Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y ~ perfume review

Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y advert

British designer Stella McCartney can hardly be accused of flooding the (perfume) market with product. Her first pillar fragrance, Stella, launched in 2003. She has followed up with a series of variations and flankers, but has not done another pillar scent until this year. The new one is L.I.L.Y, reportedly named for her father Paul McCartney's nickname for her mother — LILY, for Linda I Love You. The name also refers to the scent's lily of the valley note; according to McCartney...

I love lily of the valley; I find it to be breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also a very innocent looking flower, with a real freshness to it. I love that it blooms only fleetingly, in Spring, and that it grows in the shade, not in direct sunlight. It is fragile and innocent and delicate, yet it also has this sharp green leaf contrast. How to capture all that in a fragrance was a real challenge [...] I know it’s not particularly contemporary, and I wanted to modernise it.1

And modernize it she has. Lily of the valley gets a treatment very similar to that of rose in the original Stella perfume, and it's not surprising to learn that McCartney worked with the same perfumer, Jacques Cavallier, for both fragrances. When I reviewed Stella, I noted that...

The rose is prominent but soft, and it has a very modern feel that would appeal even to those who don't care for rose — and the flip side of that, I suppose, is that it might not satisfy someone who adores rose and has three fragrances by Parfums de Rosine.

Ditto here, and then some — anyone looking for a lily of the valley soliflore is likely to be disappointed, as L.I.L.Y is no such thing. The opening is the most lily of the valley you'll get: it's fresh, green, a little sharp, and rather peppery (the notes include pink and black pepper, as well as lily of the valley, truffle, oak moss, patchouli, ambrette and white musk). It softens quickly, and the lily of the valley, which is already a little vague to my Diorissimo-trained nose, gets vaguer still — in other words, more general spring-like floral, less lily of the valley. L.I.L.Y is also earthy and mossy, but in the modern, clean sense, without any skank or mustiness. Still, it's darker and drier the longer it's on skin, although it never gets very dark or very dry; in keeping with current fashion, it's not a heavy fragrance in any case.

I like it; I like it even more after it's been on skin a good hour or so. Like Stella, it's casual and unfussy, but here the earthy base gives it just a bit of a sexy edge. If you're after a seasonless floral but have found the recent spate of powdery florals (Cartier Baiser Volé et al.) too prissy and the heavier alternatives (Tom Ford Violet Blonde and friends) just too much, L.I.L.Y is very much worth a shot.

Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y packaging

Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y is available in  30, 50 or 75 ml Eau de Parfum; a 10 ml roll-on and matching body products are reportedly to follow. The fragrance will not debut in the United States until September, when it is expected at Sephora.

1. Quote via Moodie Report.

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  1. RuthW says:

    The bottle looks like a set of drink coasters my grandmother had in the 70’s, minus the cap.
    Thanks for the review, I will smell this if it comes across my path though I won’t seek it out. I do love lily and have back up bottles of Donna Karan Gold for my everyday lily scent.

    • Robin says:

      This is lily of the valley, not lily though! Have not seen the bottle in person, can’t decide if I like it in pictures.

      • RuthW says:

        You are right, sorry, my tired brain latched onto lily and left out the rest! I did like Stella and enjoy florals so I will make it a point to look for this one at the counter.

        • Robin says:

          No worries, I do that all the time with lily & lily of the valley.

          • Bela says:

            It’s that silly language of yours. Lys… muguet… lys… muguet… no problem. LOL!

            And I like the bottle. *runs away*

          • Robin says:

            And I have to remind myself that Lilas is lilac, not lily!

            (and thank you for the day’s editing)

      • Nlb says:

        It looks like the glass is encircled by metal and a metal outline traces the whole thing, in the shape of a square. I don’t think that’s glass in the corners of the bottle, but I can’t really tell. It’s definitely different. I like the writing on the metal.

        • Robin says:

          And different is good in itself — so many bottles look the same. But don’t think I’ll make up my mind about this one until I see it in person.

  2. jonr951 says:

    I have to wait till September?! You’re so lucky Robin! Haha! Great review and I look forward to trying L.I.L.Y. : )

  3. Marjorie Rose says:

    So, I just checked my “to sniff list” for scents with lily of the valley as a prominent note. . .and I have categorized nearly all of them as “boring” or “not for me.” So, maybe not a note for me? The one scent that I have and like with l.o.t.v. as a reported note is DSH Lush Honey, which does not smell floral to me, except in that rich honey sort of way.

    Regardless, I may give it sniff in September if I think of it. What the heck?

    • Robin says:

      Oh, I would try it — I really don’t think it will matter much whether or not you like lotv, at least, not with this one.

  4. RusticDove says:

    Oooh – glad you reviewed this! I’ve been very curious about it and look forward to trying it. Stella is one of my favorite mainstream fragrances and this one does sound nice. Oh, and I like the bottle very much!

