With Lilac Love, Amouage heads fully into European territory, abandoning the Arab aesthetic and the silver Omani frankincense that were once its signature in favour of an easy, approachable, gourmand floral whose classical composition is fully in Roja Dove and Guerlain‘s wheelhouse. Lilac Love is not a bad fragrance; I find it more luxurious in quality than some of the recent releases with their noticeable arid synthetics; the very Shalimaresque classical themes of the drydown were actually lovely; and I think it would be a best-selling fragrance with women if the price were not so high.
However, I also think parts of Lilac Love feel incongruous in the first stage and, more importantly, that hardcore lilac fans won’t be satisfied. My advice for them is to put aside all thoughts of a true lilac scent. If they have no expectations, then they might perhaps be pleasantly surprised by any temporary, abstract, and wholly impressionistic whiffs that may pass by the European, floral oriental gourmand bouquet.
Lilac Love debuted early this year in London and is the first release in a new Amouage line called The Secret Garden Collection. According to the press materials quoted by Harrods (and Fragrantica):
The fragrance captures the true spirit of classical femininity in the modern woman.
The Secret Garden is a collection of intricate feminine fragrances, where feelings, thoughts, and experiences are freely explored without the complications of the contemporary world. “We are so busy trying to keep up with modernity that we sometimes forget about the simple and traditional things in life and ourselves,” explains Creative Director, Christopher Chong.
Top notes: Jasmine, rose, gardenia, peony, heliotrope
Middle notes: Orris, cocoa bean, tonka bean
Base notes: Sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla
At the time of this review, Lilac Love is only available at Harrods and Russia. However, I’m sure it will be released worldwide later. I’ve heard talk of an August release date, but it’s merely talk and not a certainty. Still, there isn’t much point in planning an entire new collection if it is merely limited to one shop in London. Plus, Sunshine Woman was the first in a new line, too, The Midnight Flower Collection, and it also had an initially limited release before being subsequently made available worldwide. Bottom-line, Lilac Love is unlikely to remain a Russian and Harrods exclusive for long.
Lilac Love opens on my skin with fruity red roses, sweet peonies, and very syrupy but fresh, clean jasmine, all coated with an immensely thick vanilla custard, then splattered with a miniscule drop of watery gardenia. The flowers are laced together into a bouquet with fat, wide ribbons of jammy fruitchouli that feels as thick as molasses, as well as thin filaments of a vaguely sandalwood-ish woodiness, before the whole thing is enveloped within a cloud of sweet powder consisting of vanillic floral heliotrope and milk chocolate. For the most part, Lilac Love is primarily jammy rose, jasmine, fruitchouli, vanilla, and chocolate, covered in sweetened powder. None of it is even faintly suggestive of lilac on my skin, not unless you count mere floral vanillic powderiness as a sufficient similarity.
After 30 minutes, the first signs of a purely impressionistic, quasi-pretend “lilac” slowly begin to take shape, painted in the thinnest of diluted watercolours like a whitewashed abstraction that is out of focus. Stare at it too closely, and the illusion dissolves. You need to squint, glance sideways, and sniff from a distance to fall for the magic trick. It’s precisely the sort of impressionistic abstraction that I’m not fond of in perfumery, but my real difficulty is the way the gourmand notes continuously ruin the illusion for me. To be precise, the gooeyiness of the gooey fruitchouli molasses, the thickness of the vanilla custard, and the almost jarring strength of chocolate powder keep interfering with the recreation, diluting it so that the quasi-pretend-faux “lilac” that is gradually coalescing feels as though it were a mirage at a great distance. It’s the supposed, blurry prize that you reach only after going through a long tunnel built out of completely unrelated materials in such thick, solid “bricks” that they determine one’s immediate reality far more than the Piccaso-esque distortion at the end.
There is another issue as well: I find chocolate “lilac” florals to be quite a disconcerting combination, and I say that as someone who loves chocolate notes in perfumery almost as much as lilac. There is something incredibly incongruous and lacking in harmony in the dusted, powdery, chocolate-vanilla, illusory “lilac” and mixed floral bouquet during the fragrance’s first two or three hours. The notes don’t flow smoothly, the blend doesn’t feel seamless, and a number of elements feel almost lopsided in their proportions or in the way they manifest themselves on my skin. For the first hour in particular, the thought running through my mind at the overall effect is, “it’s odd and slightly bizarre,” instead of “what a genius combination and how masterfully it’s been done.”
