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.
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!’