With Lilac Love, Amouage heads fully into European territory, abandoning the Arab aesthetic and the silver Omani frankincense that were once its signature in favour of an easy, approachable, gourmand floral whose classical composition is fully in Roja Dove and Guerlain‘s wheelhouse. Lilac Love is not a bad fragrance; I find it more luxurious in quality than some of the recent releases with their noticeable arid synthetics; the very Shalimaresque classical themes of the drydown were actually lovely; and I think it would be a best-selling fragrance with women if the price were not so high.
However, I also think parts of Lilac Love feel incongruous in the first stage and, more importantly, that hardcore lilac fans won’t be satisfied. My advice for them is to put aside all thoughts of a true lilac scent. If they have no expectations, then they might perhaps be pleasantly surprised by any temporary, abstract, and wholly impressionistic whiffs that may pass by the European, floral oriental gourmand bouquet.
The fragrance captures the true spirit of classical femininity in the modern woman.
The Secret Garden is a collection of intricate feminine fragrances, where feelings, thoughts, and experiences are freely explored without the complications of the contemporary world. “We are so busy trying to keep up with modernity that we sometimes forget about the simple and traditional things in life and ourselves,” explains Creative Director, Christopher Chong.
Top notes: Jasmine, rose, gardenia, peony, heliotrope
Middle notes: Orris, cocoa bean, tonka bean
Base notes: Sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla
At the time of this review, Lilac Love is only available at Harrods and Russia. However, I’m sure it will be released worldwide later. I’ve heard talk of an August release date, but it’s merely talk and not a certainty. Still, there isn’t much point in planning an entire new collection if it is merely limited to one shop in London. Plus, Sunshine Woman was the first in a new line, too, The Midnight Flower Collection, and it also had an initially limited release before being subsequently made available worldwide. Bottom-line, Lilac Love is unlikely to remain a Russian and Harrods exclusive for long.
Lilac Love opens on my skin with fruity red roses, sweet peonies, and very syrupy but fresh, clean jasmine, all coated with an immensely thick vanilla custard, then splattered with a miniscule drop of watery gardenia. The flowers are laced together into a bouquet with fat, wide ribbons of jammy fruitchouli that feels as thick as molasses, as well as thin filaments of a vaguely sandalwood-ish woodiness, before the whole thing is enveloped within a cloud of sweet powder consisting of vanillic floral heliotrope and milk chocolate. For the most part, Lilac Love is primarily jammy rose, jasmine, fruitchouli, vanilla, and chocolate, covered in sweetened powder. None of it is even faintly suggestive of lilac on my skin, not unless you count mere floral vanillic powderiness as a sufficient similarity.
After 30 minutes, the first signs of a purely impressionistic, quasi-pretend “lilac” slowly begin to take shape, painted in the thinnest of diluted watercolours like a whitewashed abstraction that is out of focus. Stare at it too closely, and the illusion dissolves. You need to squint, glance sideways, and sniff from a distance to fall for the magic trick. It’s precisely the sort of impressionistic abstraction that I’m not fond of in perfumery, but my real difficulty is the way the gourmand notes continuously ruin the illusion for me. To be precise, the gooeyiness of the gooey fruitchouli molasses, the thickness of the vanilla custard, and the almost jarring strength of chocolate powder keep interfering with the recreation, diluting it so that the quasi-pretend-faux “lilac” that is gradually coalescing feels as though it were a mirage at a great distance. It’s the supposed, blurry prize that you reach only after going through a long tunnel built out of completely unrelated materials in such thick, solid “bricks” that they determine one’s immediate reality far more than the Piccaso-esque distortion at the end.
There is another issue as well: I find chocolate “lilac” florals to be quite a disconcerting combination, and I say that as someone who loves chocolate notes in perfumery almost as much as lilac. There is something incredibly incongruous and lacking in harmony in the dusted, powdery, chocolate-vanilla, illusory “lilac” and mixed floral bouquet during the fragrance’s first two or three hours. The notes don’t flow smoothly, the blend doesn’t feel seamless, and a number of elements feel almost lopsided in their proportions or in the way they manifest themselves on my skin. For the first hour in particular, the thought running through my mind at the overall effect is, “it’s odd and slightly bizarre,” instead of “what a genius combination and how masterfully it’s been done.”
I’ve spent some time pondering why the notes feels so dissonant and ill-matched to me in Lilac Love’s first stage. Yes, we’re all accustomed to the now-classic combination of vanilla with lush, sweet florals, thanks to a century of Shalimar and its imitators, while we’re far less habituated to chocolate as their partner, but I don’t think it’s merely the fact that it’s an untraditional combination. I think balance and weight are partially to blame.
