Frederic Malle En Passant : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Attempts to capture rain often result in something limpid and pale. Or worse yet, artificial and sharp. Water smells of nothing, yet rain is not mere water. It blends the scents of soil, leaves, flowers, with individual aromas blurring into an abstract perfume. Created by Olivia Giacobetti in 2000, Frederic Malle En Passant is one of the most successful “rain” scents after Guerlain’s enchanting Après l’Ondée (1906). Giacobetti captures the Impressionist vision of the scent of raindrops trembling on the lilac bushes. All notes reveal themselves at once conjuring a vision of passing a lilac bush in full bloom, dropping a confetti of tiny blossoms into the puddles on the pavement.

When selecting an image to accompany my discussion of this particular fragrance, it is not accidental that I chose a dark and somewhat ambivalent painting by Vrubel, depicting a dark figure against a large lilac bush, with the dusky shadows slowly creeping from the corners. Contrary to the expectations, En Passant is not a sunny heady lilac, but rather a scent of air still bearing traces of the rainstorm that ravaged the lilacs, tearing off their blossoms and leaving the ground covered with a haze of flowers. Although the rainstorm is over, En Passant hints at its distant rumblings.

Notes: white lilac, rain accord, cucumber, wheat, orange tree leaves.

Painting: Lilac by Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910), one of the greatest Russian painters, founder of Russian Art Nouveau.

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11 Comments

  • Tania: My favorite of the Editions de Parfums. I’ve never thought of it as rain, but close: I compared it to a very white cloud. (It’s all meteorological phenomena, isn’t it?) I don’t know if I’m right, but I detect a soft pale sweetness, like the faintest touch of vanilla, in the drydown, which, for me at least, lends the whole composition an aching, nostalgic feeling. June 30, 2005 at 11:00am Reply

  • mreenymo: I love that painting! Very moody, almost foreboding.

    Hugs! June 30, 2005 at 11:28am Reply

  • Robin: V, another lovely post, thank you! And one of my very favorite perfumes. It is part of the reason that I find the IUNX boutique such an odd choice — she could be doing more little “stories” like En Passant — so interesting & unusual.

    Saw the comment yesterday about FM perhaps cancelling the leather scent by OG, and wondering if that is because she is now doing one for Bottega Veneta? Just a hopeful thought 🙂 June 30, 2005 at 3:34pm Reply

  • Joytika: Hmm, this scent sounds very interesting. It is difficult for me to imagine the scent, of being rain-like (which to me is light, clean) and yet dark. I will have to try it. March 12, 2006 at 6:23pm Reply

  • Gentiana: The first lillac perfume that I really like. Fabulous… spring in a bottle!
    Well… together with Aqua Allegoria Angelique Lilas.
    It is an interesting layering experience, too.
    I use AA as deodorant and only two short sprays of En Passant behinfd my ears.
    I feel like being a Lady in the Court of Princess Spring. April 7, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

    • Victoria: I love this combination, and I definitely will have to try it. April 7, 2014 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Not enough comments here.
    Lovely scent, for me it conjures the same reflective mood as L’heure bleue by Guerlain, one of my all time favourite perfumes.
    I tried it during winter and decided to buy it when spring arrives and today I did. Now I’m sitting by my window, right after sunset, watching the trees fading into darkness and I feel grateful to be alive and be able to perceive beauty in the world. April 11, 2016 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for such a poetic comment, Nora! I wish I had some L’Heure Bleue within reach to wear it and enjoy this evening. April 11, 2016 at 2:34pm Reply

      • Nora Szekely: L’Heure Bleue is perfect to start spring with. April 12, 2016 at 12:17pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: I wore it recently with a mid-19th century dress to a cultural fair and someone asked? ” Who smells of lilacs? ” It was me 🙂 June 1, 2016 at 7:18am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a nice comment! June 1, 2016 at 10:46am Reply

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