Regarded as a lucky charm ever since its first introduction from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages, lily of the valley has become synonymous with the month of May and ‘the return of happiness’. One of the reasons The Perfume Society chose lily of the valley as our symbolic flower, and why we launched on May 1st – to our astonishment, that was NINE years ago, now!
For the French, May 1st traditionally represents the start of gifting bouquets of “muguet” to loved ones to signify the regard in which they’re held and as a token of prosperity for the year ahead. A tradition supposedly begun when King Charles IX was presented with a bunch of the delicate blooms, and decided to gift the ladies of his court, too.
In Europe, ‘bals de muguet’ were historically held – lily of the valley themed dances that offered the tantalising prospect for young singletons to meet without their parents’ permission.
An iconic (and ultra-chic) lily of valley fragrance was the original Dior Diorissimo, designed in 1956 by Edmond Roudnitska. Composed in homage to Christian Dior’s favorite flowe, the lily of the valley was to be found on his personal stationary, jacket lapels, printed on his fashion designs, and, on one occasion, inspired his entire 1954 spring collection.
A more recent icon is Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley, which was launched in 1976 – tapping into the fashion trend for romantic nostalgia – and which is wonderfully described as ‘Lacey leaves. Dappled light. Green, clean, wholesome. Lily of the Valley is as fresh and optimistic as the morning dew, grounded by notes of bergamot and sandalwood.’
With the young gals dressed in white gowns and the dapper chaps at those historic bals wearing lily of the valley as a buttonhole, we’re sure there was many a ‘return to happiness’ on such evenings… Now the custom is tied in with France’s Labour Day public holiday, and the tradition of giving lily of the valley to loved ones during May still holds strong.
Lily of the valley has also made its way into countless bridal bouquets (including that of Kate Middleton for her wedding to Prince Willliam); in many countries, it’s linked to this day with tenderness, love, faith, happiness and purity.
So what does lily of the valley smell like?
Almost spicy, so green and sweet, with crisp hints of lemon: that’s lily of the valley. The flowers themselves are really mean with their oil, though, and synthetics are more often used to recreate lily of the valley’s magic: Lilial, Lyral and hydroxycitronellal are among them.
Far from reserving this magical note for May, or thinking that it has to be ‘old-fashioned’ smelling in a scent, we love the way perfumers use lily of the valley to ‘open up’ and freshen the other floral notes in a blend. It can smell like a woodland walk just after a rainshower (so very apropos for our weather right now, in the U.K.) or add some gentle sparkles of sunlight amid more verdant or deeper, shady phases as a scent unfurls on your skin.
No wonder we chose this delightful, flower-filled date in the calendar to launch The Perfume Society – incredibly, NINE years ago, now – running hither and thither all over London handing sprigs of lily of the valley to fragrant friends!
And my, how our friends have grown in this short time! With a readership that stretches around the globe and our Instagram followers now topping 67.8K, we have been delighted with some of the truly beautiful pictures some of our followers have been sharing there. Just feast your eyes on the stunning pictures we’ve sprinkled throughout this post…
With your help we’ve come so far. We wish we could come and give every single one of you a sprig of lily of the valley to show our heartfelt appreciation for all your support, but for now, accept this symbol of love and luck, from us to all of you…
If you’re in a festive flap over those last-minute gifts, we will gently remind you that our last day for ordering before Christmas is this Thursday, 19th December 2019. But flap no further, as we have all your gifts sorted in a fuss-free (and fabulously fragrant!) way…
We’ve made ordering online a complete breeze, with a number of handy gift guides suitable for every age, fragrant taste and budget. Have a browse through some of them now, and get your gift list checked off at the click of a button!
How to buy fragrance at Christmas
Let’s start at the very beginning (as the song goes) – because trying to work out exactly what will suit whom best can be a bit of a headache, we know. That’s why we’ve done all the leg-work for you and curated selections of scents with particular types of people in mind, and perhaps with a little something to tempt you, too. One to point bewildered relatives at when they demand to know what you want!