Chocolate is a heavy note, much like jammy fruitchouli, while lilacs in perfumery feel quite delicate, like the epitome of Spring, which may be why fragrances centered around the note aren’t considered “Winter fragrances.” So, to place thick, heavy gourmand elements next to completely impressionistic, quasi-“lilacs” that feel as though they’ve been painted in diluted watercolors simply doesn’t work, in my opinion. The strong chocolate and fruitchouli suffocate what is (theoretically) meant to be the main focus of the scent. The vanilla used in Lilac Love does the same thing, too, even though that note should work perfectly since lilacs have an inherent vanillic quality to their powdered sweetness. The problem here is that the vanilla is far too thick. When combined with the cocoa, gooey patchouli, and the jammy roses of the opening, the overall effect is akin to piling heavy, wintry velvet brocade one atop the other over the merest wisp of a translucent, pastel, spring-like chiffon: it’s going to get buried.
The chocolate element is handled very differently in Roja Dove’s floral Profumi d’Amore Collection. First, even if each of the floral fragrances contains cocoa, there are almost 20 other ingredients in the note list as well, including spices, resins, and amber. In addition, he stuck to heavier flowers like rose, jasmine and orange blossom that can withstand the weight of chocolate or gourmand notes. He didn’t even attempt to make a cocoa-lilac, floral bouquet. Second, fragrances like Ti Amo and Amore Eterno actually treated the cocoa note so lightly that it was often not perceptible on my skin in a truly concrete, powerful, and distinct way. In short, his florals fragrances had enough oriental accords and counterbalance to make the chocolate a merely incidental element that fit more seamlessly and logically into the overall composition. That is not the case here for Lilac Love, in my opinion, at least not on my skin.
Lilac Love changes in incremental steps. After 75 minutes, the brushstrokes painting the impressionistic, pseudo “lilac” feels less flimsy, thanks largely to the increased presence of the heliotrope. It adds a marshmallow-like sweetness to its already vanillic powderiness, and further accentuates the other gourmand notes. Still, for the most part, Lilac Love is still predominantly roses, jasmine, fruitchouli, vanilla, and cocoa on my skin. It’s merely that the heliotrope is stronger now, and heliotrope is one of the main materials by which the smell of lilac is recreated in perfumery.
It takes roughly 3 hours in total to traverse that long tunnel that I mentioned earlier and to reach the lilac destination, although it ends up being merely a temporary pit-stop on the journey onto other lands. Still, the heliotrope finally blooms in full force, pushing the fruitchouli roses into the background. The jasmine remains, and its floral syrupiness gives the heliotrope and quasi-“lilac” some depth and richness.
There are other changes as well. The cocoa is quieter now, softer, and much better balanced; the vanilla no longer as thick as custard; the orris and tonka appear on the sidelines to add some creamy plushness; the woody base is occasionally a bit more noticeable; and all the notes feel more smoothly integrated than they did at the start. The “lilac” is still far from perfect, though. If you cease to squint and sniff up close instead, Lilac Love still smells mostly like jasmine dusted with vanillic heliotrope powder over a base of richer vanilla and soft woods. That characteristic heady, floral, crystalline liquidity that I think is so typical of lilacs (and hyacinths) is wholly missing here. Still, with the fruity roses, gooey fruitchouli, and chocolate now at a minimum, I finally enjoy Lilac Love a bit and it’s a pleasant composition. But it’s not a real lilac fragrance, not even now.
The visit to make-believe “Lilac” Land lasts 40 minutes, at most, before Lilac Love falls headlong into pure jasmine (and Guerlain) territory. Roughly 3.75 hours into the fragrance’s development, whatever impressionistic “lilac” illusion there was fades away. What’s left is a syrupy, creamy jasmine infused with layers of rich vanilla and marshmallow (heliotrope) powder, then placed atop a base of rich vanilla that is occasionally faintly, nebulously woody as well. The cumulative effect is extremely similar to the middle/late stages of Roja Dove‘s Ti Amo (his gourmand take on Shalimar) when its ginger-spiced, chocolate, orange blossom elements have receded, leaving a heliotrope-jasmine vanilla fragrance. Or, to put it another way, Lilac Love’s drydown is Shalimar‘s drydown, albeit in gourmand and non-leathery, non-resinous form. It’s lovely and a delight to wear but then, it’s basically Shalimar, so how could it not be?
