June 2005: 39 posts

Frederic Malle En Passant : Perfume Review



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.

IUNX 10 EDTs, Splash Forte and L’Ether: Perfume Review



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

Update 9/5/2011: The IUNX line was reintroduced to the market, and the fragrances are currently available at the store next to the entrance of Hotel Costes in Paris.

Ten fragrances in the Iunx range in addition to L’Ether Eau de Parfum and Splash Forte were created by Olivia Giacobetti between 2003 and 2004. Below, I present a brief Iunx description in italics, with my own comments underneath. One thing I should clarify is that these are fragrance waters, extremely light compositions based around a single note. Please do not expect Angel level tenacity from them, since at best they last for half an hour, although No. 3 and No. 5 are slightly more potent.  One may perhaps wonder as to the necessity of something that does not last, and I would say that these are rather fun fragrances, especially suitable on hot days, or days when one needs something uplifting, but does not want a sillage, or lives someplace that bans fragrances in public places, like Nova Scotia.  Nevertheless, I wish that Olivia Giacobetti came out with stronger versions of these Eau de Toilettes.

No. 00 L’Eau Juste (Pure Water) “The true essence of water, as pure as a wave. Thus plant and mineral based fragrance is the water of waters: the beginning of time.” Absolute of cucumber, mint, violet leaves.….

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IUNX Boutique : Perfume Shopping in Paris


Update 9/5/2011: The IUNX line was reintroduced to the market in 2008, and the fragrances are currently available at the store next to the entrance of Hotel Costes in Paris.

Olivia Giacobetti’s boutique on Rue del’Universite, right in the heart of St. Germain, is not to be missed due to its pleasant atmosphere and unique decor combining Zen-like simplicity and futuristic touches. Called Iunx (pronounced ‘Yoonks’), this amazing perfume gallery, created in 2003, is sponsored by Shiseido, with the interior designed by Francis Giacobetti, Olivia’s photographer and film director father.

The essence of Olivia Giacobetti’s Iunx range is revealed in her own words when she says that “In ancient Greek, Iunx refers to the fascination and seduction of aromas. …. Fragrance moves towards a unique way of combining simplicity, innovation and technology.” Ten androgynous fragrances in the Iunx range (please see my reviews) are light eau de toilettes, more similar to eau de colognes. They are designed to be light splashes, linear and simple. Like most Olivia Giacobetti’s creations, they showcase her ability to render a certain essence, a radiant simplicity.

The dark interior of the boutique is dominated by a lily pond, surrounded by unusual installations that allow to sample fragrances in a highly interactive way. Tester cones through which the scents of lotions, creams and shampoos can be inhaled, candle sample sticks permeated with luscious scents are some examples of the ways Iunx discovery takes place.

Right behind the lily pond, one finds a glass installation holding large fragrance flacons, illuminated only by opalescent light. Fragrances are tested by a button being pressed under each number, releasing a just scented paper strip. When one is ready to sample fragrances on the skin, helpful sales associates dressed in slim black ensembles lightly touch cabintes with concealed doors, revealing rows of tester sprays.

It is definitely one of the most pleasant fragrance shopping experiences I have had—leisurely, quiet, a respite from the world outside the boutique’s walls. I cannot recommend a trip there highly enough.

The stars of the range, in my opinion, are the room and body products which are of high quality and come in a wide range of tantalizing and unusual fragrances from exotic flowers, luscious fruit to smoky woods. Shower gels have scents such as courgette (zucchini) flower, melonseed, linseed and wild rice. Moreover, Longan and Rum and Date Honey shampoos are luscious and leave hair subtly scented and soft. The candle collection is definitely worth exploring, with scents like White Lily (Lys Blanc), White Yucca (Yucca Blanc), Galangal, Papyrus, Saffron (Saffran), Red Sandalwood (Stanl Rouge), and Sugar Cane (Canne A Sucre), to name my favorites. Every candle I have had was enchanting, releasing potent and long lasting fragrance lavishly into the air. Furthermore, Iunx Ozmotek system designed to scent a room is likewise great. I especially liked Vapeur Rose and Vapeur de Sucre, a scent of delicate red roses heated by the sun and a mouthwatering flowery caramel, respectively.

Finally, the sensory experience is complemented by Iunx macaroons, with flavors like Ambre Blanc, white amber (vanilla, white sandalwood, rose petals and mandarin), Havana (white tobacco, rum, honey, spices, saffron, and vanilla), and my favorite Madras (rose, saffron, mango pulp, green almond, cardamom, sandalwood and black cumin).

Olivia Giacobetti : Perfumer, Nose


Speaking of the Post-Impressionists, Roger Fry, a well-known English critic noted that they did not merely intend “…to imitate form, but to create form…. [not] to imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life… In fact, they aim not at illusion but at reality.” The same can be said about Olivia Giacobetti’s creations, with their marvelous precision combined with dream-like expression. The fig leaf, the iris blossom and the scent of Chinese tea are not just perfect renditions of these scents as found in nature, but they attain a whole new layer of light and movement that cannot be captured merely by reproduction. Experiencing Olivia Giacobetti’s fragrances is like starring at the bright light through gauze, with the sharpness and burning sensation muted, while the glow is more underscored. Her approach is not so much minimalist, as focusing on the essential, whether she is trying to ornament a lilac note or present a milky sappiness of a green fig.

