Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y. : Perfume Review


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 EnvyL.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






  • Suzanna: I have been wearing Diorissimo as my spring fragrance for the past month and have been loving every minute of it, from the first spray to the tiny gusts of delicate LOTV that suddenly appear when you think the scent might have been exhausted. It transcends the “classic” designation to achieve a higher distinction–that of being simply beautiful and beyond more description than that.

    Vintage Muguet des Bois is another gorgeous LOTV that can be found at bargain prices. There was a time when “drugstore” fragrances were not cheap white-musk affairs and that era is wonderfully represented by Coty’s beautiful scent. March 22, 2012 at 9:24am Reply

  • maggiecat: Diorissimo was my wedding scent and is still my favorite for special occasions. Cartier’s Baiser Vole’ is also pretty, with an interesting, muskier dry-down. I’ll look forward to trying L.I.L.Y. as I enjoy an easy to wear scent for meeting days and other times when I deeply suspect that Ormonde Woman would not be welcome 🙂 March 22, 2012 at 10:25am Reply

  • natalie: I really enjoy fleur de cristal from lalilique as a lily of the valley scent! March 22, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

    • Courant: I like this too, used sparingly April 29, 2014 at 4:03pm Reply

  • Marian Bendeth: Great review V and I have to agree – a pleasing juice but not heavy on the “Muguet” side.
    I have also admired Guerlain’s Muguet – a softer greener version and also Jessica McClintock too made a potent Muguet which still has lovers. Have you ever tried that?

    Good review! March 22, 2012 at 11:41am Reply

  • Victoria: I used to love Muguet des Bois, but I haven’t smelled it recently. I was told that it might have been discontinued. March 22, 2012 at 12:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: L.I.L.Y. would definitely work on such days when you need something simple and unobtrusive. And it’s pretty sophisticated as far as most florals go. At least, it isn’t a candy bar! Hmmm, what standards I have. 🙂

    Diorissimo is still my favorite lily of the valley. And I like the way lily of the valley is playing up in Ormonde Jayne Tiare. March 22, 2012 at 12:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, I haven’t smelled it. Adding it to my list to try. Thank you, Natalie. March 22, 2012 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Marian! I guess, I wanted more muguet out of it, more of the green and earthy notes. Every element is just so clean and crystalline. Not a bad thing, but just not exciting to me. But it’s easy to wear, and I bet that it will have lots of fans.

    I should revisit Jessica McClintock; it often comes up as a good lily of the valley perfume. March 22, 2012 at 12:19pm Reply

  • Rina: Great review V! I’ll have to try it. I recently came across Dior Lily in a Perfume Stop but they didn’t have a tester so I’m not sure how it would stack against L.I.L.Y or Diorissimo. I’ve heard that D-Lily was d/c but they seemed to have a good supply. Should I try it? Has anyone? Thanks! March 22, 2012 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: I’ve smelled Dior Lily a while ago, but I recall that it was like Diorissimo with a more prominent green note. It’s less earthy and woody in drydown; rather, it’s musky and creamy. I liked it well enough, but I wasn’t tempted to buy a bottle. March 22, 2012 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Elisa: Gucci Envy all the way! I sometimes enjoy the freshness of Pure White Linen, but it’s the kind of scent I only wear on really hot mornings or to the gym. I also like Paco Rabanne Metal, though I get more hyacinth and iris than lily of the valley. In general I prefer lily-lily to LOTV. March 22, 2012 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: Paco Rabanne Metal is brilliant. Your mention of it made me realize that I love the lily of the valley note in Rive Gauche.

    Oh, and who could I forget Nicolai’s Odalisque and Weekend a Deauville! Those are fantastic LOTV perfumes. March 22, 2012 at 3:09pm Reply

  • OperaFan: LOTV is a scent I’d much rather smell in the bloom than wear in perfume. My actual intro to the smell of LOTV is a ’70s AVON sachet of the same name. It was lovely and true to the flower as I recall.

