I’ve watched quite a few home renovation TV shows that teach people how to make furniture look like vintage pieces. You paint it, scratch it, score it, and even beat it with a chain like torturing a prisoner in the Middle Ages, and the end result is convincingly good. Making new things look old is nothing new, and the technique is an art by itself.
Interestingly, Orica Legrand’s Relique d’Amour (2012) is a perfume that gives me the feeling that I am smelling a new creation that was designed to smell antiquated. It smells of big institutions with a long history, sturdy furniture built with solid oak and traditional craftsmanship, and that has endured years of usage and occasional polishing. This is a grand feeling, like entering a huge library and being humbled by the massive collection of knowledge and bookshelves, or visiting a monastery and bewildered by the devoted monks who manage to maintain the dignity of their living quarters without saying a word.
Essentially Relique d’Amour is a woody perfume, but what you get out of it may depend on your age, your background, whether your country had been ruled by the British or not, and also mainly your imagination. You might find it smell like a TV amoire and nothing more, but to me, it brings back memories of me being an apprehensive Catholic primary school student standing in front of the whole class trying to recite traditional British nursery rhymes that I had no clue what they were about.
There are two lily-of-the-valley perfumes that I think are quite well known to the older generation of perfume lovers – Christian Dior’s Dioressimo and Guerlain’s Muguet.
I have a sample of vintage Diorissimo gifted from a generous Facebook friend, and the smell is truly spellbinding. Later I went to smell the current reformulated version in a department store for comparison purpose, although it smelled faithful to the original version, it was less rounded and the lily-of-the-valley note smelled apparently more synthetic or harsher. I have decided if I ever want to own a bottle of Diorissmo, I will get the vintage version from eBay.
Then there’s Guerlain’s Muguet. They release it annually around May as a limited edtion for $600 a bottle. The presentation is different every year and it’s always a delight to see or own one as they really put good artistic effort designing the bottles and packaging. They are beautiful. But I cannot forgive myself for buying a bottle in 2014 because the price was truly regretfully ridiculous. My coworker once visited my millionaire boss’ home and reported that he had an espresso machine that probably cost five thousand dollars. She said, “You know, that’s a downpayment for a car for work for a lot of people.” I swear that I will never buy another edition of Guerlain Muguet no matter how pretty it is. And I refuse to use my bottle too. I just admire it, sniff it, and when the time is right, I will sell it. The smell of Guerlain’s Muguet, nevertheless, is good, I give them that… actually, quite simple but wonderful, as it smells almost identical to the real one, with the exception that occasionally my subconscious creeps up to tell me that I am smelling some shampoo.
Just two days ago a superhero perfume came to the rescue when a friend decided to sell his bottle of Oriza L. Legrands’ Muguet Fleuri (1920, reformulated 2014). I have a feeling that, just like modern “oud”, the lily-of-the-valley note can be easily acquired as a synthetic compound from any big aromachemical company in France. One probably could dilute it with alcohol and call it Muguet la Sillygoose and people will think that a whole village of farmers have gathered 100 pounds of lily-of-the-valley at 5 am for distillation to make 10 oz of essential oil to make that perfume. But I don’t have access to those French aromachemical companies and even if I do, probably the minimum purchase amount is 10 kg. So I think that the price of Muguet Fleur is reasonable (~$95 for 100ml). Besides, Muguet Fluer is not trying to duplicate the smell of lily-of-the-valley exactly; it has notes of galbanum, angelica, violet leaf, oakmoss and lily. The opening smells a bit bitter, which I love, then the rest is similar to Diorissimo and Guerlain’s Muguet. Not exactly, but I am happy and satisfied.