Lilac Perfumes for Spring

Patricia mentions 10 lilac fragrances to brighten up these cold spring days.

Throw open the windows of your dwelling and breathe in the fresh air, roll down the car windows, take a walk around the block, read a nature poem by Mary Oliver, and move the orientals and ambers you’ve been living in to the back of the closet. Spring is finally here! And spring always makes me think of flowers, my favorite of which is the heavily scented lilac. lilacs Lilacs, a member of the olive family were first introduced to Europe at the end of the 16th century by the Ottomans and came to the American colonies in the 18th century. Since the blooming season is but a short few weeks in late spring, I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect, most realistic lilac fragrance to wear during the long 50 weeks without them. There are a number of lilac fragrances of varying price points to choose from, but whether all of them transport me to a lilac garden is another question. Below are my 10 mini-reviews:

Two well-priced soliflore lilac fragrances are Demeter Lilac Cologne and Pacifica French Lilac. The Demeter comes across as cloyingly sweet, smelling somewhat like the Smarties candies I give to my horse as treats, combined with a touch of citrus and flat musk. On the other hand, it is a true bargain. I much prefer Pacifica French Lilac, which is not as sweet and more realistic. Only a slight plastic note in the opening mars the effect, but it fades quickly.

Several mid- to high-priced options follow. Highland Lilac of Rochester, purportedly made in New York State from the essence of lilac in full bloom, smells like the scented sachets my grandmother used to line her handkerchief drawers. The downside is that it’s much too powdery. Aerin Lilac Path reminds one of a real lilac, but it is on the sweet side, with jasmine and orange blossom notes. There is a sharp note in the opening, but fortunately it dissipates quickly. After two hours it dries down to a pleasant skin scent.

Much more to my liking is the lovely Frédéric Malle En Passant, created by Olivia Giacobetti. A realistic, not overly sweet, and fairly long lasting lilac perfume, it won me over with its fresh and airy quality. Although some complain about the bread note in the drydown, I find that it fleshes out and adds dimension to the richness of the lilac.

Then there are the lilac bouquets. Guerlain Idylle Duet Jasmin-Lilas EDP is an elegant jasmine and white rose concoction. Lilac is a secondary player. It opens with zesty green notes and pink peppercorns before the white flowers take over. This was a special edition brought out in 2013, but still seems to be available online. Or consider Love, Chloé Intense (2011), a beautiful floral combining lilac with iris, hyacinth, and vanilla. Another bouquet, Tocca Giulietta, was a disappointment, with more apple than lilac, all buried in a cloud of musk.

A couple of indie perfumes round out the ten. Ineke After My Own Heart, unfortunately does not smell like real lilacs. It is a pleasant green floral that becomes increasingly soapy as it dries down. I had better luck with DSH White Lilac (2014), which smells like the head of a heavy lilac blossom, complete with honeybees, nodding by my backdoor.

Honorable Mentions must go to two perfumes now discontinued and impossible to find. In Jo Malone White Lilac and Rhubarb, the sweet heaviness of the lilac is offset by the crisp tartness of rhubarb. Phaedon Rue de Lilas immediately conjures up a rainy Parisian side street with lilacs in full bloom. If you have the good fortune to own either of these beauties, please take good care of them.

What fragrance says spring to you? Do you have favorite lilac scents?

To see other spring perfume  lists, please visit: Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: Perfume Posse :: The Non-Blonde.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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77 Comments

  • Annikky: Thank you for a comprehensive overview, I love that type of posts. I adore lilacs, in life and in perfume, but have never found anything to rival En Passant. I’m dying to try Vacances, but I’m not quite sure if it’s already available (again)? April 10, 2015 at 7:15am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Annikky! A search of Vacances on both eBay and Amazon yielded nothing but an empty bottle (on eBay). I’ve never had the pleasure of sampling it, either. April 10, 2015 at 8:30am Reply