I’ve spent some time pondering why the notes feels so dissonant and ill-matched to me in Lilac Love’s first stage. Yes, we’re all accustomed to the now-classic combination of vanilla with lush, sweet florals, thanks to a century of Shalimar and its imitators, while we’re far less habituated to chocolate as their partner, but I don’t think it’s merely the fact that it’s an untraditional combination. I think balance and weight are partially to blame.
Chocolate is a heavy note, much like jammy fruitchouli, while lilacs in perfumery feel quite delicate, like the epitome of Spring, which may be why fragrances centered around the note aren’t considered “Winter fragrances.” So, to place thick, heavy gourmand elements next to completely impressionistic, quasi-“lilacs” that feel as though they’ve been painted in diluted watercolors simply doesn’t work, in my opinion. The strong chocolate and fruitchouli suffocate what is (theoretically) meant to be the main focus of the scent. The vanilla used in Lilac Love does the same thing, too, even though that note should work perfectly since lilacs have an inherent vanillic quality to their powdered sweetness. The problem here is that the vanilla is far too thick. When combined with the cocoa, gooey patchouli, and the jammy roses of the opening, the overall effect is akin to piling heavy, wintry velvet brocade one atop the other over the merest wisp of a translucent, pastel, spring-like chiffon: it’s going to get buried.
The chocolate element is handled very differently in Roja Dove’s floral Profumi d’Amore Collection. First, even if each of the floral fragrances contains cocoa, there are almost 20 other ingredients in the note list as well, including spices, resins, and amber. In addition, he stuck to heavier flowers like rose, jasmine and orange blossom that can withstand the weight of chocolate or gourmand notes. He didn’t even attempt to make a cocoa-lilac, floral bouquet. Second, fragrances like Ti Amo and Amore Eterno actually treated the cocoa note so lightly that it was often not perceptible on my skin in a truly concrete, powerful, and distinct way. In short, his florals fragrances had enough oriental accords and counterbalance to make the chocolate a merely incidental element that fit more seamlessly and logically into the overall composition. That is not the case here for Lilac Love, in my opinion, at least not on my skin.
Lilac Love changes in incremental steps. After 75 minutes, the brushstrokes painting the impressionistic, pseudo “lilac” feels less flimsy, thanks largely to the increased presence of the heliotrope. It adds a marshmallow-like sweetness to its already vanillic powderiness, and further accentuates the other gourmand notes. Still, for the most part, Lilac Love is still predominantly roses, jasmine, fruitchouli, vanilla, and cocoa on my skin. It’s merely that the heliotrope is stronger now, and heliotrope is one of the main materials by which the smell of lilac is recreated in perfumery.
It takes roughly 3 hours in total to traverse that long tunnel that I mentioned earlier and to reach the lilac destination, although it ends up being merely a temporary pit-stop on the journey onto other lands. Still, the heliotrope finally blooms in full force, pushing the fruitchouli roses into the background. The jasmine remains, and its floral syrupiness gives the heliotrope and quasi-“lilac” some depth and richness.
There are other changes as well. The cocoa is quieter now, softer, and much better balanced; the vanilla no longer as thick as custard; the orris and tonka appear on the sidelines to add some creamy plushness; the woody base is occasionally a bit more noticeable; and all the notes feel more smoothly integrated than they did at the start. The “lilac” is still far from perfect, though. If you cease to squint and sniff up close instead, Lilac Love still smells mostly like jasmine dusted with vanillic heliotrope powder over a base of richer vanilla and soft woods. That characteristic heady, floral, crystalline liquidity that I think is so typical of lilacs (and hyacinths) is wholly missing here. Still, with the fruity roses, gooey fruitchouli, and chocolate now at a minimum, I finally enjoy Lilac Love a bit and it’s a pleasant composition. But it’s not a real lilac fragrance, not even now.
