I haven’t posted over the last few days, as some personal matters have occupied both my time and attention. A family member is in the hospital, and will remain there for a few days. It’s nothing dire, but the procedure wasn’t completely minor either, so I’m a bit distracted. In addition, I’m working on a big project for the blog that will see fruition in a few weeks, but is taking up a lot of my time now. So, I thought I would give two mini, very cursory reviews for Isabey‘s new Lys Noir and its polar opposite in colour, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier‘s Jardin Blanc. I probably won’t have time to respond to comments, though, and for that I apologise in advance.
ISABEY LYS NOIR:
According to Fragrantica, the house of Isabey was originally founded in 1924, which is when Lys Noir was first released. Now, however, Isabey is controlled by Panouage which is why Lys Noir is sometimes called “Panouge Isabey Lys Noir” on a few sites. The fragrance was re-released this year in a truly gorgeous Art Deco bottle. If only what was within it matched….
If I had to summarize the fragrance in a nutshell, I’d call it a deeper, sweeter version of Le Labo‘s Ylang 49 mixed with a small dash of Lys 41. It doesn’t smell particularly of white lilies on my skin. In fact, the first time I wore it, I didn’t look at the notes right away, and I could have sworn I was smelling ylang-ylang infused with a good dollop of champaca flower, all drenched with fruitchouli, but with only a tiny hiccup of white lilies. The namesake note eventually shows up in slightly more noticeable form, but it remains a demure wallflower with little voice or substance on my skin.
I’ll do a proper review eventually. Well, maybe. Okay, probably not. For one thing, I loathe fruitchouli. For another, there was a lot of damn white musk throughout, and you know my feelings about that. Francis Kurkdjian certainly loves the blasted note which he seems to inject into the majority of his feminine florals, and he’s the one who updated the original 1924 scent. [UPDATE 1/30 — My source for that information was Luckyscent which lists Francis Kurkdjian as co-creator of Lys Noir, and the original version of a January 2015 post at Now Smell This. However, Mr. Kurkdjian told me on Twitter that he was not involved with the fragrance. My apologies to him for the error.] The white musk is only one of the things that gives Lys Noir a very commercial feel, but it is not the only one. The intensely gooey sweetness of the patchouli, and the amorphousness of the florals after the first hour don’t help. Neither does Lys Noir’s linearity, or its largely uncomplicated, generic “Fruit-Floral” character.
Still, there are some nice parts to the scent, particularly the almost tropical, almost boozy “champaca”-like floralcy, mixed with the equally yellow, rather velvety “ylang-ylang.” Yet, neither flower is actually listed as part of the notes which include instead:
Black pepper, lily, tuberose, heliotrope, narcissus, ebony, sandalwood, patchouli, musk.
I didn’t detect tuberose in any clear way at all. There was also no narcissus (daffodil), and barely any heliotrope. There was, however, a small streak of milkiness that appeared a few times, especially as time passed on, but it is largely drowned out by the blanket of fruitchouli-infused “ylang-ylang” mixed with “champaca.” A vague suggestion of something woody stirred in the base during the middle and drydown phases, but it was as innocuous and muted as all the other tertiary notes.
In short, Lys Noir is a “noir” scent in exactly the same way that Coco Noir and Black Opium are “noir” — which is to say, not at all. Its colour is fruitchouli purple and clean musk white. As a whole, Lys Noir is a very commercial mix that isn’t particularly “Lys” in nature, and never stands out in any way at all. That’s a problem for me at the price. Lys Noir retails for $170 or €139 for a mere 50 ml of eau de parfum. The scent would be great at $60, perhaps maybe even $80, but $170 for 50 ml is astonishing, if you ask me.
MPG JARDIN BLANC:
I blindly bought a whopping BWF (Big White Flower) called Jardin Blanc from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier (MPG) in vintage form on eBay, and it turned out to be a rare exception to the usual catastrophes which ensue whenever I break my “No Blind Buys” rule.
Jardin Blanc is an eau de parfum that debuted in 1988 as part of MPG‘s Les Fleurs Divines Collection. While it is neither edgy nor hugely distinctive, it is a truly heady, rich, lush mix of white flowers that are more green and fresh than indolic. There are no blackened, deconstructed, camphorous streaks here at all. Instead, there is a plethora of my beloved tuberose mixed with jasmine, ylang-ylang and gardenia, as well as a dash of honeysuckle.