    • Robin says:

      I am really impressed — I do think SM is doing an excellent job with fragrance.

  5. littlemoron says:

    Casual, unfussy, with a sexy edge – I’m totally in the market for that, so I’ll probably be giving this one a go. Also, how much do you love the pink watercolour oval on the box? So charming.

    • Robin says:

      The box is absolutely charming. The bottle *might* be too fussy for me, I really can’t decide. I think the 30 ml doesn’t have the outer metal, and I might like that better (?)

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        I think I can’t decide if I like the bottle until I can hold it in person. If the middle feels cheap/plasticky, I won’t like it. If it feels like glass, I might!

  6. lise says:

    I like the look of that bottle! And I have worn Stella a lot since it came out. Looking forward to try L.I.L.Y. now. Thank you for the review, Robin!

  7. annemarie says:

    Lily of the valley does not seem to grow much where I live, but while on holiday in the early summer last year I came across some growing in the wild. I knew I shouldn’t, but I cut some blooms and took them home to put in a glass. The scent was lovely of course, and I decided right there that really, chasing after LOTV perfumes is not worth it. It want to preserve the idea of the real plant, and not try for the many replicas in bottles. I am a bit influenced by my disappointment with the modern iteration of Diorissimo, which smells like cleaning product to me.

    So I am kind of glad that L.I.L.Y. is not a LOTV soliflore. I can give myself permission to go try it. A season-less greenish floral might have a place in my wardrobe.

    • Robin says:

      Nothing worse, IMHO, than a lotv soliflore that smells like Glade. Ugh. This, luckily, is not that.

    • Nlb says:

      I’m really hoping this will be a damp, moody LOTV; with a kind of twilight dewiness, rather than a “spring fresh” kick.

      • Robin says:

        The dry down definitely has a twilight feel, but I hesitate to call it a twilight lotv because it just doesn’t smell all that much like lotv to me after the top notes fade. Very curious to hear what others think!

  8. Rappleyea says:

    Excellent review, Robin. Thanks! LotV and I have never gotten along. Well, once years ago, when I had a sample of vintage Diorissimo, but good luck ever finding that smell again! But I do respect SM’s business model and the fact that she doesn’t roll out umpteen scents a year.

    • Robin says:

      I wish more people here had tried this, would love to know if I’m right that even lotv-haters might like L.I.L.Y.

      • Rappleyea says:

        If it was only the lotv, I’d be happy to oblige you and try it. But it also has the ubiquitous white musk, and I loathe all musk. It lasts for days on my skin and either smells like cheap perfume (and should be accompanied by the smell of cigarette smoke) or deodorant. Not good.

        • Nlb says:

          I like how “Stella” is not a sparkling rose; it’s a velvety, dense, almost gloomy one. Even a little boozy. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it offers something that few others can; a boheme-urban rose.

          LOTV often has that crisp, metallic quality that keeps blends that include it, very fresh and sparkling, but I wonder if Stella McCartney could do something else with it? Usually, when LOTV is dark and moody, it also smells sort of musty and boozy — I get that richness in “Diorissimo”. I could see them going more in that direction; grassy and boozy. Like a great, Summer party ;).

  9. Warum says:

    Hummm… I love lily of the valley, and although I’m not Diorissimo-trained (perhaps, a small decant of the semi-old stuff, the one that was out before the current one — still not vintage doesn’t really count), I’d love to be!

    And I do think the bottle is ugly.
    We’ll see if we’ll cross our paths.

    • Robin says:

      Looks like the bottle is a love it or hate it!

  10. JolieFleurs says:

    I will probably seek this out to try…I like lotv, and think Ms. McCartney does a great job with her fragrances.

    The bottle reminds me of a pineapple, but I’m willing to withhold final judgement until I see it in person! ;)

    • Robin says:

      You’re right, it does look like a pineapple.

  11. eminere says:

    The bottle is a little tragic.

    • mals86 says:

      A “little” tragic? How about “really tragic”?

      • mals86 says:

        I mean, clearly some money has been sunk into packaging – but not intelligently, IMO.

    • Robin says:

      I will say this for it — at least it doesn’t remind me of some other bottle.

      • nozknoz says:

        And it looks as if the textured glass part would provide traction. Just siding with the diplomatic contingent for once. :-)

    • poodle says:

      Not sure how I feel about the bottle but at least they didn’t follow the latest trend and slap a cheap plastic flower cap on it.
      I will sniff this one when I see it.

      • Robin says:

        So true! Getting tired of plastic flowers.

  12. maggiecat says:

    I like lily scents, though not for everyday wear. And I liked Stella and Stella Nude as well, so I’ll definitely be looking for this in September – especially since it will come in the 10 ml rollerball!