The visit to make-believe “Lilac” Land lasts 40 minutes, at most, before Lilac Love falls headlong into pure jasmine (and Guerlain) territory. Roughly 3.75 hours into the fragrance’s development, whatever impressionistic “lilac” illusion there was fades away. What’s left is a syrupy, creamy jasmine infused with layers of rich vanilla and marshmallow (heliotrope) powder, then placed atop a base of rich vanilla that is occasionally faintly, nebulously woody as well. The cumulative effect is extremely similar to the middle/late stages of Roja Dove‘s Ti Amo (his gourmand take on Shalimar) when its ginger-spiced, chocolate, orange blossom elements have receded, leaving a heliotrope-jasmine vanilla fragrance. Or, to put it another way, Lilac Love’s drydown is Shalimar‘s drydown, albeit in gourmand and non-leathery, non-resinous form. It’s lovely and a delight to wear but then, it’s basically Shalimar, so how could it not be?
Lilac Love remains largely unchanged for hours to come. The remaining notes rapidly fuse together. At the end of the 6th hour and the start of the 7th, all that’s left is floral-scented, syrupy vanilla. In its final hours, Lilac Love coats the skin as simple wisp of vanillic sugariness.
Lilac Love had excellent longevity, initially strong sillage, but moderate projection. I had a small atomiser, so I sprayed instead of dabbed, several small spritzes equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle. Keep in mind that aerosolisation impacts and extends the reach of a scent but, in this case, so did the richness of the early notes because the one Amouage signature that remains evident in Lilac Love is the heavy weight and body of the scent. With the 2-spray equivalent, Lilac Love opened with 3-4 inches of projection, but 4-5 inches of sillage that soon grew to about 8-9 inches after 20 minutes. After 2.25 hours, the projection was at an inch while the sillage had dropped to about 3-4 inches where it remained for a while. The projection was about 0.5 inches after 3.5 hours. Lilac Love became a skin scent at the end of the 6th hour, and lasted 15.75 hours in total, although one tiny, dime-sized or thumbnail-sized patch of my arm continued to radiate some sugary sweetness for a few hours after that.
On Fragrantica, there are only 3 reviews at this time for Lilac Love, all positive. “Magdalena23” describes Lilac Love as “Hot, syrupy, buttery ‘baklava’ in the hands of a beautiful, sensual woman, dressed in burgundy silk, bathed in rose water and spices,” and then repeats the same warning that I did: “Don’t expect lilacs.”
For “Exenidi,” Lilac Love bore a similarity to Roja Dove’s Amore Mio, Tio Amo’s sibling in the Profumi d’Amore Collection. He wrote:
Guys there is no lilac in the notes, because there is NO lilac.. The lilac is an accidental note (at least it seems) in here – or so very superficial – that transcends with a speed of light into a warm chocolate gourmand … It’s very soft and nice and so very similar to Roja Dove Amore Mio: perhaps two masters had met for breakfast at a ski resort and both picked hot cocoa from the drinks menu, inspirationally guided towards their newest creations.
“Originaldeftdom” calls Lilac Love a “beauty” that is “a very well balanced and lovely feminine composition. Not a siren but a cosy cashmere type of confident aura that will no doubt envelop you in a 24 hr soft skin scent men will fall in love with.” For him, Lilac Love was: “Heliotrope meets peonies paired with vanilla-milk (lactones) gardenia on a creamy cashmere bed of sandalwood, orris and tonka.” He also says, “It is slightly gourmand due to the cocoa (I also do get a bit of coconut) and Vanilla but it is never cloying or overly sweet.”
I would never wear Lilac Love myself and I’m still unenthused about its first three hours, but I think is going to be an exceedingly popular fragrance because it hits all the major marks: safe, easy to wear, approachable, gourmand, intensely feminine, vanillic florals, Guerlain-esque, Shalimaresque, and Roja Dove-esque. Is it original or distinctive? Not particularly. Will it matter to anyone? I doubt it, not with all those thematic similarities or the huge popularity of gourmand florals in general. I tried to think of how many women I know, personally or as readers, who would go absolutely crazy for Lilac Love once they put aside any thoughts or expectations of an actual lilac fragrance. I gave up my mental count after I hit the 20+ range. Male readers who love hyper-sweet, intensely feminine florals are also likely to fall under its sway. And people of all genders who have disliked or struggled with Amouage’s original signature style will undoubtedly find the Guerlain aesthetic to be a huge comfort. Lilac Love is as safe as you can get in its conventional classicism. At least this one feels luxurious in its materials which was not the case, in my opinion, for Sunshine Woman, a popular Amouage’s feminine release that I thought was so painfully generic (and synthetic) that it might as well have been a department store fragrance.
