Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower and En Passant

June 16, 2012
I’ve discovered a number of wonderful fragrance lines at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills. Each trip I’ve only been able to sample a few since the nose can only take so much and there is only so much arm space before the spritzes start to blend/mix altering the true scent. I’ve been eyeing Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion for some time but hesitated due to the heavy floral notes and steep price tag. I don’t consider myself a tuberose-loving kind of person, yet I’m strangely drawn to L’Artisan’s Nuit de Tubéreuse. A week ago I had on my wishlist to purchase one fragrance from Frédéric Malle: Carnal Flower, En Passant or L’eau d’Hiver. I had my sister and the sales associate help me choose. The final vote went to Carnal Flower in the 10 ml trio ($155 for the set) so I could split it with my sister. Little did I know that while I was distracted browsing the other goodies at Barneys, my sister (in stealth mode) made her way back to the counter to purchase the En Passant by Olivia Giacobetti trio for me. I didn’t realize until late in the evening after I was home that she had slipped in a little wrapped black Barneys box with a sweet note. I am truly blessed to have such a sweet and thoughtful sister. (Thank you CL!)

The perfumes by Frédéric Malle typically come in two different sizes for the bottles, 50 ml and 100 ml. Prices per fragrance have a diverse range due to ingredients (so I’m told). Carnal Flower unfortunately is one of the priciest at $230 for a 50 ml bottle. Fortunately they also carry these in trios of small 10 ml vials. I find these perfect for me since I have a finicky nose that tires easily of fragrances. Here you can see the size of the 10 ml vials. (On the nails is Chanel Pirate Le Vernis.)

Carnal Flower is strong floral primarily tuberose. There are varying descriptions online of the notes, but what I can smell includes hints of white musk, coconut, jasmine and orange blossom. I agree with Scent Hive that this is a fragrance that will either have you swooning or nauseated. I personally was not fond of the scent upon first impact but fell in love with the drydown. On my skin I found it turned slightly to give a luscious floral that is slightly creamy, most likely due to the notes of coconut and musk. The Non-Blonde described it perfectly as a luscious floral that is well balanced without being too floral. On me the scent gets better as it wears and fades, although the lasting power is excellent and doesn’t fade too much like many other scents. I think it’s a lovely scent, on the stronger side for me, but not too strong that it is overwhelming. One single spray is sufficient for me for all-day wear. I love that it has depth and is complex, but still fresh and soothing.

En Passant is one of the lighter scents by Frédéric Malle. It has been recommended to me on numerous occasions by virtually every fragrance specialist I’ve worked with at Barneys once I tell them that I adore L’Artisan’s L’Été en Douce. The price points for this one is easier to justify ($95 for the 10 ml trio, the 50 ml and 100 ml versions are also lower in price point compared to Carnal Flower). This is a green scent, less complex, more straight or linear (as described by the ladies at the Barneys counter) with blend of cucumber, lilac and wheat. It’s simple, fresh, elegant. The initial spritz feels more floral (noticeable lilac) but dries down to a more green scent that isn’t quite as floral on me. The wheat becomes apparent in the drydown and helps balance out the floral notes. The lasting power of En Passant isn’t quite as good as Carnal Flower, but still decent. There is a softness that makes this a well rounded comforting scent. I adore it.

The travel sizes are sturdy in the packaging but still rather delicate. Definitely too delicate to carry around in a makeup bag or purse. Due to the strong lasting power, I don’t really need to carry these with me in my purse to freshen up. I almost never carry fragrances with me (except for the rare occasion I have a small sample) because I worry about breakage or spilling in my purses. However, I have found that the Trish McEvoy Delicate Beauty Voyager set (reviewed here) I bought houses 2 Chanel lipsticks and 1 vial of Frédéric Malle perfectly if the double-decker card is removed.

Bottom line: I’m in love. Have you tried Frédéric Malle? What are your favorites? I’m all ears for recommendations! The sales associate kindly gave me sample cards of L’eau d’Hiver and Lipstick Rose which I’m dying to dive into.

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  • Because I prefer stronger, more masculine kind of scents with spices and woods and incense I really like Bois D'Orage (European name for this perfume is French Lover). It is beautiful, even hypnotizing.

  • I love love love love Carnal Flower! I've satiated myself with the purchase of a 10ml decant or now. So pricey! I also love L'eau d'Hiver as well but it seems to be very short lives on me. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

    • I've tested my sample of L'eau d'Hiver and seem to be falling in love, although I do agree it seemed to have a short life in terms of lasting power. Odd, right?

