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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just give him the oh-la-la... Frederic Malle French Lover

Review by Denyse Beaulieu (Carmencanada). This week, Denyse's new book, Sex Game Book: A Cultural History of Sexuality, is coming out in France and the United States. To read more about it, please visit French readers, please go to

His dark, brooding looks. His slightly scruffy, might-have-tumbled-out-of-bed chic. His argumentative intellectualism. His consummate mastery of the art of the “cinq-à-sept”, the late afternoon assignation for a “sieste crapuleuse” (the English translation, “dirty siesta”, doesn’t quite convey its charm)… There’s nothing like a French lover – take it from a girl who’s spent the last twenty misspent years of her life in Paris, and sampled an extensive number of nationalities from several continents.

Even in a professional context, a French man will never let you forget you’re a woman, and he fully expects the courtesy to be reciprocated. Somehow this seldom slides into the discomfort zone: the French language allows considerable finesse in the seduction game.

It is to this subtle subtext of erotic tension that Frédéric Malle’s new scent, French Lover, pays tribute. Pierre Bourdon’s extra-dry, aromatic chypre, touted as “the ultimate man fragrance”, never quite forgets its virility, without ever straying into macho after-shave territory. Which isn’t to say it can’t be pulled off by a woman. But from the first, warm burst of pimento and clove notes, this just says “man”.

Its inspiration is meant to be the archetypal Gallic seducer portrayed by the French 60s actor Maurice Ronet, seen in the classic film noir Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (known as Elevator to the Scaffold or Frantic in the USA), directed by Frédéric Malle’s own uncle, Louis Malle, in 1958, to a chic score by Miles Davis. The name itself, which has already drawn a fair amount of flak, was reportedly uttered by an American woman friend of Frédéric Malle’s, when she smelled a try-out formula: “Oh. French Lover.” Take it with a smile, a grain of salt and, as Cole Porter would say, “just give him the oh-la-la”…

Despite its having been initially conceived as an amped-up version of Jean-Claude Ellena’s slightly melancholy Angéliques sous la pluie — the delicate nature of the scent, says Malle, couldn’t withstand such treatment — French Lover’s angelica note isn’t prominent; its marriage to incense doesn’t recall Creed’s sexually ambiguous Angélique Encens (1933). Unlike other classic masculine chypres, such as Chanel pour Monsieur (1955), with its neroli opening, and Guerlain Derby (1985) with its floral, carnation-laden heart, French Lover is totally devoid of floral notes: even its iris, which Pierre Bourdon treated masterfully in Iris Poudre, hasn’t got a speck of powder. The pimento-incense accord, infused with a touch of tobacco, pervades the scent from start to finish: on the spray card, it’s still going strong after 48 hours. Galbanum, vetiver and tree moss lend a green, earthy undercurrent; after several hours’ wear, the drydown settles into a slightly ambery, still peppery skin scent that would lend itself better to feminine wear…

Though the Frédéric Malle website lists musks in the notes, Osmoz lists several ambergris substitutes such as trimofix, ambroxan and karanal. Googling « karanal », one learns that it is either “the epitome of power on Gaeleth” or a synthetic amber: Luca Turin likens it to Saint-Elmo’s fire, “the smell of high tension”. Trimofix, according to our fellow blogger Mimi Froufrou from The Scented Salamander, is an “amber woody note with vetiver and smoky tobacco nuances”. Ambroxan is yet another ambergris substitute with overtones of labdanum, wet paper and cedar. Blended cedar wood and patchouli, also listed as notes, lend their dark-brown depth to the base, yet somehow never conjure an oriental composition.

Though this is indeed the scent of a man, I would consider wearing French Lover in searing heat – fighting fire with fire, as it were, with the hot pimento and the fierce dryness of vetiver.

I would also consider carrying a bit off the skin of the eponymous French lover after a tussle… Did I say fighting fire with fire?

Image: Maurice Ronet, from

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Blogger tmp00 said...

This sounds really wonderful- and welcome!

11:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

*fans self* Thank you, Denyse. I don't know now whether I have a lemming for this scent or a crush on it :-)

11:38 PM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Oh, my! I second M's thoughts! I clearly want this, though whether for myself or DH--or to share--is unclear.

