So, off goes Roudnitska, with one of the quintessential retorts to Mme. Chanel saying:
“I want a perfume that is composed. It’s a paradox. On a woman, a natural flower scent smells artificial. Perhaps a natural perfume must be created artificially."
I tend to think that Chanel had a point, though that quote comes from stories about the creation of No.5, such as this one. Simple florals are simpletons, in a way--not to offend those who love them--they are never as fabulous as when you smell them in the garden, and on most people they remind me of something proper for girls or prim maidens. Ironically, I still haven't wrapped my head around No. 5. Soap bubbles.
Before you get mad at me, or want to come to the defense of your favorite floral (which I want you to do, by the way...bring up your favorite florals, not necessarily get mad at me), let me point out that a) I do harbor a certain fondness for rose, when done a certain way. A certain way I haven't been able to pin down, yet, because roses that work for me include Bulgari Rose Essentiale, Magie Noire, Rive Gauche, Twill Rose, and, when I'm in the mood for having my mind warped, SIP Black Rosette. There is no common thread I can discern there. If you've got an idea, toss it my way.
Anyway, I wander off into roses on a post titled "Lily of the Valley" because I wanted to show that I am not opposed to straight up florals across the board. There's a crazy indie "mystery white" floral, for example, called Summerscent that I find myself oddly drawn toward (I remember a commenter on another blog once saying it smelled of gasoline...okay, that is a sort of connection to Black Rosette...), but of course not only was it limited production, it is now gone apparently. But, when push comes to shove, I'd rather get my garden-variety florals from (quality) essential oil concoctions.
Enter the case of lily of the valley and Roudnitska's Diorissimo, a perfume become legend. This was a tale that seemed predestined to not go well for me. Indeed, the path has been rough, and even appeared to end. But today's telling will show that I found where the path continues again, and have found a way to love LOTV following the path less travailed.
You see, I secured a bottle of Diorissimo parfum very early in my perfume curve. Luck smooshed together a good price and my first-year apprentice's knowledge that the stuff was a sort of holy grail, so I'd best snatch it. I did, and I tried it. With all the appropriate reverence and ginger handling of bottle and pause just as the cap came off and a whiff of the cork lip of the opening and a careful application of precious fluid to a virgin clean wrist. And I felt...nothing. I mean, it smelled like lily of the valley, if a bit fluorescent. Or DayGlo. Or so it seemed. It felt hyper. And simple. And the earth didn't move.
I quietly put the Diorissimo in a safe place, and vowed not to share my secret with anyone.
But I took it out twice a year or so, just to check. And...the result was essentially...the same.
Then I got something *really* cheap at auction. Coty Muguet. Heck, if I was going to practice collecting artifacts, this one was a small investment. I put it in the drawer next to the Diorissimo, unopened (literally--this one had evaporated a bit, but the seal was still intact). And it sat there for a year and a half, because I had proclaimed I would "uncork" the bottle as a celebration of the start of spring, but forgot to do that last year.
This year, I didn't forget.
And that has made all the difference.
For beneath the green cello seal lay a wonderfully green threaded lily of the valley, one that had some sap and rasp to it. One that had that LOTV smell in context. Subtle context, mind you; this doesn't go toward abstraction/compilation like Temps d'Une Fete, for example. (Oh, happy scent, that.) And it doesn't reverberate through your core with luxurious ingredients. But it is...nice. Oh so nice. And a happy way to encounter LOTV. Flowers laced with foliage.
But wait...now I should go back, right? Give Diorissimo its day? And so I did. Today.
I believe it. I believe Edmond Roudnitska -- he who brought us Femme, and Diorella, and Parfum de Therese (okay, that one he didn't bring us, but thanks to Fredric Malle, we have it now) -- laid down among the lilies of the valley and put into a bottle that which he found there.
They are kind of hyper flowers, anyway. A couple of stems will fill a room with their fragrance. To me, they smell best outside...and across the way. (Is it any surprise my entryway to their scent in perfume was a greened-up version?) So perhaps I had been unfair to judge as I had.
So, NOW comes the time when you can be mad at me. Because both perfumes I have discussed here have been reformulated. So if you wish to come to your own conclusions, you need to go forth and seek them.
Here, the path is wide enough for two. If you want to jump right on to this path here, where I am, with even less travail than I had, mention it in the comments. I'll draw a name from all who express interest and send a smidgen of each. Don't worry, I know people bop in and out on odd schedules. I close collecting names for the draw on...Tuesday, May 18. Draw is now closed.
If you haven't commented before, I'd love for you to introduce yourself, too. :)
For further readings on the history of Diorissimo, see for example "Perfume Profiles," or Helg's history of the bottle at Perfume Shrine.
There is a page on Edmond Roudnitska with many helpful links at Art et Parfum.
Both bottles from my personal collection, purchased via online auction.
All images the author's own.
If you need a refresher on Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," or have missed being pummeled by it in your schooling, find it here, among numerous other locations. (FWIW, I use Poets.org, and appreciate their existence, though if you travel among certain circles, you know well there's a bit of a brou-ha over the politics at Poets.org...are they too mainstream? Do they ignore certain poets? Perhaps so, but it's a convenient, non-threatening way to put your toe in the water. IMHO. Discuss.)