Monday, April 28, 2008

After my Own Heart by Ineke: fragrance review

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land"
says the famous line from the Waste Land.

Lilac has always stood for me as the very emblem of April, "stirring dull roots with spring rain". So inextricably has the month been linked to the bloom's Greek name. Πασχαλια/Paschalia (Pa-scha-leeA) means "Easter blossom" simply because lilacs bloom exactly around the time of Orthodox Easter in April. But like the festivities and the spring rain, alas they last all too briefly. The much needed rain is a brief occurrence in our warmer climate.

The hunt for a realistic soliflore that replicates the lush character of this elusive bloom has occupied me for years, ever since I was a child, buying little oils at herbalist shops with my pocket money after school.
Lilac's odour profile is unique in that it incorporates the clean and the dirty rolled into one and is romantic as well as sexualised. When one buries one's face into the large panicles, the smell of intimacy, like worn musky undergarments by a lover scintillates, mingled with the honeyed pollen and the translucent dewiness of soft petals; conspiring into a spring plot to ensnare you into surrendering all thought and yield to its fragrant message to howl "the eternal yes".

And yet perfumers have never been able to extract a good and abundant enough essence for use in perfumery, therefore the combination of other natural oils and synthetics such as Apo patchone, Lindenol, Nerol 800/900, Terpineol Extra, Dimethyl Benzyl Carbinol to replicate the scent of the living flower are used. Too often the final product turns out to smell like tin foil and unappealing to anyone who has had the good fortune to have had cut branches of the real thing adorning their homes at spring, emitting their heavenly aroma beneath gauzy curtains gushing in the wind.

Syringa (Lilac) is a genus of 20–25 species of flowering plants in the olive family (Oleaceae) which are usually a light purple (commonly referred to as lilac or lilas in French) or less often light pink or white. Native to Europe and Asia, it is said that Syringa Persica has been brought to Europe at the end of the 16th century, from the Ottoman gardens, while Syringa Vulgaris grew in the Balkans. The Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, is credited with supplying lilac slips to Carolus Clusius, in 1562. Botanists of fame, like the herbalist John Gerard, soon had the rarity in their gardens: he notes lilacs growing “in very great plenty” in 1597. In the American colonies lilacs were introduced in the 18th century.
It is also interesting to note that purple lilacs symbolise first love and white lilacs youthful innocence (see Language of flowers).

In Ineke's After my Own Heart, I found a satisfying lilac interpretation that is innocent, yet not without the throes of first love vibrating its delicate heart strings. Described as "the scent of fresh lilacs floating on the early breeze" it fulfils its promise of a fresh perfume with a romantic inclination. The fragrance opens on a lightly powdery burst of greenery with a slightly bitter background of chilliness, like the rush of wind on a cool evening, bringing up goosebumps on warm skin. Almost instantaneously, however, a warm sweetness like that of pollen is surfacing to mollify and caress, with the delicate touch of a dot of marzipan paste on a plate of berries drizzled with a touch of Alsatian Riesling not short of its goût petrol. The composition is modern, with a more or less linear presence on the skin, meaning there is no distinct development, sustaining the impression of flower and dusty air for a good while.
To compare After my Own Heart with another modern approach on a lilac soliflore, F.Malle's En Passant, by nose Olivia Giacobetti, I would venture to say that the latter is pronouncedly more limpid and aqueous, with a slightly sour note, like sniffing fresh yeasty bread dough. Although both go for the fresh approach they divert ways very soon, as Ineke's rendition is a little dustier and sweeter and probably less dependent on particular skin chemistry. They resemble watercolours for which the artist thought of light green tones and white opalescence of a cool, bracing morning (for En Passant) and of the pinky blue skies of afternoon warmth (for After my Own Heart).
Guerlain's Angelique Lilas in the Aqua Allegoria line is another interpretation, this time with the watery theme veering into the bitter terrain of rained upon angelicas, but the pronounced Calone element in it might seem harsher than Ineke's approach.

Contemplating whether my personal lilac-strewn Eldorado has been reached, I find that like the mythical town it is best to dream and find elements of it in the fragrances on offer. Perhaps the search will never end until technology and analytical chemistry sufficiently unravel the thread of Ariadne. Until then, real stems of lilac in a vase along with pleasant fragrances that echo its sweet message such as After my Own Heart will keep me company.

Notes: bergamot, raspberry, green foliage, lilac, sandalwood, heliotrope and musk.

Info on how to obtain the fragrance and samples at
You can read an appreciation of the whole line from A to E clicking this Ineke article.

Les Atelies du Parfum has posted a lovely lilac poem for those of you who read French.

Clip of Erik Satie's Gymnopédie No.1 uploaded by Kyromaster on Youtube.
Pic originally uploaded by princesshaiku.


  1. I wish I could appreciate lilacs, but years ago we had a bush of them blooming, and I must have stuck my head into it too long, and well the scent to this day still gives me headaches. Ironically I had enjoyed the scent of lilacs before that incident.

  2. How I wish I could have had your bush! They are intense, no doubt, and I can sympathise, but there is a fragrant intoxication of which I can never tire ;-)

  3. The funny thing is here in California in the Bay Area there is a wild variety that grows all over, but the flowers are smaller. They smell intensely of honey. Actually you might be better for not having a had a gigantic bush of lilacs, you might have ended up like me.

