Friday, June 3, 2011

Frederic Malle - En Passant and a long overdue post

The Time of Lilacs

First my apologies for such a long absence. If I have any readers left, you've been waiting for me to complete the post on my seminar with Frederic Malle. That was almost a month ago. Time flies and there were vacations and lunches at my desk and plain old procrastination. I'm sorry.

So... long ago, when I had the pleasure of hearing Frederic Malle speak on perfume and the perfume industry, I asked him how he felt about the IFRA regulations. For those of you who don't know, IFRA is The International Fragrance Association, a body that effectively regulates the perfume industry by creating rules about what ingredients can be used and in what concentrations in perfumes and all perfumed products. It has a great deal of power because, although following their rules is voluntary, all the big perfume companies do.

M. Malle told us that he, as a perfumer, finds the IFRA restrictions extremely frustrating but that he follows them to the letter. Unlike food, a perfume product containing a known allergen can't just label the box with "Caution, may cause allergic reaction" or "May contain..."  Instead perfumes that follow IFRA must cut some materials altogether or reduce them to minute amounts. This cause a great deal of sorrow for perfume lovers when old favourites are changed beyond recognition. It'sone of the reasons why we buy and love vintage perfumes.

M. Malle also mentioned that some updates to the rules were coming from IFRA this summer and that he believes there are many perfumes out there that haven't yet reformulated to the IFRA standards and will have to immediately. This will no doubt change many beloved perfumes. Unfortunately, I can't tell you which ones he thinks will be most affected because just as he was about to continue, he was interrupted by his assistant and had to leave in a hurry to catch his plane.  If you have an old favourite, it may be time to stock up now, or find some vintage online.

Before I left I purchased a bottle I had been wanting for a long time: En Passant. Olivia Giacobetti created this for Frederic Malle in 2000. M. Malle told us that Ms. Giacobetti came to him with the idea already fully formed for the perfume she wished to create.

En Passant captures a moment of happiness. It's a walk on a spring day that passes by lilacs, wet from a rain shower, and a bakery, with the gentle smell of flour wafting out the door. It's light and fresh but also comforting. The lilacs have just finished blooming in Toronto, and I can confirm that En Passant captures the smell of wet lilacs perfectly. It's a linear scent and wears very quietly, close to the skin. I use triple my normal number of sprays with En Passant, but I never feel like I'm wearing too much.

I've moved out of my early spring obsession with dry green chypres, to a more gentle floral phase. Next post I'll write about Vacances, a discontinued beauty.

House: Frederic Malle
Nose: Olivia Giacobetti
Notes: lilac, green notes, cucumber, wheat

Painting: Sophie Gengembre Anderson The Time of Lilacs


  1. I wish there were some regulations to require perfume houses to either change the packaging every time they change the formula or at least to put a note about it on the existing one. It's so frustrating to buy a new bottle of your favorite perfume and discover that it smells completely different!

    I'm glad you got a bottle of the perfume you like. I appreciate En Passant, I can see its beauty but it doesn't work on my skin.

    It will be interesting to read your review on Vacances - I didn't get around getting it but I heard many good things about it.

    A couple of weeks ago I "not-a-review"-ed several lilac-centered perfumes in my blog - just in case you'd like to check it out.


  2. Hi undinaba: I think perfume should have it's vintage printed on he box, like wine. Then we could discuss the relative merits of the 2008 bottle compared to the 2011.

    Vacances is growing on me. I like it more and more. It's more of a green mimosa & lily than lilac I think. I'm still testing.

    I read your lilac reviews, and now I really want to try some of those lilacs! Thanks.

  3. What part of the world do you live in? If you want I can send you some samples of Pur Desir de Lilas by Yves Rocher and Lilacs & Heliotrope by Soivohle. I plan to buy Highland Lilac of Rochester soon, so I could make you a sample vial of it as well.


  4. I wonder what perfumes are on the IFRA chopping block? By the looks of that list of restricted ingredients, I'd say every perfume in production ;)

    Lilac seems to be a tough note to interpret. Perhaps En Passant is a successful interpretation because it doesn't focus just on the lilacs. It's like a recreation of a moment, one you described beautifully.

  5. Ah, Vacances... I have a tiny sample, which I've hoarded like gold and saved for a truly dreadful day, when I need a remembrance of tenderness.

    En Passant is lovely. Of course, it lasts for half a nanosecond on me.

  6. Krista, I love your idea of perfume vintage dates stamped on the bottle! But of course the fragrance houses like to pretend the same juice has been bottled since the day it was created, so it'll never happen.


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