If you’re searching for an actual, real, proper, and genuine lilac fragrance, I recommend Puredistance Opardu or snatching up any bottles that you may find left of Roja Dove‘s now-discontinued Lilac Extrait. The Amouage won’t fit your needs.
But if you fall into any of the groups highlighted above, then you should definitely give Lilac Love a test sniff. I’ve read that it may arrive in the U.S. in August, one of the U.S. sample services already had a bottle in stock (now sold out), and I’m sure European vendors will get their bottles in early Fall as well. There is a good probability that you’ll love the fragrance if you approach it as a mixed bouquet, floral oriental gourmand instead of a lilac scent. Whether or not you’ll love it enough to fork over £260/$340+ a bottle is a different matter entirely, though.
Greetings Beloved Kafka:
I had to stop everything and read what you had to say about this one. I LOVED it…here’s how I described after 5 minutes of wear on my Facebook Page on July 21st…
“Sotd: Thank You Amouage…..this is how you make a truly great Chypre Floral for today’s taste. LILAC LOVE!!! There is NO Lilac, I think they are referring to the color of the bottle…all I know is that I LOVE it!!! <3 I haven't smelled a Chypre Floral this good since Ann Gerard's ROSE CUT. Think GORGEOUS, jammy Heliotrope, for days….in a smooth buttery tonka base with the ever-slightest, smoothest, Sandalwood/Jasmine (non indolic), yes, I said it…jasmine is in the base!!!! Have a Fantastic Day Beloveds!!! <3"
If Kilian's CRIMINAL OF LOVE, can be a Chypre Floral, so can Lilac Love. I'm already starting a "wish jar" fund for it. I just really don't remember liking an Amouage this much since Opus IV (or was it VI) I always mix those two up…(not the Roman Numerals, the fragrances, 😉 )
Now that I have read your review, I have to say, yes, there were aspects of LILAC LOVE that reminded me A LOT of Tauerville's ROSE FLASH.
For me, at least, this was a very pleasant surprise, and kind of made up for the fact that I wasted money on an Aventus for Her sample at STC. Pleasant surprises are rare in my life, usually it's the other way around.
As ALWAYS, Thank You for all of your in-depth reviews, not just this one. It's good to know my amateur nose gets some things right!
Wishing you good health and happiness!!!!
I’m glad you found a scent you loved, Anastasia. But a chypre floral? Was there oakmoss greenness on your skin?
LOL, there is sadly no Oakmoss anywhere, except in the trees in my backyard here in the swamp!!! Hey, it’s not me, Fragrantica, categorized CRIMINAL OF LOVE as a CF! So yeah, I guess, I could say LL struck me as what I would call a “modern” CF (meaning ZERO oakmoss), but so did Andrea Maak’s COVEN in a weird way as well. I know I really smelled some “greenness”, but I guess I consider vintage Cristalle a CF, and some of that funkiness (aka rotting swamp), I consider part of a good CF. Maybe I’m (personally) not identifying it correctly??? In my “mind” a good CF has a skank to it that is a marked vegetal skank, and not animalic skank, like a musk, in any sort of way. Like a garden after a pulverizing, thunderstorm where layers of dirt are churned, or when a lawnmower accidentally runs over a flowerbed, and the smell changes slightly from straight up fresh cut grass? Dose that make any sense? I guess to me there was that “kind” of smell going on in there. I will have to go home and really spend some time with it this weekend! And have a wonderful weekend, too, Kafka!!! 🙂
Dear Kafka, thank you again for a very informative review. Just as I am typing I am enjoying banana saluted in cogniac Essense by Mandy Aftel based on your review. :). I have discovered so many things based on your recommendations.
You mentioned that you like chocolate note – what are some of your favorite chocolate note fragrances and chocolates?
