Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1st, Lily of the Valley day: DSH Muguet de Mai & Muguet Cologne & draw!

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 began by imagining how she would come up with a viable solution and tested several mods, out of which two pleased her most, enough to launch them as separate fragrances.
Muguet de Mai is a complex composition which goes beyond a simple soliflore, as I sense the perfumer was not trying to simply capture just lily of the valley, and which brings back a forgotten ingredient that constitutes the crowning grace of many classics: resinous galbanum with its bitter green note. Lovers of the classic vintage version of Vent Vert by Balmain know full well what I'm talking about: the bracing feel of galbanum, technically a bottom note of slow evaporation, but surfacing at the very top of a fragrance composition can be the thing that makes or breaks a formula thanks to its sheer power. At the same time, it aids structuring the scent, giving a skeleton on which to work: Preening the harsh edges, without totally annihilating them, mellowing the base, giving a citric jolt that compliments it and fanning it on precious flower essences. That is what Germain Cellier did for the Balmain.
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!
Extrait de parfum version was chosen (I believe) to bypass the problem of the fleeting nature of several natural essences: The result is a tempered, tenacious but low-pitched scent.

Notes for DSH Muguet de Mai extrait de parfum:
Top: Bergamot, lemon, Tunisian neroli
Heart: linden, hay accord, violet leaf, cyclamen accord, hyacinth accord, orris rhizome, broom, jasmine sambac, rose, ylang ylang, jonquil, lilac accord
Base: galbanum, cassis buds, East Indian sandalwood, Virginian cedar, Tolu balsam, olibanum (frankincense), honey beeswax, styrax.

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
Heart: galbanum
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

Muguet Cologne
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:
Scent Hive (Trish)
Artwork by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, used with permission.
Disclosure: Samples sent directly by the perfumer.


  1. Unfortunately, I have never smelt real lilies of the valley, so I don't know what is their scent like, but I have tried the synthetic essence and I love it. It makes me feel like I'm in a green valley, surrounded by mountains and fresh water streams.
    I still have to find my perfect lily of the valley perfume.

    I would love to try any of the samples in the draw. Thank you!

  2. I am a big Lily of the Valley fan. This year for Christmas I requested Diorissimo, and it is heavenly, but the EDT doesn't last long. I also discovered Jessica McClintock, which is quite lovely, and I get many comliments. It reminds me of my mother and grandmother, who both wore Floris. I would love a sample of either. Good post, thanks

  3. Stella P14:12

    They remind me of the first warm days of early summer in my childhood years (since they bloom in June here in Mid-Norway), and my mother and her bottle of Diorissimo. I still have an old bottle that I use a few days in May/June every year, but had actually only tried this gem from Dior. Would love a sample! :)

  4. Anonymous14:14

    Diorissimo is lovely. (Wore it yesterday, with a tiny added layer of Idylle edt with its reduced patchouli and muguet accent.)

    Dawn always does beautiful things with naturals. (My favorite of her mostly-natural fragrances is Rose Vert, which actually does last several hours on me, while many fragrances do not.) I'd love to smell either of these. Thanks!

  5. Anonymous15:25

    I do remember them blooming in abundance in our yard in Michigan in the spring. I would pick great big bouquets of them to bring indoors. Their smell is heavenly. When I was a kid my mother always wore and loved Coty Muguet des Bois. Fortunately I was able to afford it to give her sometimes as a gift. I live in Texas now so no more of those spring delights. I'd love to try the samples.
    Incidentally I'm also a big fan of Debut and own a bottle. Love it!

  6. Eva S15:52

    I have always loved the scent of lily-of-the valley which blooms in early june in Sweden-the scent of end of term and the coming summer holidays!The swedish name "liljekonvalj" is one of the most poetic I know and "Kung liljekonvalje" (King Lily-of-the-Valley)is a classic swedish choirpiece which perfectly embodies the scent and feel of swedish forest in early summer...
    Check it out on youtube-
    Love to participate in the draw!
    Eva S Sweden

  7. dleep17:56

    I had an area in my yard filled with them. Such sweet, delicate little flowers with the most amazing scent. I would love to try the samples. Thank you.

