Lily of the Valley
The sprightliest green flower aroma, with no vegetal collateral. The scent of freshly pressed wheatgrass juice before it hits your lips, sweet pea flowers, and some of the wood sorrel flavor present in lilacs. There is a lot of acidity present, almost mouthpuckering like a tomatillo. Powder too, but not the heavy sweet ink that defines orris root or violets. This is powdery like wood shavings, sandalwood in particular, but the wood has no body. It has this in common with Jasminum polyanthum. Whereas J. polyanthum gives off a pervasive creamy white sandalwood odor, Lily of the valley projects green buttermilk. There is a little rosiness to LoV, similar to heirloom 'Duchesse de Nemours' white peonies (my favorite high fragrance peony and the ones that I enfleurage the most), but LoV has a green juiciness that peonies do not. Lily of the valley does not have a musky backnote; there is no indolic underbelly, swamp, mushroom, mothballs, or decomp. Its watery smell is early morning dew, not the water content odor that warns us we are on the edge of rot as you find in hyacinth and the more rubbery examples of lilac. In terms of a western aesthetics that requires something "ugly" (deathlike) or "lowly" (excrement, animal nature) to be contained within every truly beautiful object-- indoles in tuberose, jasmine, and citrus blossoms; mushroom and civet in gardenia; datura's background stink-- lily of the valley may be considered an uncomplicated smell. But for the reasons above, I don't really think it is. It concentrates the complexities of greenness, innocence behind a deceptive impression of transparence, gossamer lightness, and ephemeral spring: rhubarb and sugar snap peas on the vine. It is one of the early spring flowers, famous for its somewhat overstated toxicity and tiny stature. You have to make yourself low to the ground in order to smell it without picking it. And since lily of the valley prefers shady locations, especially woodlands, hiding their curving flower stems among wide ribbons of leaves, you may feel like a child, maybe even Alice in Wonderland, bending down or laying on your stomach to place your nose beneath the open bells. Some say lily of the valley does not retain its scent well after picking, but this is only when you pick the stem along with the flowers (the stem has a high water content and is prone to rotting quickly; rot is a stronger scent that will drown out the flowers' perfume, making it seem as if the flowers have lost their fragrance).
Photo: my lily of the valley enfleurage. Click here to purchase.