      • Annikky: Grain de Musc has the new version in her spring top 10, so I guess it has to exist somewhere… But it may not be publicly available yet. On a different note (or the same note, actually), I’ve just read in UK Vogue that Jo Malone is launching the White Lilac and Rhubarb candle. I immediately got irrationally excited. No mention of the perfume, though. April 10, 2015 at 5:50pm Reply

        • Patricia: Oh, good news all around! Thank you for sharing. I’d probably buy the candle if the perfume wasn’t being reissued. April 10, 2015 at 7:07pm Reply

  • Connie: Have you tried Desarmant? That’s also a lilac that I’ve heard good things about and I’d love to know your thoughts. April 10, 2015 at 7:53am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Connie, I haven’t tried Desarmant, but I found it listed on Barney’s website, where it is listed as an exclusive. Next time I’m in the Boston Barney’s, I’ll give it a sniff. April 10, 2015 at 8:42am Reply

  • The Scented Salon: Spring fragrances are not my favorites as I adore heavy orientals but if I change anything in my fragrance use for Spring is that I focus more on roses, one of my favorite notes. There are so many fresh roses like Un Zest de Rose, Rose Ikebana, SMN Rosa, etc. I just ordered Guerlain’s Flora Rosa unsniffed so let’s see how that works out.

    My mom loves lilac and uses up several bottles of French Lilac a year as well as various matching body products. I am not a fan of any other flower but the rose but I love to sniff fresh flowers like lilacs, hyacinths and irises. April 10, 2015 at 9:12am Reply

    • Patricia: Rose is one of my favorite notes, too, but I find that in general I prefer the deep, rich roses like Lyric Woman and Mohur to the lighter, fresher variety. I do own a travel-sized Rose Ikebana, though, and love Le Labo Rose 31.

      Please let us know how Flora Rosa turns out for you! April 10, 2015 at 9:40am Reply

      • The Scented Salon: I also am a bigger fan of dark roses than fresh ones. I wanted to try Rosa Magnifica but it was too expensive. Let’s hope Flora Rosa is nice. April 10, 2015 at 11:52am Reply

  • limegreen: Patricia — I love these posts, so informative and comprehensive. And lilacs are one of my favorite flowers, though it is virtually impossible to capture in a perfume. I’m going to check out some of the ones you’ve mentioned such as DSH White Lilac.
    I love En Passant, and wore it to a recent olive oil farm visit (get it? olive family?). It was wonderful having wafts of EP wandering the olive tree orchard!
    I do love Aerin Lilac Path but admit that I only have the body lotion. The body lotion captures the lilac without being overly sweet (or plastic).
    Another budget lilac is Yves Rocher Lilas Mauve, light and fresh (not cloyingly sweet) lilacs but very fleeting like En Passant, without the depth of EP. (there’s a reason for the price difference!)
    Thanks for a great post! (Smarties for your horse, LOL!) April 10, 2015 at 9:26am Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, limegreen! I’m envious of your trip to the olive orchard. Other than a visit to Grasse during the rose harvest (see Victoria’s previous post, if you haven’t already), I would most like to go to an olive oil farm. Where was it located, if you don’t mind my asking?

      Is Yves Rocher Lilas Mauve easily found? I had hoped to include it in my post with the other budget beauties, but couldn’t track any down. April 10, 2015 at 9:48am Reply

      • limegreen: Oh, yes, Grasse feels like a wishlist trip for me, too, and Victoria’s post and photos were beguiling. The olive oil farm was in Hill Country Texas (outside of Wimberley), and there are many more in California, which has the US monopoly on olives. Of course I have seen a few in Italy but no tours, nothing formal. I bet there are olive oil tours for tourists that I’ve never looked for. (Had fun with the limoncello production on the Amalfi Coast, for example. Some restaurants in Sorrento just make their own limoncello to serve in their restaurants, instead of buying from any number of the makers in town who bottle their limoncello for sale.)
        I’m a bit of an olive oil junkie. The orchard owner gave us a tasting of the new harvest pressing of extra virgin olive oil and told us what to look for in a fresh olive oil — it should be peppery on the palate. I never thought about this before, since I don’t drink olive oil straight, but really good extra virgin olive oil has that bite. April 10, 2015 at 10:07am Reply

