I can never answer the question, "What is your favorite perfume?" However, if someone asked me to name my favorite contemporary fragrance house, I'd probably name Frédéric Malle’s Editions de Parfums. After all, this company is responsible for two of my favorite perfumes, Lipstick Rose and Iris Poudre, as well as several others that I wear on a regular basis, including L'Eau d'Hiver, En Passant — and Lys Méditerranée.
Lys Méditerranée is a "tribute" to the lily, designed to evoke "a scorching summer evening as the Mediterranean sea spray mingles with the spicy scent of ginger lilies." It was developed by perfumer Edouard Fléchier and was released in 2000; its notes include ginger lily, lily of the valley, angelica root, orange flower, water lily, salicylates, ambrette seeds, musk and vanilla. The Frédéric Malle website describes Lys Méditerranée as "radiant," and reviewers have often used the same adjective, for good reason.
Many lily perfumes turn plasticky or soapy or overly sweet; Lys Méditerranée is a welcome exception. It opens with an intriguing introduction: a bitter orange-leaf note, a roughened green thread that leads the way the fragrance's creamy white lily center. The fragrance's second phase surrounds the lily with a complex salt-air accord. I'm not usually a fan of marine effects in perfume, but this one is sophisticated and realistic at the same time. It also seems to lift the floral notes off the skin on its "breeze."
An hour or so into my wearing of Lys Méditerranée, the salt-spray accord, the waxy-cool lily heart, and the sharp green-leaf note blend seamlessly into something really beautiful. If I closed my eyes and you waved a blotter spritzed with Lys Méditerranée under my nose, I could easily believe that I was smelling an actual flower. As the day goes by, this lily seems to be transported from a garden setting into a simple-yet-elegant interior: although Lys Méditerranée never quite turns into a hothouse flower, its dry down is pure and polished, as though the flower had been trimmed and set in a vase. This fragrance has very good staying power: after eight hours, I can still detect a soft (but soft persistent) lily note on my skin.
Nearly four years ago (!), I included Frédéric Malle’s Lys Méditerranée in my list of favorite spring fragrances. I've recently realized that I enjoy this fragrance just as much, if not more, on a chilly winter day. Just like a gift of fresh flowers in January, it feels unexpected and rare, and it "blooms" beautifully in the cold air.
Frédéric Malle Lys Méditerranée Eau de Parfum is available in 50 ($165) and 100 ($240) ml, or in a travel set (3 x 10 ml, $110). For buying information, see the listing for Frédéric Malle under Perfume Houses.