Lilac Love remains largely unchanged for hours to come. The remaining notes rapidly fuse together. At the end of the 6th hour and the start of the 7th, all that’s left is floral-scented, syrupy vanilla. In its final hours, Lilac Love coats the skin as simple wisp of vanillic sugariness.
Lilac Love had excellent longevity, initially strong sillage, but moderate projection. I had a small atomiser, so I sprayed instead of dabbed, several small spritzes equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle. Keep in mind that aerosolisation impacts and extends the reach of a scent but, in this case, so did the richness of the early notes because the one Amouage signature that remains evident in Lilac Love is the heavy weight and body of the scent. With the 2-spray equivalent, Lilac Love opened with 3-4 inches of projection, but 4-5 inches of sillage that soon grew to about 8-9 inches after 20 minutes. After 2.25 hours, the projection was at an inch while the sillage had dropped to about 3-4 inches where it remained for a while. The projection was about 0.5 inches after 3.5 hours. Lilac Love became a skin scent at the end of the 6th hour, and lasted 15.75 hours in total, although one tiny, dime-sized or thumbnail-sized patch of my arm continued to radiate some sugary sweetness for a few hours after that.
On Fragrantica, there are only 3 reviews at this time for Lilac Love, all positive. “Magdalena23” describes Lilac Love as “Hot, syrupy, buttery ‘baklava’ in the hands of a beautiful, sensual woman, dressed in burgundy silk, bathed in rose water and spices,” and then repeats the same warning that I did: “Don’t expect lilacs.”
For “Exenidi,” Lilac Love bore a similarity to Roja Dove’s Amore Mio, Tio Amo’s sibling in the Profumi d’Amore Collection. He wrote:
Guys there is no lilac in the notes, because there is NO lilac.. The lilac is an accidental note (at least it seems) in here – or so very superficial – that transcends with a speed of light into a warm chocolate gourmand … It’s very soft and nice and so very similar to Roja Dove Amore Mio: perhaps two masters had met for breakfast at a ski resort and both picked hot cocoa from the drinks menu, inspirationally guided towards their newest creations.
“Originaldeftdom” calls Lilac Love a “beauty” that is “a very well balanced and lovely feminine composition. Not a siren but a cosy cashmere type of confident aura that will no doubt envelop you in a 24 hr soft skin scent men will fall in love with.” For him, Lilac Love was: “Heliotrope meets peonies paired with vanilla-milk (lactones) gardenia on a creamy cashmere bed of sandalwood, orris and tonka.” He also says, “It is slightly gourmand due to the cocoa (I also do get a bit of coconut) and Vanilla but it is never cloying or overly sweet.”
I would never wear Lilac Love myself and I’m still unenthused about its first three hours, but I think is going to be an exceedingly popular fragrance because it hits all the major marks: safe, easy to wear, approachable, gourmand, intensely feminine, vanillic florals, Guerlain-esque, Shalimaresque, and Roja Dove-esque. Is it original or distinctive? Not particularly. Will it matter to anyone? I doubt it, not with all those thematic similarities or the huge popularity of gourmand florals in general. I tried to think of how many women I know, personally or as readers, who would go absolutely crazy for Lilac Love once they put aside any thoughts or expectations of an actual lilac fragrance. I gave up my mental count after I hit the 20+ range. Male readers who love hyper-sweet, intensely feminine florals are also likely to fall under its sway. And people of all genders who have disliked or struggled with Amouage’s original signature style will undoubtedly find the Guerlain aesthetic to be a huge comfort. Lilac Love is as safe as you can get in its conventional classicism. At least this one feels luxurious in its materials which was not the case, in my opinion, for Sunshine Woman, a popular Amouage’s feminine release that I thought was so painfully generic (and synthetic) that it might as well have been a department store fragrance.
If you’re searching for an actual, real, proper, and genuine lilac fragrance, I recommend Puredistance Opardu or snatching up any bottles that you may find left of Roja Dove‘s now-discontinued Lilac Extrait. The Amouage won’t fit your needs.
But if you fall into any of the groups highlighted above, then you should definitely give Lilac Love a test sniff. I’ve read that it may arrive in the U.S. in August, one of the U.S. sample services already had a bottle in stock (now sold out), and I’m sure European vendors will get their bottles in early Fall as well. There is a good probability that you’ll love the fragrance if you approach it as a mixed bouquet, floral oriental gourmand instead of a lilac scent. Whether or not you’ll love it enough to fork over £260/$340+ a bottle is a different matter entirely, though.