Now that’s a seriously long title! But it says everything that I wanted to say. I *have* been dreaming in muguet for months. Ever since Trish from Scent Hive conceived of this wonderful event to celebrate May Day and its beloved symbol of Spring, the Muguet (aka lily of the valley).
Out in Boulder we’ve had a long, cool Spring, so the lilies of the valley that my neighbor shares with me have popped up their perfectly vertical leaves but no buds or blossoms have shown themselves yet. You can imagine that I have been spying on them for weeks to no avail, hoping to catch a glimpse of their ascent and minuscule bursting forth. nope. no dice. (Their close friends in the yard, my violets, are the only early flowers I’d heard from so far until just before I left for Sniffa. It wasn’t the muguet yet but the purple and blue grape hyacinths are out now in full force sparkling at every turn in brilliant vibrancy!) I guess these friendly harbingers won’t really “see” each other this year. Oh well. Even if the violets can’t wait around, I can.
For this May Day extravaganza, Trish wanted to know if I would create an all natural (botanical) muguet perfume to be reviewed & discussed? and otherwise commemorate the day when this most loved flower of the season reigns supreme. I, of course, said yes but not without some trepidation and contemplation, as anyone who knows about lilies of the valley would, since they 1) don’t yield an essential oil so synthetics are pretty much the standard for this note and 2) even with the use of synthetics, to produce a beautiful and original take on muguet is a tall order indeed. But I like a challenge and so once again, jumped off the cliff. (I also like this metaphor a lot, as I’m sure everyone has noticed, because it’s truly like that: You don’t know if you’ll land at all, and if you do, how you’ll land or what you’ll land ON). Plus as an artist, I believe you’ve got to be game to try anything to ‘go further’. So I go all in.
As per usual, I set out to create just one botanical muguet but two differing concepts came equally strong, so I ended up with two perfumes: Muguet de Mai (perfume) and Muguet Cologne – for men (technically an eau de toilette). And as I began working and “dreaming in muguet” in earnest, other muses showed up which inspired me further, to the point of creating these mixed media and acrylic paintings that you see throughout this blog post. (These days “the juice”, as it were, all flows together and I just follow).
So, here is the presentation of my “Muguet May Day project” (aka 2011 special project no.4). In lieu of a review (hey, that rhymes :)) I’m going to include all of images and the ‘brief’ I sent to the other bloggers for the event explaining my thoughts and inspirations while creating the fragrance designs. I hope that you will enjoy the series and have a very Happy May Day!
Muguet project : brief
When I was approached about creating an all botanical muguet (lily of the valley) composition I was simultaneously excited by the challenge and intimidated. For not only is muguet notoriously elusive to begin with, even utilizing synthetics, I don’t know of any botanical that is used to simulate all of the delicacy and complexity that muguet exudes. I hope that I have done this most beloved of all Spring flowers justice and managed to capture some of its true essence while remaining true to the mission to work with an all botanical palette.
What came from this exploration were two different impressions, as I felt that an “impressionist style” (as in the Impressionist painting style) would be most suited to a spring floral and one that is difficult to pigeon-hole into any kind of clear ‘portrait’. What I wished to capture was some essential nature of the flower. These are my impressions:
Muguet de Mai Perfume is a floral bouquet centered around lily of the valley; not a mere soliflore taken from the ground and placed, sequestered, in a bottle but perfume that brings the atmosphere of May, warm and sunny with blooming flowers everywhere, green grass and warm, wet earth. Muguet de Mai is also very feminine and sweet; slightly girlish and womanly, too. She is a maiden of the fields covered in lily of the valley.
I also found inspiration for Muguet de Mai from some early 20th century soliflore designs in my perfume museum, most notably: Muguet Composé (c.1930’s) and Muguet des Bois (c.1940’s) by Francois Coty, Illusion oil, Lily of the Valley (c.1940’s) by Draille and of course Diorissimo by Edmond Roudnitska for Dior (c.1970’s). (note: The dates are for the versions I looked to, not the launch dates). I wanted this design especially to have a slight vintage feel and homage to the great muguet perfume designs that have come before.
Composition notes of:
bergamot, lemon, galbanum, violet leaf, freesia accord *botanical, hyacinth accord *botanical, Tunisian neroli, linden blossom, cyclamen accord * botanical, broom, boronia, sambac jasmine, rose otto, ylang ylang, jonquil, lilac accord * botanical , orris co2, cassis bud, honey beeswax, aged East Indian sandalwood, Virginia cedarwood, tolu balsam, olibanum and styrax resin.
Muguet Cologne (for men) came about while considering which way to go with a botanical muguet : is it “green and white” and stark, as so many synthetics lilies are, or flowery and wet? or even animalic as anyone who has bent down to smell those lilliputian bells can attest, it’s got a bit of honeyed-civet in there… And as I worked this all out in my head I thought about how delightful it would be to make something bright and green to start and dry down woody and in the earth the green stalks grow in along with those fragrant bells? This idea led me to a more streamlined approach which seemed a little reminiscent of a classical ‘eau de cologne’ structure and then it hit: why not make a kind of ‘eau de cologne floral fougere’ with muguet as the dominant feature? Has it ever been done, exactly? A muguet for men? I couldn’t think of a direct reference, although the violet / chamomile of Fahrenheit by Dior came to mind as did Grey Flannel (with all that galbanum and violet) but those perfumes are not essentially looking to muguet.
So, here is my Muguet Cologne, stated for men but really it is for anyone. The concentration is lighter and the overall feel is woodier and greener but for me there is something about it that rings very true to an element of muguet… kind of stylized like an art deco figure. It’s fresh and refreshing and I feel very approachable and easy to wear.
Composition notes of :
lemon, bergamot, white grapefruit, galbanum, coriander, chamomile, hyacinth accord *botanical, Tunisian neroli,
geranium, jasmine sambac, orris co2, linden blossom, rose otto, violet leaf, Australian sandalwood, Virginia cedarwood, olibanum, tolu balsam, vetiver, patchouli, and oakmoss.
As I am a multi-sensory, aroma and visual artist, I have been working on visual art pieces along with the fragrant compositions. I will have images completed for this project and will get jpgs of the drawings and paintings for you soon. It’s been wonderful to express this project in multiple forms. I hope that you will love the work as I have enjoyed creating it. Thank you for your time and talent and interest in writing about this series.
All my best, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
** To check out more about the May Day Muguet blogging event, click on these links:
ps: if you are interested in experiencing Muguet de Mai or Muguet Cologne, a very limited edition was produced and are available at the DSH Perfumes website. 9 / 5 ml Antique Presentation bottles of Muguet de Mai PERFUME as well as 9 / 30ml, 9/ 10 ml bottles of Muguet Cologne were created along with some 1 ml sample vials.