        • Patricia: I’m not much of a connoisseur, but I agree that an extra virgin olive oil is worth the money. I love to use it to dip bread into. Yum! Also, there’s nothing quite as good as a simple salad tossed on the spot with good quality EVOO and balsamic vinegar. April 10, 2015 at 10:56am Reply

          • Ann: Hi Patricia,

            Loved your post! I live in norther CA and we have quite a number of olive farms that offer tours. A few years ago, when my youngest was very ill and things were touch and go, my husband and I won a visit to DaVero farm through some raffle–a tour and tasting, just the two of us. We debated for weeks whether we could leave our son for the day with relatives at the hospital, and finally took the leap. I have such poignant memories of walking through the olive trees, chatting with the farmers Ridgely and Colleen, and tasting their delicious olive oil. It was an amazing day learning about an art as old as the hills. DaVero is lovely, but their are many others of course. April 10, 2015 at 11:21pm Reply

            • Patricia: That sounds like a very special day, Ann. I’m way overdue for another trip to Northern California and only visited the famed vineyards during my previous trip.

              I’m glad you enjoyed the article. 🙂 April 11, 2015 at 3:48pm Reply

          • Courant: Here in New Zealand I make a dressing with berries from our best berry growing regions and our own olive oil. Olive Oil and wine are relatively new to an ex British colony such as ours but your own local olive oil will be better than the Spanish/Italian oils that are often past their best in the commercialised bulk product we see in the shops April 11, 2015 at 5:28am Reply

            • Patricia: It makes sense that local oils are freshest and tastiest. I’m going to have to try your berry/olive oil dressing…sounds delicious. April 11, 2015 at 3:51pm Reply

      • limegreen: Yves Rocher website
        I bought a few mini classic YR fragrances such as Moment Bonheur in Paris but did not see the lilac one at the time. (Not far from the Louvre, sold out probably.) The great discovery for me was one of their cleansing micellar water skincare products, great for washing cosmetic sponges and for taking off sunblock/foundation before deep cleansing, and a lot less than the Caudalie one I was using. Well, that’s how I found the website and that the site often marks things down (and free shipping no less).
        A bunch of the perfume minis were in my price range of “worth the blind buy, not much more than a sample vial” (i.e. $5)! I ended up getting Citrus Flowers, Neroli, Lily of the Valley (very lovely), and of course Lilac! No regrets (unless one worries about the lack of longevity on these. Seems churlish to complain about something so fresh and light.). 🙂
        (sorry, long-winded answer) April 10, 2015 at 10:38am Reply

        • Patricia: I should have thought of checking for a YR website! I’ve been using the Bioderma Micellaire for sensitive skin, but have been tempted by some of the drugstore offerings, which are much cheaper. April 10, 2015 at 11:01am Reply

          • limegreen: YR Hydrating Micellar Water in the Hydra Vegetal line (some of the others have parabens).
            I have sensitive skin and this does not irritate my skin. Don’t know how sensitive your skin is, though.
            Bioderma is so inexpensive in a Paris pharmacy! My husband scoffed at our carrying back a 500 ml bottle of “water” (would have to be in check-in luggage). I sheepishly agreed since we were already toting perfume. 🙂 April 10, 2015 at 11:40am Reply

            • Patricia: Ha! The same thing happened to me. I was in Paris two years ago, and my husband was fine with the extra space and bubble wrap needed in “his” suitcase for perfume purchases, but he drew the line at the Bioderma. April 10, 2015 at 12:19pm Reply

              • Kat: I’m using the Garnier dupe – I’m normally not a fan of the brand but the simple formula and the lack of scent (odd thing to type around here) convinced me to give it a try. I recently tried the Caudalie one but it was too soapy and my eyes were not fans. April 10, 2015 at 1:14pm Reply

                • Patricia: Thanks for the mini-review, Kat! April 10, 2015 at 7:09pm Reply

              • limegreen: 🙂 (Now wondering if we are twins separated at birth….) April 10, 2015 at 6:15pm Reply

