When you think of them, do you think of purity, death, religion?


Tumbling down from the pillars of a church, delicately imbued with the lucent breath of God?



Or are they sexual narcotics, their ochre-pollened stamens beckoning, and trembling, with powder?









Some lilies, like the stargazers, are the latter, their fragrance drowsy and ineluctable.


And Penhaligons – usually the epitome of propriety – have here released one of the best lily perfumes I have smelled.


It is stunning: a life-like portrait of living, breathing lily, spiced with clove and saffron, and with a well thought out erotic richness I wasn’t expecting.









The cool breath of lilies and the casket. Crimson drapes; the light closed out.



Generic grieving of pipe organ (in the staff room they are drinking tea).



The lilies watch and permeate.




Other notes listed by Demeter: chrysanthemums (with stems and leaves), gladiolus. A hint of mahogany; ‘oriental carpet.’










I once knew a man in Marseilles called David, who had already envisioned his death: asphyxiation in a room full of white lilies. If this pretentious self-indulgence were to prove hard to arrange, however, if the local florist didn’t quite oblige, he might alternatively just spray bottles of this perfume, and stage little ‘mini-deaths’ in preparation for the big day: suffocate himself on Lutens.


Un Lys is lilies, lilies, liles (white, and church-like); with an expiration of leaves, and a judicious addition of light vanilla in the dry down.

Lutens’ most conservative creation, its strait-lacedness works to its advantage. He and his perfumers have rendered, almost to perfection, white yearning Casablancas on the cusp of full opening.








The lilies described above are all beautiful renditions of this haunting and ambivalent bloom, but when Lys Mediteranée appears in the room it is like an Olympic champion has just walked in and all the others must cow their heads in respect.


This lily is luminescent.


It is dazzling, bright, white, green, almost hideously fresh and alive and quite wonderful if you want to actually physically

transmute into a lily.


Filed under Flowers

21 responses to “FOUR LILIES

  1. Funnily enough as I clicked onto this, I was playing Kate Bush’s ‘Moving’ with the dame trilling ‘l-l-l-l-lillies’. An apt backdrop.

  2. m.ang.evola

    Reblogged this on maria ang. evola.

  3. Lilies are my favorite flowers to smell in person, as it were, and I love Un Lys and Lys Mediteranee quite madly. I have always found lilies, even the churchy ones, to be essentially carnal. I remember an old gardening book (circa 1920s) that recommended against bringing lilies in the house, saying “even in the loveliest of them there is an odor that is decadent and unwholesome.” The writer recommended instead that lavender be added to vases of flowers for its “cleanly odor of the domestic virtues.” While I have nothing against the domestic virtues, I choose lilies every time. I can’t wait to try the Lilies and Spice.

    • ‘Decadent and unwholesome’; how brilliant.

      The white lilies are, I agree, completely transfixing: you almost can’t believe that they are real, that such hypnotic flowers exist. The smell, however, always teeters on the nauseating for me – I like them tempered, as in the original Eau de Gucci, which was like a greener Anais Anais. I would love to smell a lily perfume on another person, though..

      Lily And Spice is I think discontinued, now, but I am sure you can still get in online. It is not as ‘beautiful’ as the others, but is warmer, more immediate and uplifting. Definitely pink stargazers rather than Madonna or Calla.

      • An online perfume friend has promised me a sample of Lily and Spice. I want to smell anything lily-ish. I am entranced by the scent of most lilies, and only experience the borderline-nauseating qualities in perfume-lilies. It happens with most lily scents except the ones we’ve talked about here. Interestingly, it also happens with most artificial gardenia scents, maybe because of some common chemical element used in creating both scents. I recall that one year I had a great flowering of Madonna lilies, a different species that adds a strong element of Parma violet to the lily scent. They were glorious. But I long for the true scent of a common Stargazer in a bottle, and that’s what I hope for in Lily and Spice.

      • I am afraid you are not going to be as enamoured as you hope, especially from a vial, not sprayed; there isn’t much poetry in this Penhaligons, but for me, at least, there was definitely an oomph, a lilyishness and spicy heart that was very appealing.

        I hope it isn’t a total let down, in any case. Please let me know!

      • Will do. I’m not looking for the earth to move or anything, so if it isn’t pure Stargazer in there for me, it’s still inherently interesting to try something new.

