As we approach May 1 it is one of those days where perfume has a moment. It is centered around the perfumes which focus on muguet or lily-of-the-valley. On May Day it is tradition to wear a sprig, or two, in celebration of spring. From Dior Diorissimo to Annick Goutal Le Muguet or Guerlain’s yearly release of Muguet on May 1 the perfume version is an option. I think all those perfumes are fantastic, but I never equated lily-of-the-valley with spring. My spring flower is bit different as is the perfume which represents it.
For most of my life I have had lilac bushes growing near the places I have lived. As the winter has receded enough for me to open my windows. It was the scent of lilacs which let me know the season had profoundly changed. I look forward to this every year. One thing which also seems to happen annually is one of those proverbial April showers comes through. After the rain has passed there is one of my favorite natural mixtures of scent; green leaves, wet soil and lilac. Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti has bottled this in one of the greatest perfumes of the last twenty years; Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle En Passant.
En Passant was part of Frederic Malle’s groundbreaking inaugural collection in 2000. For the first time the heretofore anonymous perfumer’s names were right there on the label. All the perfumes would make their perfumers something to be celebrated.
In the years before the release of En Passant Mme Giacobetti had been refining a transparent aesthetic. En Passant was where it reached perfection. She became expert in forming opaque accords without sacrificing impact. In En Passant she had to walk the fractious line lilac presents a perfumer. If you construct your accord with too much you run the risk of reminding the wearer of aerosol air freshener. Too musky and it loses any hint of spring freshness. The accord she constructs finds the perfect balance through translucent lilac. It is then given the wet soil accord through the ingenious combination of cucumber and wheat. The green comes though the acerbic quality of orange leaves.
En Passant has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I consider En Passant to be the best perfume of this century. It is a fragrance which manages to succeed at being photorealistic and impressionistic simultaneously. Mme Giacobetti was years ahead of her time when it came to this style of perfumery. There are many who think a perfume needs to shout to be great. En Passant asks whether it can whisper of spring showers in a garden of lilacs instead. Give me the quiet beauty of it all.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.