Another of Jean-Claude Ellena’s creations for Frederic Malle, L’Eau d’Hiver is described as warm clean and crisp. Created in 2003 it was one of three samples mailed to me in a generous 5ml size. In it’s infancy stage visitors to the Frederic Malle website could fill out a perfume survey. The company would select three fragrances for you and two weeks later a small box containing miniatures and a hand written note would turn up on your doorstep. This complimentary service is unfortunately no longer offered since the company’s considerable growth over the past five years. Along with Noir Epices and Vetiver Extraordinaire this was my introduction to L’Eau d’Hiver. Jean-Claude Ellena set out to create the first eau chaude, hot water, combining ingredients that were clean, transparent and watery with the heat of heliotrope, honey and iris. Although his intention may have been to create a winter water (L’Eau d’Hiver) I have a tendency to wear this fragrance during the summer months. The first time I wore the fragrance after receiving my sample was going out on a blind date one summer evening. The date didn’t go very well and I remember tuning out of the conversation and becoming more interested in mentally deconstructing my new scent as it wafted out from under my polo shirt. Once I exhausted the sample I promptly ordered a full size bottle from Frederic Malle’s mailorder service. I didn’t stay in contact with my blind date but I still have a small amount of juice left in my bottle that is reserved for special occasions. Frederic Malle was briefly available at Flinders Way in Melbourne, a clothing store that went out of business some years ago. In 2008 Frederic Malle was reintroduced to Australia and is available from Mecca Cosmetica’s Sydney and Melbourne flagships.
L’Eau d’Hiver carries many of Ellena’s trademark brushstrokes, clean and transparent with a gentle softness. In the same year, Ellena created Bois Farine for L’Artisan. Both fragrances share some similarities in their make-up. In terms of the Frederic Malle brand, L’Eau d’Hiver is most closely related to Angeliques Sous La Pluie. Both created by Jean-Claude Ellena and both share a sense of warmth and light with their use of angelica root. This warm hay-like sensibility is what first draws you in to L’Eau d’Hiver. Crisp bergamot recreates the mood of Angeliques Sous La Pluie, an angelica bouquet gathered just after a shower. Then the warmth of heliotrope, caramel and honey take control of this scent. The presence of iris is discrete and adds another facet to L’Eau d’Hiver’s white floral accord. I find myself sometimes pulled by the paradox of this crisp watery theme and the almond-like sweetness of the heavier notes. They don’t always seem to get along together, but for me, it is this disharmony that makes this scent so interesting.
Fans of Ellena’s work should surely like this offering. I see it being worn by someone who is calm, perhaps fragile and not easily read. It is one of those fragrances that on face value seems straightforward. But the more time you spend with it you realize deep down there are some complexities. I imagine L’Eau d’Hiver’s wearer would also have this sense of mystery about them. Easily worn by all ages of men, it’s a good choice for creatives of those who do a lot of internal reflecting.
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena (Symrise)
Bottle designer: Frederic Malle
Release date: 2003
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woody Oriental