  4. LOL, maybe!
    There is indeed an intense honeyed feel in lilac blossoms, which I find perversely reminiscent of human skin and intimate caresses. It's perhaps what the creator of Miel du Bois was aiming at as an impression instead of umping the urinous facet of honey absolute. I am hypothesizing here, of course.

  5. I actually just buried my face in rain-drenched lilacs this morning!

    Unlike you, I don't get honey out of the scent of lilacs. I get powdered sugar, slurried with a watered-down apple juice. I think I would find honey too much! But both hyacinths and lilacs share a factor that I call the "blue flowers" smell. For my money, the old, now-discontinued Mathias Lilas room spray was my favorite Lilac soliflore. I adore the smell of lilac, and they are an extremely close second to hyacinth as my favorite spring scent. Lilacs have a slight edge over hyacinth in one way only - candied lilacs are delicious. :)

  6. Anonymous22:32

    My husband and I love lilacs. In California we've had to buy a special cultivar that doesn't need cold winters to bloom. The plant that Jenavira mentions growing wild in the Bay area is probably a type of Ceanothus, a native plant that is sometimes referred to as "California lilac."

    This won't be your lilac HG, Helg, but if you want something cheap and cheerful, try Crazylibellule Lilas Spiritual, part of their Shangaijava series.

  7. Finding the HG with this scent is a toughie...
    Like the lovely armful, Risa, suggests- it reminds one of hyacinth, which is a bloom of 'divine decay' for me.

    Maria's right- the Lilas Spirituel is pretty. And affordable.

    Closest I come, is in Diorissimo of old.
    A second thought, is the hyacinth in AG's Grand Amour EDP...
    Truly indolic.
    It is decadent , full of promises, and a lovely, wearable work of art.

  8. I adore lilacs Helg. I have to confess - the best lilac I could get my hands on was Avons "lilac" range that was around many, many years ago. I can still see that plastic bottle of bubble bath with the lilac round plastic ball top. Oh the scent was so true to life. I now have one bush of lilac and its autumn here so I must wait for September. I do wish someone would create a scent with a strong lilac point in it! I would buy it by the litre! LOL
    Have a huge sniff for me Helg.

  9. Anonymous10:12

    I love lilac! One of the best memories of my parent's garden is the intense and mesmerizing smell of the lilacs blooming - in June!
    Just now outside my office building the yellow easter lilies are blooming. Have always found the name a bit odd, since they here do not bloom in our easter. Now I know that they bloom in the orthodox easter :)

    Thank you for this very interesting entry, it fortifies my longing for the smell of nature's lilacs. But still have to wait some weeks.. :)

  10. Anonymous10:20

    Ps: it is simple an non-complex, but for me, I must admit, it is very lilac, Yves Rocher's Pur Désir syrin

  11. Lilac is my favorite flower and doesn't grow in my area (the winters aren't cold enough here, and lilacs love a good cold winter). Alas! I agree with stella polaris that Yves Rocher does a very nice lilac scent.
    Now I'm off to buy a bottle of Lilas Spiratuel....

  12. Dear Risa,

    I love hyacinths as well! (well, I love all dirty flowers!)
    I smell honeyed pollen in lilacs but I also like your description: perhaps we're talking about a different variety. I only like the purple ones myself.
    The Mathias sounds fab!

  13. Thank you Maria for your info and for the rec!
    The only thing that stopped me from the CLATP's stick was that it was described as being a lily scent (which I also love but I already have things with it)

  14. Dear I,

    thank you for the recs: I LOVE Grand Amour (and Diorissimo, esp. in parfum)! The Lilas Spirituel is gaining momentum and I will succumb, I feel :-)

  15. Dear LJ,

    another lover of lilacs: we should form a sect! It breaks my heart to hear you found a great lilac scent only to hear it's an old one :-(
    I can sympathise, I'm telling you!

  16. Dear S,

    everything has a meaning and it's upon us to find it ~re: Easter lilies ;-)
    I do wish you that lilacs will bloom majestically in your path this spring :-)

  17. Oops, forgot to say:
    Yes, the YR one is good. Quite good! Maybe not 100% there, but very nice.

  18. Dear Mary,

    alas.....sorry about that :-(

    The Lilas Spirituel is a solid, from what I know. I think I am buying one myself as well, it being so affordable.

  19. Anonymous05:08

    Great post, great topic, great poem, and great perfume. I, too, love lilacs and they are exceedingly difficult to do right in perfumery. Ineke's is my favorite, with Alfred Sung Sha running a close second. I also like En Passant but partly because of that slightly unpleasant melancholy thing it's got going on. It's a great embodiment of the cruelty of "the cruellest month."

  20. Thank you Heather for stopping by and for commenting: coming from you I feel validated in my choice of verse for this fragrance.
    It's no wonder you're part of our little dirty lilac circle: all the good people are in! :-)
    I had so wished to make En Passant my own, but it was not meant to be: after repetitive testings through the years I finally gave up. I do enjoy the melancholy of Apres L'Ondee for such wistful spring moods though.


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