I always had a healthy appreciation for L'Eau d'Hiver, a 2003 Jean-Claude Ellena creation for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums. Admiration, yes. Love came much later, when something in the incredibly soft and quiet composition finally clicked with me and I could smell beyond the almondy heliotrope over the softest milkiest musk.
There's no doubt that L'Eau d'Hiver is a very white perfume. It tells its story in a barely audible whisper, reminiscent of that eerie silence that envelops the world in the middle of a snow storm. The crunchy powdery snow is reflected in the dainty puff of heliotrope and iris, all white, of course. And the whiteness continues in the form of a sweet white musk that borders on the gourmand as its milky nature is enriched with a drop of honey, like a nighttime hot beverage one craves on a dark winter night.
The subdued floral notes in this Editions de Parfums creation are the reason I've always found it hard to wear L'Eau d'Hiver. Just like with Apres L'Ondee that inspired Jean-Claude Ellena in his work for Frederic Malle, I don't have the skin chemistry that allows dainty perfumes to bloom. But years of sampling, paying attention, and sometimes spraying L'Eau d'Hiver like it's my job finally brought me to the place where I can enjoy the soft and cozy white coat that traps the beautiful skin scent around me on a cold day, with its very delicate sweetness and nuanced wood-iris-almond core. L'Eau d'Hiver is not just pretty, it's also incredibly sophisticated as a personal scent if you only let it do its thing.
L'Eau d'Hiver has a close cousin also composed by Jean-Claude Ellena: Blanc from Paul & Joe. It's no surprise that once I've conquered the Frederic Malle perfume I went back to Paul & Joe and discovered that I enjoy it very much. You can read about the similarities and differences between the two on Bois de Jasmin.
Notes: white heliotrope, bergamot, angelica, iris, hawthorn, jasmine, carnation, caramel, musk, and honey.
Frederic Malle- L'Eau d'Hiver ($100 for the 3x10ml travel refills) is available from Aedes, Barneys, and Frederic Malle boutiques.
Photo: Tatler Russia, December 2011