I only recently discovered the work of natural perfumer Olivia Larson of La Fleur by Livvy, but I was very impressed with her as an emerging talent. Now she is launching a new fragrance that elevates her work to a new level, and I am honored to be among the first to review it.
Forbidden Love is the story of a young Japanese man's hopeless yearning for a beautiful Geisha, a woman who is not allowed to have a personal life but who must always follow the strict rules of her profession and submit to duty over emotion. I will let the perfumer's own vision speak here:
“I see her silhouette as she gracefully floats in Zori. Her obi tied in a simple knot. The nape of her neck is exposed as she turns around the corner at the street lamp. She has no idea that I wait for her passing each night on the way back from the tea house. Her kimono smells of a rich scent; a combination of orange blossoms, vanilla and lilies laced with tobacco. The Cypress trees and full moon heighten my senses. At that very moment a gentle waft of burning incense catches my breath from temples nearby. I am in love with her but she can never love me back for it is forbidden to love.”
This timeless theme has been translated into a fragrance that bypasses the usual Orientalist cliches and truly touches the heart. It is tender and wistful, a scent of longing, subtle yet richly layered. Every major ingredient in this perfume has a connection to Japan, including something I thought I would never encounter – real lily essence. Virtually all modern “lily” fragrances, even the best ones, are constructions assembled from various aroma chemicals, since the lily blossom only yields her precious oil grudgingly, and the process of extracting it is too laborious and expensive to be done on a large commercial scale. Ms. Larson has found a source for the real thing, a natural oil made from the majestic Lilium auratum of Japan, which is famous for both its dazzling beauty and its powerful scent. I knew I was experiencing something very special the first time I smelled this fragrance; the inclusion of vanilla brings to mind another Japanese lily, Lilium speciosum, with its exquisite “French perfume” aroma. Most people are familiar with the popular florist lilies 'Star Gazer' and Casa Blanca' which are bred from these iconic Japanese blossoms – now imagine opening a bottle of perfume and having that amazing smell emerge.
The remaining notes mesh with the lily and vanilla as gracefully as a Geisha's movements. Lotus and orange blossom enhance the floral beauty of the lily, cypress adds an element of green mystery, and tobacco leaf, benzoin, green tea and vodka hint at the atmosphere of the private rooms where wealthy men pay exorbitant prices to be presented with the talents of her ancient art behind the sliding screens; the tea ceremony, classical dancing, the spare, haunting music of the Shamisen, and clever conversation that makes a man feel flattered and important. Yet it is he who in thrall to her charms, much as I am enamored of Forbidden Love; at last I have found the lily perfume of my dreams.
This perfume will be available for purchase at La Fleur by Livvy's web site beginning on November 1, 2015. You can also read what some other perfume bloggers think about Forbidden Love at Fragrantica, Çafleurebon and Art and Entertain Me.
Image credit: Forbidden Love images provided by La Fleur by Livvy; lily photo and collage by the author.
Disclosure: I received my sample for testing from La Fleur by Livvy.