Feeling Li-lucky

I want to start with the story that was told to me by a friend who came to the US a couple of years before we did. In the first year of living here, when not only one’s vocabulary and pronunciation but also lack of familiarity with mundane things make communications with locals difficult for both parties, one evening while buying something at a grocery store, my friends asked the cashier:

– Do you sell XXXXXXX?
– What?
– Do you sell XXXXXXX?
– Sorry, I don’t understand…
– I need these things to light up a cigarette.
– Ah, you mean < XXXXXXX>… You need to go to the Customer Service.

As you have probably guessed, my friend was trying to buy matches. He swears that the way that clerk pronounced it was, to his ear, exactly the same way he asked. Since then that “Ah, you mean “matches” became an internal joke we use every time we find ourselves in a similar situation.

If you were wondering why I shared this story with you – I was trying to explain the title. When it came to me (the play on words “lilac” and “luck” that, to my ear, sounded similar enough to use them like that), I was positive somebody else has already used it. It wouldn’t have prevented me from doing it as well (after all, it’s just a blog, I wasn’t concerned with a copyright), but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a real cliché. “Feeling lilacy” returned me “whopping” 3 (three) hits. “Feeling lilac-y” produced 7, and out of the 10 combined only one person was actually referring to flowers. That brought the realization that for the native English speakers these two words don’t really have a similar auditory pattern. But since my mind had been already set on that title (it really described how I felt!), I decided to modify it even further – so that even the almighty Google gave up.

 

Rusty and Lilacs

 

Work life has been hectic and tiresomely busy for a long time now with work days quietly encroaching on evenings and weekends, so one day we just declared a day off and ran away to the close-by wine country. Just the act of ditching work to visit our favorite wineries made me feel good. Combined with warm but not hot sunny day, much better than feared traffic and good wine the feeling was promoted to ”great.” And unexpectedly coming across a bush with a very modest by the standards of those areas where this plant blossoms more willingly but still fragrant and beautiful lilac flowers elevated the status of my experience to “perfect.” I felt wonderful. I felt lucky. I felt… li-lucky.

 

Lilacs in Sonoma 2019

 

And that’s when I got the idea to do a Lilacs Week. As I was mentally choosing perfumes to wear, I was sure that those would be perfumes I previously covered in two posts of the In the Search for the Perfect Lilac series – Episode 1 and Episode 2. And partially I was right: I wore three of the perfumes that I mentioned in those posts. But to my surprise I had two more perfumes to add to the list.

Whenever lilac perfumes come into conversation, inevitably somebody mentions Jean Patou Vacances. If it’s not to lilac what Diorissimo is to lily-of-the valley exactly, it’s close to that. But Patou is one of those brands that exist somewhere in the parallel universe: I know it exists but I don’t think I saw anything but Joy or 1000 in real life. And since it’s not the most popular brand these days, I’ve never thought of seeking out any of the perfumes. But then a perfumista friend sent me a vintage mini (not sure of the age) of Vacancies. It must have been beautiful while it was younger. If to put aside the “vintage” vibe that I do not like in any perfumes, it is still beautiful. It’s more than just lilac, even though that flower supposedly plays an important role in the perfume: hyacinth, galbanum and mimosa keep it a good company. But since I’ve never knew it in its heydays, I won’t scavenge eBay for vintage treasure or even attempt to find a more modern take on that perfume. But I wish I tried it 30+ years ago.

Last weekend there was a haiku contest at the NST blog. Coincidentally, one of the commenters, Aurora, wrote a haiku about Vacances, and she allowed me to share it with my readers:

Mauve and white shower
Lilacs, sweet heralds of spring
Their scent in the breeze

Lilacis

 

Last year I got curious about Lilas de Minuit (Midnight Lilac) from DSH Perfumes – inspired by Coty’s Chypre perfume from the Flowers for Men series. I don’t remember why it attracted my attention (most likely, it was spring, and I was in a similar mood for lilacs), but I requested this sample with my order.

