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.