A lucky symbol ~it means “return of happiness” in the language of flowers~ the delicate beauty of lily of the valley is however poisonous (especially its reddish fruit) due to convallatoxine, convallamarine, and convallarine; a brave irony on the part of Creation! Lily of the valley or muguet in French (Convallaria majalis) is a herbaceous perennial plant prevalent in Asia, Europe and the Eastern USA, with characteristic bell-shaped little flowers, hence its other name May Bells. In France it is customary to give a posy of lilies of the valley on May 1st as a porte-bonheur. This is probably why French residing author Edith Wharton chose lily of the valley as the embodiment of her heroine May Welland in The Age of Innocence, as referenced in more detail in our article about perfume in novels.
Indie perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has launched two lily of the valley fragrances to celebrate May 1st, Muguet de Mai for women and Muguet Cologne for men; or, as the mood strikes you, interchangeably. They're both light enough and delicious enough to be enjoyed by both sexes. The idea began by Trish who was curious about a botanical lily of the valley note and Dawn was set to task for this diffucult project: You see, lily of the valley does not yield its precious essence satisfactorily enough for perfumery! The problem has perplexed perfumers for long, ending up in LOTV recompositions, the most renowned being Diorissimo by Edmond Roudnitska for Christian Dior. Roudnitska even went so far as to grow his own lily of the valley in his garden and stooping to smell attentively the tiny blossoms at bloom and the soil underneath so as to capture the true essence of the elusive flower. I also love the real-life yet delicate feel of Del Rae Debut, incidentally composed by Michel Roudnitska, Edmond's son.
Dawn injected her perfume with galbanum to give it the ambience of a truly botanical atmosphere, the grass and earth still clinging to the flower. She also looked into vintages, specifically Muguet Composé (c.1930′s) and Muguet des Bois (c.1940′s) by Francois Coty, Illusion oil, Lily of the Valley (c.1940′s) by Draille and of course Diorissimo by Edmond Roudnitska for Dior (c.1970′s), taking cues from the editions chronologically referenced. From those she's closer to the woodier Muguet de Bois, but she also went beyond that: You can instantly feel this is an all naturals scent, due to the very botanical profile of the flower essences, in which cassis buds gives off a slightly sour tinge, then mollified by the balsamic elements ~rather animalistic, like honeyed thighs~ that sweeten that effect alongside the (perceptible) linden blossom essence. A unique take on May's 1st traditional good-luck-charm!
Notes for DSH Muguet de Mai extrait de parfum:
Heart: linden, hay accord, violet leaf, cyclamen accord, hyacinth accord, orris rhizome, broom, jasmine sambac, rose, ylang ylang, jonquil, lilac accord
Muguet Cologne is a different animal, lighter in tonality but at the same time with a deeper, more spiritual feel thanks to the mossy-grassy elements. The two predominant elements for me were the bitter citrusy tang (which I imagined as a neroli-galbanum duet in my mind, a bit Eau de Cologne meets Vent Vert) and the vetiver grassiness undernearth. I almost imagined a faint frankincense in the base, influenced as I am by the effluvium that comes out of churches mingling as it does with the scents of spring. Green is its mantle and green are the dreams it inspires, a wonderful tribute to men's skin.
Muguet Cologne has great tenacity (it's technically an Eau de Toilette concentration) and projects at just the right pitch to be enjoyed by everyone around. I know I sure did on my very own skin!
Notes for DSH Muguet Cologne:
Top: white grapefruit, chamomile, coriander
Base: Australian sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver
Below is pricing information for the two DSH fragrances, both very limited edition.
Muguet de Mai perfume extrait concentration
5 ml antique presentation: $125
1 ml vials: $22
1 oz muguet cologne: $98
10 ml muguet cologne $45
1 ml vials: $5.25
For our readers, I have 2 samples of Muguet de Mai extrait and 3 samples of Muguet Cologne I'm giving away. Please let me know what lily of the valley does to you in the comments and I will pick the winners.
Please visit the other participating blogs for more impressions on DSH's Muguet editions: