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Thursday, January 17, 2008

You Gotta Have Friends...

...Frederick Malle Noir Epices, Vetiver Extraordinaire and L'Eau d'Hiver

By Tom

One of the great things about trading with people (in addition to making them happy) is the extras that are invariably thrown in with the trades. Lee of Perfume Posse and I recently (well, in recent memory) did a bottle trade and he kindly sent along several generous samples, three of which I am going to give a long overdue review to as well as long overdue public thanks over. Lee, you're a wonderful chap. Hope the Frapins are to your liking, or perhaps in the interest of your bank balance, that they're not?

The three are from the house of Frederick Malle, which as you all know is a house well known for hiring exciting and talented perfumers to create exciting and memorable scents, marketed in climate-controlled storage in such climate controlled stores as Barneys, as well as those odd phone-booth thingies that look like props from Space: 1999. I own and adore French Lover, but in the interest of my bank account have tried not to spend too much time at Barneys mooching around the rest of the line. Thanks to Lee, that might have to change...

Noir Epices was created by Michel Roudnitska, creator of Amoureuse by Perfumes Del Rae and starts off with a blast of pepper that's nose-clearing, eye-watering and wholly wonderful. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg drop in with a slight bit of orange peel and a whiff of geranium. Woods dominate the dry-down, as if you were getting a little less of the pepper and a little more of the pepper mill. While I didn't find it as intense as Ina did at Aromascope, it's not exactly a wallflower of a scent. But somehow for all of it's in-your-face (or would that be up-your-nose?) pepperiness for me it comes across as much drier than, say a Lutens take on the same thing would be. Living with it for a day made me put it on my "things I must have someday" list, but I am not sure that it would be something I would reach for in anything over 70 degree heat. $130 for 50ML

L'Eau d'Hiver was created by Jean-Claude Ellena, creator of Colonia Assoluta for Acqua di Parma as well as Kelley Caleche and Terre de'Hermes for Hermes. This "winter water" (I know, my French is atrocious) for me springtime-bright: heavy on the hawthorne and iris, with more than a touch of the "whoopee" feeling that I got from Serge Lutens Santal Blanc, but gossamer light. Caramel and musk ground the scent, but in a way that's light as a feather: as Robin
points out, it's sheer enough to wear in any weather. I like it, but I don't think it's quite me. Too bad, since for $115 for 50ML it's one of the least expensive of the line.

Of Vetiver Extraordinaire Marina wrote: "A vetiver scent for a hunky wizard". Dominique Ropion, creator of Carnal Flower and Une Fleur de Cassie for the line is the hunky wizard behind this one, which is supposed to contain 25% vetiver. It's certainly the most vetiver of any vetiver that I've run across- opening a bit like Guerlain Vetiver then taking off into the stratosphere. There are whiffs of wood and smoke in there as well, but all of it is a bit of contrapuntal interest to the overriding vetiver. While it's a very masculine scent, it's also one that ladies could easy get away with- with a suit and heels it would be slashingly chic. I like all of these, but Vetiver Extraordinaire is that I feel must some with me immediately. Even at $135 for 50ML.

Thanks Lee...


Blogger elle said...

I adore Noir Epices - a tremendously comforting scent for me. I go through phases w/ L'Eau d'Hiver. I'm off of it right now, but expect that by spring I will be declaring mad love for it again. VE I've yet to feel the love for, since I have a rather ambivalent relationship w/ vetiver. However, given that I'm constantly expanding the list of perfume notes I adore, I fully expect to become a confirmed vetiver sl*t at some point in the probably not too distant future. At that point, I will be sure to go straight for the VE.

9:44 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It can happen; I used to rather loathe vetiver and now I've gotten pretty crazy about the note..

9:57 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Tom, I keep trying to forget all about VE but then I come across another review and it makes me start longing for it all over again! It is absolutely amazing and only for those truly addicted to vetiver. This is vetiver on steroids and I am sure there is a senate committee trying to make it illegal.

10:02 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

There should be a Senate committee to underwrite the cost of it for starving artists.

..and me

10:10 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think my favorite blogs have cameras in my house as ]I'm often wearing one of the fragrances reviewed when i click on the page, in this case, i've been spending time with the first two and just posted on Noir Epices on basenotes yesterday :) Great reviews by the way! I think I'm the only person who believes Noir Epices is a very formal fragrance. It would seem right at home at an awards ceremony on a beautiful woman in a floor length gown. :) And L'Eau d'Hiver to me seems like a thick white, like imagining white paint mixed in the can... I always think it's so fascinating how once you get an image, like, a literal PICTURE of how the scent smells in your mind, it's almost impossible to let go of it. Some say it's feather light, and I get that too but there's something very dense about it as well... a dense lightness.. ok, I'll be quiet now haha :) Thanks for the great reviews! -Anthony

10:23 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Anthony, I am not happy with you either! I read your review on BN tonight. I am going to have to fish my sample of Noir Epices out of the drawer and spray some on in honor of Tom's (and your) review!

10:36 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Noir Epices is great- I didn't see your post on Basenotes- do you have a link?

10:57 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Watch it buddy :D :D :D JUST KIDDING :) I'm sure Tom nor I could feel too bad about getting someone to sniff a Malle for a while. I'm going to have to sign up or something so I don't always have to keep writing as anonymous. :) -Anthony

10:59 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It's clearly a plot!

11:00 PM EST  
Blogger Gaia said...

Tom, you're scaring me. We seem to have an eeringly similar nose and chemistry. I have a bottle of VE, which was supposed to be my husband's but I wear it more often than he does. I think it smells better on me.
I like NE and would probably buy a bottle at some point, but wearing it in the overheated rooms we have here would probably be as much of a problem as in LA summer.

11:33 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have a sample of noir epices on the way, can't wait to try!

and speaking of the vetiver scent ... can anyone please help me figure out what vetiver actually smells like?

my nose is still "in training," and vetiver is probably the most confusing note for me, because it seems like it's in most perfumes (though not dominant in any i've tried so far), and people describe it in so many different ways. like earthy, grassy, green, rooty, etc., etc. is it really that different in various perfumes, or are those just aspects of the basic note (like "indolic" jasmine or "fresh" jasmine)? i hope i'm making sense.

--erin k

2:11 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Adore, adore, adore VE. Agree that chicks can defintely wear it. There is an elegance to it that makes it perfect.

Noir Epice and I do not get along.

L'eau d'Hiver,though, is just magic, though I don't wear it as much as I should.

6:51 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That dense lightness is what I dislike so much about L'Eau d'HIver. That scents just drives me nuts, and not in a good way.

7:06 AM EST  
Blogger Divina said...

I loooove Noir Epices.. L'eau d'Hiver I just can warm up to, unfortunately, even though I always thought it is inoffensive but at the same time well-made enough to be used in many different occasions that call for something sophisticated and different without being over the top and calling attention to oneself...

7:17 AM EST  
Blogger rosarita said...

I must be one of the very few who found Noir Epices just *meh* on me. No big deal. L'Eau d'Hiver is soothing to me and I have a small decant, but don't wear it much so I'm not tempted for a bottle. I decided a while ago that summer cannot arrive without purchasing a bottle of Guerlain Vetiver, which cools me off just to look at it and I adore the scent. Now I really want to smell the Malle VE to compare! But, with that $100 price difference, maybe I don't :)

7:29 AM EST  
Blogger donanicola said...

Lee as enabler?? NO! I wouldn't have thought such a thing's been said before - perfume people are so generous. In my early trainee perfumista days I tried VE and thought it "too much". A couple of years on and I'd like to try again as I suspect I'd like it better now. LEdH has hawthorn and heliotrope. Nuff said by me on that. Noir Epices I loved from the start but I agree with Anthony. I find it quite formal. Maybe its the dryness you highlighted in your review? Hm..anyway, thanks.

8:57 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I smelled L'Eau d'Hiver too early in my perfume craze, and now your review makes me want to go back and resniff it. My first experience was an "is there anything there?" kind of response. Overall, Frederic Malle is one of my favorite perfume lines and today I'm wearing Angeliques Sous la Pluie--another very soft scent that took me awhile to appreciate, but now I love it (wish it lasted longer though).

9:36 AM EST  
Blogger ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...


Like you I have admired these from afar. Carnal Flower made its way into my collection but I've yet to try many others. It seems they are becoming quite popular due to being featured in Allure and/or Lucky the last few months. Have you seen the small sprays encased in metal for travel? Such a fab idea! Maybe one of them will show up on e-bay and we won't have to purchase the whole set. Vetiver Extraordinaire sounds like something I should visit. :-)

10:05 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee is a generous & corrupting soul.

The Noir Espices sounds intriguing, something I might wear & also something to test on my bf, who I have decided needs a couple of scents beside his current None.

10:30 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Love Noir Epices. And I wish I had time to dig up the dang quote right now, there is this GREAT bit in Chandler Burr's new book about Hiver. If I'm remembering correctly it's supposed to be the antidote to winter, so to speak -- like warmth against winter? Whatever, I can barely smell it, but the story was so charming it (and you) have reminded me I need to dig out my sample and retry.

11:16 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


seperated at birth?

I've noticed the same thing; sometimes reading your blog can be a bad thing since I know that there's a 99% chance that I will love that blind buy you write about..

11:25 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


that's just it; there are seemingly disparate vetivers out there, some that seem rooty and dirty and some that seem feather light. I don't know if it's the concentration or what that makes it do that but I just sort of go with it. Maybe it's like celery in real life, where the flavor gets more bitter and earthy towards the white part on the bottom

11:28 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think VE could be worn by anyone.

I can see where NE could cause a sneezing fit if you weren't in the mood for it..

11:29 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


that dense lightness is a great way to describe it. Kudos to Anthony! Now if i can only find that post..

