Yardley : Lily of the Valley

Created by : François Coty (?)

Date : 1936 or 1942

Genre : Green floral (lily of the valley)

Concentration : cologne spray

When I asked my mother what she wanted for Mother’s Day awhile back, she surprised me when she asked for Coty’s Muguet des Bois because  I thought that she still wore Guy Laroche’s Fidji and Muguet des Bois was unknown to me.  It took me awhile to find it.  Luckily a department store SA suggested I try a drugstore and there it was… at an unbelievable price.  I bought it for her for several years until I was told that Yardley had licensed the fragrance and the name had changed to Lily of the Valley.  One particular year I simply couldn’t find it and when I called the head office in Ontario to locate their products, they offered to send my mother free-of-charge the cologne spray, the scented soaps and the talc powder.  It was such a wonderful, generous act.  I’ll never forget it.

The original Muguet des Bois was launched by François Coty in 1936 or 1942 depending on your source.  It’s a very green, somewhat jarring lily of the valley but it impressed the great Edmond Roudnitska enough to comment on it…

“I remembered that Coty had a lily that was called Muguet des Bois. No better lily note was ever made.  It pushed the green note of the flower.  As a lily note, it was magnificent.  It was much better than the one I had made myself.  I wondered how they had managed to create such a masterpiece in the Thirties, with so little means.  But it never became very successful, because it wasn’t a perfume one could wear.  So when I made my lily, I told myself that I should not fall into the same trap.  I had to make it into a perfume.”

The current fragrance isn’t round like Roudnitska’s take on lily of the valley, Diorissimo, nor as beautiful.  LotV is more angular and a little difficult to wear.  Dosage is a factor and where you spray it might also be a dealbreaker for you.  I would avoid spraying it too close to the face.  I think it’s fun to wear but it isn’t a shrinking violet and it’s a little loud.  Whether the original Muguet des Bois was wearable or not.. I don’t know… but the current Lily of the Valley by Yardley IS wearable and quite good considering its price.  A librarian friend of mine, Mariouche, wears it and when we kiss hello it smells wonderful on her.  It wakes up your senses… it simply smells like spring.  Just go easy on the atomizer.

Top image : L’ange et la mère by Louis Janmot (1814-1892)

Amber is an odd word

Amber is an odd word, isn’t it?  I mean you type in the word “amber” in Google and the very first description that comes up  is what most people think of… those gemstones that sometimes contain insects.  That amber is actually fossilized tree resin and it makes for some very popular and interesting jewelry.  But when perfumistas talk about amber, they are talking about something completely different.

The perfume industry has the same problem as most disciplines in that the vocabulary is an obstacle for people who don’t understand the jargon.  When talking to fellow librarians, I’ll often  refer to books as monographs and magazines as periodicals.  The collection of materials in a library is a catalogue and one searches the catalogue via an OPAC.  Have I lost you yet?

It’s the same with perfume.  Among ourselves we prefer to use the jargon… ambers and fougères, topnotes and drydown, sillage and soliflores because, understandably, it’s alot easier to say “the amber family” than “that styrax-benzoin-cistus-labdanum-vanilla-musk family”.  It’s a kind of shorthand.  But when talking to people who aren’t familiar with the vocabulary, it’s probably isolating for them.

In addition to being a shorthand, using jargon identifies the person as part of an in-crowd having the same interests.  So when I say, “There’s nothing better than a crisp, green chypre”, it’s a kind of password to the listener that I understand the lingo and we can continue in this shorthand if you also know the vocabulary.

As to my first point , what does the word “amber” mean for perfumistas?  Well, the word “amber” comes from the French word “ambré” which comes from a mythic amber perfume, L’Ambre Antique (1905), created by one of the top 5 great perfumers of all time, François Coty.  Ambre Antique defined the genre and other perfumers soon found that they could use the amber accord as a base and add other notes to it… which is what they did.  Today, amber represents a whole family of perfumes.

Amber perfumes are known to have ingredients like vanilla, musk and oriental resins in them with classic ambers being Guerlain’s Shalimar, Chanel’s Coco and Yves Saint-Laurent’s Opium.  But if you’re looking for an inexpensive, basic amber that both women and men can wear, check out my Stetson Original review.

One final note on ambers, they are sometimes referred to as “orientals”.  We wouldn’t want to make it too easy, now would we?

Top Image : The Tower of Babel by Abel Grimmer (1570-1619)

Bottom Image : Vintage bottle of L’Ambre Antique

Why start a blog?

Why would anyone start a perfume blog when there are so many perfect blogs out there in the blogosphere?  I asked myself this same question exactly two years ago and I ask it again now.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve met some extraordinarily passionate people both in person and on the net recently and their passion is just too contagious to ignore.  Or, maybe it’s because I now own more perfume than I can wear in a lifetime and this blog is a kind of making sense of an obsession that seems to occupy more and more of my time.  Or, maybe it’s because I have my own ideas of what is beautiful perfume and what is not so beautiful and I want to share my opinions with other fans to see if anyone agrees with me… or not.  Actually, my reason(s) for starting this blog is a mixture of all three and I’m kind of hoping that you’ll come back on a regular basis and share your opinions with me.

François Coty

To write this post, I created a talisman to guide me.  From my fragrance collection, I selected a bottle of Joseph Marie François Spoturno’s Chypre (aka Chypre de Coty).  It’s a bottle I acquired from Denyse Beaulieu who was gracious enough to deliver it to me personally in Montréal on a cold December morning.  I placed a drop of the cologne on a smelling strip and I inhaled.  There it was… a perfect voice from the past talking to me today.  How true this 60s bottle is to the 1917 original, I don’t know but it was anything like my bottle, it is easy see why Chypre is considered as one of the great watersheds in perfume history.  Its abstract trio of oakmoss, labdanum and bergamot blend seamlessly giving us today a family of magnificent fragrances, Guerlain’s Mitsouko, Givenchy III and Chanel’s Pour Monsieur to name just three.

Enrico Caruso

Chypre reminds me of François Coty’s contemporary, Enrico Caruso.  They were born in 1874 and 1873, respectively, and both had superlative talent and vision.  Specifically, both knew how to harness the technology of the day to showcase their talents and both rose to worldwide acclaim.  When I think of Coty’s Chypre, I’m reminded of Caruso’s 1904 recording of Je Crois Entendre Encore from Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles.  Both perfume and recording hover between the crude and the sublime.  Much has been written lately of Chypre’s unrefined finish but it is clear that both it and that early recording are proof that Coty’s and Caruso’s voices were clear, inspired and prophetic of greatness, despite the less-than-perfect technology of the day.

And so I’ll end this post with a recording of Nadir’s lament from Les Pêcheurs de Perles and hope you’ll come back next week to read my first perfume review.

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