Congratualtions on your book!

6:15 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Hmmm. Running through list of possible local candidates for a French lover and am coming up short. There's a French baker at our local health food co-op, but that's it. Will have to make do w/ FM's French Lover till I can book a flight to Paris - w/out DH. Sounds absolutely irresistible!

6:51 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

PS Congratulations on the book! I look forward to reading it.

6:54 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Thank you for your greetings: it's a pleasure to join you, albeit in the virtual world.

7:24 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Yes, I know, I've managed to work myself up quite a bit for that one too... Maybe if I rub the scent on my very British man and close my eyes?

7:26 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

The subject of sharing it has come up in this household already... He's already filched a couple of Lutens (Bornéo and Chypre Rouge) but I'm a bit iffy one the his-and-hers things. Aw, I'll come out and say it: I may not be up for a ménage à trois on this one.

7:28 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Elle, I think this is the very concept of French Lover, the perfume, as opposed to French Lover, the monsieur: instant exotic adultery, without all the trouble!

7:30 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was reading that first paragrpah, I wondered who turned the heat up - and then I realised you did, saucepot!

I'm determined to sniff this out with PerfumePosse's March when we hit London in 10 days' time. Les Senteurs better be stocking it by then...

*runs to phone*

7:58 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Must be springtime... *giggles wickedly*. I'm eager to know what you and March think of it.

8:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, wonderful review! I agree with the sentiment that I feel all hot and bothered after reading it. ;-)
I can't wait to sniff this. I think I'd love it on my DH and possibly on myself.

9:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just adding my voice to the chorus of appreciation for your sexy review. Makes me want to run right out and get that book of yours (congratulations1). I do think the name is pretty silly, but I'll think of it differently after reading your piece.

10:32 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

What a lovely review! Can't wait to try this one.

10:40 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Well, Mlle. Denyse-
I await my copy of your new book !
I'm very excited about it...
I simply hope that I can keep it away from my adolescent son, lol...

Nice sniffing and dtective work !
[I meet Mr. Malle in two days- I'm
sure that he will have a samp w/ him]

10:55 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Newproducts - it's Minsun, isn't it? - the more I think of it, the more I believe French Lover can be carried off by a woman who's not afraid of a very dry scent. If you like Pierre Bourdon's Iris Poudre, which I am trying out today, you'll appreciate the similarity in spirit.

11:03 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Sweetlife, thank you. When I spoke to the FMalle SA about the name, she said it got the strangest comments... Brazilians apparently came in the shop clamouring for... Latin Lover! (now what would *that* smell like? An olfactory equivalent of a medal of the Virgin nestled in dark chest hair?)

11:05 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Robin, I'll very much be looking forward to your review, if and when you're in the mood for it. You'll certainly have a different set of references (I mean, you haven't actually met Yann, Bertrand, Christian and Philippe, have you?).

11:08 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Ida, I'd actually recommend the reading to your adolescent son - to any teenager, in fact. If I may say so myself (and pourquoi pas?), the book is not at all X-rated, and he might learn quite a bit on history, literature, the cinema, science, etc. But you'll see (and decide) for yourself!
Oh, and do report on le beau Frédéric when you meet him.

11:10 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review! I must try this one ASAP, and until then I'll be dreaming about the real thing....Oh, and have you ever heard the Miles Davis soundtrack to L'Ascenseur? It's terrific, too.

11:18 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

You DO realise that I was joking, no ?
We are very candid about ALL matters chez nous.
Terribly important, I think !

11:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Lisa Olga said...

Anything like the "dom accord" in PB1 (or whoatever MDCI renamed it)?

12:23 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Angela, the Miles Davis soundtrack is a masterpiece of feline chic. Must remember to buy the CD!

12:27 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Ida, I wouldn't expect any less of you! Of course, I'll use any pretext to plug my book ;-) Even a joke à la Ida!

12:29 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Funster, I haven't had the pleasure of being introduce to the MDCI line (if only because those prices are a fierce deterrent to falling in love with them). But now you've got me very curious about that "dom accord"... What is it?