    As for LOTV fragrances available today, my favorite among the ones I know and do love to wear doesn’t smell like the flower to me at all – PdN’s Odalisque.

    a:) March 22, 2012 at 7:57pm Reply

  • bulldoggirl: Diorissimo, most definitely. But it was my mother’s signature scent, so I do not wear it. However, I have the last bottle she ever bought for herself and on occasion, I lift the cap and sniff and am reminded all over again that genius in perfumery does exist.

    The only other scent that can hold a candle is Gucci’s Envy, in my opinion one of the all time great green florals and a crying, criminal shame that it has been discontinued. Why do all the great ones get the ax? March 22, 2012 at 8:38pm Reply

  • Victoria N: Carrillon Pour Un Ange by Tauer Perfumes is my lily of the valley favorite. I think Andy succeeded beyond expectations in his quest to replicate this flower’s very special scent. March 22, 2012 at 9:02pm Reply

  • Elisa: I was trying to think of Weekend a Deauville earlier but drew a blank on the name! It’s a good one. I haven’t tried Odalisque yet, but have been meaning to explore the PdN line further. March 22, 2012 at 11:18pm Reply

  • breathesgelatin: Carillon Pour un Ange is also a favorite of mine. I also rather like Donna Karan Gold.

    I really should spend some time with Diorissimo… March 23, 2012 at 12:14am Reply

  • civava: I’m gonna try it just for comparison and because I love lily of the valley and I should therefore have my mind on this one too. March 23, 2012 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: It’s so worth trying! I still prefer Odalisque, but Weekend a Deauville is a more casual, easier fragrance. March 23, 2012 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: With the exception of Diorissimo parfum, nothing smells like the flowers. It’s such a remarkable fragrance–fresh and dark simultaneously. I tried growing LOTV in pot, but it was a failure. My mom, on the other hand, can’t prevent her batch from taking over the entire yard! March 23, 2012 at 12:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: I miss Gucci Envy! It smelled like fresh flowers and hot silk, with a surprising metallic note that made me think of melting snow. Such a remarkable fragrance. March 23, 2012 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Victoria: The last time I tried ordering Carrillon Pour Un Ange from Luckyscent, they were out, so I’m going to check it out when I visit them next month. March 23, 2012 at 12:48pm Reply

  • Victoria: S, do smell Diorissimo, if you haven’t yet. It’s such a beautiful green floral composition–lady like and whimsical at once. March 23, 2012 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Victoria: I definitely recommend sampling it. It might just be a nice, casual fragrance that all of us need time to time. March 23, 2012 at 12:49pm Reply

  • kjanicki: My mother wore Diorissimo. It’s a perfume I admire but could never feel comfortable in myself. I don’t like any of the modern lily scents I’ve tried, they seem to have a sour, green “old vase water” note I can’t stand.

    I can’t stand the current trend for “clean” and “fresh” perfumes, but I know that they are responding to a definite preference in the 20’s crowd. Every 20-something I have asked prefers a “fresh” perfume. I’m looking forward to the backlash of the next generation, who hopefully will all want complicated and rich chypres or orientals, because fresh will some “old lady” to them! March 23, 2012 at 1:17pm Reply

  • Stacey: My two favorites are Tauer Carillon Pour un Ange and Strange Invisible Perfumes Urban Lily. Both are very true recreations of the whole lily of the valley. March 24, 2012 at 9:44pm Reply

  • civava: I never spend money on casual perfume. I allways have some better choice to spend my money on ;-). But as I’m a courious person I eventually have to try as many perfumes as I can ;-). March 25, 2012 at 4:35am Reply

  • Victoria: It’s the same for me. It has to be something special, not just a nice scent. March 26, 2012 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: You’re right! It’s the most popular perfume category. Then again, I prefer fresh florals to cotton candy florals, especially in a crowded subway car. March 26, 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: Adding Urban Lily to my list! Thank you, Stacey. March 26, 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

