Monday, January 5, 2009

Frederic Malle En Passant: A Review


On the southern edge of Boston, there’s a section called Jamaica Plain, where Harvard University maintains a huge public arboretum called the Arnold Arboretum. I lived “on the pond” in Jamaica Plain (affectionately referred to as “JP” by the locals) and felt fortunate to be able to take walks in a beautiful natural landscape that’s also so close to the city. One of the best times of year to visit the arboretum is “Lilac Sunday” which is an annual event in May. The arboretum has literally hundreds of lilacs (I’m guessing the number, there may be more) in all varieties and colors. For anyone who loves to sniff flowers and especially lilacs, Lilac Sunday is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

As much as I love the smell of lilacs, I was never particularly interested in En Passant. A fragrance focused on lilacs seemed a bit too quaint and innocent to me, like something a 12 year old girl could wear. I had also read the reviews of En Passant and the description of a fragrance smelling of lilacs with aquatic, cucumber and wheat notes just didn’t appeal to me whatsoever.

Well, leave it to Olivia Giacobetti (who created some of my favorites such as Philosykos, Ofresia, L’Artisan Premier Figuer, Safran Troublant and Dzing!) to make me swoon for this seemingly oddball scent. En Passant IS a quaint scent; it’s gentle, innocent and hopeful. To me it smells like walking through the lilac bushes at the Arnold Arboretum on a drizzly spring day, the leaves of the trees are still drooping from the downpour, but the rain has stopped and the sun is coming out. It’s April so most of the trees are just beginning to bud, there’s that singular smell of spring in the air, the breeze carries the aroma of new growth, a green herbaceous scent fills your lungs, and you smell the damp soil along with the leafy green wetness of life. En Passant is a fragrance but it’s also a moment in time, it’s a memory and it’s the feeling of hope.

Most reviews I’ve read about En Passant suggest that the scent of dewy lilacs slowly recedes and the smell of wheat or bread take center stage. After about 90 minutes I do smell bread, it’s very similar to L’Artisan Bois Farine actually, but this wheat note never overtakes “Lilac Sunday” for me. The wheaty-bread smell seems to dry the previously wet, herbal, green lilac scent to the point that it’s as if the sun came out and dried off the lilacs.

En Passant seems the perfect fragrance for hot weather or when you don’t particularly feel like wearing a complex perfume, just something simple, sweet and hopeful.

Longevity: Good, about 3 hours
Sillage: Soft
Rating: 5 Stars, lovely

5 comments:

Flora said...

I actually teared up when I first smelled this, and then started laughing, it was so beautiful. I had never smelled anything remotely like it.

Lilac soliflores almost always get musty and overpowering once the top notes wear off, much as real lilacs age badly when picked. But the genius of this one is that it's made with white lilac, which has a clarity of scent to it compared to the darker purples, and that the cucumber/aquatic part keeps it smelling fresh as a spring breeze. This concept was perfect for a perfumer like Giacobetti, whose light touch make this one of the most outstanding lilac perfumes of all time. (I would say it's the best, but having smelled Jean Patou's Vacances my standard is very high.)

Abigail said...

Dear Flora,

You have Jean Patou's Vacances? I am so jealous!!

Stephanie said...

I've been reading some reviews of this fragrance and it sounds lovely. I'm also in the Boston area and love the smell of lilacs. Do you know where to purchase it locally?

Abigail said...

Hi Stephanie,

Barney's in Boston will carry it - the shop at the Copley mall. And, you'll be able to sniff all the Frederic Malle fragrances if you go! :-)

Stephanie said...

Ooh, I will definitely check it out. Thx!