Notes: bergamot, green note, lily of the valley, jasmine, rose, creamy note
Luxurious lily of the valley
Period: The searching years
It is widely accepted that Guerlain's Jicky symbolizes the beginning of modern perfumery; a death knell to the soliflores, fragrances that smell like a single flower. And yet in 1908, two years after the abstract and very poetic Après l'Ondée, Jacques Guerlain undertook to create a perfume that smelled of lily of the valley, a flower that is closely linked to romance and innocence. He called it nothing more rhapsodic than Muguet, French for "lily of the valley". The earliest Guerlain catalogue had a Muguet cologne, dating back to 1840, and although Jacques Guerlain often used lily of the valley as a top note, he probably wouldn't have had much interest in making a proper lily of the valley perfume had it not been for the fact that it is quite a challenge to do so. This flower, so strongly fragrant and pure, doesn't yield any essential oil, so in order to obtain its fragrance, it has to be reconstructed in the laboratory by a combination of numerous natural and synthetic ingredients called a perfume base. Since then, lily of the valley has become one of the most stereotypical of notes in perfumery, used wherever a romantic, natural feel is desired, a paradox, considering how far from natural it is. But, Jacques Guerlain's Muguet was lovely and full of charm, a powdery, slightly musky floral with the scent of lily of the valley and Nivea cream.
Jacques Guerlain's Muguet disappeared from sale in 1960. This kind of fragrance was much too sedate for the "Swingin' Sixties". As a stroke of both nostalgia and luxury, in 1998 Jean-Paul Guerlain created a limited edition Eau de Toilette called Muguet. With the motto "Un jour, un parfum", its specific launch date, May 1, coincided with France's La fête du muguet, when sprigs of lily of the valley are traditionally given to one's beloved. The scientific name of the flower, majalis, indeed means "belonging to May". To uncover the historical background of this tradition, we must go back to 1561, when King Charles IX of France was presented with lilies of the valley on May 1. He liked the gift, which inspired him to give small bouquets of the tiny, pearl-like, white flowers to the ladies of his court each year on the same date he had received them. Around 1900, gentlemen began presenting a bouquet of lily of the valley to their ladyfriends to express their affection. It wasn't until 1919 that May 1 became the public holiday of Labour Day in France, as the eight-hour working day was officially introduced then as well. Nowadays, these flowers are a more general token of appreciation between close friends and family members.
Although still worked around the lily of the valley theme, the formula of Jean-Paul Guerlain's Muguet was completely different from the one by Jacques Guerlain. While the latter might come across as smelling "old-fashioned", with its distinct Nivea cream note, the new version was crisp and lively. The lily of the valley note was still romantic, but effortlessly lifelike and fresh like an expensive bar of French soap. The addition of lilac gave it a very spring-like sensation of femininity, while rose and jasmine added natural depth and bloom. We recognize the cheerful, sunny style of an Aqua Allegoria, the series which Jean-Paul Guerlain introduced the following year. Muguet was reissued in 1999, and in 2006, Guerlain decided to have it reappear on May 1 annually, each year in a newly-designed collectible bottle.
In 2016, Guerlain has replaced Jean-Paul Guerlain's Muguet fragrance with a new version by Thierry Wasser, described as "a remarkably natural and modern interpretation" with green notes, dewy rose, and jasmine. Its top note is more tender and vegetal than the hissing citrus opening of Jean-Paul Guerlain’s version, with a passing resemblance to the green note in Thierry Wasser’s Cologne du Parfumeur. The powerful citrus note was typical of Jean-Paul Guerlain, who preferred a very bold expression full of contrast and vibrancy. In comparison, Wasser searches for a lighter touch with subtle nuances and fine details. One reason for the gentler — and, as Guerlain puts it, "natural and modern", — feel of Thierry Wasser’s Muguet might be that it omits the lilac, that clean, bright and intensely floral note that makes some people think of old ladies' perfumes and air fresheners.
Perhaps the most interesting difference is to be found in the drydown, which has a creamy, very comfortable note that goes hand-in-hand with the jasmine. Despite Guerlain’s description of 2016’s as a "modern interpretation", Wasser’s Muguet actually smells closer to the historic Jacques Guerlain version of 1908. The creamy note was completely absent in Jean-Paul Guerlain’s purely floral Muguet fragrance.
Bottle. Jacques Guerlain's Muguet was presented in the "flowered bottle" that was either ribbed or smooth, originally made for Voilà Pourquoi J'Aimais Rosine and later also used for Fleur Qui Meurt. The bottle was so called because it came with a bouquet of silk flowers affixed by a collar around the bottle's neck. Later, the flowers were replaced with a white, mauve or red bow, for Muguet, Fleur Qui Meurt and Voilà Pourquoi J'Aimais Rosine respectively (although the colour scheme sometimes varied).
The first two "Un jour, un parfum" Muguet editions in 1998 and 1999 featured a 75 ml replica of the ribbed and ribboned flowered bottle. There was no Muguet from 2000 to 2005, however the fragrance briefly appeared in the Aqua Allegoria series in 2002 as Lilia Bella. It wasn't until 2006 that Guerlain started the annual launch of a limited edition Muguet bottle. The 2006 edition utilized the Louis XVI bottle, best known from Après l'Ondée's, while the 2007 edition was presented in the classic quadrilobe bottle. In 2008, Muguet appeared as part of an exclusive "Four Seasons" box which also featured Quand Vient l'Été, Brume d'Automne and Winter Delice, all in the heart-shaped stopper bottle. For 2009, 2012 and 2013 the prestige atomizer was used, with varying decorations.
Muguet's yearly issuance was paused in 2010 but returned in 2011 with a whole new, rectangular bottle design. In 2014, Muguet appeared in the Parisienne-size bee bottle, housed in a white porcelain holder. For the first time since 1999, in 2015 Muguet was again presented in the flowered bottle, this time made of opaque white porcelain. The 2016 bottle is identical in shape to the 2011 edition, a tall rectangular bottle, decorated with a silver filigree of lilies of the valley, reminiscent of Art Nouveau.
Reformulation. Perhaps due to the wishful thinking of collectors, many sources have claimed each year's limited Muguet edition to have a new fragrance formula, but the fact is that the scent stayed exactly the same from 1998 to 2015, with only the bottle changing. In 2016, Guerlain has introduced a new Muguet formula by Thierry Wasser. Read about Jacques Guerlain's Muguet
We love: the changing bottles
Spring shall smell of luxury
If you have a collector's mind
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