Lily of the Valley Week. Day 2: Coty, Christian Dior, Guerlain
Often, when I have to write about perfume classics, I feel star-struck and overwhelmed. Can my humble review possibly do justice to a Legendary Scent? So you can imagine how much trepidation I feel today, faced with having to talk about not one, but three wonderful legends.
Coty – Muguet de Bois
I must preface the review by saying that Muguet de Bois in question is vintage Parfum de Toilette. On the very first sniff, I am tempted to proclaim Coty’s version to be the most beautiful lily of the valley. On the second, third, and one-hundredths sniff, I am just as entranced. The delicate, virginal-white flowers are not often described as opulent, but Coty’s Muguet is truly sumptuous. Lilies of the valley, with their “high-pitched”, silvery smell, are also rarely described as warm, however Muguet de Bois has a wonderful, balmy depth. If there existed a lily of valley genus with not white but golden flowers, that is how it would smell. The beginning of Muguet de Bois has an unexpected, extremely appealing booziness, almost a fruity, honeyed undertone, most probably due to the presence of an orange note. The orange, and in the heart of the scent, roses are the elements, which, I believe, add the warmth to the scent, which make it “well-rounded” and softly-enveloping. The warm and sweet quality co-exists in harmony with a strikingly green accord, and the contrast is incredibly appealing. The base is full of sweet sandalwood, which finishes the development of the scent on a very sensual note. Muguet de Bois is truly stunning, and it is my mission now to find and try the contemporary version.
Christian Dior – Diorissimo
Having tried vintage and modern eaux de toilette, I can honestly say that I loved them both and that the two are not drastically different. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the modern Diorissimo still smells very much like a Roudnitska’s creation, in that it contains the elements, which, to borrow Honore de Balzac ‘s words, make it smell like “a species of transition between the plant and animal”. That (elegantly restrained) animalic side is more pronounced in the vintage Diorissimo, but it is still perceptible in the modern version. The old Diorissimo also has a somewhat sweeter, almost fruity beginning, the new Diorissimo is heavier on jasmine; at one point it actually becomes a jasmine scent rather than lily of the valley, but that stage passes quickly. The base, on my skin, is practically identical, very Dior-Roudnitska, with soft sandalwood and that dark, earthy Something (civet?) that once made me say that Diorissimo smells like lily of the valley flowers pulled out of the earth with their roots intact, with the earth still clinging to them…and that is how I still perceive Diorissimo. Diorissimo strikes me as perhaps the most complex lily of the valley rendition of the ones that I have tried. To say that I love it would be a huge understatement. If you have a chance to try a contemporary parfum, please do. Eau de Toilette is beautiful, but parfum is absolutely stunning, slightly warmer and deeper.
Guerlain – Muguet
Guerlain releases a limited edition of Muguet what seems like every May; the version I am talking about is from 1999. This lily of the valley has no roots, it is all about the dazzling white flowers and green leaves. This is the version of Muguet that reminds me of another name for lilies of the valley, May Bells. Smelling Guerlain’s Muguet is akin to listening to a joyful concerto played on the tiny silvery bells. Along with Goutal’s Le Muguet, Guerlain’s creation strikes me as the most true to the scent of actual lilies of the valley. Like Le Muguet, it also possesses that potentially harsh, slightly bizarre, almost gas-like smell that real lilies of the valley have. It is intoxicating, exhilarating, it is a lily of the valley flower in close up, or perhaps it is like being inside the said flower. Muguet has a delicate fruity aspect, which makes me think not of citrus fruits, but of green apples. The green quality is quite pronounced here; I smell grass and leaves and even, very vaguely, something not unlike cucumber. The bright, incredibly realistic lily of the valley sings and my heart sings with it.
The vintage Coty Muguet de Bois can be found on eBay, very cheaply; Diorissimo is available at imaginationperfumery.com, $59.99-$152.99; Guerlain Muguet, in this year’s reincarnation, is available at Guerlain boutique in France and perhaps at Bergdorf Goodman, €200.00 for 20ml.