so happy, but it does. It is a French tradition to offer lily of the valley to your loved ones on First of May (aka Labour Day) to wish them happiness. And if you received a stem with 13 bells, you are considered particularly lucky.

The little flower, convallaria majalis, has a modest appearance, reminiscent of bluebells that lost their colour. The bells point downwards in what could be considered as shyness or modesty (though I’m quite certain the flower have other reasons to behave that way).

It’s important to note that although bearing the same name, the lily of the valley (convallaria majalis) is certainly not the flower mentioned in the bible in Canticles (Song of Songs). The flower mentioned their is either wild hyacinth or some other kind of wild lily, perhaps what is called “Shoshan Tzahor” (literally translated as “white lily” in Hebrew). Lilies, as most bulb flowers, are rather rare in Israel and their beauty and rarity has served as a metaphor in the above mentioned poem. Later on, lily of the valley and other white lilies (namely the Madonna Lily) have become a symbol of purity and of the Virgin Mary in Christianity. But neither of these species can grow in Israel wild and most likely were not known or cultivated when the poem was written.

Bo Jensen’s website tells us that 2,3-Dihydrofarnesol, farnesol, citronellyl acetate, phenylacetonitrile and phenylacetaldehyde oxime are the main molecules discovered in lily of the valley headspace. 3,7-dimethyl-7-hydroxyoctanal or hydroxycitronellal were both discovered in the beginning of the century and I won’t be surprised if one or the other is used in Roudniska’s iconic lily of the valley Diorissimo and Coty’s Muguet de Bois (though they may be have both been modified to accommodate various regulations because both compounds are not particularly stable and can cause allergies, according to the same website).

The fresh flowers are so typically lily of the valley it’s amazing. I haven’t noticed as much variety between individual flowers as I find in other species (i.e.: roses). Besides the obvious “lily of the valley” smell there are also some lemony and green notes surrounding the flowers. They last in a vase for 2-3 days while retaining an impressive amount of the scent, but will never overpower the room like hyacinth or true lilies do.
If you live in the warmer parts of the world and can’t get the fragrant flowers from your florist, I suggest you find yourself a bottle of Diorissimo and scent your May Day with it. I just so happen to be wearing it as we speak.

Happy 1st of May!

1er mai dans Second Life, originally uploaded by natachaqs.

Those who are celebrating the 1st of May or International Workers' Day (May Day) today - may it be a happy and joyous day to you all. Work is our life, so it better be good :)

François Coty used to take all his employees on 1st of May and go pick flowers of lily of the valley in the forests near Paris, and that's how Muguet de Bois was born.

I am not wearing my Muguet de Bois today, but I am thinking about it and promise to post a review of it on SmellyBlog sometimes in the not so far future. If you haven't decided what to wear today, a lily of the valley scent would be a fine choice, Diorissimo being my utmost favourite, seconded only by Muguet de Bois.

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