  4. Lilybelle

    I love the intoxicating scent of lilies. I don’t get funereal, more the lush carnal side. I don’t know the Penhaligons’ one, nor the Demeter, but I didn’t care for Un Lys or Lys Mediterranee, and I’m not sure why. Maybe they were too perfect? Two lily fragrances I like are Donna Karan Gold edp, and Van Cleef & Arpels Lys Carmin. I must sample the Penhaligons one some day. I can’t imagine wearing a lily scent on a regular basis, just on special occasions.

    • I know what you mean about Un Lys and the Mediterranee; they are gorgeous but there is something too brilliant, perturbing about them somehow.

      Gold is much more wearable, and I remember liking the Van Cleef as well. That whole range, despite its price, is curiously wearable. Not overcomplicated.

  5. Have to add that I just sniffed a bit of the Demeter Funeral Home, which I had ordered with the idea that it was just a white floral, and was utterly horrified to discover that- surprise!- this is absolute truth in advertising and it smells, not like white flowers, but like a funeral home.

    • That Christopher Brosius sure is clever…

      What are you going to do with it now? Just give up and lay down, start spraying? !

      • No, not ready to give up yet! Honestly, I was so horrified that I threw the bottle away. I have to say in my own defense that I had just come home from a funeral and it was a little too fresh in my mind to tolerate that scent. I did hope that somewhere in Demeter’s vast oeuvre lurked a photorealistic carnation, but evidently not. I like the one from Santa Maria Novella but didn’t want to spend for a 100ml bottle, which is the only way it comes. The others I’ve tried all seem too interpreted, when what I want is the scent of some gloriously sweet carnation-nutmeggy pinks that I once grew from English seed. This is off-topic to lilies, I realize, but then one of the many things that I love about The Black Narcissus is your tolerance for digressions.
        But to come back to topic, I do like Lys Carmine a lot. I have come to appreciate the VC&A Collection Extraordinaire line as among the best-crafted things in their price range, and infinitely wearable: interesting enough to the perfumista while not actively perturbing to others. A long time after I read the Bluebell review that got me commenting on your blog, I obtained a sample of Union’s Gothic Bluebell. Now that’s perturbing.

      • Isn’t it? Did it chime with what I wrote? I hoped to convey its weirdness with the words, but got carried away with the whole witches in the moonlight baloney instead.

        As for Funeral Home, I truly am sorry – I can’t even imagine how WRONG it must have been.

        As for carnations, for me Santa Maria Novella’s is by far the best, just sheer perfection, even if it DOES burn the skin.

  6. I thought that your description of Gothic Bluebell was spot on, and primed me to expect something quite strange indeed. The earthiness was as if a zombie Bluebell had torn itself out of its winter grave and gone walking. I am pretty sure that the Three Weird sisters were brewing up something like this. On me, to my interest, there was also a strong tone of chocolate. Earthy, dirty,unrefined chocolate such as I have sniffed in Mexico. I didn’t smell much floral at all, but my husband quite liked it and described it as “flowery chocolate. Well, and good dirt.”
    And please, don’t apologize for Christopher Brosius! As I said, I got exactly what their name for the perfume stated that I would get. I can imagine Mr. Brosius reading my comment and thinking “well, duh.”

  7. Dearest Ginza
    Now, The Dandy is very taken with lilies. I like the way they leave their mark, nearly always on the too-expensive must-have item of clothing on some too-fussy individual who is just too much to take
    Yes, it’s their inappropriateness, their near asphyxiating odour (I love the Proustian reveries of your friend), nearly always seemingly contained in rooms with windows closed.
    I love the way they rot so repulsively and yet so sexually at once.
    And I love the way they are so hard for perfumers to handle.
    These are great choices, but for me it’s the strached collar Malle that has it.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  8. Renee Stout

    I have Serge Lutens’ Un Lys and have discovered that it reveals a naughty, skanky secret on the most humid summer days here in D.C. At least it does on me.

  9. empliau

    My 50th birthday present was a bell jar of Un Lys, which I use and treasure. Unfortunately my sister gave me a tester of Lys Mediterranee, and now I am longing for that too. I remember my first visit to California, in March, coming from a snowy winter, and seeing, to my utter amazement, calla lilies blooming. I had only before seen lilies as altar flowers at church, especially for Easter. So to me lilies are the wonder of a warm climate – and I find them cool and warm at the same time, remote and yet earthily sexy. Perfect beauty with a decadent heart.

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