  8. Lily-of-the-Valley reminds me of my childhood, because we had some growing in our yard and I always looked forward to finding them every spring. Thanks for the draw!

  9. I love the melancholy, yet optimistic symbolism of receiving a small nosegay of "return of happiness" and the delicate, shy loveliness of the bloom. Very romantic.

  10. Thank you so much for participating E! I loved your reviews especially the "honeyed thighs" very true! ;-)

    No need to enter me in the draw, but thanks so much for doing that!


  11. I am a huge LotV fan and have many, from vintage Cotys (several iterations) and Diorissimo to the more recent VC&A. This time of year, both Diorissimo and the Coty Muguet get a lot of wear - in a few weeks, when the temps climb, it'll be time to put them back in their sleepers.

    Muguets always are the harbingers of spring! We've had a chilly one so far, so the muguet are not yet out. Maybe this week!


  12. Lily of the valley reminds me on my grandmother's house in Indiana. I had never encountered the flower growing up in Southern California, but, my grandmothers house had a large patch of lily of the valley right beside the steps up to the front porch of her home.

    I loved it. It was so different. My parents had a lovely garden with roses and honeysuckle and gardenias, but, these new flowers were so tiny and different!

    Indiana was so different. The plants that grew well were not the same ones that did well back home. I experienced
    a REAL thunderstorm, caught lightning bugs on warm evenings and was exposed to the idea that there were places out in the world even more different than where I grew up.

    In some ways it was the last summer of my childhood. It was definitely the last time I was that innocent. When I came back to California I had to face the truth that I had been shipped off to relatives for the summer so that my parents could have time to themselves to deal with Mom's
    cancer diagnosis. I only had her for another year, and that year was rough.

    Bright pink roses remind me of Mom, and her vivid personality.

    Lily of the valley reminds me of my grandmother and the innocent exploration of the world beyond what I knew.

  13. I love lily of the valley as a flower - it's beautiful, smells divine and reminds me of my childhood ( Grandma used to grow them in her garden).
    As to perfumes, so far the only LotV-centered perfume that I enjoy wearing is Diorissimo. All others I tried smelled nice but I didn't like them on my skin. I'm open for trying more - there should be a perfect LotV for me out there, I'm positive.

  14. Carillon pour un ange- was very nice and close to the "intention" of muguet
    I would be glad to get to know other interpretations-
    thank you

  15. Lily of the Valley is, for me, almost completely associated with the flower itself, as I haven't smelled many perfumes with this note. It makes me think of spring, and all that spring implies, in terms of new beginnings, and refreshing ourselves and our spirits. I think it smells innocent, but still natural, and fresh, clean without being cold. I think it's a lovely smell, which has been something elusive for me, as I've only had the pleasure of smelling it on occasion.

  16. Malena13:44

    Dear E. :-)

    I hope you're well!

    When I read your post about the 2 DSH lily of the valley scents, I knew right away that I needed to comment!

    Lily of the valley is my favorite flower by far!
    In German it's called Maiglöckchen & being born in May I've strong ties with this flower.
    Since I was little, I always searched for the first LOVs blossoming in our garden as soon as it was May - sometimes even earlier ;-).

    As I'm typing this, a small vase wth a LOV stands in front of me on my desk. There's nothing more uplifting than the smell of a fresh LOV. They smell surprisingly strong for their tiny blossoms. The smell is sweet & very juicy, but there's also the whisper of an underlying melancholy which makes LOVs so complex & daring.

    I've several LOV fragrances: Caron "Muguet du Bonheur", Guerlain "Lilia Bella", Dior "Lily". I'm still searching for a vintage bottle of Diorissimo as the current version smells too sharp to my nose.

    My grandmother was also born in May & we shared the same passion for LOVs. I still remember when I was given Dior "Lily" as a Christmas gift many years ago & how we both doused ourself in it with abandon :-)

    If I was a flower, I'm sure I'd be a LOV.