When I tried two lilac perfumes from DSH for the second of the posts linked to above, I thought that those were lovely but didn’t seem like a finished product. Lilas de Minuit is the opposite: the composition is so complex that I can’t really say that I can smell lilacs in it, which isn’t really surprising with everything that went into it. Notes from the brand’s site: civet, East Indian patchouli, green oakmoss, incense notes, labdanum, musk, styrax, Bulgarian rose absolute, cinnamon bark, clove bud, Damask rose absolute, grandiflorum jasmine, summer lilac, ylang ylang, bergamot, black pepper and cassis bud.

If you like chypres, give Lilas de Minuit a try, and my recommendation would be to do it when your skin is warm: this perfume blooms with the body heat. I think it should be perfect for a warm late spring or early summer night after a hot day.

 

DSH Lilas de Minuit

 

Other perfumes that I wore that week – Phaedon Rue des Lilas and Puredistance Opardu I described in my previous posts, so I won’t repeat myself since I haven’t changed my opinion about them. But one more perfume I want to mention separately even though I wrote about it before: French Lilac by Pacifica. Whoever is looking for a lilac soliflore should look no further: since lilac is not reproducible naturally (at least not in a stable form), there is no good reason for such perfume to be as expensive as some of them are; and French Lilac is unbelievably cheap while being very beautiful. And from my experience French Lilac is better from a roller ball bottle than from a spray. And it’s surprisingly tenacious, so that small bottle should satisfy periodic lilac cravings for months if not years.

 

Pacifica French Lilac

 

P.S. I’ve lived in the U.S. for many-many-many years. People who know me or work with me got used to my accent, and I often forget how difficult it is for an “untrained ear.” But just last week during my trip back into winter I was reminded about it while on the morning ride to the conference trying to tell my co-worker who I met just a day before that I was dying to get XXXXX before we start.

– To get what?

– XXXX

– Sorry, what?

– A coffee drink that you had yesterday

– Ah, latte….

 

Rusty and Lilacs

 

Images: my own

37 thoughts on “Feeling Li-lucky

  1. Hahaha, I had funny experience with foreign languages. My best is English. My worst is French. With English, I usually speak British English on conferences, and I am trying hard (!), but a lot of people do not understand me then, because it’s not their native language :). And consequently I loosen my nerves, and start speaking with not that much high-end phrases, terminology and alliteration. Yep, that works, people get me, communication is much easier! With French – OMG, I can’t help but only laugh at myself the way they did. Why? Because, French people tell me I have so good a pronounciation (of simple phrases) that I fool them I know the language very well. And there goes the rabbit down the hole… I am saying Bonne matin in time when nobody uses it anymore. I am ordering a bottle of water as if it is the most exquisite living thing in the world… Yeah, we all had those awkward moments, I will spare you the rest of it.
    Speaking of lilacs, their presence in the notes of a perfume is tricky to me. I wouldn’t say I can drench myself in any of the lilac-centred perfumes I love, but there are a few. Guerlain Idylle and all its flankers (the dreamy bouquet; there is one called Jasmine-Lilas, and it’s gorgeous), Tauer Carillon pour une Ange (tender like a baby’s skin), Puredistance Opardu (perfectly creamy to me), Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Lilas (the soliflore). However, there are some I cannot tolerate on myself – Pleasures, En Passant, Champs-Elysees, all the Gucci Guilt-ies, and even Jo Malone White Lilac and Rhubarb, which I bought a full bottle of in Hamburg, when I was overreacting to anything I smelled, and I could afford it. I believe that it’s a matter of balance of the powerful synthetics used to interprete the lilac fragrance, and it is not working for me when one of them is prevailing in those cases. Or there might be another reason for my negative physiological reaction…

    • Ooops, forgot one – Ineke After My Own Heart, which I got from a swap, but quickly re-swapped…It was overwhelming, but I gave it to a true lilac devotee, who even cried tears of joy…

    • I think you and I could be comparing notes on the EAASL difficulties for hours :)

      Interestingly, I didn’t consider some of the perfumes you mentioned as lilac perfumes, and with some of them I didn’t even know they had it among notes. For example, Idylle on my skin sometimes is a rose scent and sometimes it’s lily-of-the-valley but never lilac.
      I in general prefer bouquets to soliflores those some of the perfumes with dominant notes attract me.

