Thursday, June 19, 2008

Twin Peaks: Un Lys and DK Gold

I had written that Un Lys by Serge Lutens represents the dying breath of an angel in heaven. Such is its poetic licence that you have to approach it with sacred awe.
Donna Karan strived for a comparative effect with her Gold fragrance for women in 2006. Its mix of vibrant lily with animalic profundity puts Gold on a pedestral of worship, that of a stony goddess who demands the coming of Choephoroi.

The fragrance necessitated no less than 3 perfumers of the caliber of Yann Vasnier, Calice Becker and Rodrigo-Flores Roux. Usually that would be a recipe for disaster (too many opinions and twinkering often lead to an incoherent vision), yet in Gold the result is none the worse for trying.
The main accord focuses on bright, trembling with life lily, suave woods plus musk, effecting a round and creamy composition accented with discernable jasmine adding its indolic glory.

The opening of Donna Karan Gold has the dewy freshness of green tonalities of muguet, vaguely reminiscent of the green overture of Annick Goutal's Des Lys (another floriental focusing on Casablanca lilies) and the sharper start of Lys Mediteranée by F.Malle. Although the floral phase is clearly discernible from the start, the more the scent dries down the more the sensuous aspects reveal themselves beneath the droplets of lucid coolness.
Underneath a camphoreous scent is peeking through, like a riddle on the edge of the screenshot in a Greenaway film: now you see it and now you don't.

The development of Gold in the Eau de Parfum adds a very alluring animalic submantle which hints at ductile leather and ambergris rather than the traditional resinous amber mentioned, yet it doesn't do so with too much rebelliousness, remaining a sensual touch warming the proceedings and adding gravitas. Perhaps Gold, although certainly not ground-breaking, is a knowing wink of Donna Karan to her first perfume, the long discontinued Donna Karan New York in the phallic black bottle, which utilized lily, amber and suede to great effect.

Compared to Serge Lutens Un Lys with its mellifluous vanilla merging flowers with a dancing cloud, cherubically ethereal and featherbed soft at the same time, Gold stands as a drier, less sweet composition; but for those with no access to the exclusive Lutens it's a good alternative.

Notes for Un Lys: lily, musk, vanilla.
For DK Gold: Casablanca Lily, Amber, Acacia, White Clove, Golden Balsam*, Gold Pollen and Patchouli.

*a mix of Peru tolu balsam, olibanum, benzoin, vanilla, and cistus

Please note that Donna Karan Gold comes in Eau de Parfum concentration, which is warmer and much more complex than the more aqueous and linear Eau de Toilette, as well as a Sparkling Eau de Toilette. Between those versions Eau de Parfum is highly recommended per above. Parfum amplifies the cistus and incense with more vanilla.
The elegant bottle is created by jewellery designer Robert Lee Morris.

Un Lys , being a non-export fragrance, is only sold at Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, who ship across Europe, while a few remaining bottles of the limited edition in export oblong bottles can be found at select few Lutens sellers.

Pic of Gold bottles courtesy of Donna Karan Beauty


  1. Anonymous11:00

    Great post, as always! And so timely, I gave in to GOLD just four weeks ago and bought a 30ml flacon of the EdP. My compliments to DK for the bottle, it is a really delightful object with a very refreshing mix of materials: brass (for gold) siding the glass front and back, very well proportioned thick glass holding the ambery juice and the best wooden cap I've seen in a commercial bottle in ages. And the perfume is, of course, as charming and well-done (radiant without the floral harshness of say Malle's Lys Mediterranee) as you have described. I think it particularly excels in the very long and sustained opening, maybe you need all those great noses to achieve such a technical feat?
    Greetings, Olga

  2. Anonymous11:46

    What an evocative review and comparison! It's always a pleasure reading your thoughts, you put them so well into words.
    I have tried Gold in eau de toilette and wasn't as impressed, so I will probably have to try the eau de parfum too, now! Funny, I never see a tester of that one.
    Lys mediterane was never my thing and Un lys I haven't tried yet.