Jardin Blanc begins with grape-y sweetness from the methyl anthranilate that occurs naturally in tuberose and many other white flowers, but there is also greenness to the scent, both from the way the flowers are treated, and from a certain leafy nuance flecked by the tiniest whiff of aromatic myrtle. The whole thing lies on a slightly woody base that become more noticeable after the opening hour passes. The base allegedly consists of “sandalwood,” but it seems more like simple, generic, white woods. What’s particularly pretty is the honeysuckle in the opening 20 minutes, even if it isn’t as prominent as the other flowers. Sweet, lightly honeyed, it adds a nectared quality to the head-turning opening.
There are times when the balance of notes in Jardin Blanc seems to skew more towards gardenia than tuberose, and other instances where it tips its hat to the jasmine instead, but the bottom line is always a multi-faceted form of white flowers that are presented both with sweetness and a slightly fresh greenness in a linear, rather simplistic bouquet. On my skin, there is never the lilac that some people mention on MakeupAlley or elsewhere, but there is a velvety floralcy that comes from ylang-ylang and a vague approximation of crisp, fresh orange blossoms from Seringa which lurks quietly in the background.
Officially, the notes don’t include either gardenia or lilac but, to my surprise, MPG claims there is oakmoss instead, at least as a base note. I must say, I don’t think Jardin Blanc smells like a mossy scent at all, but perhaps the note works indirectly from afar to add to that impression of greener flowers rather than indolic or blackened ones. The full note list is presented on MPG’s French website, and translates to:
Top: Green leaves, myrtle, mandarin;
Middle: Jasmine, Ylang-ylang, Tuberose, Seringa [a plant that smells like orange blossoms], cloves;
Base: Oakmoss, Sandalwood, and Musk.
All of it is done in the MPG style which frequently seems to involve a paradoxical combination of weighted airiness with big scent trails but also softness at the same time. My version was a vintage one from an estate sale, and the juice is darkened and syrupy, so those were undoubtedly factors as well, but if you’ve tried the brand’s Ambre Precieux, you’ll know what I mean by the MPG’s style. As for longevity, it was good, given how my wonky skin often eats through white florals quite quickly. Jardin Blanc always lasted more than 8 hours but less than 10, depending on how much I applied.
Jardin Blanc bears its name well, in my opinion, as it evokes a rather opulent garden party where willowy women in white strike a romantic pose. One of the most accurate summations that I’ve found for the scent was a comment on Fragrantica where someone wrote:
Beautiful fragrance. So white, transparent, strong and sensual all at the same time. It’s like a good girl trying to be a courtesan. Subtle yet powerful.
Fragrantica has only 3 reviews, but they are all positive. MakeupAlley has the largest number at roughly 25, and the majority of them are positive as well. Descriptions range from how the Jardin Blanc woman is a Southern Belle who “sashays,” to how it is a white floral for those who “are quickly sickened” by Fracas. A good number of people experience the honeysuckle note, though the occasional talk of lilacs confused me. For the most part, people see Jardin Blanc as “light and clean” floral. As one person wrote:
Unlike lots of others in this genre, Jardin Blanc is a light and clean floral scent and could easily be worn for either a day in the office or a night out. I am just loving the lush floral scent of this fragrance but the lushness is not so overwhelming that it limits the occasions on which this can be worn. Yeah, this one definitely goes on the “must purchase” list!
In short, you can sum up Jardin Blanc is a paradoxically lush but transparent, heady but light, white but freshly green, sashaying Southern belle and good girl who is pretending to be a courtesan. Those of you who hate white florals should obviously let her sashay right past you because no amount of greenness will make Jardin Blanc easy for you. It may not be indolic, but it is certainly heady, lush, and narcotically white. All of that thrills me, as I think it would for those of you who share my love of the BWF genre. Even better, Jardin Blanc’s intoxicating scent, strong sillage, and good longevity come at a good price, one which is often heavily discounted in the States even further. (See Details section below.)
So, a big thumbs up for Jardin Blanc. A dismissive shrug for Lys Noir, after a massive, very withering glare at its price.