      • Indeed. (about everything)
        Mitsouko has lilac notes mentioned here and there, as well, but I have never EVER thought of it as a lilac perfume!

  2. I love your matches and latte stories. It is so easy for someone to pronounce a word even slightly differently, and it is suddenly unrecognisable, often in amusing ways like these.

    I had a vintage mini of Vacances – I don’t think I am your donor though, as mine sadly went off (I think). It was amazing in its prime. I acquired a bottle of new Vacances (more like a Jo Malone take on the flower ie more airy) and gave it to my brother who had specifically asked me about a lilac scent for men – or that men would care / dare to wear.

    French Lilac and Lilas de Minuit sound good!

    • I think you and I had one of those moments during your recent visit where I tried (in vain) to tell you something, though I can’t remember what it was. But at least partially I blame it on the noise in the restaurant ;)

      I confirm that the bottle I had came not from you. And even the last drop wasn’t really off – but “fully vintage.”

  3. I’ve only got the Guerlain Idyll from the lilac perfumes mentioned.
    Love the pic of your cat eating the leaves. My naughty cat completely destroys flowers .

  4. That’s a heck of a funny post my friend :)
    I immediately understood the link between lilac and luck, I wonder if it has something to do that I’m not a native English speaker either?

    I love the smell of lilac in spring, it’s one of those natural smells that signalize to me that it really IS spring. But when it comes to perfume I am not a fan. It’s not even the fact that natural lilac is not present in fragrances it’s just that its smell is associated in my mind as a quite feminine and more ‘mature’ smell so I just don’t feel comfortable wearing something with prominent lilac.

  5. The roller ball of the Pacifica is a higher concentration which is perhaps why you enjoy it more? For years Pacifica’s French Lilac was my holy grail lilac until I re-acquainted myself with Brigitte after a 20 year hiatus…..it’s a custom blend made for me by Sarah Horowitz that features lilac as a dominant note with supporting notes of grapefruit, violet, sandalwood and vanilla…it’s softer and sweeter than French Lilac to my nose.

  6. I have the Pacifica French Lilac but never wear it… I think lilac is one of those things I just prefer to smell from the tree (my neighbor has one). I remember a conversation about popular music with a French friend in college. He kept asking me if I liked “Feel Colleens”. It took about 5 minutes for me to figure out he was asking about Phil Collins. (Yes, it was the 80’s!).

    • Or, don’t even get me started on tense vs. lax (long vs short) vowels! All my friends who try to speak a… let’s put it this way – better understood English triple the length while talking about Excel spreadsheeeeet. Just in case :)
      I don’t wear Pacifica French Lilac too often but enjoy it every time I do.

  7. My perfect lilac scent is Frederic Malle’s En Passant and of course Purdistance’s Opardu. I will be wearing one of these lovelies today.

    I also enjoy Ex Nihilo’s Sweet Morphine, which is also a lovely lilac-centric fragrance. It’s too sweet to smell like real lilacs, but it’s still fun to wear. Alas, lilacs do not grow in Florida. It is far too hot for the lovely lilacs.

    • Lilacs barely blossom here since it’s also too warm for this plant here in winter. But in my childhood where I lived, I think, May used to be lilacs season, and I loved it.

      En Passant doesn’t work for me, sadly. But it is a gorgeous scent.

  8. I have two lilac perfumes, the Pacifica and Soivohle Lilac & Heliotrope. But nothing can truly compare to the real thing. Every year I look forward to lilac season with great anticipation. I know where all the trees are located in my neighbourhood and bury my face in them each time I pass by. On one of the bicycle paths I use there are whole hedgerows of them, it’s like riding through a cloud of lilac, totally intoxicating.

    • Ooh, I’m jealous! Where I live now, the only lilacs that grow reliably are the small Korean lilacs, which tolerate more heat and humidity. But I grew up in New England, where the old heirloom varieties flourish in the colder climate, so I know what you’re describing! Lovely.

