Guerlain Muguet 2011

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


  1. That's sad. Unrequited love.

    I totally go crazy with the fragrance samples at Sephora, then guiltily purchase a lip gloss.

    I remember your love affair with Coty's lily of the valley frag 'cause you compared it to Odalisque once in a past correspondence with Dan.

    Yeah, I've been going for "green" fragrances lately, too. But I will never forsake my love of incense.

  2. was there an invisible veil of smoke that settled over the incense lovers and reconstructed them to too am an incense lover but have been really drawn to buy Jardin du Poete for my next splurge. It sprays out of the bottle...GREEN

    xo from M and M

    ps...Katie as always your reviews bring out temptation

  3. So sad! I have tried to stay away because there is no way I could afford it, but you've made me want to try this.

  4. Thanks for the link, Katie, and for the hilarious back story to your use of Coty's Muguet des Bois. Glad to know that my theory that it's "not that innocent" meshed with your experience with "poet dude." You know when Edmond Roudnitska, not exactly known for modesty, says, "This thing is better than Diorissimo," that it's gotta be good!

    As for being a "flagrant/fragrant freeloader," I think we've all seen that expectant face go sour at perfume counters across America. "I'm a perfume blogger" & cue the sound of the "wrong answer" buzzer...

  5. "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." I have to say, Guerlain endlessly annoys me with their attitude that we should be expected to pay BIG BUCKS for their perfumes without the benefit of samples. This can only lead to regrets which morph into hesitance when approaching the brand again. I speak from painful experience. Rant over. Glad you reviewed this one, and grateful for the comparisons as well.

  6. Nora and onesmalldog -- yes...what's going on with the lean towards green around here? I'm intriqued by Martin Margiela (untitled), with its blend of bitter green with woody incense. And Michael, Jardin de Poete is a big ol' greenie!

    kjanicki, if you're able to try it, try it, if only to file away under "lily-of-the-valley, perfected."

  7. Barbara, Muguet des Bois is no namby-pamby number, and that's one of the reasons your post resonated with me.

    Oh, and I never mention that I'm a fume blogger when I'm at the counters, for the very reason you cited.

    Kym, the only way around the lack of Guerlain samps for their exclusive lines is by visiting the fancy-pants Nordstrom at South Coast Plaza, where they have the entire Guerlain range and a store policy of making samples for you. Otherwise, you're dependent on the kindness of the individual SA, as well as the availability of sample bottles.

  8. I must say that the SAs at the Montreal Guerlain institute are really nice! --AnnieA

  9. A fumehead pal in Canada told me I would love this one, but I have yet to catch up with it - I am a fan of lily scents generally, and I feel sure there is still a niche in my overstuffed collection for a bit of "sharp green chirpiness".

    It is nothing like SL Un Lys, I take it? - that has a "tug of musk". Or like Vanille Galante on account of its salty character? From what you say the Guerlain sounds like a complete one off!

  10. If it makes your heart go pitter-pat, just get it. ;)

  11. Katie, this sounds lovely and completely doable. But - green? I have never had much success with green. But based on your comparisons, I have spent a day under the spell of Sottile. I hadn't tried it in awhile and thought I didn't LOVE it, but today it was very nice. I think maybe I didn't overdo today which added to the enjoyment.

    Thanks for keeping us on the path of rightousness, perfume-wise!

  12. Why would they give you a sour expression when you mention being a perfume blogger? I would think that would make them love you even more, because you're helping to spread the good word!

  13. (Vintage only) Diorissimo is still the gold standard lily-of-the-valley for me, but I still hope to smell Guerlain Muguet(2011, 2009 or whatever year) some day.

  14. "If it makes your heart go pitter-pat, just get it. ;)"

    I disagree. Even if I could afford it, I don't think I would buy it just on general principle. $600 is ridiculous.

  15. Anonymous, overdo-ing can wear out the welcome of even the nicest perfumes.

    Nora, the sourness originates from the fact that not all SAs manning the fume counters are particularly interested in perfume. As AnnieA points out, the Guerlain staff in Montreal are great, as are most SAs working at a dedicated perfume shop. And my local Barneys crew are fantastic: knowledgeable and passionate.

