Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
“The icicles, which seemed to have been deliberately hung in different lengths from all the eaves, were incredibly beautiful and looked like waterfalls of crystal,” writes Sei Shonagon in The Pillow Book, a beguiling example of the classical Japanese prose from the 10th century. The silvery glitter of ice, the sparkling expanse of whiteness with an occasional glimpse of bare black branches, the metallic taste of snow on the lips–winter instills serenity and melancholy in the scenes that ordinarily would strike one as quotidian. The chill of winter in fragrances is usually expressed through the usage of the icy notes of iris, the white musk accords marked by the radiant metallic freshness as well the touches of ozonic elements to create the crisp effect of cold air.
Jean-Claude Ellena’s Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’Hiver (2003) and Paul & Joe Blanc (2003) are often compared, however while there are similarities, the fragrances are sufficiently different that a predilection for one would not necessarily mean liking for another. Yet, they both share the white powdery accord woven into the arrangement. Jean-Claude Ellena cites Après l’Ondée as his inspiration for L’Eau d’Hiver, which took the classical structure of the Guerlain classic, refined it to the essential features and added a scintillating hesperidic top. …
While Après l’Ondée is a composition layering spicy carnation, violet and iris over a baroque Guerlinade base shrouded in the powdery heliotrope, L’Eau d’Hiver is an elegantly minimalist core. A few lines and the image comes to life—luminous chilly iris folded into the white softness of almond and heliotrope, creating a scent that is moves beyond a floral bouquet.
L’Eau d’Hiver is a scent skin attains after a handful of snow melts in the warm palm, dripping as cold water through the fingers. The sweetness of bergamot sparkles like snowflakes on eyelashes before vanishing, replaced by the woody iris and the green almond powderiness. A swirl of iced flower petals falls gently into the creaminess of the luxurious musky base, adding a soft touch to the chilly outlines of the composition. Like falling snow blurs the lines of the landscape, the elegant powdery quality of the drydown lends a warm, hazy effect. While L’Eau d’Hiver is constructed out of the olfactory opposites, cold and warm, the effect is delicate and graceful like the dance of snowflakes in the air.
Paul & Joe Blanc (see my review of Paul & Joe Bleu) is conceptually very successful, since it conjures the whiteness of a glass of cold milk. Powdered almonds touched by the green accent have a dry quality at first, however the composition soon sweetens as the floral notes bloom in the heart. Panoramic and transparent, Blanc explores the softness of flower petals resting upon a milky base comprised of musk. It bears a relation to L’Eau d’Hiver in so far as both have a powdery quality that is between almonds and vanilla, however Blanc is simpler, sweeter and thinner, with less tenacity on the skin. The floral touches give Blanc a transparent quality, which L’Eau d’Hiver does not exhibit to the same extent, retaining opaqueness of the rich musk lacing its base and the woody facets that are minimal in Blanc.
L’Eau d’Hiver includes white heliotrope, bergamot, angelica, iris, hawthorn, jasmine, carnation, caramel, musk, and honey. Blanc contains hawthorn, angelica, almond, sweet pea, freesia, rose, musk, heliotrope, cloud of milk.
Editions de Parfums fragrances are available from Frédéric Malle boutiques, Barneys New York and Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums website. Bergdorf Goodman in New York carries the Paul & Joe fragrances. Online, the fragrances are available from the UK-based websites, Hqhair and Musthave.co.uk. In France, the fragrances are available from Le Printemps.
Please see other Frédéric Malle reviews:
Photo: by Tom’s Gallery.