    • Robin says:

      Probably the 10 ml rollerball will be the last to show up though — it usually is!

  13. FragrantWitch says:

    Well, Robin, your review has now spurred me to go sniff this!
    I had initially dismissed this one as lilies and I are not friends and never will be. Lily of the Valley, however, I love. It reminds me of my grandmother’s house as it grew profusely around the stone wall in her backyard. She also had a bottle of some lotion that smelled just like the real thing but I cannot for the life of me remember what she called it- I can see the bottle in my minds eye but the label had worn and the lettering was illegible. Unfortunately, I can’t ask her anymore, either.

    That was a long winded way of saying that this seasonless slightly sexy green floral might just be for me! Thanks, Robin.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      And I’m in the UK so I can go sniff on Monday when my girls go back to school. Woot!

      • Robin says:

        Do report back — very interested to hear what other people think of it!

        • FragrantWitch says:

          Will do – hopefully I can snag some extra samples and share the wealth!

    • Tommasina says:

      I bet it was Yardley – don’t you think? My grandma had the soap in her bathroom, so that’s what her house smells like, in my memory.

      • FragrantWitch says:

        Quite probably , but the bottle shape in my memory is not Yardley-shaped….I should trawl around Google for Yardley bottles through the years and see if I can spot it!

  14. ChocolatEyes613 says:

    Lovely review as usual, Robin. It sounds like Stella McCartney has come out with another winner! She really puts thought into her perfumes, unlike most designers who flood the market with pointless fragrances. The earthy base sounds marvelous. I am really looking forward to trying L.I.L.Y. when it is released in America, shame we have to wait until September.

    • Robin says:

      I really think she does. I thought Stella Nude was kind of silly, and the Stella Sheer series doesn’t always thrill me either. But Stella was really well done & so is this.

  15. sunsetsong says:

    I look forward to trying this. Linda McCartney was a visionary for us veggies, and SM is true to her mother’s principles.

    SM channels the 70s spectacularly well. I often look at her catwalk photos and think Darn! I wore this way back, why couldn’t I be the one to refresh it for today’s fashionistas at £800 a pop?? Of course that is why she is the famous designer and I am the social care worker!

    I love the bottle! Admittedly, have not seen it in person, but the pineapple glass reminds me of Avon’s presentation back in the day, and the silver frame is hopefully substantial and not too plastic.

    Perhaps I will find it meh as I did Stella which is vinegar on me. Hopefully not.

    • Robin says:

      I need to look at the catwalk photos — I know virtually nothing about the fashion. I’ve sort of assumed from the perfumes that it’s laid-back casual, but it might be anything for all I know.

  16. Nlb says:

    I really appreciate how the “Stella McCartney” brand doesn’t really smell like anything else; it really does have its own unique, intellectual sensibility. The slightly somber, anachronistic elegance of “Stella” is a nice choice for a mellow day. It’s a good stand-by when you’re looking for bookish, inky, rainy-day petals. I hope “L.I.L.Y” stands-out as independent and unique a scent as “Stella”.

    • Robin says:

      I think it does, and I think it has that same mellow feel. Your mileage may vary ;-)

  17. Nile Goddess says:

    Question for NST readers:
    If that flacon was actually a hip flask, what would you fill it with? :-D

    Stella Rose Absolute is one of the few rose fragrances I can wear, It is profound and minimalistic at the same tine, and for someone who can’t wear any Rosine ( :-( sniff) it is a lovely, elegant alternative.

    L.I.L.I sounds wonderful, will definitely try it Getting imaginative about the bottle … :-D

    • I prefer Stella Rose Absoulte to Stella and the other flankers; it’s one of my favorite perfumes and I don’t even consider myself a big rose fan in general. I am looking forward to this new one because I think it will be of good quality and probably more in tune with my tastes which runs toward the “girly” mixed floral or even floral-oriental variety. I also feel pretty certain this will be of good quality which seems to have been lacking in some other brands lately.

    • Robin says:

      Rose Absolute is lovely.

  18. Nile Goddess says:

    sorry L.I.L.Y

  19. Ikat says:

    I like the concept of the bottle. Not sure if I’d like a metallic strip around the border.

    Muguet is a teen sort of note to me. Not likely to love it, but I might look for it if I can see the bottle.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting. I *did* start wearing Diorissimo in my teens, but still don’t think of it that way!

  20. Tama says:

    I like Stella so will give this a shot for sure. Lily of the Valley is kind of a hard note for me, so I might like this better since it seems to not be as strident as some. I like Diorissimo somehow, but have gotten headaches from others.

    • Robin says:

      If you do find this strident (other than maybe the first 30 seconds) I’ll be surprised!

