Some time ago, I had the opportunity to smell red lilies over the course of several days and I became progressively enchanted by their olfactory complexity. Lilies are not spring flowers - so I am taking some liberties here - but rather greenhouse breeds that can be had any time of the year. For a change I had decided to get an enormous bouquet of dark ruby-colored lilies instead of the white kind. Their scent seems particularly powerful and diffusive when I compare it to my memories of white lilies' wafts although they seem to smell exactly the same at first.
Red lilies initially when they are at their freshest smell custard-y, salty, offering a light sweet aqueous vanilla facet but as if infused with tropical flowers...
What I discovered is that they can smell incredibly indolic, more so it seems than the white lilies I have known in the past. They can lure into thinking with 100% certainty that while you were away for a few hours, the cats' litter suddenly overflew and a heat wave is bringing you the bad news as you barely enter the door. You start cussing, look around, see nothing wrong then suddenly the sight of the red lilies remind you of another possible origin. God, they can be so forward! As the days go by, a faint floral nuance becomes more persistent amidst this debauchery of indoles, an evolution you are thankful for, thinking of outsiders who might otherwise assume your home is a den to wild cats (I once had an Ocelot).
On another day, I smell an interesting facet of freshly polished wood table complete with nuances of beeswax and furniture polish.
Then one day the flowers smell wine-y, like a faithful, delayed echo of the burgundy color of their corollas which by then have turned from a saturated burgundy red to a translucent purple like the fragile skin of someone decomposing, or so you imagine remembering a graphic scene from the movie Mulholland Drive. The color seems to have translated into scent and vanished afterwards.
On yet another day and the red lilies start smelling like perfect impersonators of tuberose and gardenia.
Then their scatological streak gets revived.
The nectar-like scent trapped in the corollas now seems to have reached a satisfying stage of alcoholic maturation having turned into a floral liqueur with a contrasting raspy-powdery facet reminding me of Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden.
The smell of red lilies is incredibly complex and ever-evolving. I was able to only smell a few facets at a few different times.
It all makes me conclude that their impressive, gigantic and aggressive red flowers seem to perfectly embody the theatricality of a floral aroma that is in turns soft, indolent, aggressive, catty, alcoholic, feminine and rotten. You are invited to an olfactory spectacle that goes on for a number of days. The scent of red lilies in a house is silently ever-present and terribly diva-esque at times. I cannot help but think about the deep affinities in color between the red velvet curtains fringed with gold in a theater and those dark red corollas with their stamens covered in golden dusty pollen.
Red lilies seem to be like crimson vegetal Pathé gramophones playing ever deep sultry voices captured on a wax record.