There aren’t a ton of niche chocolate fragrances, alas. Certainly nothing remotely comparable to the vast numbers of vanilla ones. I still haven’t found my Holy Grail one, and the various ones I’ve tried have all had some issue or another. So, to run down the ones that I can remember at the top of my head: I absolutely loved the chocolate-patchouli combination in Sammarco’s Bond-T, but that is predominantly a patchouli fragrance, not a chocolate one. L’Antichambre’s Le Chocolat Ambre was perhaps very nice, but wasn’t really a pure chocolate scent and had lots of vanilla. Plus, it was very quiet/soft on my skin and, when everything was taken together, the price was too high for what there was. Roja Dove’s Amber Extrait (now discontinued) had a great chocolate note, but also synthetic amber whose synthetic character was too overt for my personal liking, particularly at Roja Dove prices. Plus, like everything else, it’s far from being a pure chocolate scent. Montale’s Chocolate Greedy was… hm. Well, very Montale-like and with a lot of ISO E Super. AbdesSalaam Attar’s Amber Chocolate was a nice herbal choco-amber on my skin, but far too discreet and quiet for my tastes, and the longevity wasn’t great, either.
So, as you see, there’s always something and, most of the time, chocolate shares the stage with so much else that the fragrance doesn’t feel heavily, profoundly chocolate-y to me. Not enough, at least. I realise it’s important to add in vanilla and, frequently, amber to dilute real, raw cocoa and to give it some necessary sweetness but far too many of these put in too much. So much so that they are more like choco-vanilla-ambers. What I’d recommend for you is to get a sample of L’Antichambre’s Le Chocolat Ambre the next time you order from Luckyscent. I don’t think Surrender to Chance had any left the last time I checked. It’s not an easy, widely available brand, I’m afraid, so Luckyscent will be your best option in North America.
Ooops, I just checked Luckyscent and they no longer seem to carry L’Antichambre at all. Oh dear. Well, in that case, I’m out of suggestions since I don’t think you’re a hardcore “Patch Head” so you wouldn’t like Bond-T and the Roja Dove one is now discontinued. Oh well, as least now you know why it’s so hard for me to find a good chocolate fragrance. lol.
In terms of actual, real chocolates, there are so many good, high-end brands like Maison du Chocolat, Teuscher, etc., but I have a huge, huge weakness when it comes to Lindt’s red Lindor truffle balls. They may be my real favourite, even if they’re not the most luxurious thing around. And, for reasons going back to childhood, I will never tire of Cadbury’s milk chocolate or Mars bars. LOL 😀 Finally, one can never go wrong with Nutella.
Are you having fun with Mandy Aftel’s Chef’s Essences? Which ones are your favourites? And what are some of your favourite chocolates? 🙂
Thank you for your comments!! I did try Montale a way back and it was not me. Waiting for my sample of Bond-T, so will see how much patch I can take – still a novice there but did like your recommendation for Laborattory Olfactivo and ended up getting a bottle.
Chocolates!!! Love of my love other than parfums. I used to buy huge blocks of baking chocolate – like 20 pounds and are it. I would use a chisel and a hammer to cut it.
In terms of my chocolate taste – I like very dark not sweet chocolates (70%+) or good truffles.
LA Burdicks takes the prize for me – their truffles are a perfect bite size and are very creative. Their chocolate bars are impressive.
Chuau chocolates – their bars are creative – e.g potato chip chocolates, cereal, etc. Chocolate base is a bit too sweet for my taste, but value the creativity.
Tcho is impressive – their coffee chocolate is like drinking anlattenqith chocolate bar. Two for price of one 🙂
Dick Taylor – love their choc bars. They only have 3 or 4 choices – each focusing on the origin of the bean – Belize, Madagascar etc – so you really can taste the difference
Michal Cluzel used to be a favorite but I feel their quality has gone done due to the management changes.
Dandelion – small artisan company here in Bay Area – you can go to their retail location and see how they make chocolate – again plain bars (pricey too!!!) but you can try origins and see the differences.
I am really enjoying Aftel essences. I tried Cepes – pretty much following your advice and adding it to mushrooms and it was incredible!!! I tried it in mushroom risotto and that was great!!! Chocolate and cogniac have been a winner when it comes to sautéed fruit or ice cream although I am not a bit ice cream person and actually prefer adding a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar to my ice creams.
Ginger has been awesome for stir fry and orange has been great for drinks. The only one that left me lukewarm was Basil – there is some aftertaste I can’t put my finger on. But overall – great experience.
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