  • Vanessa: I caught up with this one the other day and gave it a spin on skin. Couldn’t agree more with your and Robin’s assessment, other than to add that – based on the striking and satisfyingly heavy cut glass bottle – I had expected a little more… March 27, 2012 at 7:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also hoped for more. I love the first Stella, and I was hoping for something similarly innovative. March 28, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

  • OperaFan: Here’s an afterthought of 3 LOTVs that seem to fall under most radars – one I like, one I’m not particularly fond, and one I admit I’ve never tried in no particular order:
    1. Ellie D., which gets compared to
    2. Delrae Debut, which is the progeny of Diorissimo and
    3. Eclipse, the lesser-known PdN, which is more vegetal but carrys a more prominent LOTV at the opening – although I’m not sure if this one is still in circulation… March 29, 2012 at 11:53am Reply

  • Victoria: Eclipse! Yes, I remember it as radiant and green. I hope that it wasn't discontinued.

    Good, I have more suggestions! 🙂 March 30, 2012 at 12:04am Reply

  • Courant: Like Natalie I also enjoy Fleur de Cristal. I sprayed Lily a few times and it was better than many in the stores but not striking enough. I had to ask for Diorissimo to be produced from behind the counter and when it was sprayed it was off-simply ghastly. I know the difference but the SA didn’t. Shows what the buying public is being directed to I guess April 29, 2014 at 3:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s awful! Why would they keep a turned tester anyway? But I’ve encountered so many bad bottles that were cooked under the bright lights at the store that nothing surprises me. April 29, 2014 at 4:16pm Reply

  • Zosoroxy: Newbie, humbly grateful for this Misty Mountain Hop forum – Thank you!
    Re: LotV- Wish I could access PdN, am lusting after Odalisque! Diorissimo is fetch, I just recently scored my 1st ever duty free buy of Diorissimo EdT- Sillage & longevity are sick! (I already have EdP & Parfum, but I feel more free to spray away w/EdT).

    When Gucci Envy was being clearance out @ $35/ 100ml. , as a budding perfumista, I scooped ~ 50 bottles (so I’d have a lifetime supply, before I knew Diorissimo.) I stored my precious in my cool, dark basement. As time past (6 mos – 1 yr), & especially once I discovered Dior, (& started to develop a nose), Envy began loudly asserting an unpleasant metallic taste in the back of my throat. I sold off my entire stash, & then tripped down the rabbit hole, landing smack in the narcotic seduction of the smoldering, vtg. Miss Dior (1947 original issue)… So now, I have a little habit, & the lifetime supply of her appropriate to supply that particular monkey.

    Btw- *Luv* Estee Private Collection; #19 !

    Luv your blog! Thx for the epic insights, & for sharing your passion for perfumery, & your gifts of thoughtful analysis & creative writing skills 😀 May 31, 2016 at 8:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: 50 bottles! Yes, that would set you up for a long time, but as you say, perfume doesn’t last forever. I personally that fresh and reformulated perfume is better in wear than the vintage and rancid one.

      Thank you for your kind words. June 1, 2016 at 10:40am Reply

      • Zosoroxy: Thank you kindly!
        I sold them all, a year after purchase. Speaking of aged perfume-
        I have 4 bottles, NIB, of F. Millot, Crepe de Chine / 1 oz. Parfum, each snugly nestled in it’s satin-lined coffret. I’d like to ask you about them, will try to find appropriate review / place to ask 🙂 Pls forgive this off- L.I.L.Y. departure! June 3, 2016 at 2:26pm Reply

  • Greg Atherton: I’m a guy who has bought perfumes for my mother and wives. I’m not shy about asking a a passing woman what kind of perfume she is wearing. This is how I determine my purchases. I like the oldies Chanel #5, Lair du temps etc.. but my favorite of all time is L.i.l.y. hands down. April 6, 2021 at 10:00am Reply

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