When you just can’t decide which scent someone would love: Luxury Gift Boxes
If you know your loved one adores fine fragrances, and always likes trying something new, have a look at this list of ultra-luxe boxes you can buy at surprisingly affordable prices. There’s genuinely something to suit everyone here – masculine, feminine and gender-neutra – the ideal way to discover a new house, with lavish perfume gift sets from only £14! The Perfume Society’s beautiful selection of single-house perfume boxes really come into their own when you need exquisite curations, with scents to match every mood and personality. Here are some of our favourites…
Looking for that perfect fragrance gift..? Then look no further than the truly decadent and globally adored AMOUAGE. Delve into this collection of TWELVE women’s fragrances for £50 (P&P*). A perfumista’s dream…
And for every female fragrance Amouage creates, happily you will find there is a male counterpart. For £50 (+P&P*) it’s the perfect fragrance gift for Men with TWELVE AMOUAGE Men’s fragrances. There won’t be any disappointed faces (or knowingly unscented necks) this Christmas!
A fabulous gift from this ethical and unisex scent name, with EIGHT FRAGRANCES to fall in love with, you will simply swoon at the sunshine-filled scents of Sana Jardin. Just £30 (+P&P*)
A powerhouse of a brand and the original olfactory innovators, this is a great Escentric Molecules Discovery Set to explore for men and women. With EIGHT FRAGRANCES, it’s hard to pick just one favourite. Just £25 (+P&P*)
For that guy who’s always hard to buy for…
Be they a loved one related to you by blood, or a life-partner whose answer to ‘what would you like this Christmas?’ is usually ‘Oh you, know… anything will do’ (at which point you could happily draw blood!); we’ve already had the most fabulous feedback to our Mr. Scentastic Discovery Box. Whether you are planning cliff-top walks, a trip away, cosy nights in or some dress-to-impress evenings, there’s a fragrance for every occasion in this collection. From a 6ml MUGLER ALIEN MAN as well as a very generous 30ml DEAR BARBER WITH CONFIDENCE fragrance, we’ve also added incredible niche fragrances from perfume houses such as Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Prosody, Hugo Boss, Bulgari, Lalique and more. All these, and two grooming extras, for £19 (or £15 for V.I.Ps) (+P&P*)
So what are you waiting for? There’s a whole world of fragrant adventures to switch people’s noses on to – we know many people who have ordered several as gifts and then come back to order another for themslves (including one chap who emailed us to say he’d got NINE of the Mr. Scentastic boxes for his friends, and then orederd two for himself to keep!)
The Splendid Table Selects podcast indulges in ‘conversations that inspire us to cook in creative ways’, so we were thrilled to hear one of our favourite perfumers, Mandy Aftel, was a recent guest!
The Splendid Table say: ‘Mandy Aftel is an artisan perfumer with a deep knowledge of natural essential oils. Her book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent, co-authored by chef Daniel Patterson, features scent-crafting skills and perfume ingredients in cooking to highlight the difference just one drop of essential oil can make in a dish. Splendid Table contributor Jennifer 8 Lee met up with Aftel to talk about cooking with five particularly powerful aromas: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine. Check out Mandy’s recipes for Rose and Ginger Soufflé and Fragrant Raspberry Bubbly.’
Mandy has long been a friend of The Perfume Society, and we have been delighted, in the past, to have thrown a Scented Supper in her honour, hosted and prepared by the brilliant chef Pratap Chahal, who was inspired by Mandy to use fragrant notes in his own cooking.
How wonderful that flavour and fragrance are finally being entwined in the public consciousness, and that perfumers are being interviewed about subjects outside of the usual ‘how do you make a perfume’ type questions. Could it be that our sense of smell will eventually be taken as seriously in the mainstream media…? We can but spray and pray.