Olivia Giacobetti was born on April 9, 1966 in Boulogne, France. Her father, Francis Giacobetti, a well-known photographer and a director of film Emmanuelle 2, encouraged Olivia in her desire to become a perfumer. At 17, she started studying at Robertet, and several years later she created her own company Iskia.

Her creations

L’Eau del’Artisan for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1993)
Premier Figuier for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1994)
Thé Pour Un été for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1996)
Drôle de Rose for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1996)
Philosykos for Diptyque (1996)
Ofresia for Diptyque (1996)
L’Eau du Fleuriste for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1997)
Navegar for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1998)
Hiris for Hermès (1999)
Ofrésia for Diptyque (1999)
Dzing ! for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1999)
Passage d’Enfer for L’Artisan Parfumeur (1999)
En Passant for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle (2000)
Fleur de Carotte for L’Artisan Parfumeur (2000)
Tea for Two for L’Artisan Parfumeur (2000)
Thé des Sables for L’Artisan Parfumeur (2001)
Un Bouquet en Mai for L’Artisan Parfumeur (2001)
Opôné for Diptyque (2001)
Andrée Putmann Préparation Parfumée (2001)
Iunx for Shiseido (2003-2004)
Jour de Fête for L’Artisan Parfumeur (2004)
Costes (with Rami Mekdachi)
Cinq Mondes Eau Egyptienne(2005)
Extrait de Songe for L’Artisan Parfumeur (2005)
Le Petit de Guerlain for Guerlain (2005)
Idole de Lubin
Candle for Bottega Veneta, Essence of John Galliano candle for Diptyque, Costes candle

As Giacobetti says about creation of perfume, perfume is a mystery, “a language, a world of symbols which touches the unconscious, a mode of communication that is both emotional and fundamental” (Interview with Olivia Giacobetti). She is inspired by everyday things in creating her fragrances, the scent of quince, fig tree. “Traveling is how I find my sources, I’ve broken the bark of a yellow wood that smelled like quince, gathered sand with a sweet scent I’ve never smelled elsewhere, and even stolen incense from a temple so as not to forget it” (Frederic Malle’s interview). Emotional response is what happens upon experiencing the scent, with the analysis taking place afterwards. When asked about her most mystical perfume, she responds that although she was baptized when she was 10 years old, she did not have religious upbringing. At the same time, she loves the scent and the peace of the church. Her most mystical perfumes are those that are not deliberate. Iunx L’Ether Eau de Parfum and L’Eau Baptiste, an orange blossom scented fragrance water, are the fragrances she names.

My first introduction to Olivia Giacobetti was through L’Eau du Fleuriste, a 1997 limited edition fragrance from L’Artisan Parfumeur. Its combination of mint, rose, cucumber, violet leaves, camomile and beeswax created a beautiful floral that conjured images of a traditional florist shop, where the scent of stem cuttings mingles in the air with the scent of newly delivered flowers. Its sheer interpretation combined with a unique radiant quality led me to discover other Giacobetti creations that surpassed even L’Eau du Fleuriste in my mind. While Giacobetti is an expert at interpreting the scent of rain on flowers and sunshine on leaves, her more daring creations such as Dzing! and Tea for Two are just as interesting. Delicate precision and misty radiance are executed perfectly, whatever theme she undertakes, and this fingerprint marks all of her perfumes.

Photo: L’Express.fr.

Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps : Fragrance Review




Rated 4.5 out of 5.0


Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

“And only dreamed imagination Had drowned in the empty dark Its flitting visions’ pale reflections, The soul fancy’s easy mark?” Aleksandr Sergeievich Pushkin

Carnation blossoms thickly overlaid with wintergreen and dusky bitter notes. It captures a moment before autumns falls into the winter and winter into the spring, a sense of something new and unsettling in the air. Its combination of earthy vetiver and nostalgic iris makes me think of fin de siècle parks filled with marble statues. A rich veil of chrysanthemum-like bitterness—a smell of leaves rubbed between fingers as one passes through the overgrown brambles absentmindedly caressing remaining flowers—folds over the composition. Created in 1948 by Francis Fabron, Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps was one of my mother’s favorite fragrances.

Fast forward to the present. I lift the beautiful lid of intertwining doves off the bottle, spray the content on my arm and… Nothing happens, other than a whisper of something barely resembling the old beauty. It is faceless, utterly forgettable, filled with light and likable notes that together do not sing. If my grandmother’s bottle of L’Air du Temps is still preserved, I will wear it, otherwise I am not going near the reformulated version.

Poem: Aleksandr Sergeievich Pushkin (1799-1837), a greatest Russian poet of Romantic period. The excerpt is taken from “To the Fountain Of the Palace Of the Bakchisarai.”

Photo: Pushkin’s favorite statue in Tsarkoe Selo, a town near St. Petersburg, which was Russian tzars’ summer residence. Pushkin studied in the town’s Lyceum from 1811 to 1817.

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