Coty's near miss with Muguet

Coty was a perfumer of great genius. He single handedly created the chypre and amassed a huge fortune from his capacity for creative vision and hard work. But he had blind spots. He once complained that ‘when Jacques Guerlain does vanilla he comes up with Shalimar, but when I do it I get crème anglaise - custard’.

He had the same problem with Lily of the Valley.
His Eau de Muguet is a bright lemony note thats waxy with a pale pink rosiness and a woody-green herbaceous quality; a distant likeness to the real thing.

Where the best Coty perfumes are subtle portraits, Eau de Muguet is little better than a sketch.

I think the reasons for this are twofold:

Coty was a pioneer, and a transitional figure, who - with his bold use of synthetics - lead perfumery out of the pre-modern era. But he was a product of the 19th century and not a modern perfumer as we would think of it today.
In the case of Eau de Muguet, Coty fell back on the naturalistic conventions of his day and tried to recreate a nature-like muguet, rather than creating a new genre - which was where he excelled.

His other problem with doing a muguet was technical, he lacked the molecules that perfumers now use to recreate inextractable flowers like muguet and lilac, and this cramped his ability to fine-tune the perfume.

The upshot of this was, rather than the subtle life-like muguet that Henri Robert composed for Muguet de Bois, or Rounitska's muguet arabesque Diorissimo, the best Coty came up with was a rather basic, spare rendition of muguet.

It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past, and the work of one of the greatest perfumers of all time, but not the sort of thing you would want to wear that much.
It's still better than some modern things I could mention...
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Blog Comments


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
Very interesting take-and I agree with you. The Coty was not a masterpiece. But then muguet is a difficult flower in perfumery, with Diorissimo being the exception. I cannot think about any other muguet that was even close.

Brian Buchanan

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 26, 2013
As well as Diorissimo, there is the little known Muguet de Bois. Coty got Henri Robert to do it for him - presumably after realising his own effort wasn't much good. It's one of the few perfumes Ellena keeps in his private collection.

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