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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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, $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.

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Blogger Bryan said...

Set that trepidation aside. This is an example of why I read your blog every day. Absolutely charming. I can vouche for Bergdorf's having Guerlain's Muguet, which I find fabulously tenacious. LotV on me tends to disappear all too quickly. Not so with Guerlain's. It is verdant and gorgeous. (It plays well with Un Lys if you're in the mood).

10:49 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you!
A good dose of greenness was exactly what Un Lys needed when I wore it last weekend. It was incredibly sweet on me, all of a sudden. I wish I thought of layering it with Muguet of some sort. Great idea!

11:07 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Justice has been done, and I have three more that I need to seek out..

11:26 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Having been completely transported by your words, a bottle of the contemporary Muguet de Bois is now on it's way to me courtesy of ebay. I can't wait for it to arrive. It was THE romantic scent of my high school years worn with peasant blouses and faded blue jeans. I will let you know just how much I am still in love with it.

12:37 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful descriptions, Colombina! You have treated these fragrances with the love they deserve.

1:16 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Absolutely wonderful reviews. I think Muguet du Bois was my very first perfume, bought for me by mother. The Guerlain is lovely, and Diorissimo (of which I have a little vintage extrait) is, well, a perfect perfume.

5:36 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Diorissimo is the gateway perfume to love LotV, it's the one that changed my mind. I've got some Guerlain Muguet coming, and I can't wait to smell that.

You know, I really need to find more perfumes I don't like. It asounds me how many good/great ones there are still out there to run across.

6:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

I fell in love with Diorissimo at age 17, when after days of reading everything about Mick Jagger that I could find, I discovered that it was his favorite scent. Alas, he nevered noticed, but it spawned a lifelong love affair with the scent and eventually my future husband who adores it!

7:03 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Your reviews are so beautiful, I'm having to reconsider my less than fortunate attitude to lotv these days. Do you know when Diorissimo was reformulated?

7:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am glad you think I've done them justice, thank you.

8:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Please report when you receive it! I have to get my hands on the contemporary MdeB as well.

8:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you very much, you are forever kind!!

8:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Guerlain is lovely, and before I did this "crash-course" for myself and smelled the LOTV scents I had in a quick succession, I'd have said it was The Favorite of mine. But now that I understood others better...I like some others more. And I realized I don't actually need the new expensive bottle of it. Phew! :-)

8:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You said yesterday that there are 2 LOTV scents hat you love. One is Diorissimo, right? What's the other one? Ellie D?

8:31 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Sir Mike has wonderful taste, and so of course do you and your husband. My respect for Jagger has grown 100%, when I heard that The Master and Margarita was the inspiration behind one of the RS songs (Sympathy for the Devil). Respect! :-)

8:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I don't know, sorry. It might have been done several times for all I know. As with other Dior scents, my (probably imperfect) rule of the thu8mb is: if the box is of solid color (pink for Diorissimo), it is the newest edition. :-)

8:34 AM EDT  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

I'm hanging my head in shame as I admit this, but I smelled Diorissimo for the first time this weekend. I'm not always skillful at identifying notes, but I took one whiff of that stuff and said, "Oh! Lily of the Valley!"

My grandmother's house was surrounded by banks of LOTV when I was a little girl, and I've always loved them. Sadly, I live too far south now to indulge in them (jasmine & tuberose are my companions here). Your post is inspiring me to seek out a good LOTV to call my own -- maybe Diorissimo is it!

9:02 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Your love and respect for these scents jumps out Marina - lovely reviews (and yesterdays) thank you. I have what must be a vintage bottle of my grandmother's Diorissimo (edt), half left, yet it has faded unfortunately. I also have a bottle of her Picot LotV which seems as bright and beautiful as the day she bought it (possibly 45 - 50 years ago). I mentioned it to my mother who had one of those moments when she was transported back to the days when she and my grandmother worked together for Wedgwood in a department store in Bournemouth. They would go to lunch then on the way back pass by the beauty hall and spray themselves liberally with either the Diorissimo or the Picot. Best smelling SAs Wedgwood ever had I'd say!

9:11 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh, I hope you do get a bottle!! It is such a beautiful scent.

9:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

They truly were the best smelling SAs ever! :-)
Picot?? A LOTV I don't know...*bites nails* Of course there are 100s of them I don't know.

9:24 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

I will check about the Picot and report back though have a feeling my mother said it was discontinued a long while back. Save your nails!

9:59 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you, Nicola! :-)

10:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, wow, another great post from Columbina to start my day. Thank you for sharing such lovely writing. I am with Elle - I think perhaps I need to reexamine my lotv aversion... *Bravely proferring wrist at the Perfume Shoppe* Show me your magic, lotv ;)

A dear friend of mine wore and adored Diorissimo in a prior lifetime. I'll send today's review post over for her to enjoy.

Thanks again!

11:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you!
I used to be afraid of LOTV too, and so I realize that, despite the angelic look of the flowers, the note IS scary somehow :-)

12:59 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Lovely reviews, M!

I do wish Coty would put out a respectful version of the original Muguet de Bois! Are you smelling a vintage version?

1:12 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Yes this one is vintage Parfum de Toilette. Beautiful stuff. I don't think I've ever tried the contemporary version. Is it that bad?

1:51 PM EDT  
Blogger rosarita said...

Such delightful reviews; I am really enjoying LOTV week! I have wondered about Muguet de Bois, which was a fragrance my grandmother loved and one I used to snitch off of her dressing table when I was very small. She gave me my own bottle one birthday, but I have not smelled the contemporary version - please let us know how it is when you find a bottle. I love Diorissimo but have never owned a bottle...and I've never smelled the Guerlain at all. More to seek out :)

3:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you, and I will definitely talk about the "new" MdeB, when I find it.

3:55 PM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I love these, and cherish what's left of my my Caron, too.

I know folks don't think of it this way, but Amouage Gold begins, for me, w / LOTV.

So does Chant D'Aromes, which I love, and to which I have a sentimental attachment .

Debut, as well. Big time.

6:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Debut, definitely, big time. I have to re-try the others with what you said in mind.

6:48 PM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Just to report back on Picot.... I did a little digging. It was one of the last creative perfumery houses in the UK. Some of its perfumes (which include Pagan, Pagan Man, Le Train Bleu, LotV in Bloom, Suede, Akabar and Fiesta) transferred to Jovan when Picot was bought by Beechams in the 70.s. Beechams closed down the creative work. Doesn't that sound familiar! Anyway, I'm going to do a little digging on Jovan because that rings a bell somewhere.... Have a good day!

6:01 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much for the information! I wonder if ebay would have Picot's LOTV.

7:57 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not have the computer yesterday, hence my comment is a day late, but oh...! What fabulous reviews! My heart sings just reading them. I have only tried Diorissimo, but now I want to try the others too, especially Coty's Muguet de Bois.

8:34 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

MdeB is definitely, definitely worth trying!

8:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pagan Perfume was the first perfume I bought when I was a teenager - many moons agoI cannot buy it in the shops now - but am interested in getting some. Can someone help. I have a few drops left which I am loath to use. It was part of me. A beautiful perfume. Nothing I have ever bought since has pleased me. Many Thanks. EnaM.

11:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DIORISSIMO!! Thank you so much, I used to wear it, loved it, but somehow forgot the name over the past 10 years. I am thrilled to have found your article, and my order is already placed. BTW - the web site you recommend does not load, but I found it online anyway.

4:36 PM EDT  

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