For the past couple of days I've been wearing The Duchess of York by Prince Matchabelli. Released in 1934 it is a beautiful Lilac scent, a soliflore. We have a large blue lilac in our back yard and although it's been months since its bloomed, this perfume smells just like its freshly picked blossoms. Kaleidoscopic in its way, lilac offers up ever-changing facets, smelling to me of lily of the valley and jasmine by turns. It also oscillates between polleny/spicy and sharp/soft. Somehow it manages to smell very purple but it is nothing at all like the more familiar (by today's perfumers) purple reference flowers violet, and/or iris.
One of the things I love about smelling lilac is that my nose never seems to tire of or forget its around, so I keep smelling it again and again throughout the day. Lilac is actually kind of an old-fashioned scent by now. You hardly smell someone wearing lilac scent (yet it's really, really pretty to wear as a perfume). A few years back, I bought an attar of lilac (I'd never heard of it before. I have no idea if it was an actual attar, but I doubt it...) Anyway, it smelled really good- so heady, spicy yet lushly floral and with something dark about it, too. Very compelling, and because it has become unusual again it could make a good choice for a signature scent.
Lilac actually suffered from being too popular. Over-used by the soap and chemical industry to scent 'functional' products like bathroom air-fresheners and laundry detergent, by 1950s people no longer considered the scent so special. There's nothing like pairing the essence of a beautiful flower with a bleak little spot that reeks of ammonia cakes, scouring powders and worse to ruin it.
Luckily, I missed out on any negative lilac associations and realize it makes a remarkable smelling perfume. If you are looking for gorgeous vintage lilac scent to try, Duchess of York is a great choice. You can actually find it if you look around a bit, just shop around for a bottle in good condition and try to get a good deal on the price. BTW: If you collect the colored crown bottles, Duchess of York came in the periwinkle blue version.
In any form or bottle, it is highly recommended!
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.
Blue Lilac from the Morton Arboretum
Prince Matchabelli bottle from live auctioneers.com
Girl with Lilacs from betterbaking.com