  17. What a delight, dear E !
    Indeed, Dawndear has done wondrous things.
    LOTV , in the bloom, is such a treasure!
    A clandestine , tiny thing of joy .
    " Auch kleine dinge..."

    Happy May, my friend !

  18. Anonymous15:03

    Whenever I think of muguet, I think of my mother as it's her favorite flower. Whenever I buy her a beauty product, I try to go for lily-of-the-valley- scented stuff. Which reminds me I am still kicking myself for thinking a Coty's Muguet de Bois I had found at a vintage fair was too expensive to buy.

    The flower only comes out in spring where I am from, so for me it really symbolizes the awakening of nature and return to happiness indeed (winters are quite grim, non?) And of course it reminds me of my mother buying a small bouquet and putting it in our miniature vase that we also use for snow drops.

    I like it because the smell is so transparent and yet so imposing.


  19. Cynthia16:05

    One of my first perfume loves as a little girl was Coty Muguet de Bois (the drugstore one!)I loved it's over the top floral, and I think it was at least partially responsible for starting my interest in scents. I would love to smell these samples as I am a huge fan of Dawn's perfumes!

  20. Lotv instantly reminds me of my mother as it's her favourite flower. :)
    And picking them with my mother when I was a child is one of my more fonder memories. That's why I like Andy'y Carillon pour un Ange so much - it reminds me of that.

  21. Catherine M.21:18

    Thanks for this opportunity!

    Lily of the valley is a note I associate with my grandma and it's a fond association. I am still searching the perfect fragrance to capture my mental picture.

    Thanks for including me in the draw. And sincere thanks for an excellent blog.

  22. Anonymous21:21

    Most lily of the valley fragrances smell rather obsolete to my nose, lol, as I'm sure you know, we had discussed it last year if I remember correctly, so not a great fan, but I long to be proven wrong. Guess I want to say I want to take part in the draw.


  23. For some reason my comment got eaten up!

    I think I said something about how lotv just makes me happy..:) I have the diorissimo edt which seems a little thin but still lovely..

    would love to be entered in the draw- these two sound beautiful!!

  24. Anonymous19:27

    Lovely review! Please enter me in the draw for either sample, I love lily of the valley. My garden is full of lotv and their blossoming brings me immense joy. I would love to find a fragrance that can replicate that.

    -Jonathan R.-

  25. 30 Roses10:03

    I adore lily of the valley fragrances! When I was graduating from 8th grade, way back in 1968, I asked for (and received) a splash bottle of Coty Muguet des Bois; this became my signature scent throughout high school.

    It reminded me of the little white bells growing in profusion outside our kitchen window-- and of course, I now have a bed of them below my own kitchen window. They should be blooming next week-- can't wait!

  26. Anonymous20:29

    Lily of the valley is my Holy Grail fragrance. The fresh flowers, combined with the scent of dirt and cool air, mean Spring to me . Muguet des Bois by Coty used to be a favorite, but it now turns sour on my skin, probably due to the use of cheaper materials. So far Diorissimo fills the bill for me, and I recently tried and liked Penhaligon's version. I'd love to be entered in the drawing, as I always want to try a new or unknown muguet!

  27. Natalia04:42

    Not sure if the draw is still open but lily of the valley always reminds me of my grandma's very small and cute garden in a siberian village... one of the beautiful but strong enough flowers to bloom even into siberian spring. Love the scent!

  28. Katerina11:54

    Lilies of the valley are sweet and intoxicating to me. They remind me of coy women who have a lot to say nevertheless.
    Please include me in the draw, thanks! And thank you for an amazing blog.

  29. Anonymous15:12

    Hello, E~

    Here is my belated but very heartfelt thank you for such a lovely review of my Muguets to celebrate May Day and thank you for participating in our project! It's always an honor and immense pleasure to be on Perfume Shrine. I am wishing you a gloriously blossoming Springtime!


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