                • limegreen: (the reply is for Patricia) April 10, 2015 at 6:16pm Reply

                • Patricia: Yup. Must be! April 10, 2015 at 7:08pm Reply

      • Petunia: I checked Yves Rocher USA but only found this for Lilac

        http://www.yvesrocherusa.com/control/keywordsearch April 10, 2015 at 7:34pm Reply

  • Ana Maria Andreiu: La Perfumerie Moderne Desarmant is a brilliant lilac perfume,dare I say better than En Passant,but after all it depends what kind of lilacs are you looking for.Desarmant is more voluptuous,sensual April 10, 2015 at 9:41am Reply

    • Patricia: Then I will make a point of going to Barney’s sooner rather than later! 🙂 April 10, 2015 at 9:48am Reply

    • Annikky: This sounds really good, thank you for mentioning it. April 10, 2015 at 5:55pm Reply

  • Aurora: A very good post about that most elusive flower, thank you Patricia. April 10, 2015 at 10:27am Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, Aurora. And happy spring! April 10, 2015 at 10:53am Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely post Patricia, and nice to get an overview of such a difficult note. My favourite is of course En Passant. What I like most about it that Giacobetti takes the lilac smell and translates it into perfume in a way that doesn’t make it overpowering. Even real lilacs can be a bit overbearing to me at times. I haven’t tried any of the others that you mentioned but will definitely give them a sniff if I can get hold of them. Tocadilly ( Tocade’s little sister) is supposed to have a lilac note. I have never tried it but have often wanted to get one of those cute mini bottles off ebay. April 10, 2015 at 11:31am Reply

    • Patricia: I love the minis. I finally had to ban all eBay mini shopping, since they were taking over the space reserved for the “real” perfume bottles! April 10, 2015 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Emma: This spring, I’m wearing Maiyet Barneys New York, Serge Lutens La Religieuse and La vierge de fer. April 10, 2015 at 11:56am Reply

    • Patricia: I’m so behind in my perfume sampling, Emma, that I haven’t tried any of these. Though I know Victoria reviewed La Religieuse, I’m not sure about the other two. April 10, 2015 at 12:22pm Reply

  • ChristineB: Profumi di Firenze does a lilac perfume called ‘Lilla Serenella’. I had a sample at one time and remember that I thought it was quite a good lilac representation but there was something in it that was a bit too cloying for my taste. April 10, 2015 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Patricia: This was listed in Fragrantica, but wasn’t available on either eBay or Amazon. It’s so easy for these lilac fragrances to go over the top. That’s why I like En Passant so much with its strange bread and cucumber notes. I think they absorb the sweetness! April 10, 2015 at 12:37pm Reply

  • Kate: Thank you for a lovely survey. Lilac is one of my favourite fragrances. We have two lilac trees in our garden, and my favourite time of year is when they are in bloom.

    For me, Guerlain’s Guerlinade is the most beautiful and true lilac I’ve smelled. It manages to be both delicate and tenacious at the same time. It is very redolent of the fresh blossoms on an early Spring evening when they seem to unloose their fragrance in wave after wave. April 10, 2015 at 3:05pm Reply

    • Patricia: Another one I’ve never even tried. I like your description of it though Kate! April 10, 2015 at 6:08pm Reply

  • hotlanta linda: Please see http://www.soivohle.com on the sale page – Liz Zorn has 3 lilac scents, all discontinued this Spring, and all are swooners! @ of them are on the unboxed section`s drop-down menu :-0 April 10, 2015 at 3:15pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks! I’ve placed an order. 🙂 April 10, 2015 at 6:50pm Reply

      • hotlanta linda: When you try these 3 lilacs: Please have a cup of your tea used for alertness brewed and sitting nearby in case of severe swooning! lol!! 🙂 April 10, 2015 at 7:10pm Reply

        • Patricia: Thanks for the advice! They were in fact very well priced, too. That didn’t cause any swooning (except perhaps at the total). 🙂 April 11, 2015 at 9:37am Reply