    • I tried Lilac and Heliotrope perfume many years ago, and it didn’t work for me, I think. But back then there were enough fans of this perfume, so tastes do differ.
      Most real flowers scent of which we like smell better “in real life,” but then complex bouquet perfumes compensate for these shortcomings.

  9. I love the play on words you used!
    Sometimes I wonder if people are being mean on purpose to strangers, especially when it’s an easy word to pronounce (which latte obviously is).
    Of all the lilac perfumes you mentioned in your post, I only have Opardu but I somehow forgot it’s lilacy.

    • Oh, no, my co-worker wasn’t mean. I believe that these words without a long “ä” do sound unrecognizable to native ear.
      Opardu was all about lilac, I even wouldn’t mind it to be a little less lilac-y.

  10. Li-lucky!

    En Passant is the first lilac perfume I think of but I’d love to try Vacances. Like you, it’s not one I’ve come across.
    Opardu is a nice vintage lilac but there’s something a little screechy about it to me.

    There are not 1 but 3 pics of Theresa May inserted into your post (ads) which did throw me for a bit :)

    • WordPress got really bad with those ads :( I forget how awful they look randomly inserted into the page (you don’t see them when you look at the page as an owner of the post). I recently came to my blog from an unknown device and was appalled. Now I’m trying to negotiate with myself if I’m prepared to pay $36/year NOT to have them… BTW, do you know that there are 7 (seven!) WP ads in your most recent post? I think they insert them based on the number of pictures we use if there are more than 2 or three text lines between them.

        • When I’m logged in, the ads are minimal on other WP blogs, and there are no ads (for me) on my blog, it’s only when I see blogs from browsers where I’m not logged in. But I still might consider this option before the next renewal: I’m already paying for the custom domain, so I don’t know to pay for that the second time as a part of the package.

      • Wow 7?! That must really spoil it but no, I’m not prepared to pay to remove them. Interesting that it correlates to the number of pics.

        • Well, at least we cannot see them when we’re logged in. But, in general, it’s somewhat annoying, especially since many of them are identical.

  11. Your blog is wonderful, Undina and Rusty is a handsome cat (I have a cat too).

    Your post made me laugh, oh the endless misunderstandings, I know them well, I’m a French native speaker.

    Thank you so much for including my haiku.

    I will follow you now that I’ve discovered your blog.

    • Hi Aurora,
      Welcome to my blog! Thank you for your kind words. I’m a comfortable “followee”: I don’t do too many posts :)

      When I saw your haiku, I thought it was an interesting serendipity: Vacancies isn’t perfume about which you hear every day, and there we were – you doing a haiku in one perfume blog and I writing a post on the other. So, thank you for allowing me to use it.

  12. I’m a native English speaker and did not immediately make the connection between lilac and luck! But I often think of lilac with the French word “lilas” so I love that you brought up Lilas de Minuit.

    I did my school’s French exchange program in high school and I lived with a family in Bordeaux. They always tried to correct my French pronunciation! (In a nice way. They were sweet.) Then I studied in Paris and I had to make sure my accent sounded sufficiently Parisian. I always planned out my coffee order in my head so that I wouldn’t mess up while ordering.

    I’ll keep an eye out for French Lilac from Pacifica! I’ve seen their fragrances at Target and I always wondered about the quality.

    • If there’s a Whole Foods close to where you live, you can check if they carry French Lilac – our does.

      I wonder if it’s still possible to improve my accent at this age…

  13. Love the word “li-lucky” and your story, Undina. Always so beautifully told. What a thrill to smell a vintage Patou Vacances. LVMH bought Patou and hopefully will be doing great things with the brand, apart from stealing the name for Dior Joy.

    • Oh, an optimist among us! :) I don’t expect anything good from the LVMH though now it answers my question as to how Dior Joy could have happened. And I think that there is some LVMH’s executive who hates both perfumes and the past and made it his mission to rewrite the history (first Miss Dior, now Joy).
      Thank you for kind words, I appreciate it, Richard.

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