  21. Emily says:

    Bottle is kind of groovy — I have a thing for certain types of vintage glassware, of which this is vaguely reminiscent. Also curious how it looks in person.

    I’ll sniff it when it gets to the U.S., but I’m not expecting to love it. LOTV seems not to work for me.

    • Robin says:

      I like vintage glass too…think I would have liked it better if they hadn’t tried to update it with the metal. On the other hand, it’s probably a better fit with the scent this way.

  22. outofeverywhere says:

    I’ve been excited for this release since I first heard about it late last year — and your review has only stoked the fire! I did indeed find Baiser Vole and Le Parfum (Elie Saab) too light and not to my liking (and I tried, I really did) and adore the drydown of Violet Blonde while admitting that it is almost ostentatiously LOUD, so I’m ready for something that hits the right chord between the two extremes.
    This may not be it, but I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy this one as much as I have Stella and RA.

    • Robin says:

      Bear in mind that it’s also more casual than any of those, but otherwise I do think it hits somewhere in between. Good luck!

  23. chiara says:

    I saw L.I.L.Y. this afternoon at Debenhams and the bottle is beautiful. It does not feel or look cheap at all – to me at least.
    I did not like the juice, I smelt lilies at the dry cleaner’s .

    • Robin says:

      Sorry you didn’t like it — but so glad to hear the bottle is nice!

  24. tirana says:

    Hi Robin,

    I’m new here but I had to register for this one.

    I have been checking regularly to see if you’d review L.I.L.Y and secretely hoping that you would like it because I bought it already (I live in the UK).

    After many years of thinking that I love a fragrance and the bottle and the reviews, and changing my mind after day 5 of wearing it, I feel that I found one that gets me and that I get it too and it feels new yet familiar every day.

    Your review is spot on so I only logged in to thank you and to give some feedback on the bottle. I have the 50ml.

    It looks like expensive craft work,..and like an object you’d like others to see (although I don’t like telling people what perfume I wear).

    It is a little bit over the top, too much going on but in the hand it feels like an accessorie. The metal makes it very easy to hold the bottle properly to spray the perfume, so although it looks a bit cliche, it is actually very practical. I prefer simpler bottles (Prada infusions) but a lot of thinking has gone into this one!

    I am happy!

    Ps: your blog is a pleasure to read!

    • Robin says:

      Tirana, hi and welcome! So glad you liked the fragrance, and again, really happy to hear the bottle is nice in person — so many of them look good in pictures, but disappointing when you see & hold them.

      Hope you’ll keep on liking L.I.L.Y — it’s awful to fall out of love with something after you’ve already paid for it.

  25. Kristiane says:

    I’ve tried this one and absolutely adore it. It’s not overtly ‘girly’ which I love, and the mossy/earthy notes give it such an edge. Plus, it lasts all day on my skin which is a bonus! Thanks so much for the review, Robin – it’s my current favourite fragrance!

    • Robin says:

      Yes — not overtly girly is a good way to put it!

  26. I have Stella and Sheer Stella. I love them but they are definitely things I only wear for certain occassions because they can over power. I would love to try this. Hopefully my Sephora gets it so I can sniff it.

    I love the name too. I think it’s sweet and endearing that she would use her late stepmom’s nickname.

    • Robin says:

      Just to clarify — Linda McCartney was Stella McCartney’s mom, not her stepmom!

      Hope you’ll like the fragrance.

  27. blueroses says:

    I got a chance to smell this the other day I really wanted to love this and I do, I’m not a big “green” fan but I really like this, it’s lovely and fresh stays for hours and in the later stages becomes nice and creamy. I think it’s a great day fragrance. The meaning behind the name is lovely. Oh and in person I think the bottle is really pretty, maybe a little bit girly for me but I think loads of people would be impressed!

    • Robin says:

      Nice when something lives up to your hopes, yes?

  28. I bought a sample of this online and I really liked it, not a total love, but one of the best offerings in a while. And I do agree that the dry down is the best part.. The opening reminds me of the reformulated Anais-Anais. The Anais-Anais dries down a little too sweet on me though. I will buy a FB if the price is similar to Stella. It’s perfect for the office and for any casual events. The lasting power is much, much better than Stella too, at least on me and I have a hard time with lasting power on a lot of perfumes. And lastly, I was really surprised that my daughter really liked it as well. We are both wearing it today! Have a great Friday everyone and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    • Robin says:

      Nice — a mother / daughter scent! You have a great weekend too.

  29. magc says:

    Ooh I finally get to try this. I didn’t like the beginning, I don’t know why, it smells like a ‘generic perfume’ to me. But after a while, the smell becomes more complex and interesting. I could find the truffle (only if I look for it) but there something quite mossy, which I like. The scent continues improving during the day. I find it interesting but I am not sure I love it yet. And I am also not fond of the bottle…

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