11:31 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I know what you mean about l'Hiver; I like it because it's well done. i don't see myself reaching for it though

11:36 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You might not want to smell VE, it's pretty seriously nice. Not that Guerlain isn't though. But for me that one will always be a signature fragrance of someone I knew, so i can't really "own" it myself, you know?

11:38 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


now I have this vision of Lee hanging out on street corners outside of schools with little perfume vials..

"the first taste is free..."

11:40 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Angeliques Sous la Pluie is drop-dead gorgeous, but last about three minutes on me. Hate that.

Try l'Hiver again, I'd love to read how you found it after a while..

11:42 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I REALLY wish they would have those separately- I am way to much of a 'fume ho these days to get a whole bottle of practically anything..

11:45 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Noir Epices is very nice on a man and not as (ahem) challenging as VE on a newbie.

Of course Guerlain Vetiver is great on a guy and a lot less pricey..

11:49 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It does seem to be thumbing it's nose at the cold, in sort of Polar Bear Club way (those crazies that jump into Lake Michigan in December to prove that, I don't know, they can?)

I likes my smidge and I will wear it again but I'm not sure that it's me.

11:51 AM EST  
Blogger donanicola said...

Hahaa! Tom, that's so funny! Just like in Tom Lehrer's The Old Dope Peddlar "...spreading joy wherever he goes"

11:53 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Hey, you're a man. Why oh why do more people not wax all poetic about Guerlain Vetiver? Is it too old school? Some sort of screamingly fogey taste on my part? For guys, is it the sex-appeal equivalent of Depends or something? I mean, what? I think it smells great, but people make this little face when you mention it. Is it the smell of every boring older man you slept with in college? (I would have guessed Polo.) What, what?!?

12:12 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I have no idea! It's such a wonderful scent, even though for me it's kind of tied to someone who wore that and only that and I feel like I'm wearing someone else's stuff when I wear it. I think Eau Sauvage gets some of that blowback as well, and both of those are light-years better than anything done for men by the former Mr. Lipschitz..

12:30 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the Malle line and although I own Noir Epices and Vetiver Extraordinaire, I long to own Concentree Bigarade even more. You see Tom...that's how it works. One Malle is NOT enough.

Noir Epices is (to my nose) the olfactory equivalent of squeezing a fresh orange and letting the juice run down on top of your fine dusting powder on your makeup table. That smell! I think it's drydown is something quite magical. And here's the thing - I don't like powder in scents, but NE made me change my view on powder.

Vetiver Ex - noone has mentioned that headspace-y, weird ozonic thing that's mixed with the vetiver, that IMO makes VE something truly unique. I can think of a few other vetivers (Route du Vetiver, Guerlain Vetiver, Etro Vetiver) that are 'pure vetiver' smelling, but only VE takes this smell and adds something akin to the smell of sunbaked diving goggles. In a good way.

Oh yes - and I can attest to the incredible enabling abilities of Lee also! :) He introduced me to about four Lutens (non-Export) and I will personally hold him responsible when my credit limit is increased and my credit score drops. :D

12:55 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

If all FM had ever done was get that Vetiver on the market, it would be enough to impress me. And seriously, you HAVE to try the soap. The price is ludicrous, and I'm not generally a scented soap freak, but it is outstanding. And, if you just open the packaging a little tiny bit, it'll perfume your house for weeks.

12:55 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You nailed it- "weird ozonic". You wrote and the light bulb went off..

Lee is a pusher, in the best way possible..

1:27 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


there's soap? Oy, I am doomed...

I like to leave soap in the (unused) ashtray in my car. Keeps it nicely scented.

I'll have the most stylish compact in all Los Angeles!

1:30 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me that soap is the best thing about VE - it's not the vetiver style I can wear easily. Too rooty. I'm better with brighter vets, like Tonka, Sel de and Guerlain's eponymous jobbie. Otherwise I feel a little too underground.

And I ain't no pusher - but you're a sweetheart.

1:39 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I see myself more as the Child-Catcher of the perfume world...

1:41 PM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I love them all, for different reasons.

Noir Epices and VE, especially.

Why not do this-
Buy those 'recharges' of 3 , that aren't fancy ?
It's more affordable, and especially for those of us who own too many, to begin with ...

2:35 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


it's not the everyday vetiver that's for sure, at least not to me. it's the "take no prisoners" vet..

2:37 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

and you're way too good looking to be the child catcher..

2:37 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


that's exactly what I was thinking of doing. looking at the price, ounce for ounce they are the same. wonder if they sell them singly?

2:39 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And can I just say thank you for making me seem so nice... xxx

4:25 PM EST  
Blogger Sexy Sadie said...

Colombina: Have you ever trieds Le Must from Cartier?

I see they have it for sale on a norwegian beauty page and I am temptet.

4:26 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom :) I didn't write a post, just a review. I don't feel at all comfortable with my reviewing prowess... at ALL, but since you were curious, I'm Nthny on Basenotes... :)

7:57 PM EST  

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