  16. Vanessa, lily is different from lily-of-the-valley, and those two perfumes you named are big, thick, creamy, heady numbers. Muguet in perfume is lighter on its feet, brighter, crisper, greener.

    Muguet 2011 has more in common with Comme des Garcons Lily (which is a lily-of-the-valley).

    Dom P, Octavian on 1000 Fragrances always talks about perfume as our cultural heritage, and bemoans its destruction as famous perfumes are raddled by reformulation. If only they could be preserved!

  17. It makes one wonder why someone would take a gob such as a SA at a perfume counter if one can't talk even somewhat knowledgeably about what they are selling. I think I would move on before trusting my purchase to their recommendation. But that is just me, I have been told not to let other people's poor attitudes dissuade me from what I need to do.

  18. Serendipity strikes as just yesterday morning I was wishing I could waft a lily of the valley scent into my life and had thought about grabbagging Diorissimo for that means. But now that I know it rather pales as a species against the Guerlain, and I am not going to be buying the now I have another mission of the five million projects in my life.....I'm on the trail of the scent....bow wow wow hot diggity dawg. Should we be thinking about Coty? or is that terribly unchic and passe? Especially for a princess who has to keep up her rep....I mean repetoire! :)

  19. not gob - job. darn those moveable keys on the keyboard! lol.

  20. Nora ~
    I hear you! Talk about gilding the lilly.
    Price has kept me away from so many niche fragrances (for example Incense Oud from By Kilians which would be at least $100 more for 100ml). Of course, Guerlain is going to jump on board at that price point.
    On the other hand, life is too short. To each her own.

  21. Have you tried the Puredistance 1 Katie? Certainly not a straight up muguet, but has the same green springlike feel. I thought that anything described with ozonic I would run for miles from but have found myself using this like crazy - it has replaced Diorissimo for me. Antonia is also green, slightly like Chamade, but airier.


  22. Hi Vanessa -- I've not tried Puredistance 1 or Antonia, but now that I'm on my springtime florals jag (in the dog days of August), I'll investigate them at Scent Bar.

    Princess DVB, we should be thinking about Coty Muguet des Bois. It's so off the current perfume radar as to be passed passé and back to chic. Also, you could score a vintage one, if you were so inclined, for not too much $$.

  23. I wanted to love the Guerlain Muget but it didn't work for me. I have a patch of Lily or the Valley that come up every spring and I cut them and bring them inside and smell them all week and want to weep at how pale an imitation of them all new scents are - only the vintage Diorisismo starts to capture it.

  24. MJRose - since you've racked up Muguet 2011, vintage Diorissimo and actual Lily of the Valley for comparative analysis, I defer to your findings!

  25. Dear, lovely Katie! I so enjoy your reviews, and am too often a lurker and not enough a commenter. I have some vintage Diorissimo edt, and would be happy to send you a sample if you're curious to compare it with the luscious-sounding Guerlain. 'Cause now I'm curious too, darnnit! Comparing with the recent version is just NOT exceptable. Now I'm off to go hunt down some vintage Muguet des Bois...
    (quipus 72 at yahoo)

  26. Aimee! I'll take you up on it - thanks indeedy!

  27. Katie: I love that Metro photo above!
    I wanted to ask you if you know what the packaging looks like for "the good vintage" Diorissimo, and also what the packaging looks like for "the good vintage" Coty Muguet de Bois. Any info appreciated. ~Fleurine

  28. Sorry Fleurine, I left you hanging with my response. Off the top of my head, Muguet des Bois' bell-shaped bottle from the 70s (photo of lily-of-the-valleys on the box) is a good one, and the houndstooth checked box (80s/early 90s at the latest) version of Diorissimo is sound.

  29. Thank you! I recently tried the Caron Muguet de Bonheur, which I like, but I think I am the only person who does.

  30. Thank you! I recently tried the Caron Muguet de Bonheur, which I like, but I think I am the only person who does.

  31. Katie! I found an incredibly true Muguet, for about $ 60-80
    Try this one: Comme des Garcons Series 1 Leaves: Lily

  32. I am tempted to try Lily of the Valley EDT by Woods of Windsor as a more affordable alternative. Has anyone else tried it?