Lili Bermuda: Mary Celestia (Jean-Claude Delville) 2014


Originally Published on   11 January, 2018


“That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume.” -W. Shakespeare: Macbeth

As a fragrance lover, it’s difficult NOT to believe in the presence of spirits and ghosts; through scent-memory the vaguest whiff of certain perfumes can bring vivid memories of events and loved ones into technicolor moments of absolute realness. Even after many years, the slightest wisp of vintage Joy or Maja brings my mother to my mind. So do I believe in ghosts and spirits? When they can be bottled for all eternity, yes of course. Case in point:

It reads like a fairy tale. A 2011 winter storm reveals a shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda. 55 feet below the water, the Civil War Era blockade runner Mary Celestia, (sunk in September 1864) is revealed after the storm-shifted sand has been swept away. These blockade runners were used to transport goods, both household and luxury, to the Confederate South. In the bow of the Mary Celestina wreck was found a perfectly intact bottle of perfume. Created by London’s Piesse & Lubin, sealed in wax and seeing the light of day for the first time in 150 years, the bottle was ultimately sent to Drom Fragrances in New Jersey to be chemically analyzed. What was found was a compelling mixture of Citruses, Orris, Rose, Opoponax, Civet, and Ambergris.

In 2014, LiliBermuda Perfumery under the direction of Isabelle Ramsey-Brackstone working with Master Perfumer Jean-Claude Deville (Grés Cabotine, Clinique Happy, Givenchy Organza Indécence, Kenzo Parfum d’Été among others) recreated the long-lost scent, christened it Lili Bermuda Mary Celestia perfume, and it is a wonder to behold.

Like the scent of history, Mary Celestia perfume is akin to strolling through a Southern flower garden on a warm summer’s day. It would have been a perfect cooling cologne to offset the sweltering Savannah Georgia heat and humidity in those pre-air conditioned times. You can imagine it dabbed onto a proper linen handkerchief, the sting of alcohol backed by light and frothy citrus notes would dissipate and provide much needed relief. Opening with a sublime breeze of floral grapefruit and neroli, it’s almost as if you are burying your face in the blossoms of an orange bush, the honeyed citrus mixed with the gloss-green of the leaves. The floral notes are peeking out of the background, and when combined with the sweet-sharp zesty tones of the grapefruit and orange blossom create a classic Eau De Cologne style scent, now recreated in an Eau De Parfum concentration. The result is a perfume that lasts and lasts, not unlike Frederic Malle’s fantastic Cologne Indélébile or Atelier Cologne’s sweetly alluring Cedrat Enivrant.

To honor the year the Mary Celestia sank, the is a limited edition of 1864 bottles, which come packaged in an aromatic Bermuda Cedar box, with the bottle nested in a black velvet bag. The box is finished with a hand-tied blue satin ribbon and a red wax seal. The bottle is embellished with a unique medal depicting the Mary Celestia before she sank. Both the presentation and the Mary Celestia perfume itself are both just beautiful.Notes: Grapefruit, Bergamot, Neroli, Rose, Orange Blossom, Rosewood, Musk, Ambergris

Disclosure: Thank you SO much to Lili Bermuda Perfumery for supplying my sample. The opinions are my own.

-Robert Herrmann, Senior Editor


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