In France, the first of May is a national holiday and people mark the start of summer by giving sprigs of Lily of the Valley, which are said to bring luck for the year ahead. Feeling rather ambiguous about cut flowers, I love the citrusy-(rosy) smell of the little white bells but don’t like the idea of them being cut down in their prime to give us a day or two of passing pleasure.
Also, being a gardener, I know how difficult muguet can be to grow, and have heard anecdotes of it migrating by underground stems to a place it likes before it will really flourish.
So instead of giving Lily of the Valley, I try to wear, and share, a different muguet perfume each Beltane. This year it’s a splash bottle of Givenchy Le De, a muguet bouquet on a chypre base; you can tell there’s muguet in it but it’s very different, much darker and more rounded than the light freshness of the bells.
With an astringent opening – which is probably due to age - this is a different type of difficult muguet - one that’s plasticky; a plasticky muguet chypre, much more interesting than a failed soliflore trying to copy the smell of summer’s promise.
And most muguet soliflores do fail, because - as all perfumers know - it's one of those difficult flowers that won't give up its odour to extraction, and has to be copied with odour chemicals.