Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has just launched La Belle Saison ("The Beautiful Season"), an all-botanical fragrance designed to evoke "late Spring in full bloom." More specifically, it's an ode to lilac. Are we experiencing a lilac mini-trend? Vilhelm Parfumerie and Amouage are also offering lilac perfumes for Spring 2016. I haven't tried those, but I've been spending a few April days with La Belle Saison.
La Belle Saison includes "a bright dewy opening that quiets down to a soft skin scent, eventually landing at the soft acacia honey, heliotrope, and ambrette in the drydown." Additional notes include anise, bergamot, neroli, anise, violet leaf, jasmine, styrax and sandalwood. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz already has a lilac fragrance named White Lilac, but La Belle Saison is different because a) it's all-natural and b) it's a more "impressionistic" lilac, suggesting the fleeting sensory effects of a garden walk rather than faithfully replicating the scent of one lilac flower.
My all-time favorite lilac fragrance is Frederic Malle En Passant, which is impressionist in its own way, merging the scent of lilac with watery notes and a hint of wheat, as though you were passing a florist shop and a bakery on the same rain-washed Parisian street. La Belle Saison initially reminded me of En Passant, due to its cucumber-y top note, but that note is just a short introduction. The perfume's lilac heart is skillfully composed from other ingredients (since fragrance can not actually be extracted from lilac flowers), and it's soft and lightly spicy rather than soapy, like so many lilac scents can be. The spicy facet reminds me a little bit of carnations, another of my favorite floral notes for perfume, but I think it's a result of the juxtaposed jasmine and styrax.
La Belle Saison's base notes add sweetness to the garden-floral heart; the honey is the most noticeable, and I happen to love honey notes in perfume, so this makes me even happier. The ambrette acts as a soft skin-musk note to prolong the dry down, and this perfume has very good staying power for a botanical fragrance. As one of my friends once joked, my "beat" at Now Smell This is often the "pretty floral" category, and La Belle Saison is definitely a pretty floral, even a beautiful one. Even if you're not sure how you feel about lilac, as long as you're a lover of floral perfumes, you may want to give it a try. It feels classical but not stuffy, and it really does have a springtime sensibility.
La Belle Saison is currently offered as a limited edition, although (according to Hurwitz) it may be added to the line's regular collections, depending on the availability of its natural materials.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz La Belle Saison is available as 5 ml ($130) and 15 ml ($330) perfume extract in antique presentation bottles. Samples are also available. For more information, see the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz website.