The shape alone entices you to lean in your nose and inhale deeply closing your eyes.
It would be better to open them, however. Because past the loaded stamens of burgundy red, there is the waxy sight and smooth touch of the petals that is redolent of a woman’s skin.
Isabelle Adjani has such a skin, in the best possible sense. Alabaster or mother of pearl doesn’t begin to describe it. Flawless, pale and surrounded by the darkest frieze of ebony hair, she is a living Poe literary heroine. The romantic ideal exalted.
It is of gorgeous Isabelle that I think upon smelling Un Lys (=a lily) by Serge Lutens of Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris. Part of the exclusive range, after a brief limited time featuring in the line-up that is being shipped to the US, it was composed by nose Chris Sheldrake and is one of the fabulous florals that include the equally captivating A la nuit and the gorgeous Fleurs d’oranger.
Isabelle showed her romantic inclinations in many films; however the innocence of character along with the beauty depicted by Un Lys is best represented by her role in the Werner Herzhog film Nosferatu starring Klaus Kinsky (father of Nastasia Kinsky).
In this remake of the Murnau-directed silent film (which in turn was based on Stoker’s Dracula, but with changed names because of copyright held by Stoker’s widow at the time), Adjani lures in the lovesick vampire into her bed, enticing him until the “terrible dawn” rises and destroys the vampire, who literally dies of love.
Count Orlok, the vampire, was played by the actor Max Shreck in the original Murnau film and his name was borrowed by Tim Burton for the villain in his Batman II (a cinematic homage to German Expressionism visually) ; it figures…
If you still want to explore further, watch Shadow of the Vampire starring John Malkovich and a Willem Dafoe made-up to amazingly resemble the Count of the first film. (I couldn’t believe my eyes!)
Un Lys plays up on notes of lily and vanilla, a light touch that surrounds the petals and makes for lasting power on the skin. Upon opening the bottle the smell that emanates is velvety soft and mostly reminiscent of lilac, as witnessed by many devotees. Of course lilac is not listed as a note; neither does it yield a useful essential oil for perfumery, because the oil rendered does not actually smell like the living thing. Therefore an array of synthetics, such as Apo patchone, Lindenol, Nerol 800/900, Terpineol Extra and Dimethyl Benzyl Carbinol are used in substituting for it.
I have no gas chromatographer by my side, nor any conclusive testimony whether one of those ingredients goes into the production of Un Lys, but thought it might be a good idea to list them, as many people swear that they smell lilac when they experience Un Lys.
To me personally it is the slightly musky background, vibrant and fragile at the same time, which captivates me and contributes to my likening it to flawless feminine skin. The sweet backdrop of vanilla is just a touch, enough to make this cherubic.
Un Lys is the dying breath of an angel in heaven and you should encounter it with the proper respect and awe.