I know, I know: I'm the last perfume nerd on the block to know about Guerlain's annual limited edition Muguet perfume, released the first day of every May to tie in with the French tradition of offering a few sprigs of lily-of-the-valley as a good luck charm. But here's my excuse: I've been busy with a decade-long incense orgy that's just wrapping up now-ish. And here's my bonus excuse: Guerlain didn't issue a 2010 edition.
But it's August 2011 and the time for excuses is over, because I have experienced Muguet 2011 and am filled with slobbering, swooning love for it. Apparently, the interpretation is slightly different every year it's released, and judging from the choir-of-angels hallucination I experienced in my squirrelly little brain when I first wore it, this vintage is a doozy. I knew I was a goner when I tried it at the Saks' Guerlain counter the other week, and then did about seven unnecessary circuits of the cosmetics floor in order to spritz on more with each drive-by. I could tell by the counter jockey's ever-souring expression that I was being demoted from “valued customer” to “flagrant freeloader” with each pass.
Well tough, lady! Muguet 2011 had catapulted me into the middle of my own private Proustian flashback, and if I had to feign interest in Crème de la Mer Labia Toner and La Prairie Wattle Emulsion during my token store laps in order to get back to the Guerlain counter for another spray of this magical lily-of-the-valley happy juice, I was more than equal to the challenge.
The last time I remember loving myself so damn hard in a lily-of-the-valley perfume was as a 16-year-old wearing Coty Muguet des Bois. That's the stuff that twitterpated the 20-year-old would-be poet dude who was hanging around; it was the icing on my cake, if you will.
I was kind of impressed by the poet dude, but even more impressed by myself for the erotic power I wielded over him -- without even having to do much of anything...ahem...erotic. Muguet des Bois, its schoolgirl innocence underscored by a salty muskiness, was the perfect perfume soundtrack to this amorous diversion.
Guerlain's Muguet captures what I remember of Muguet des Bois' nubile allure, and then gilds the memory with its own ethereal perfection. It is absolutely transcendent. Lily-of-the-valley perfumes can be shrill, sharp, headachey, harsh, sweet, soapy, sour or insipid. Not this one. Muguet 2011 is crystal clear and uplifting, with a glaze of green and a tug of musk. No "eeeeeek!", just "ahhhhhhh."
Muguet 2011 is an eau de toilette, but it holds on beautifully, if delicately, which is fitting for the airiness of the perfume. In the heat, it does that great thing Coty Muguet des Bois used to do: so sultry/salty on the skin.
|Lily-of-the-valley: good enough for wedding day Grace.|
The kick in the giblets is that a 100 ml bottle of Muguet goes for 580 clams -- and my personal clam-count is much lower. Not sure why about the cost, since it's not like a muguet perfume is dependent on a lily-of-the-valley harvest, as the scent is the result of an aromachemical cocktail. And it can't be for the bottle, which nice enough (chunky glass with a stopper top), but has a barely glued-on paper label that yearns to peel off. And yet...that scent!
|Guerlain Muguet 2011: it's what's inside that counts.|
Perhaps I might cut my pocketbook some slack and content myself with a reasonable facsimile of Muguet 2011? When I was wearing Muguet at Saks, I sprayed on a little Diorissimo for a comparison, and the difference was shocking. People are saying Diorissimo ain't what she used to be, but it's still recognizably Diorissimo, the reference lily-of-the-valley for many. Compared to Muguet, however, the Dior smelled overall more “perfumey” with its jasmine, more of a composition, with some harshness to battle through at the top before it settled into springtime. By contrast the Guerlain just glides in, sails billowing, a champion.
Back at Puckrik Towers, I thought to try the lovely Sottile by Yosh, and discovered that its rose is a much more determined partner with the muguet than I'd remembered. Then I turned to Van Cleef & Arpels Muguet Blanc, sure of my recollection of it being a transparent soliflore. Surprise! Against the Guerlain's sheer green chirpiness, Muguet Blanc is milky, vanillic, myrrh-like. It was doing a Dior Bois d'Argent on me: thick and sweet, on the root beer side of life. And as the hours wore on, Muguet Blanc asserted its woody-ambery side.
Although the consumer comparison tests continue, it seems there isn't a reasonable facsimile of Muguet 2011. And that's just unreasonable.
For more on Coty Muguet des Bois, enjoy Barbara Herman's review of it on her blog Yesterday's Perfume
Le Muguet du Métro by Robert Doisneau
Vintage Muguet des Bois ad from Vintage Ad Browser