Not having had much of a tradition of celebrating May Day, other than the Maypoles we used to dance around in elementary school, I’ve adopted the sweet one of celebrating muguet, or lily of the valley, as a good-luck charm on the first day of May.
Muguet (or LotV, as it’s often abbreviated by fumeheads), is a tricky note. It cannot be produced from the flowers, as they yield no scented oil, and must be produced by a combination of several synthetic aromachemicals, at least one of which has been severely restricted in the past 3-5 years, so that recently manufactured lily of the valley notes smell mostly like harsh cleansers.
Does that make you as sad as it makes me?
There are innumerable muguet fragrances on the market still, but very few that have really charmed me. Here’s a wonderful article on the note from Elena at Perfume Shrine, if you’d like to go exploring. I’m going to list a few muguet scents that I really like.
I have a bottle of Diorissimo, once recognized as Queen of all the Muguet scents – it was lively, floral, young, scrubbed clean on top but with an undercurrent of human warmth underneath, provided by the animal growl of civet. By the time I bought my bottle (a tester bottle from approximately 2006), that animal growl had largely disappeared, and so had some of the sparkle. It’s still lovely, still wearable, but there is the tiniest hint of screech in it if you pay attention.
I can remember being entranced with a bottle of Coty Muguet de Bois back in about 1985 or so, when I located it at the Big Lots store. I should have bought it even though my mother kept telling me that I already had plenty of perfume and what on earth did I want with something that cheap? I remember it as having a pronounced green quality (always a draw for me, of course) as well as the lily of the valley, but I remember almost nothing else about it. It’s still in production, but I hear that like all (ALL! Coty, you SUCK!) of Coty’s fragrances surviving from earlier days, its composition has been cheapened and now it smells like a ghost of its former self.
Kenzo Parfum d’Ete – the old one, from 1992, as opposed to the newer one from 2002, which is also lovely but far less floral – is a staple for spring-through-early-summer for me. It doesn’t really smell like summer to me, as summer in these parts can be ripe, humid, heavy. Other than that, though, it is really delightful. There is a crispness to this one, probably from the identifiable hyacinth and green notes, but the muguet is prominent. There’s a beautiful clean fresh-air quality that flows through it, approximating the smell of sheets dried in the sun, and I think I love Parfum d’Ete best sprayed on sheets or a nightgown, where it helps me relax into sleep.
And then there is Andy Tauer’s genius muguet fragrance called Carillon pour une Ange, which I like to refer to privately as “Angel Bells.” I reviewed this one here, if you’d like to read further about it, but it is truly wonderful. I only have three small 1ml samples, and have not quite yet used up the first of them; this one would probably be overwhelming for me if sprayed. Two drops will scent me for a good six hours, with excellent projection, thank goodness. I doubt I’ll ever buy a full bottle, but I don’t ever want to be without at least a sample of it, because it is stunning. There is an earthiness to the thing which reminds me of the dirt those little white bells grow in, a forest-floor wildness that serves as a marked contrast to the clear floral tones, and I love it. I do. It smells exactly like the photo above, with the saturated green notes, the lily of the valley, and under all the mossy-mulchy deliciousness of fresh damp dirt.
Wishing you all a wonderful May Day. Today I’ve chosen Carillon pour une Ange – I waited to see what the weather would be like before making my choice. If it had been dry and sunny I’d probably have picked Diorissimo, but it’s damp and misty, and under those conditions the “Angel Bells” really sing.