I was excited to hear about the two new floral fragrances from niche line Le Labo, but only just so much — of their initial offerings, I was far more attracted to the men's fragrances (Bergamote 22, Rose 31, Vetiver 46, Patchouli 24) than to the women's and unisex scents.1 As it turns out, I need not have worried. If they had set out to create one perfect fragrance for Angie (Ylang 49) and one for me (today's subject, Lys 41), they could hardly have done any better.
If you were hoping for a glorious lily soliflore, you won't really find it in Lys 41; as with the rest of the line, it is named for the note in highest concentration rather than for the note you are most likely to notice on skin. But Lys 41 is a white floral, and a particularly lovely one. It's from perfumer Daphné Bugey, who also developed two of the favorites I mentioned above: the under-appreciated Bergamote 22 and the justly lauded Rose 31.
What you'll notice right away, other than the initial happy sparkle of citrus, is likely to be the tuberose, but it's a sunny and bright tuberose2 rather than the wallop of tropical floral you get from classics like Robert Piguet Fracas, and the lily and jasmine, which join in shortly thereafter, almost seem to cut the richness rather than taking over the proceedings. It's not sheer and dewy, mind you, as seems to be the modern approach to white florals, but it's far from cloying or heady, with the obvious proviso that white-floral-phobes are perhaps likely to disagree with that assessment. The pale woodsy-musk base is done perfectly, with just enough vanilla to make it delicious, not so much as to remind you of food. The lasting power is quite reasonable.
Verdict: Just gorgeous, and one of my favorite fragrances so far this year. The press materials for Lys 41 use adjectives like "overwhelming" and "treacherous" and "potent", but it's a brilliant balancing job — I would vote for the "warm and sunny" description more than the others. It doesn't smell anything like Ormonde Jayne's Frangipani, but it has that same cheerful, good-day-to-be-alive sort of feeling. I am betting that Ylang 49 will get more interest from perfumistas, and it is possibly the better scent, but it didn't really suit me; Lys 41 is already on my buy list.
Le Labo Lys 41 is available in 15 ($58), 50 ($145), 100 ($220) and 500 ($700) ml and 30 ml Perfume Oil ($120) or in travel tubes (3 x 10 ml, $135). For information on where to buy it, see Le Labo under Perfume Houses.
1. I am not sure that Le Labo still specifies gender assignments for their fragrances, although they did when the line launched in 2006 — you can see a complete list here. And by the way, thank you, Le Labo, for not flooding the market with new releases. It is true that they started out with 10 fragrances, but they've been relatively restrained since then, especially in comparison to some other niche brands.
2. It might satisfy those who were disappointed by Le Labo's Tubereuse 40, a fabulous scent that wasn't at all about tuberose.