I was lucky enough to be able to sample a couple of lilac perfumes this spring, and I'm finally writing about them. I found a large, pristine bottle of Mary Chess's long-lost White Lilac toilet water at a vintage shop here in Austin, and it intrigued me. And a friend gave me a sample of Jean Patou's lamentedly discontinued Vacances, so I thought I would compare them.
Honeyed and haylike and linear, Mary Chess White Lilac is a wonder of sustained lilac, insistent beyond what I could hope for, especially because this is supposedly a toilet water, and lilac notes are notoriously evanescent. Sadly, it gets more generically nectarous and soapy as it dries down, and wearing it reminds me of grandma's bathroom in Iowa, with the new-plastic-shower-curtain-liner smell, shell-shaped guest soaps and towels, and the window open with the lilac bush outside. Sorry for the tired "old lady" imagery, all! I can't help it; I associate lilacs with my grandma, and she just cannot be banished from my head when I wear this.
Vacances starts out with a green ivy-ish note, smoother than the galbanum overdose of vintage Vent Vert, and the lilac pads in on kitten paws, subtly sweetening as it dries down in whiffs of of a vaguely woody musk. There is nothing like grandma's bathroom about this one. The lilac makes this fragrance a nearly photorealist representation of lilac week at the Jamaica Plain Arboretum, near where I used to live in Boston. On a certain week early in Spring, I would take strolls through the grass and sample the scents of dozens of varieties of blooming lilac bushes in the mild New England weather. Like lilac week, Vacances is short-lived, or at least wears very close to the skin after a half hour or so. I am testing either an edt or edc version.
White Lilac was introduced in 1930, according to basenotes, and Vacances in 1936, I believe. Both are very tender, springlike fragrances, and I find them both a little melancholy, perhaps because of the sweet, aquatic nature of lilac scents. Neither are really me--perhaps they are a bit too innocent-seeming for my jaded tastes lately. Vacances is really lovely, though, and I think I would enjoy it more if I were spritzing with abandon. Unfortunately that's not an option because it is so rare!
Perfume Smellin' Things has a lovely review of Vacances, as does Bois de Jasmin, if you'd like to learn more about it.