What Scent but that of Lilacs? Lilac fragrances part 1

When looking for a lilac perfume, what exactly are we searching for; memories, the foreboding of spring, the lilac bush as it goes from a green on-burst over alluring sweetness to decaying sensuality?

For this first post on lilac perfumes, it is going to be about three contemporary and still available lilac fragrances. The title refers to Hans Sachs‘ aria from Wagners opera Die Meistersänger aus Nürnberg ‘Was duftet doch der Flieder’. Die Meistersänger (the mastersingers) hold a competition for men to enter their Guild, whereby a singer composes a song to very difficult intricate set rules. Walther, who wants to enter, sings in a new style, and only Hans Sachs recognises that although new and different this song is of particular beauty. I thought it was a fitting title since lilac suffers from a somewhat old fashioned reputation, and yet it inspires contemporary perfumers to reinvent it. As Sachs sings; ‘It sounded so old – and yet was so new, a birdsong as sweet as May!’

I Profumi di Firenze ‘Lilla Serenella’

It’s lilac the Italian way, to state the obvious. Whatever lilac might be elsewhere, in Firenze it’s naughty. It’s dirty, fleshy, intoxicating and somehow still a lady. Like the difference between French Chic and Italian Passione, this one doesn’t wear Chanel, it wears Versace. Its purple waxy petals shine with delight, they’re moist not with dew but with thick nectar, shivering in anticipation, before dying in the serene sunset over the hills of Tuscany.

This Lilla Serenella might be a soliflore, but it makes me forget all about it. And did I mention that if you visit Firenze, these perfumes are a steal.

images versace, carey, beyonce by testino







Ineke ‘After my own heart’

To begin with it’s all apple and tard berries. And I get quite a bit of white musk coming through. Basically it’s quite a fruity-floral opening. I then do get a nice soft whisper of lilac, not in any way overpowering, but kind of just a sudden immergence. So despite the focus on the sharp and green in the opening of the fragrance, towards the lilac-heart the fragrance mellows, I suppose with the help of the heliotrope and sandalwood notes, although these are very faint. Basically being a nice and happy floral with a fresh and fruity top, it is for you if you like such fragrances. For me, well you might have guessed it, I lack a bit of something else. The intoxicating alluring note, some spike, some romance, a song, a dance…

La Parfumerie Moderne ‘Désarmant’

A new release from a new niche brand, Désarmant is all about lilac. Apparently it is based on a memory of a mystery perfume found at a hotel. As lilac soliflores go, this one is really very pretty and authentic. Désarmant manages to find a fine line between not being about to eat you whole (indole overload) nor about to be eaten (macaron-style). For the shortest moment the opening has a bit of grubbiness, like fresh moist soil, and freshness like a spring breeze before these come together to form the actual scent of lilac.  A lot of modern lilacs, like to add a watery fresh or even yeasty note, not so here, and yet, Désarmant also does most certainly not smell vintage. It sits on a bench in the shadow of the lilac and stays there in its soliflore mode for a long time, with not much else happening, until suddenly it changes character and becomes quite animalic in a furry sort of way, before it softens into a faint growl. We can only guess as to what happened underneath those lilac bushes? Or in that hotel room?

I’ll let Hans Sachs have the last word; ‘What scent but that of lilacs, is so gentle, so strong and full!’


For more lilac perfume reviews and round-ups; Undina goes looking for the perfect lilac here and here and here’s  Bois de Jasmin ‘s take.

17 thoughts on “What Scent but that of Lilacs? Lilac fragrances part 1

  1. Out of the three you mentioned, the only perfume I’ve tried is After my own heart. This year for some reason I wasn’t craving lilacs (until you’ve mentioned them! ; -) ). Maybe I should try wearing Opardu…

    “this one doesn’t wear Chanel, it wears Versace” – what a perfect description!

    • Thank you Undina. Yes, because of the relatively mild winter, where we both noticed that we were craving ambers less, I think perhaps the timely arrival of spring, meant less lilac craving too? None the less, the search for the perfect lilac goes on 🙂 And fortunately, I’ve been counting quite a few additions of late.

  2. hmm, I’m not a fan of Versace but you had me convinced Lilla Serenella would smell great. 🙂
    Desarmant sounds rather great too.

    When did you manage to accumulate all these lilac perfumes? 😉

    P.S. How much of a steal is Lilla Serenella?