  3. Anonymous13:19

    As always, helg, a perfect review!
    :-) Will have to put some on tonight!

  4. Excellent reviews, and I'm glad to see Gold given some space. I got my bottle earlier in the spring, and have really enjoyed wearing it as the weather warms; it *blooms* beautifully.

  5. And now I have to test Gold.
    I agree that Un Lys must be the most wearable Lutens. Your review made me think of Little Women, if Un Lys represents Beth, then Lys Mediteranée represents Jo.

  6. Dear Olga,

    thank you! Isn't the bottle very good: hefty, solid, the cap is good, the feel is luxurious. They didn't cut any corners with that.

    The opening is really charming I agree, but myself I also get a poo note which is driving me nuts with the excitement (because I love those dirty notes)

    Enjoy your pretty fragrance!

  7. Dear Abigail,

    you honour me :-) I think you should definitely try the Gold EdP because there is a distinct difference: I got sent some EdP from a dear friend to try it out and later on when I searched the concentrations I found out the EdT which seemed thin in comparison :-(

    If you get a chance, Un Lys is so much worth the test!

  8. Dear N,

    awww, aren't you sweet! I have to thank you for your good instinct
    I hope you enjoy it!

  9. Dear Anita,

    indeed it does bloom, it's magnificent when there is some warmth. Although with its cuddly animalic base I could picture it all year round too.

  10. Dear L,

    what a great analogy! Very apt, very evocative, wish I had thought of it.
    I agree it's a testament of its easy disposition that Un Lys is probably the best-received fragrance of the non-export line by all audiences.
    In fact it surprises me that it belongs to the exclusives (which are more challenging en masse) than in the export line. The deeply indolic A la Nuit for instance seems more "difficult".

    If you get a chance, do test the Gold in edp (or parfum even better). It's well-made for a commercial fragrance.

  11. I have left the two remaining sisters for you ;-).
    Hmm, maybe Un Lys should have been placed in the export line, now when you said so. Moreover, I don't think Sarrasins is that original either (just my opinion).

  12. Well, you've done it again, E. I have been telling myself that Gold was not worth a purchase, even though I have loved it with every test. Now I think I may succumb! Un Lys is certainly one of the most beautiful treatments of the lily ever--I hoard my decant, because I want to make sure I have it when a serious craving hits. BTW, Penhaligon's Lily & Spice is close to a dead ringer for Un Lys, just not quite as rich.

  13. Oh, we have to do them with lilies only? Then I will attribute Des Lys (proper, responsible and light-hearted) to Meg and maybe something soft-focus and playfully mischievous for Amy, say Anais Anais?

    I think Sarassins might be part of the exports as more "approachable" (although I like it a lot) and A la Nuit in the exclusives for its exagerration.

  14. Dear M,

    far from me to be the instigator of perfume hoarding! LOL
    Well, Un Lys is certainly an angelical fragrance I can see one regretting running out of (psss, I can always get you some from the online boutique).
    I should probably cover Lily and Spice at some point.

  15. Anonymous20:06

    Great review Helg but I still cannot stand lily based perfumes - Not even Serge can convert me. ;0

    I've tried both of the scents you reviewed and I'm not feeling the lily-love everyone else seems to be.

    Non-lily scented hugs,

  16. Excellent choices! I have heard that Des Lys is very nice, but I have yet to sample it.
    Brilliant idea, it would have definitely more sense if A la Nuit and Sarrasins switched the color and the line.

  17. Anonymous06:11

    Helg, we see eye to eye on this , in fact a POL friend used my quote of "Gold is UnLys with orbs" I used another term but it had to be sanitized for the board ~wink wink!

