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Tilleul – A benchmark of summer – New Fragrance Listing, June 22, 2012

Photo - Wikipedia - Leaves and flowers of the Lime or Linden tree - N.P.Holmes, June 21, 2008

I don’t need a calendar to tell me it’s the beginning of summer - my nose is telling me.

Behind our house is a laneway which borders a small park, and at the corner where the lane meets the street are two huge linden trees, which come into full bloom the last two weeks of June. Early to mid-June is extremely noisy around this little neighbourhood pocket, because when the lindens start to flower, the sneezing  begins – but when they’re at their peak, the torture is over and I’m officially in scent heaven. The windows and doors are wide open to catch the heavenly scented breezes from those big old trees.

Linden trees, or lime blossom trees, are very leafy, renowned in poetry and song for their perfumed shade.  The small, delicate, bell-shaped, cream-coloured blossoms hang on filament stems, sheltered by the dense foliage, and their scent is fresh, citrusy, honeyed, almost a soapy accord at first, then pleasantly sweet and layered with green leafy notes. Linden blossoms have been used for centuries to scent soaps and creams, in herbal teas, as tinctures , and in aromatherapy – the scent has powerful restorative properties. Bees love them - they are bee food. The character of the linden scent is strong but soft, sweet but not overpowering, floral and grassy at the same time, joyously balanced. It is the scent of early summer.

The smell of natural linden is so unique, and I’ve never found a perfume which smells as good as the trees. In fact, I wrote about the dearth of linden note perfumes exactly a year ago - see my June 2011 post "Linden - Easy to love, hard to fund". There are very few lindens - Dyptique has one, I’ve tested the L’Artisan and Jo Malone versions , and a couple of others, but none of them hit the mark – they’re either too resinous, or sweet, or flat, or mixed with other notes that morph into a scrubber – the velvety green edge, the lovely nuance is missing. I’ve never found a good linden scent -  until now, that is  – Tilleul by D’Orsay.

D’Orsay is an old French perfume brand started in 1830 by the stylish Count D’Orsay, resurrected by the family in 1908, and again in 2007, and they now have nine fragrances and a range of home products. Tilleul (Linden in French) was originally launched in 1927, re-formulated in 1955, and then done again for the contemporary market in 2008 by Olivia Giacobetti. Her creative input produced a linden frag that isn’t just good – it’s the best.

Tilleul opens with a light lemon note, and watermelon – the green rind rather than the pink fruit – and a delicate hint of sweetness from the angelica plant. Since this is a soliflore, the development is very smooth, and after a few minutes, the watermelon fades and I smell the heart of linden blossom paired with cyclamen, the linden the earthy sweet, and the cyclamen the floral sweet of the deepening accord.

In the background right from the start is a grassy green note, the fresh note that makes linden so definitely a smell of early summer, and which transforms into the scent of new-mown hay as the dry-down develops. The hay is the perfect contrast and balance to the soft floral sweetness in the linden flower heart, and it blends with the smell of golden beeswax, adding a faint musty honeyed nuance that makes Tilleul smell like it’s still on the tree. The scent deepens further with subtle wood notes, and voila!...Tilleul is complete. The sillage is light and subtle, and the scent lasts for hours on my skin, especially in hot weather – the warmer I get, the longer it lasts.

If you don’t like the smell of linden,Tilleul might have little appeal. But if you do love linden, then this is the go-to frag, the benchmark. It’s a soliflore, deceptively simple, but in the hands of the brilliant Olivia Giacobetti, this single note is its strength because she renders it so beautifully. I picked a branch of blooms off one of the trees last night and, comparing them to the juice on my skin, I think the perfume has exactly the same airy, hypnotic quality, the same fresh, grassy sweet perfection as the natural blooms with all their leaves.

In the depths of winter, I can take out my bottle of Tilleul and smell summer. I might just do that.

Tilleul is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.