Olivia Giacobetti has one of the most impressive resumes of any perfumer I’ve ever seen. Her catalog is full of masterpieces ranging from L’Artisan’s Dzing! to Diptyque’s Philosykos. Her signature scents are usually naturalistic and elegant, transforming relatively simple ideas into unforgettable perfumes. Artists like Giacobetti are the creative forces that shape the fragrance industry for decades after they’ve retired.
They’re also the reason that Frederic Malle’s bottles, emblazoned with the names of their perfumers, are such a breath of fresh air in the industry. En Passant, Giacobetti’s contribution to the line, is more than a worthy addition to their collection. Yet it’s also quite distinct from Giacobetti’s other masterpieces. Let’s dive into why.
En Passant Notes
Top Notes: Cucumber, Lilac
Base Notes: White Musk, Cedar
If you’ve read my past reviews, you’re likely to know I gravitate toward extremes: goliath note pyramids like Jubilation XXV or minimalist masterpieces like Dior Homme Cologne. En Passant obviously falls in the latter category, but what it does with its few notes is still impressive even among other stripped-down perfumes. Cucumber is often a note used to add wateriness to a perfume, but it’s especially transparent here. This allows the lilac to steal the show. The note feels as if it’s literally flowering off the skin, rich and vibrant in a way that far bolder florals often fail to capture. En Passant’s opening is absolutely gorgeous, and the sort of cleanliness it evokes reminds one often a sweet spring day outside distilled into one miraculous liquid.
There’s also an unlisted accord that isn’t mentioned on Malle’s official pyramid: wheat. Several of the house’s photographs frame the bottle against stalks of grain, and it’s easy to see why wearers have constantly picked that note out of the bunch. There’s a sort of dry earthiness wisping about in En Passant that grants it a lovely dimension. It’s the perfect counterbalance to the damp, rainy aspects of the perfume, and it fits in beautifully with the other notes.
The base is likewise well-chosen. The white musk and cedar hardly make themselves known for most of the perfume. Only when the fragrance is several hours into its lifespan do they begin to appear, leaving a lovely musky skin scent that’s as sensual and it is natural. This makes for an airy, elegant perfume. It’s easy to imagine a perfumer lesser than Giacobetti shooting for the same impression only to create emptiness where Giacobetti has conjured space.
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that En Passant isn’t exactly a powerhouse. This is a spring perfume that fits moderate temperatures and humidities to a tee. However, it’s still surprisingly potent for a fragrance in its genre, and its prettiness will leave an impression long after you’ve had the pleasure of smelling it. This is a masterpiece that should not be overlooked even among the other greats in Frederic Malle’s lineup. Sometimes the quiet ones are those who deserve the loudest praises. I hope you give yourself the opportunity to sing the same.
The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.
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