Realistic Lilies

Casablanca Lilies photo my own

Casablanca Lilies
photo my own

When they fester, they may smell far worse than weeds, but lilies, especially the great big oriental and trumpet lilies of July and August, are still among some of my favorite garden flowers. They’re favorites with many people. There was a time in the nineties when no chic New York interior was complete without an extravagant display of pure white oriental lilies nearly toppling out of a vase. So far though I don’t wear any lily (meaning these big lilies, not pee-wee lilies of the valley) scent successfully- that is, up to now.

To be fair I’ve only put in a concerted effort twice, once with Parfums de Nicolai’s Eau de Lude, now a discontinued cologne that had a strong green scent of lilies (not Oriental lilies, which have a pervasive smell that reminds me of bakelite that’s gotten too hot) but the soft fragrance of Easter lilies. Lude was a very pretty scent but was completely linear. Nevertheless, I preferred the de Nicolai effort to Serge Lutens’ Un Lys which was a short lived purchase of mine.


Oriental Lilies photo my own

Oriental Lilies
photo my own

If you know the Lutens, then you know the thick creamy impasto portrait of lilies it paints on skin, lending the faintest indolic whiff to the sitter. Pleasant, but somehow not the easiest of the Serge Lutens to like; Un Lys gave me the ungainly sense of being a massive bouquet staggering about on legs. It was a case of the perfume wearing the wearer. Easier to manage was Baiser Vole, the Mathilde Laurent lily composition for Cartier, likeable and a much airier rendition of lilies. Or Lys Carmin, the Van Cleef & Arpels perfume that was a shade too pink and pretty for me, as though Renoir had painted the lilies, though no doubt perfect for most floral fanciers.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz does a nice line in lilies, Wedding Bouquet, and Madonna Lily. The only one of the two I’ve tried is Madonna Lily, and that was very creamy but a bit terse on skin. As to the Hermes Vanille Galante, I’ve tried it once but as with most of Jean Claude Ellena’s perfumes, that’s not long enough to understand the composition.

Sand Lily

Sand Lily

My big lily surprise this summer was Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediterranee. I got a sample, and have been wearing these photo realistic flowers non-stop. Just what is the attraction of these particular lilies? I’m not entirely sure. LM has been characterized as a “masculine” fragrance, which is a distinction without a difference to me. What I notice is the lovely ginger that plays a short overture to the main perfume with a touch of angelica. Lovely, absolutely lovely, and then the aquatic notes compliment but do not drown the lilies themselves. These are big green and white trumpet lilies and Easter lilies, set off by a distinctly salty undertone in the scent. I suppose when the title was released chez Malle, it was intended quite literally. These are seaside flowers growing in sand, and such things do exist. I once saw a deserted beach full of them blooming on Crete.

Maybe it’s the beach, maybe it’s the realism, maybe they’re just perfect lilies, but for the second time in the Frederic Malle line, I’ve fallen for a soliflore by Edouard Flechier. The man’s a genius at flower portraiture.

What’s your favorite lily fragrance?





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14 thoughts on “Realistic Lilies

  1. “Massive bouquet staggering about”! Love that mental picture. My stargazers just popped open two days ago, and they’re wonderful. Sigh. I did at one time have some oriental lilies, but I was careless with restraining the black-eyed Susans, and the orientals Are No More.

    The country church where we used to go – where The CEO’s family has gone since 1795 – had some gorgeous Casablanca lilies near the door. I once got too close too them when wearing a white eyelet sundress, and the pollen ruined it; the stain never came out. (They used to put the Easter lilies on the rail in front of the choir loft, too, so I could always count on being too sniffly to sing well by the end of service on Easter. I adore the smell, but if I have lilies near me I have to snip and discard the stamens as the pollen just wrecks me via allergies.)

    I didn’t care much for the Serge lily, and the Cartier was flat and soapy. That is, the original version which was an EdT, I think. Haven’t tried any of the concentrations that followed.

    Both those DSH lilies are nice, but my favorite of hers is Susinon (1000 Lilies), which is all natural but has staying power. It has lotus flower as well, so it has a greenish, watery quality as well as those sumptuous lilies. I also enjoyed Lys Mediterranee and its salty-breeze quality, really wonderful stuff, but my favorite is DK Gold. I have the edp – there was a time when stocks were plentiful and I eBay-scored not only a 1oz bottle of the edp for myself, but also one for my daughter. Together they cost $17. (Now? scarce and pricey.)

  2. Gold was one of those perfumes that didn’t get backed long enough. If DKNY had waited long enough I think it would have proven a fair seller. Now of course people have picked up on Gold, and up go the eBay prices.

    I knew there was one more DSH lily and it’s 1000 Lilies, though I haven’t had the pleasure of smelling it. I’m still on the LM kick myself.

    As for the awesome staining power of lily stamens, yep, I’ve had that experience. In my case a blouse was completely ruined because I was messing with a bouquet. You have to keep your distance with lilies 😉

    1. Today I’m testing Tom Ford Shanghai Lily and enjoying it, though three hours in the lily is really gone and only the spices are left, along with a creamy wood aspect that is pleasant. Very nice, but no way would I shell out TF bucks for it.

      1. Ooh, forgot one! Le Labo (oh, don’t get me started on LL. I hate them, generally, even though they occasionally put out something I like) Lys 41… a bouquet of lily, jasmine and tuberose atop vanilla. Not exactly a lily soliflore, but the lily’s quite prominent. It even slaps the tuberose around to some degree.

  3. Shanghai Lily has been a general favorite but I was not sure why. I got some lily and then largely NU. Hm…so not quite my thing.

    Le Labo I still don’t get. That habit of naming perfumes for one ingredient you seldom smell feels like bait and switch to me-which may be unfair. Did you like Aldehyde 44? I never got a hold of that.

    1. A44 is (was) nice, but I felt that the description of it as a white floral cloud (I don’t even remember whose description it was… maybe Abigail at ISTIA? I miss her, wish she was still writing) was misleading. I get very little white floral out of it – just aldehydes, a bit of rose, woods and vanilla. Should probably get my decant out and use it up, because it IS nice, but – ehhhh.

      That one might be the only Le Labo that smells like its name. I thought it was all aldehydes, all the time – not that I MIND that, but I wanted the narcissus and jasmine and didn’t get them.

  4. Even though I like an occasional whiff of a lily from a floral composition, I never came to terms with wearing any lily-heavy perfume. The only one with prominent lily (at least in the name) is Dark Amber & Ginger Lily by Jo Malone – which I enjoy wearing a couple of times per year.

    1. Dark Amber & Ginger Lily is a very strong and dark perfume, pretty good, but have to agree with you that the lily was mostly in the name because while I got the amber and maybe a bit of ginger I really didn’t get much lily! Still a serious floral oriental.

      But, I have just remembered that Sensuous Noir(where the parent company is the same as Jo Malones) also has a lily note in it, and that may indeed be in the DA&GL because there is a sort of fleshy salty element in that composition that might register as a lily with me. Those perfumes are both so dark it’s hard to make out any floral notes, but possibly it is in there.

    1. That’s a good suggestion.

      For some reason our local mall which carries everything else- even Guerlain exclusives-doesn’t have Penhaligons so I have to go into NYC to smell. But I’ll be going in two weeks. Off to Saks 🙂

      1. I think Lily & Spice has been discontinued here but it might be available there – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you:-)

    1. Oh darn it! Well yes I think we should save up for another transatlantic transfer. I’m curious about the Papillion perfumes Angelique 🙂

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