Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Sometimes it seems to me that every floral note needs to be “modern,” because (fill in the blank with your favorite blossom) is “a fusty, old-fashioned flower suitable only for maiden aunts and grandmothers.” When you get your fusty flower back, it feels like something that has gone through several wash cycles and emerged squeaky clean and limpid. As I read the aforementioned quote by Stella McCartney about her desire to modernize lily of the valley for her new signature fragrance L.I.L.Y., I wondered what the outcome would be. My qualm with most modern lily of the valley fragrances is that they smell of laundry products—lily of the valley aroma-materials are popular in functional perfumery—not that they are old-fashioned.
That’s the case with L.I.L.Y. as well. Ms. McCartney turned to the perfumer who made her first fragrance, Stella, such a success. Jacques Cavallier reinterpreted lily of the valley as a fresh green floral set into a mossy base. L.I.L.Y. smells modern in a straight-out-of-the-shower clean way. It’s easy to wear, inoffensive, and not memorable. Judging by what ends up on the top seller lists, it’s going to be a success. In her review, Robin described L.I.L.Y. as “casual and unfussy,” and I agree completely.
L.I.L.Y. is a fragrance painted in pastels, and in writing this review, I had to stop myself from mentioning light and fresh in every sentence. The lily of the valley note in L.I.L.Y. is a green, abstract note that I recognize from fragrances like Ralph Lauren Romance and Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl. It doesn’t have a hint of dirt or darkness about it. The initial impression is of salty citrus and green leaves, with a delicate sprinkling of pepper. The watery jasmine and rose provide the main flavor in the heart, while the laundry musks and patchouli set the tone for the drydown. Even patchouli is remarkably tame here.
If I compare L.I.L.Y. to the current version of Christian Dior Diorissimo, which is much less indolic and animalic than the original, it’s pale. Next to my other lily of the valley gold standard, Gucci Envy, L.I.L.Y. works better– it loses in complexity, but not in diffusion. For such a seemingly light composition, L.I.L.Y. has a good presence, but it isn’t a perfume that might bother co-workers or make fellow commuters uncomfortable. Although L.I.L.Y. doesn’t thrill me, it’s undeniably well crafted. Those who are looking for a clean, unobtrusive daytime fragrance should definitely give it a try.
As for me, I will continue searching for more lily of the valley fragrances to add to my wardrobe. Do you have a favorite?
Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y. includes notes of pink and black pepper, truffle, lily of the valley, oak moss, patchouli, ambrette seed and white musk. Available in Eau de Parfum and matching body products. The US launch is in September. By the way, L.I.L.Y. also refers to the nickname Stella’s father, Paul McCartney, invented for her mother — LILY, for Linda I Love You.
Sample: my own acquisition