    • Ha! No, I’m not sure I’d want to wear Versace couture everyday (although, actually thinking of it, I can’t stop smiling at the thought of going out to the supermarket in full on Versace), but one must admit it is daring, OTT and has SPUNK! And I do admire that. Désarmant is nice, and I really like those basenotes, I’m not sure you’d have the patience to wait for that though 😉 LS on the other hand, I could definitely imagine…
      Accumulation of lilac perfumes in ongoing, not many manage to pass me by actually. As to the prices, I really can’t remember, but the 12ml extraits I think are less than 20€ and 50ml edt/edp less than 50€ and many of them are very well made.

  3. It sounds as if ‘Désarmant’ is the perfume I should have been wearing yesterday; I was at a concert in the beautiful white wooden Herrnhut church in Christiansfeld, the warm orange sunset poured in through the white curtains as the chorus and orchestra played music of Danish composer Peter Heise. Lyric, romantic and all about spring! Do you choose your perfume to fit the music when going to a concert? Would love to hear your thoughts on which perfume would go well with specific composers 🙂

    • Yes Désarmant and Heise, definitely, I can see that. 🙂
      Great question, I think I do sometimes, but of course at times it might just be what I feel like wearing for the night, regardless. For Rosenkavalier, that I plan on going to in Malmö this week, I had already thought that Strauss goes very well with the Guerlain classics, some of them from round about the same time. But ultimately it’s what feels good for me at that moment.

  4. I’ve not gotten into lilac perfumes as yet but Lilla Serenella sounds like the kind I’d go for. En Passant was a bit too fresh and innocent for me but very well done of course.

    It can be a lot of fun trying to find your favourite in a particular scent category. Enjoy the journey!

    • En Passant didn’t work for me either, which I regret because I like Olivia Giacobetti’s creations a lot in general, she has a way of making sheer perfumes powerful. Copenhagen is a city of lilac bushes, so I associate it so much with spring, I think that was what started the search. True, it’s actually a lot of fun discovering the many different ways that the perfumers interpret a certain note, especially one that doesn’t exist as a natural, but has to be man-made to smell true to the flower.

  5. I was thinking the same thing as Tara about En Passant, indeed I coincidentally remarked on its innocence earlier today! I don’t know any of these perfumes, but am most drawn to the first one, despite not being remotely in the market – or of the demographic – for a Versace suit!

    • Oh come on V, you’d look smashing in one of those animal/ gold print designs. They have bathroom designs too 😀 I am with you both on En Passant, and wish O.Giacobetti would give lilac another go, the way she did several gorgeous perfumes based around saffron, as I do find she has a magical touch.

  6. Asali, I really enjoyed your introduction to this piece – learning about Die Meistersänger aus Nurnberg.

    I think I told you one time about the co-worker who insisted on flooding the offices, and even the community spaces, of the retirement home where we worked with vases of fresh lilacs pulled from the home’s garden. I used to love lilacs and think of them as so delicate, and then a week spent living with them “en masse” cured me of that feeling and pretty much of my love of them.

    Or so I thought. I did recently enjoy smelling En Passant a good bit … but that “Lilla Serenella” you describe sounds like quite my thing. Not that I’m a Versace person, but the terms in which you describe the “Italian passione” of that perfume are irresistible!!

    • Suzanne, I do remember the story and I always think about it when I smell lilac, both in perfume and for real, and feel for you. An awful thing to get a ‘scent’ taken away from you by someone. I am glad to hear that perhaps it wasn’t incurable lilacophobia, and I do think both Lilla Serenella AND a bit of Versace would suit you very much:-)

  7. I love the scent of lilacs. Love love love. But it’s not one that I generally like as a perfume. Your list makes me possibly reconsider, though. Some of these sound perfumey enough that maybe I wouldn’t feel like a walking lilac bush. 🙂

    • I know what you mean, that’s why I think it such a difficult task to find the lilac perfumes that get it just right. I do remember though that you instantaneously liked Decou-Vert by Laboratorio Olfattivo when I showed it to you. It’s a green floral with just a bit of lilac, perhaps that’s worth seeking out?

  8. The only lilac perfume that comes to my mind right now is Opardu by Puredistance. I don’t know any of those you mentioned in the post…

    • Hi Lucas, I plan to include Opardu in another round up. It’s a beautiful soft lilac.

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