What a year it’s been – with more new launches than ever before, new houses causing major ripples of excitement, niche brands breaking new ground and most of all, a firm sense that the scent of optimism is the air for all things fragrant… and constantly re-affirming exactly how much we love our jobs!
But with so much to choose from, what would you say are your scented highlights of 2018? We could honestly have picked twenty things each, but when absolutely forced to choose, we asked Co-Founders of The Perfume Society, Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay, along with Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale and Head of Social Media Carson Parkin-Fairley, to list some of theirs…
• Visiting the rose harvest with Anima Vinci was an absolute dream, and a day which will live on in my scent memories forever. It was such an honour to meet the people who own the rose fields, pick the flowers and transport them to be processed; to hear about how long it takes, their worries for the future of the fields in France, but most of all to follow a fragrance from field to flaçon. If I close my eyes, I can still smell those piles of petals, and am transported there every time I spray that finished perfume…
• Having my mind blown by smelling ingredients at the launch of Ostens. Using these fabulous quality LMR ingredients – and, uniquely, making them available to the public in single form or blended into eaux de parfums – Ostens are daring to do something new in the fragrance retail space. They truly give perfume-lovers the respect they’re due. I had the pleasure of following the journey of founders Christopher Yu and Laurent Delafon, finally interviewing them at their launch for The Scented Letter Magazine. Genuinely one of my favourite moments of the whole year was seeing the joy and pride in their faces – and oh my god, getting to smell that Jasmine Absolute!
• When Jovoy Mayfair opened in Conduit Street, I actually squealed a little with happiness, as this was one of my favourite shops in Paris for niche perfume – but on my own doorstep! The staff are so friendly and welcoming, and there’s so many brands there to explore, all beautifully displayed and with pots of blotters and pencils arrayed ready for your sniffing adventures. They recently celebrated their first birthday, and it was such a pleasure to see how they’ve grown, how they support smaller houses, and to be there to celebrate with them.
• The complete revamp of Les Senteurs – London’s first independent has been such a treat to witness – their gloriously dramatic floral-bedecked frontage is surely one of the most Instagrammed sights in London this year – and within, there’s a whole world of fragrant expertise to enjoy. It’s where you can find fragrance archivist James Craven – one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever meet and with a host of fragrant anecdotes to keep you entertained. I think it’s so vital to suppoort these indie businesses, now more than ever, and I particularly love their Meet the Perfumer events, where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly while sniffing something new.
• The Chelsea Flower Show launch of Floris A Rose For… What more perfect setting could there be for the launch of a rosetastic new fragrance – from Jermyn Street’s fabled fragrance name – than the Grand Marquee at event which is the highlight of the floral calendar? A-swirl with deep, velvety roses and underpinned by lashings of patchouli, A Rose For… can also be personalised with the name of the person it’s given to. (Even if it’s A Rose For… You!)
• Lunch with The Lauder Family – an amazing get-together with all the members of the family whose doyenne, Estée Lauder, changed the face of fragrance with the launch of Youth Dew (originally a bath oil, that meant women could guiltlessly buy it for themselves rather than waiting for a birthday and a ‘special’ bottle of perfume). Leonard, Ronald, Aerin, William and Jane Lauder were all present – and the attention to detail was quite astonishing, from the Union Jack powder compacts which were the table gifts through to the monogrammed ribbons tied around the Christmas crackers.
• A visit to the Diptyque archive in Paris – I’ve spent lots of time on Eurostar this year (file under: ‘it’s a tough job’, etc.) but a real highlight was being the first to see the beautifully revamped upstairs rooms above their boutique at 34 Boulevard Saint Germain where Diptyque stores the artwork, fabrics and other souvenirs of their 60 years in business. It was completely fascinating to see early designs for the logo and discover scents that no longer feature in the collection (but which are surely ripe for revival!) V.I.P. Club Members can read the full story in our current edition of The Scented Letter, here…
• The Chanel No.5 ‘Red’ dinner at Annabel’s– to celebrate this show-stopping incarnation of the iconic Chanel No.5, which got all dressed up in red for a limited edition season. The Berkeley Square nightclub was all dressed up in red, too – and it’s always fun to rub shoulders with the likes of Amanda Harlech, superstylist Sam McKnight and Lily-Rose Depp, don’t ya know?
