Lily, in my opinion, isn’t the chiefest among the big white florals, but it’s a lovely one. I won’t get deeply into the definition and explanation of why white florals smell the way they do; I will simply point you in the direction of this blog post and this one by Elena of Perfume Shrine, for further reading.
I love lilies. Madonna lilies, Easter lilies, stargazers, orientals, all of them. I can’t have them in the house, however, unless I snip off the stamens. For one thing, the orange pollen stains, badly. I once ruined a white eyelet dress by getting too close to these monster 6-foot tall white lilies that bloom near the door at our old church. For another, the pollen is murder on my allergies. At that same church, they always used to decorate the rail of the choir loft with lilies at Easter, and before the service was over my head was stopped up and I was sneezing nonstop. Once the stamens are gone, though, I’m just fine.
And the smell – floral, green, spicy, creamy – is heavenly. Luca Turin famously commented that lilies en masse smell like ham, and I don’t really get that specific reference, but I do understand that thick, almost-salty, almost-fleshy smell. It’s gorgeous. It’s funny, but lily scents tend to highlight either the spicy aspects of the flower, or the creamy ones. Hard to find a photorealistic one, and I’m not sure I really want one of those; I’d rather just have a lily in a vase, sans stamens.
Lilies in perfume can sometimes take over – not that I mind that much.
(I’m not talking about lily of the valley, which has a completely different smell. Yes, they’re white florals, but I never think of muguet scents as “Big” white florals. No, not even Diorissimo.)
In the lists below, I’ve included both soliflores and scents where lily is the star among other noticeable components. The fragrances I’ve smelled myself are in color, and the bolded ones are favorites of mine. Any lily lovers out there? Please suggest some good ones.
Serge Lutens Un Lys
Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Lys Mediterranee
Donna Karan Gold (discontinued)
Cartier Baiser Volé
Annick Goutal Des Lys
Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Lys
DSH Perfumes Madonna Lily
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia
Antica Farmacista Casablanca
Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs (a floaty, green mixed floral centered on lily)
Tom Ford Shanghai Lily (spicy lily with milky-incensey woods, sort of as if DK Black Cashmere and DK Gold made a baby)
Ineke Gilded Lily (fruity modern chypre with lily)
Hermes Vanille Galante (lily intersecting with vanilla, a soft billowy scent)
Serge Lutens La Vierge de Fer (stern metallic lily)
L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer (faint lilies and soapy incense)
Oriza L. LeGrand Relique d’Amour (lilies and incense and cold stone – similar in concept to Passage d’Enfer, but in my opinion this one works where Pd’E doesn’t)
Penhaligon’s Lily & Spice (discontinued – lilies, spice and musk)
Le Labo Lys 41 (another soft billowy white floral with gardenia, jasmine and vanilla)
Keiko Mecheri Soussanne (lily, datura, and sandalwood)
Tom Ford Jardin Noir Lys Fumé (lily, ylang, and labdanum)
Jovoy Paris Lys Epona (woody lily)
DSH Perfumes Mother of the Bride (big mixed bouquet of lily, rose, and carnation)
DSH Perfumes 1,000 Lilies (Susinon) (lily, cardamom, sandalwood and incense)