I don’t know why, but this time of year makes me crave the sweet, pure and simple scent of lily of the valley. They do always bloom now, and I grew up in house that was surrounded by them. My friends and I would pluck the tiny little stems with those perfect white blossoms and give them to our mothers. The scent is simple and sweet, and I can spot the scent of that flower a mile away. I won’t get into the science of the perfume, but it is interesting to note that a true extraction of the flower is not how the scent is constructed. The lily of the valley note is created with combinations of other natural essences (often citrus and florals such as jasmine, orange blossom, rose and green notes) or more commonly, with synthetics. That tiny little flower does not produce an oil so it has been a man made creation in perfumes since the first lily of the valley perfume. It’s often thought of as a soapy clean scent, simply because it’s popularity throughout the years as a scent for soaps, shampoos and laundry products.
So, the perfumes. There are many, but I will just talk about a couple favourites. I wish I could include the Guerlain beauty, Muguet, that is a limited edition perfume released only on May 1, but at $500 for a small bottle, I will let you, dear reader, investigate that one on your own. In France, lily of valley flowers are sold everywhere as part of May Day celebrations, which is the inspiration for the Guerlain launch. As well, it really cements that sweet little blossom as a scent of spring, rebirth and re-awakening.
Christian Dior Diorissimo: This is the grand dame of all lily of the valley perfumes. If you love the flower, then you must own this one. The illustrations above are by the incredible Rene Gruau who did a lot of ad work for Dior. Don’t you just love them? Princess Diana is said to have loved it and to have worn in on her wedding day. There is a lot of consternation regarding reformulation and older vs newer formulas of this one, but I actually prefer the newer one. It’s light, bright and sparkly and smells like the kiss of a gentle spring shower. It is my absolute favourite of the lily of the valley scents. The vintage pre IFRA restrictions formula, while it smelled divine out of the bottle, contained a weird sharp note that did not work on my skin at all. When I wore it, I was often asked if I had been drinking. Le sigh.
Penhaligon’s Lily of The Valley: This is a lovely green, woodsy interpretation of lily of the valley. Launched in 1976, this one has a sweet almost musky undertone that softens any sharp floral notes. It also has that rainy-day quality and is gentle and easy to wear. This one is also said to have been a favourite of Princess Diana- she loved Penhaligon’s and also wore Bluebell.
Jessica McClintock: The bridal gown designer released this one in 1988 as a bridal scent, and it really is perfect. Often overlooked and available for a song at online discounters, it is a slightly heady floral with lily of the valley front and center, but with a little extra sweetness. It is very feminine and pretty, and worth getting if you are a fan of this sweet little flower.
Yardley Lily of The Valley: Well this one is cheap and cheerful, available at most drugstores for under $20. I love this one. My daughter wears it and it smells so beautiful on her. I often forget and ask her what she is wearing, surprised when she names this simple and lovely perfume. I think I will grab some for myself as it really is so pretty. It has a bright, green lily of the valley note that is tempered by a slightly fruity note that really makes it gentle. I have the Yardley Lily of the Valley body powder, which is cooling soapy and clean smelling. I love to use it on my sheets in the warmer months, and all over after a shower. It feels feminine in an old fashioned way, like I’m doing something special and pampering for myself.
|You may recognize these brides who both favoured lily of the valley in their bouquets….|
Spring it seems, has finally sprung.