  • Avonne: Hi Patricia, what a happy coincidence, I’ m wearing Pacifica French Lilac today, prompted no doubt by the the bouquet of lilacs my husband brought into the house after chores last night. Warm spring on the West Coast USA, and our bushes have burst into bloom early. Thanks for all the suggestions of lilac scents to try, including the Smarties. If they are horse-approved, they must be good! April 10, 2015 at 4:46pm Reply

    • Patricia: What a nice husband you have, Avonne! We’re still winterish here on the East Coast, but warmer weather is expected tomorrow. April 10, 2015 at 6:53pm Reply

  • Joy: Thank you, Patricia for an informative article. I love the lilac flower and the scent from a vase full brought into the house. It has always puzzled me as to why the flower could not be interpreted into a perfume that was as enchanting as the flower. Most of the perfumes are quite sickening. I do like the Pacifica French Body Creme. It does have the fragrance of real lilac, if I don’t use too much. I will be quite interested to try some of your top suggestions to see if I get that same springtime enchantment that I get from the real flower outdoors. April 10, 2015 at 6:44pm Reply

    • Patricia: I don’t think anything is an exact duplicate, Joy. That said, I’ve enjoyed testing the various interpretations of this beautifully fragrant flower. 🙂 April 10, 2015 at 6:56pm Reply

  • Alicia: Beautiful post, Patricia. Paraphrasing ” A Thousand and One Nights” I may have a thousand roses, but only one lilac, En Passant. I also keep a vial of Blue Lilac oil, from The Fragrance Shop, when in the midst of winter I crave spring scents. It is a very true lilac fragance. Still, for me, En Passant is unmatched. April 10, 2015 at 6:49pm Reply

    • Patricia: I’d have to agree with you, Alicia. When my 5 ml. decant of En Passant was drained, I bought the 10 ml. travel size. I’m so glad that Malle offers their perfume in this size. I have so much perfume at this point, I can’t imagine ever needing anything bigger than that! April 10, 2015 at 7:03pm Reply

  • Christy: I need to try Pacifica French Lilac!
    My favorites for spring are:
    – FM En Passant
    – Tauer Carillon Pour un Ange (lily of the valley)
    – FM Une Fleur de Cassie (cassie, mimosa)
    – SL Bois de Violette April 10, 2015 at 7:13pm Reply

    • Patricia: Those are lovely choices, Christy! April 11, 2015 at 9:42am Reply

  • Mooncitizen: A fairly accurate lilac smell could be found in Les lilas de Trianon, from the L’artisan parfumeur under Laporte, dating back to the 70s. It doesn’t age that well but it’s still interesting. Anybody knows of it? I happen to have a full bottle but there must be many others out there. April 11, 2015 at 1:46am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Mooncitizen, for your comment. I haven’t heard of Les lilas de Trianon, but I bet there are BdJ readers out there who have! April 11, 2015 at 9:45am Reply

  • Anka: Happy spring, Patricia, I enjoyed reading your wonderful post. Here in Germany, our lilac bushes are not in bloom yet but nevertheless I put on some Champs-Elysées, my favorite lilac fragrance. I own a sample of En Passant and love it but sometimes it feels too melancholic for me to wear, like lilacs in the rain whilst Champs-Elysées is lilac in the sun. April 11, 2015 at 4:45am Reply

    • Patricia: Happy spring to you as well, Anka! Your thoughtful comparison of En Passant and Champs-Elysées has motivated me to locate my C-E mini and wear them side by side. April 11, 2015 at 9:51am Reply

  • Lorie: En Passant is divine!! I adore lilacs and this lush perfume is the real deal. I stood in the hall at work the other day and the women around me lifted their noses in the air, pondering … What’s that smell? Something wonderful, like spring … Do you smell lilacs, I asked. Yes! Yes! That’s it! Lilacs! April 11, 2015 at 8:51am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Lorie, Great story about how you fooled the women at work. I can’t imagine anyone in the workplace objecting to the lovely, understated En Passant, unless, of course, for allergy reasons. April 11, 2015 at 9:56am Reply

