Where is the Love for Lalique?
Lalique sort of snuck up on me. I was predisposed to try a few of the perfumes because of my adoration for its turn-of-the-century glass sculptures, particularly those made of opaline, the milky translucent glass with gold and blue fire swirling within. The House of Lalique was founded by (obviously French) René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) and became one of the most famous design firms of the Art Nouveau movement. In 1907, Francois Coty hired Lalique to create perfume labels, and the bottles a short while after that. Perfumery was never the same.
Almost a century passed before Lalique produced its first fragrance under its own brand name in 1992: Lalique for women (a floriental, now discontinued). Quite a few have premiered in this new century: Faune (2000), Equus (2001), Tendre Kiss (2002), Eau de Lalique (2003), Flora Bella (2005), Lalique Le Parfum (2005), Perles de Lalique (2006), Encre Noire (2006), Amethyst (2007), and Lalique White (2008). They hire well-known noses and utilize more lavish ingredients than most mainstream houses. It’s not necessary to say that the bottles are generally gorgeous.
Without thinking about it much (the nose knows), I ended up with large bottles of Flora Bella, Perles, Amethyst, and Eau de Lalique, and sample vials of Le Parfum and White. The bottles I found were always tucked away in the back of the shop, and the SAs didn’t know anything about them except that, “Lalique is famous for glass.” Okay! Seems to me the House of Lalique is due for a little love. So here are some mini-reviews which I hope will inspire affection for these gems.
Lalique White (made for men- but I like it, too!): Designed by Christine Nagel, notes are tamarind, lemon leaf, bergamot, nutmeg, white pepper, violet, cardamom, amber, musk and cedar. White is truly unisex- it doesn’t seem made for either male or female, but for both, either, whatever. I swear there is a touch of bay in here because it reminds me quite a lot of traditional Caribbean bay rum colognes, which I remember very fondly from my childhood, and which I still believe are one of the finest perfume families out there . The hot/cold spice interplay runs for a good hour or so, and the softer, but still spicy, drydown lasts most of the day. I am impressed, and have run through 2 sample vials in less than a week.
Amethyst: This perfume by Nathalie Lorson, launched in 2007. Head notes of nutmeg, blackberry and blackcurrant, heart notes of rose, pepper, peony, lily and ylang-ylang; the base is a conventional, though cuddly, vanilla musk. The bottle design of purple thorns entwining purple frosted glass is based on a Lalique design from 1920, and it’s gorgeous and goth. The first time I smelled this, in 2007, it smelled somewhat artificial to me, and had a leeetle cough syrup vibe. Then it just disappeared from the shelves, only to reappear a couple months ago. I tried a decant, and this time, a very natural blackcurrant, with not so much floral in the background, greeted my nose. This (I think) reworked version smells like a dacha in summertime now, and reminds me of our marathon black-currant and berry harvests in Ukraine. Yum.
Perles de Lalique- This perfume was launched in 2006 and won a Marie Claire best-perfume award in 2007. Two versions of the bottle exist, both lovely; one was designed for the extrait, and the other for the EdT. The extrait de parfum bottle was inspired by the René Lalique “Cactus” powder bowl of 1928, all feathers and spiky bits. I’ve only seen one in real life and it was stunning, and unfortunately, not for sale. The no-oakmoss chypre inside was designed by Nathalie Lorson. Bulgarian rose and bourbon pepper dominate the scent from start to finish. These two notes are anchored by iris, patchouli, and musk. This one is popular in central Europe. It’s strong, with a powerful sillage. I notice Americans don’t like it much, but it strikes a chord with Europeans in winter. I get cravings for it as soon as the snow falls.
Flora Bella (2005) is my personal favorite by Lalique, no surprise, as it’s composed by my favorite nose, Bertrand Duchaufour. This cold, alien floral has notes of mimosa, carnation, cassie, orchid, freesia, lilac, frangipani and tiare; base notes of spices, amber, helional, vanilla and white musk. This is what I wanted Thierry Mugler’s Alien to smell like- icy, remote, strangely compelling, heartbreakingly beautiful and completely odd. There’s no other floral out there like this, and it’s one of the few florals in my heavy-use collection. It’s also purple, which is nice.
Eau de Lalique is a cold, spicy unisex cologne in the inimitable Ellena abstract watercolor style; it was composed by both JC Ellena and Emilie Copperman in 2003. Head notes are mandarin orange, pimento, bergamot, dill, cardamom and lemon; heart notes are cinnamon, hibiscus and freesia; base notes are sandalwood, musk, benzoin and guaiac. I tend to find colognes rather dull and evanescent, but this one has those peculiar twists and surprises that make Ellena’s best compositions so easy to return to, and so, well, mysterious. It lasts far longer than most colognes as well.
Lalique Le Parfum is a heavy oriental that was designed by Dominique Ropion and launched in 2005. Head notes are bay, bergamot and pink pepper; heart notes are jasmine and heliotrope; base notes are sandalwood, tonka, patchouli and vanilla. I’ve only tried this one once, and it was slammed by Luca Turin/ Tania Sanchez, but I enjoyed it more than they did. Heavy orientals are not my style, but if they were, I’d buy a bottle. Encre Noir is another I’ve only tried once, but the cubic, black bottle is stunning, and it’s one of the best vetivers I’ve tried. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to find.
Eau de Lalique and Flora Bella can be bought for under $20. I’m not kidding. That’s a well-made perfume by very famous perfumers for less than a pre-frozen dinner in most chain restaurants. This is incredible to me, as they are both gorgeous and unique. I pondered the weirdness of this for a while and came to the conclusion that’s it’s the marketing and distribution that’s the problem. I live in both Europe and the US and have never seen an ad for any Lalique fragrance, nor have I seen bottles in many shops. When found in shops, they are skulking about in some dark corner. There are no wild parties for their launches that can be viewed on YouTube (as for the effervescent Gaultier’s MaDame). Yet they are considered too mainstream for many niche perfumeries to carry, so they get no love there, either. I’m just lucky I live near a store that carries them, and that some US online perfumers will sell them for the price of a bag of burgers and fries. I recommend them over the burgers, by the way.