• Stepping inside the Guerlain fragrance laboratory at their HQ with Thierry Wasser. I don’t really need to add anything to that, do I…?
Here are just a few of the fragrances which give me the ‘feel good factor’ for 2018, and while wearing them have had people actually stop me in the street to tell me how great I smelled and ask the name of what I was wearing. I think any perfume lover really lives for these moments, and it always gives me a thrill when it happens! [Lorna tells us she’s even been cuddled and sniffed by strangers who were so enraptured by her perfumes, but we can assure you it was all consensual]
• Miller Harris La Feuille – worn alone and adding to lots gives a personalisation and different edge to many smells – LOVE it!
• Liz Earle No 15 – honestly, people ask me every time I wear it ‘where can I get it?’ rather than what are you wearing … big difference.
• Highlight of the year –the amount of times I have used Fragrance Finder to solve a person’s search for their next fragrance or one they can’t buy anymore. People are amazed it really works! It thrills me when people discover the world of perfume .
• I have great pride in being part of The Scented Letter Magazine, which I know perfume lovers all over the world read, as well as many industry professionals and perfumers. I have a little cry when I see each issue in print!
• The launch of Tonka 25 by Le Labo – I’ve never had a signature scent, and probably never will – too much choice, too many wonderful smells, and why would I limit myself? – but if I did, Le Labo’s Tonka 25 would be pretty close to it. Never having thoroughly delved into the brand, I was invited to interview one of the founders this summer, and was utterly delighted by their latest scent, Tonka 25. Don’t be fooled, this is no tonka scent, no sweet nuttiness here. All dark Cedar Atlas, rich resins and addictive woods. It feels shadow-like, smouldering, inky. And I love it.
• The Anya Hindmarch diffuser – nothing brings a smile to my face quite like the Anya Hindmarch candles. I remember going to the first launch, discovering their irreverent ingredient lists (teenage romance and regrettable tan lines feature amongst Italian bergamot and Tunisian Orange Blossom) and being blown away by the fun of it all. So you can imagine how my heart leapt once I found out there was diffusers. Housed in a funny-faced pot with reed diffusing sticks that look like pencils, they are the most covetable item that’s come by my desk in a while.
• Interviewing Christine Nagel for Hermes – A personal highlight was interviewing the perfumer of my teenage fragrance love, (Narciso for Her by Narciso Rodriguez) Christine Nagel. Not only was she an absolute pleasure to talk with but I came away being sure she had the best job in the world. In her role as in-house perfumer for Hermes, she has complete freedom in the scents she creates, she seemed so happy, so content. I often think about perfumers as a kind of artist for hire, and so seeing one who creates freely is not only a rarity, but also a immense pleasure.
• The Beautiful Mind Series event for The Perfume Society, which we hosted with Geza Schoen at Jovoy Mayair, provided me with countless insights into both the fragrance world and the mind of this maverick perfumer. His answers were thoughtful, witty and composed. He was approachable and affable and it’s always refreshing to meet a legend who is as nice as pie. But most of all it was a pleasure to be surrounded by so many engaged and interested perfume people. Fragrance is a small world full of big passion and it is a wonderful feeling bringing people of mutual appreciation together.
Listing the BestUK Perfume Blogs from thousands available on the web, using search and social metrics to arrive at their finalists, Feedspot – who describe themselves as ‘the best place to read all your favorite websites in one place,’ – chose those they considered ‘…are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.’
The blogs they listed were ranked based on following criteria:
Google reputation and Google search ranking
Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
Quality and consistency of posts.
Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
We work hard to bring you news and reviews, but also to share with you our expertise in an accessible, easy to understand (yet never patronising) way. Indeed, this is the very reason we started The Perfume Society! As Feedspot say…
‘Founded by award-winning fragrance writer and Green & Black’s co-founder Jo Fairley, and Lorna McKay (formerly beauty and fragrance buyer at Harrods, who also set up the Liberty Perfumery), The Perfume Society is devoted to helping everyone get the most out of fragrance – choosing and wearing – by deepening their enjoyment of this creative world, through events, workshops, on-line articles and much, much, more…‘
And that’s exactly it. We want everyone to feel included, their views valued. Although some blogs may get off on being snarky about more pocket-friendly perfumes or dictating which houses are ‘hot or not’, our ethos at The Perfume Society is to try and describe how certain fragrances make us feel, attempting to get you to try them for yourselves – on your own skin – before pre-judging with only a list of notes or what someone else already told you to think.
Fragrance is such a personal, intimate thing to experience. Some call it an art form (we certainly do), and our reactions are immediate, but can drastically alter over time. Time is key, we always say. Time spent smelling them, questioning yourself about what you can smell and how it makes you feel. Time spent researching the house a little more – learning about the perfumer, their inspiration, the story behind the scent – for a greater understanding.
Between this blog, our specially curated Discovery Boxes of samples and minis you can try at home and our award-winning magazine The Scented Letter (now available to read in print, online and around the world), we want to reach out to all you perfume-lovers out there. And can’t tell you how thrilling it is for others to see that we are!
We know our VIP Perfume Society members love to explore unusual, hard to find and niche fragrance houses producing fabulously unique fragrances, and with this in mind we’re delighted to announce that British independent perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek is giving you the chance to take a very generous 20% off all full-size fragrances!
Exclusively for Perfume Society VIPs, enjoy 20% off all full-size Ruth Mastenbroek eau de parfums.
How to use: go to ruthmastenbroek.com and choose your favourites. Enter the code below when prompted at checkout.
Valid from: 1st – 31st May 2018
Ruth says: ‘I use the finest ingredients from across the globe to tell stories about life through perfume. Stories of freedom, love, discovery and celebration. My fragrances can take years to perfect; they offer something exciting and different. They are original and come from the heart – from me to you…’
The perfect time to stock-up on your favourites or plump for something new to try, which will you choose to treat yourself with our exclusive 20% offer…?
As part of the continuing celebrations for our third birthday (already – can you believe it?!) we’d love to share with you three of our favourite posts from over those momentous years.
We cover everything from just-launched fragrances to the history of perfume itself, with exclusive interviews and those ever-insightful (dare we say psychologically revealing?) chats in which the world’s top noses reveal their ‘five favourite smells’ and we delve deep in to the psyche of a perfumer’s imagination.
With an ever-growing features list that spans an encylopaedia of scented ingredients, a stack of fragrant reads and a worldwide perfume shopping guide – our archive is teaming with thousands (millions?) of words, so we can hardly blame you if you missed them the first time around!
We sadly can’t supply birthday cake for all, but might we suggest you treat yourself to a slice of something delicious and settle down with a cuppa for an evocatively fragrant catch-up of some of our favourite moments…?
Year One: that time we won an award that we weren’t even nominated for…
‘It’s not every day you get to say ‘today, as we breakfasted at BAFTA…’ but this morning, that’s exactly what we did while attending The Jasmine Awards – the premier awards for journalists writing on the subject of fragrance, and ‘The Oscars’ of the perfume world…
And (believe it or not), we were actually rendered speechless for quite some seconds – for at The Perfume Society, we were utterly thrilled/flabbergasted/over-the-moon (insert your own synonyms for giddy happiness, we’re still thinking of them!)…’
What got us so giddy? Read on to find out!