12:30 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on both the launch of your book and the fabulous review of the amazing sounding scent.

I actually sent an email to Editions de Parfums over the weekend, requesting a sample of French Lover. At the moment they have no samples to send out, so now I am French Lover-less.


5:05 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on getting your book published Denyse and thank you for an intriguing review. My DH wants a masculine chypre. However, there is nothing on earth that would convince him to put on something called French Lover. Nothing! :-) Malle should have considered the U.S. and British market. :-)

5:13 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Prince Barry,
Lovely to see you here. I am just butting in to say that they told me the same thing and said they would spray a blotter for me and send it to me. How kind. :-)

I am going to ask DH tonight if he'll wear a scent called French Lover. I strongly believe the answer will be, not in a million years. :-)

5:18 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Hello, Prince Barry, thanks for popping in! I, too, had to make do without a sample, just my skin and a blotter. French Lover-less too, actually (as you know, sir, I have an in-House Brit).

5:52 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Maria and Marina, I hadn't really considered the husband vs "hot name" thing... My solution: decant it. Present it as an uber-niche concoction called "Piment pour homme". Spray. Voilà!
Or, alternatively, douse yourself in it liberally and rub against him.

5:55 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am so far behind today, but I wanted to stop by and read this before I called it a day.

Wonderful review! I cannot wait to smell this, even if it's to pass it along to the distaff members of the household!

8:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

Ooh, I was curious about this scent before but now I'm drooling... Over the French Lover, mind you, certainly not over the french lover... I find that flirtatious gender polarizing you're describing about as sexy as a cold shower unless at least one of the persons involved are actually in drag...

7:28 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Patty, I think you might find it to your liking : it's an interesting chypre veering on the fougère because of the aromatic presence of angelica acting a bit as lavender, over the animalic base.

10:17 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Solander, that's where Latin and Scandinavian cultures differ, isn't it? As a Canadian of French descent, I found the Gallic version of "vive la différence sexuelle" quite to my liking after my North American years. But that's another subject entirely, and I'm sure, as a lover of Bandit, you'll find French Lover interesting.

10:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for your review of French Lover D, it sounds good, but not particularly distinctive, if I understood you correctly?

Congratulations on your book! I look forward to reading it. I hope that there are many references to perfumes:)

10:41 AM EDT  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

Argh!! Waaaaaaaaaant to smell!!! Waaaaaaaant!! The Want Monster is roooooooooaring!!!!

PS... I am packing nothing but lingerie on my next trip to Paris. Cross your fingers for me!

10:54 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Hélène, actually, I do find it distinctive, especially for a masculine fragrance. There aren't many new offerings in the chypre family and this is the driest rendition I've encountered so far.

12:01 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Stylespy, I'd still find space in that suitcase for a bit of outerwear... It's not because Frenchmen like to flirt that they have that much time or availability to consume! And be sure to contact me when you come, will you? I'm always glad to meet a fellow shoe/perfume lover... Marina has my email.

12:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Qwendy said...

Whew, your review plus the fires and 95 degrees today have me in quite a whirl -- must see the movie, hear the soundtrack, read your book, and get my hands on a French Lover (whoops, I already have one!), I mean a sample of this amazing sounding scent now! I wasn't at all interested until I read your review, Denyse, and now I can't wait! Your writing sure can turn a girl's head! "Virgin nestled in dark chest hair" indeed!!!!!!!!

4:02 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Brava, Wendy, you're the first here to have scored an authentic French Lover, it seems... You know, I think all of your responses have just talked me into getting a full bottle at some point. Anyone interested in swapping a very cute, curly-haired, slightly used Brit? ;-D

5:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This scent won't be in the US till August, UNDER A DIFFERENT NAME!!! I ordered it from Paris, where the French lover name will remain.

11:29 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Anonymous, thank you for the information. Living in Paris, where I sampled the scent, I didn't think of asking the SA for the date of the US release, and when I brought up the matter of the name, she didn't mention any difference. I'm curious to know what that US name will be.

9:34 AM EDT  

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