While reviewing the exquisite all-botanical impressionistic lilac of DSH Perfumes La Belle Saison I ended up pulling out my favorite lilac perfumes to compare to it. As I looked at my desk I realized I had the makings of a My Favorite Things right in front of me.
When I lived in Massachusetts our home was surrounded by lilacs and it was the sure sign that winter had passed when the house filled with their smell. When it comes to perfume lilac is a tricky thing to get right as an accord has to be constructed. The other hazard is that one of the earliest spray air fresheners was “French lilac” and no fragrance wants to be compared to that. Here are five of my favorite lilacs.
Highland Lilac of Rochester was created in 1967. I bet you didn’t know Rochester, NY was the Lilac Capitol of the World. The story on the website claims they harvest these lilacs every spring and create each year’s limited bottling. I think there is some natural lilac in here but the great majority is an accord centered around hyacinth, which is probably the most used floral alternative to create a lilac accord. This is a green unctuous floral that is everything that cloud of air freshener was not.
Pacifica French Lilac is another lilac accord coalescing around heliotrope. The perfumer uses ylang ylang and hyacinth to complete the effect. Magnolia leaves provide the green but French Lilac is a full-blown lilac soliflore.
The next two are examples of perfumers capturing that spring milieu of the lilacs in full bloom.
Independent perfumer Ineke Ruhland’s Ineke After My Own Heart captures a garden with raspberries growing along with the lilacs. Ms. Ruhland finds a balance between the sweet juicy berry and the fulsome lilac. This is my kind of fruity floral.
Probably the greatest lilac perfume is Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle En Passant. It is definitely among the best perfumes composed by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti and that is not faint praise as her portfolio is amazing. In En Passant she captures that moment after a spring rain storm as the sun has returned and is drying things out. The dewy green of the leaves the transparent floralcy as the blooms shake off their cloak of water. The damp soil everything grows in. En Passant somehow manages to be photorealistic and impressionistic at the same time. I always wear it in the spring. It is still one of the perfumes which reminds me of the heights of what perfume can achieve.
My last choice is JAR Jarling. The entire JAR line of perfumes can best be described as quirky. Jarling fits the description better than most as it is a gourmand lilac. In the early going it is a treacly vanilla and almond mixture out of which arises a heliotrope focused lilac accord. What is fascinating about Jarling is after some time the sweet almond and lilac form a plush partnership which I can’t stop admiring when I wear it.
If you need a little bit of spring before it has fully taken hold these five lilac perfumes might help chase the last winter blues away.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.
In the 1950’s America was coming to grips with its status in a post-war world and most were buying into the American Dream. The goal of this was to get a 9-to-5 job, a house in the new housing developments growing around the major cities, and to start a family. This drive to have all of these things has persisted to this day even though it is more difficult to achieve presently. Right from the beginning there was a group of artists who rebelled at this nascent straitjacket of conformity. One of the earliest groups of non-conformists was called The Beat Generation and one of its prominent members was author William S. Burroughs. His 1959 novel “The Naked Lunch” along with Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and Alan Ginsberg’s “Howl” are the exemplars most cited as the works which capture this desire to break free of the confines of The American Dream. Perfumer Anais Biguine of Jardins D’Ecrivains has been releasing perfumes based on literary inspirations and she chose Mr. Burroughs’ earlier work Junky as the name of her newest release.
William S. Burroughs (Photo: Evening Standard/Getty Images)
As a piece of literature Junky was an unflinching view of the life of an addict who in the most powerful passage in the book compares heroin addiction to “an inoculation of death”. This was a vivid contrast to the early hysteria over drug use typified by movies like “Reefer Madness”. Junky was succinct prose describing something unknowable to a non-addict. Mme Biguine when composing the fragrance named after this source material also chose to go for a spare construction with a burst of floral pleasure around slightly edgy and narcotic top and base notes.
Junky opens on a fantastic combination of galbanum and hemp. The hemp gives the intense green quality of galbanum a viscous coating and creates an edgy nervous feeling to the early moments of Junky. The heart is the moment of euphoria as iris, violet, and gardenia form a heady triptych that shed the nervy opening for a moment of floral pleasure. I am partial to all three of these notes and Mme Biguine weaves them into a purely pleasurable moment of joy. That joy decays into a base of darker notes as vetiver, frankincense, myrrh, and cade bring you back to reality. I especially like the use of the cade here for recapitulating the green edginess of the top notes in an alternative way.
Junky has 8-10 hour longevity on my skin with modest sillage.
Mme Biguine has not shied away from interpreting some of literature’s renegades in fragrant form. I have been impressed with all the fragrances she has produced to date but Junky has done the best at capturing the source material. Using a beloved and cherished source material like Junky sets it up to be disappointing to some if it fails to capture what each person believes is important about that work. I admit of all the things Mme Biguine has translated to fragrance this was the one I had the most personal feeling about. At least for me she nailed the feel of the book with a laconically slightly dangerous fragrance. Junky is everything I could’ve asked for in a fragrance with this name on the bottle.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.