    • limegreen: Lorie — did they also smell a bakery with fresh bread nearby? 🙂 April 11, 2015 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Timely post! I am hoping the deer do not nibble the tiny new buds on my lilac bush again this year lest I have NO flowers at all. I visited North Conway New Hampshire last fall and discovered a local bath & body care shop that makes all their own products. Their White Mountain Lilac body butters pleased me greatly, especially since I am also very picky about lilac scents that are not directly wafting off a live bush. Web site link below:
    http://www.fieldsofambrosia.com/product/BathandBody-Body-Butter-Cream.html April 11, 2015 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you for the link, Ariadne. I am often in the White Mountain area and will make it a point to visit this store during my next visit.

      Here’s hoping those pesky deer leave your lilac buds alone! April 11, 2015 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Christiana: The only Lilac scent I have ever owned is Yves
    Rocher Lilac that I bought 13 yrs ago in Paris when on a strict backpackers budget! I loved it then and still have some left to sniff and be transported back to that time.( I think Pacifica French Lilac is very similar.)
    If it is still available I would recommend it as a pretty true single note Lilac with a soapy dry down
    I have also smelt Ineke’s version and agree that it is not a Lilac, infact I don’t particularly like it

    Really enjoyed this post, thank you April 12, 2015 at 6:33am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Christiana! Now that I know how to find the Yves Rocher Lilac, I plan on going to the site to see if I can order a little bit. 🙂 April 12, 2015 at 4:38pm Reply

  • LizzieB: Blanc Lila body mousse is lovely as is the soap. Very fresh. April 13, 2015 at 10:14pm Reply

    • Patricia: That sounds very nice! April 14, 2015 at 11:10am Reply

  • Hamamelis: Thank you Patricia for this lovely springtime post. We are so lucky spring has really sprung here in Western Europe, I hope it will do the same across the Atlantic, and the snow will be really gone.
    Since falling so much in love with Heure Exquise, I have explored the iris note (lovely Hiris) as well as the AG house. I came across Eau de Camille, and this smells of lilacs to me, not just lilacs, this whole sense of spring, as I experienced it as a child, and once in a while still do…life is just beginning! It is often described as a green perfume, but to my nose it is filled with spring and early summer flowers (lilac, honeysuckle, privet). April 14, 2015 at 7:51am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Hamamelis! Our snow has finally melted here in the Boston area to the relief of all.

      I might have a sample of Eau de Camille tucked away, and I’m going to try to find it. You describe the feeling of spring so well! April 14, 2015 at 11:14am Reply

  • Deb Hemley: Wonderful review Patricia! And such a sensory ode to spring! April 15, 2015 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, Deb, and welcome to BdJ! April 15, 2015 at 6:27pm Reply

      • Deb Hemley: Thank you! I’m happy to have made the discovery. Looking forward to the journey. April 16, 2015 at 5:02pm Reply

        • Patricia: 🙂 April 17, 2015 at 9:36am Reply

  • Gentiana: I recently discovered Guerlain’s Acqua Alegoria Angelique & Lilas, bought a couple of years on a sale at the local Marionnaud.
    It is a realistic Lillac, but not screaming BIG FLORAL, and not to sweet. The Angelica gives dryness and bitterness to it.
    As an EDT, I use it as a deodorant, lavishly spraying my armpits.
    For a final touch, I put two small sprays of En Passant behind my ears… and I feel like Boticelli’s Spring… 🙂 … Not that young and beautiful, but for sure scented like Spring herself… 🙂 April 28, 2015 at 7:25am Reply

  • Surbhi: I love the smell of lilacs. But I am severely allergic to lilac flowers / bushes. Anyone know of any product that is artificially created and smells like the flowers. I would like to try those and see if my nose don’t reject them. March 5, 2016 at 5:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: All of lilacs in perfumery are artificial, so you’ll have no issues whichever one you pick. March 7, 2016 at 4:37am Reply

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