Year Two: that time we ate a scented supper created by a Michelin-trained chef…
‘American author, writer and pioneer natural perfumer Mandy Aftel is a force of nature, an inspiration to many and a good friend of The Perfume Society. So when she recently announced she’d be making a rare trip to our shores, we leapt at the chance chance to welcome her. And more than that, to introduce her to the brilliant chef behind our Scented Suppers – Pratap Chahal – who was, himself, inspired to explore the world of fragrant cooking through reading Mandy’s books…’
Year Three: that time we found out what makes Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser tick…
‘We’re proud to say that he has not only become a friend to The Perfume Society, over the years – but proudly carries a Perfume Society VIP Subscriber card, number 001, in his wallet. We caught up with Thierry on his travels – and he found some time to share the answers to our ‘nose’ questionnaire…’
Thierry’s tip for improving your own sense of smell? Find it, here…
So what’s in store for the next few years? Well, we don’t need a crystal ball to tell you we’ve some fantastically exciting events coming up, a wealth of intriguing Discovery Boxes for you to delve in to and all manner of finger-on-the-pulse perfume news and exclusive features in our award-winning magazine.
And just like you, we’re always hungry for more…
Written by Suzy Nightingale
Dappled sunlight dipping low, skin still warm, running through corn fields in a crisp, white gown as the sun sets… ah, how the dreary days of January make us yearn for such simple pleasures. Even going outside without a coat and brolly right now would be a luxury! But fear not, for L’OCCITANE have bottled the sunshine from that ethereal, other-worldly time of day often termed “the Golden Hour“, and infused the glow into their new fragrance (to be launched in February): Terre de Lumière… L’OCCITANE say: ‘As the day draws to a close, the sky is set alight, embracing all the shades of gold. Beauty is suspended in time and this stunning spectacle reaches its height. Light infuses the ingredients in this fragrance, enhancing them in a rich, faceted creation that evokes the intense sensoriality of a walk through the fields of Provence at the Golden Hour.’
Oh yes, take us there now, please…!
We were lucky enough to be present at the press launch of this perfume, and so excited to discover this will be the very first gourmand fragrance for the brand. We predict gourmand as a genre will be huge news once again in 2017 – the comforting, deliciously food-inspired fragrance family seems only natural to turn to in times of uncertainty – and far from the 90s scent bombs that truly began this trend, gourmand has taken a fresh turn of sophistication and wearability – for men and women alike.
Top Notes: bergamot, ambrette seed, pink pepper Heart Notes: lavender, honey Base Notes: acacia flower, bitter almond essence, tonka bean, white musk
Renowned perfumer Calice Becker was chosen for Terre de Lumière, closely collaborating with Shyamala Maisondieu and Nadège Le Garlantezec; Calice explains how the talented trio worked on the fragrance so that it ‘…plays on the tension between masculine freshness and delicious feminine softness. It’s a very innovative scent, the first gourmand aromatic fragrance from L’OCCITANE, absolutely addictive.’ Talking about the inspiration for composing the scent, Calice describes the Golden Hour as the time ‘…when the light is at its most beautiful. It is also when scents are at their height.’
And so what does it smell like? Well, close your eyes, imagine the setting sun still warm on your skin (move closer to the fire or add another layer of clothing, if necessary!) and let us take you to the glowing fields of Provence…
Aromatically zesty from the first spritz, there’s almost a sigh of delight as the fizz of bergamot and pink pepper suddenly melts into the true heart of honey infused with lavender and balanced by the milky freshness of acacia blossoms, the almond-like nuttiness of tonka beans and the balsamic warmth of the earthier base. Perfectly evoking that moment when the day slips impercitibly to dusk, it’s the sensation of contemplative contentment while sitting on a hay bale, having romped barefoot in flower meadows and paddled in cool streams. Deliciously revivifying and fragrantly soothing all at once, we bet you can’t wait to try it…
…And on that note, we suggest [*wink wink*] that you keep your eyes peeled for an exciting announcement, for you could be one of the first people to Discover Terre de Lumière with us. [*hint hint*]
Written by Suzy Nightingale