    I am on a major Lily kick , so far in my collection of bottles , decants ,minis and samples I have tried Bermuda LiLi Easter Lily and the reformulated plain old Lily by LiLi, the latter being a dead ringer for Un Lys with less vanilla (a blessing in a way) the former a softened Des Lys, less green, less strident. I also have Un Lys, which is my preciousss (in my best Gollum voice), however at certain times I notice that the vanilla gets a bit overwhelming. Yves Rocher had a Pur Desir de Lys, sady discontinued, a gorgious soft sheer lily and not too much Rocherade (yes it exists and drives me bonkers in most of thier scents).

    Also in my lily bag o' tricks are two Madini oils, Four Seasons and Zagora. These are entirely thier own beasts and will NOT be compared to Un Lys , Des Lys , the Lili lilies , Pur Desir de Lys or DK Gold, these dance to the beat of thier own drum and come highly recommended to anyone wanting to explore Lilies in oil form.

  18. Dear L,

    thank you. I did my best :P

    Des Lys is lighter, more transparent and although I like it, I find it rather prim for what I think a lily should smell like in my fragrance. But it's very pretty and excellent quality; do try it, if you can.

  19. Dear Dawn,

    that's all right. We can't all be lilie-struck! LOL
    You have so many beautiful perfumes already, I am sure your wardrobe won't be missing those two.


  20. Dear N,

    that's a great description, LOL!! I think I can guess what the uncensored *parenthetically rolls eyes* must have been ;-)

    Un Lys is certainly too goose-dwon sometimes because of the fluffiness of the vanilla.
    The Yves Rocher line makes some very good florals using just aromachemicals (which makes you really wonder!) and I have heard raves about the Lily although I haven't caught it in time to stock up. The Gardenia though (and to a lesser degree the Lilas) are very realistic, so I believe you are right. They do have a slight whiff of gasoline from time to time, to my nose, which I often wondered whether it has do with my own bottles. But your comment might make me see I am not that crazy in thinking it after all.... :-)

    I have never heard of the Lili brand, so if you do see this, please direct me?
    Sounds like worth exploring!

    Taking notes down on the Madini as well: have only tried musks from them.

  21. Anonymous13:27

    Well , tis the proper place for proper people we cannot be having spherical discussions, that would be very naughty.

    Why oh why is that everyone and thier sister and hairdresser have done the Madini musks but not the florals? I admit , I have to give the musks a go.

    As for LiLi , the oringinal Easter Lily is now in the DC fumes grave however the new Lily , simply called Lily is decent.
    My parents introduced me to this line via the sample pack.
    Info to be had at

  22. Re propriety: but certainly! ;-)

    I believe musks are believed to be a very hippish thing, also a very girl-bonding thing, therefore: musk + oils + girly discussion fora= increased Madini sales :-)

    Very cute link: I am very tempted! (and an oleander, finally). Thank you, miss N, you're a doll!

  23. I actually think I prefer Gold over Un Lys, there is a complexity in it that works well on me. As for Madini Zagora, that is potent and very dry, turned out not to be a beast for me.

  24. Dear Jen,
    really; how interesting!
    And another vote on Zagora: this is getting exciting. Thanks for the rec.

  25. I went to the town and tested Gold yesterday. There are indeed a prominent similarity between Gold and Un Lys, but I think I prefer Un Lys still, the sweetness in it is balancing the strong lily scent in a perfect way.

    Also, I received a sample of AG Heure Exquise yesterday, I am trying it today. It starts with sandalwood and then turns into a vetiver+iris scent on me, totally reminding me of No. 19. I'm waiting for the dry down right now. This could be the one AG scent that I actually can like.

  26. Dear L,

    thank you for stopping by and I am very glad your comments confirm my suspicions: indeed I think I prefer Un Lys myself and HE is one of my favourite Goutals exactly because it's so close (but with a little twist) to No.19.
    Hope you enjoy them and perhaps acquire the HE!

  27. Anonymous13:53

    Great review! I have yet to try Un Lys, but Gold isn't for me.
    Do you think there is any twin to Parfum Sacre? I got a sample this week, what an amazing scent!


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