Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley



For a number of years, I've worn and adored fragrances by Penhaligon's, a well-respected perfume and toiletry company based in London. Earlier this year, I lamented the closing of their New York flagship store; nevertheless, their fragrances have remained some of my most beloved. From Elisabethan Rose to Artemisia, even their famous (thanks to Kate Moss who is known to favor it) Bluebell which I've admitted is challenging to wear but have grown to love, these scents are as soft to the nose as a feather. This is a line which gives the fragrance aficionado all of the classic soliflores and blends in simple, traditional, easy-to-recognize format: Violetta smells like violets, Lavandula like lavender. Although I'm a fan of the abstract, I can also appreciate the straightforward approach by this historical perfume house.

However, my review today is for their Lily of the Valley, and it's much more than a simple soliflore lily of the valley regardless of what their description states. It's not as recognizably lily of the valley-centric as Christian Dior Diorissimo, probably the most famous lily of the valley or muguet in the world alongside Coty Muguet (which I haven't smelled yet).

Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley is, to my nose, what the well-known musk scent called China Rain must have drawn inspiration from: a classic heart of rose, jasmine and lily of the valley - add some deep musky wood notes and voila, China Rain. The initial scent of Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley is that of a fresh and robust rose, maybe a tea rose like Creed Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare (from the Exclusive collection), underscored by a clear but sweet white floral backdrop and light, fruity freshness (love the mouthwatering sweet lemon notes). The fruit notes deepen to a winelike decadence, the lily of the valley (with mossy aldehydes in 1970s style) unveils a sharp, soapy green character, all of which eventually settle into a transparent (though not at all aqueous), dewy, spicy (geranium) woody Green Floral, musky and not unlike Bluebell with its pungent accord of dried roses, cinnamon and cool, wet woods, but mostly akin to Grès Cabotine (1990, popular in Japan when it launched), Creed Fleurissimo (1972, commissioned by the groom for Grace Kelly for her wedding day), Christian Dior Tendre Poison (1994) - all those voluptuous, borderline Fruity Chypre types of green florals, as voluptuous as tuberose spiked with dark, heavy, ambery woods. Valentino's first fragrance for Women (loved by Jackie O.) and Oscar de la Renta Volupté (1992, associated with another princess - forgot which) also come to mind for comparisons to this retro - in a contemporary '70s and early '90s way - Floral number. Such an enviously full-bodied heart wouldn't be possible without their copious use of jasmine - as it was with Diorissimo - and, most prominently in Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley, a giant, heady rose.

On some foggy day in London town, I would personally prefer Bluebell for myself, but this is a scent worth knowing. I would highly recommend purchase of the gorgeous and handsome Penhaligon's sampler kit in the golden tin (Scent Library - which used to coincide with a book) which includes generous 1/16 fl. oz. glass vials of both Bluebell and Lily of the Valley (fragrances in the sampler may change, so be sure to check with Penhaligon's first). September is New York's most popular month for weddings, and Lily of the Valley would make a beautiful wedding perfume choice if you prefer Green Florals and spicy scents and are planning a princess wedding of your own.

Here are the notes according to Penhaligon's:
"An ancient flower but this fragrance’s modernity is very striking. On some skins it develops a grassy hay-like quality, on others it is strikingly ‘white’, peppery and very elegant."

Lily of the Valley (1976)
Head Notes: Bergamot, Lemon and Geranium
Heart Notes: Lily of the Valley, Rose, Ylang Ylang and Jasmine
Base Notes: Oakmoss and Sandalwood