    • Will have to finish my sample to see if I want to purchase this one, but it's so tempting!

    • I love L'eau d'Hiver so much but at the price it's short life is a hard hit to take. I think I may still have to take the plunge at some point though. I am such a sucker for so many Frederic Malle scents!

  • Anonymous

    I wear Bigerade Concentree on occasion. It is bitter orange and a bit masculine. I was surprised how drawn I was to Carnal Flower. It is a gorgeous fragrance! I wasn't fond of the dry down but will give it another try. It is totally unlike any of my greener fragrances.

    You have the sweetest sister ever!


    • I agree Louisa, I do have the best sister 🙂 I've written down your favorite to smell next time.

  • Anonymous

    oo how random– i was about to suggest french lover, too! brilliant minds!! and i agree with both of ur adjectives! i thought it was too strong for me– and i do think it is too strong for daily wear– but days later i found myself unable to stop thinking about it and caved in for purchase. truly unique 🙂

  • Anonymous

    also– does anyone know (escritora, sabrina or anyone else) why the names would be different in the us? i had no idea.

  • I love Lipstick Rose. LOVE IT.
    I've become a huge fan of the line, but my heart still belongs to Diptyque.

    • m.fay – Diptyque is a line I still haven't managed to really look into for fragrances. I adore their candles though. What are you favorite Diptyques?

    • my favorite is Eau Duelle, the perfect blend of gentle vanilla and hints of refined spice. on girly days I like the solid perfume version of Do Son (tuberose). For a unique fall scent, smell Philosykos.

      I love their candles too 🙂

  • My fave Frédéric Malle fragrances are L'eau d'Hiver and Le Parfum de Thérèse (which is a luscious floral). I've never tried Carnal Flower. From your description, it sounds like a sweet floral to me that can be too cloying to my taste sometimes. What a thoughtful sister you have, though!! Enjoy your perfumes.

    • Oooooh, I'm loving all the wonderful recommendations here. I've added La Parfum de Thérèse to my list to try 🙂

  • stephanie

    I LOVE both of these. And L'eau d'Hiver. I think the first full bottle I'll get will be either Carnal Flower or Une Rose. Love Une Rose. They're definitely more concentrated and potent than En Passant which I love on a rainy gloomy day. I like Lipstick Rose but not enough for a even a trio 🙂 maybe just one 10ml.

  • Tatiana

    Enjoy your fragrances! Both are lovely. I adore Frederic Malle fragrances. If he ever makes a visit to your Barney's be sure to go meet him. He is an absolutely charming gentleman.
    To improve the lasting power of En Passant try layering it over the body lotion. Malle body lotions and body butters are to die for, and the layering helps to make the scent last longer. I'm sure you could get a sample first to try. The rep here at the Barney's in SF included a sample in one of my purchases and now I'm completely hooked.
    Also Frederic Malle makes these lovely spun aluminum, screw cap containers that the 10ml sprays fit into, making them safer from breakage in your bag. The standard ones come in black and aluminum color and there are some limited edition ones created with Pierre Hardy that come in ombre colors of aluminum, black, red, turquoise. They were exclusive to the NY and LA stores here in the states. They were still in stock during my vacation in May and I picked one up at the Paris store.
    Enjoy your lovely new fragrances in health.

    • Tatiana – thank you for the tips! I will definitely check out the body creams next time I am near a Barneys. I did see those 10ML containers – so amazing, but pricey. I have my eyes on one but the price has me hesitant. Will definitely look into the lotions next time 🙂

  • I must admit that I have no idea why French Lover was release in US as Bois D'Orage :/
    I forgot about other beautiful composition: Musc Ravageur!

  • Anonymous

    I love your fragrance reviews Sabrina! I get really confused when people describe scents in terms of some journey it takes them on or whatever, I appreciate your simpler, more straight forward descriptions! I look forward to your reviews since I have tried several of your recommedations (L'eau de Serge Lutens, L'ete en Douce, the JoMalone Teah collection) and have loved them all. I'm going on a trip to New York City soon, and will hopefully have the chance to sniff some of these.

    • Thank you anonymous, I often feel so unqualified to review fragrances. It's a relief to hear someone likes my reviews. So funny how my tastes have changed in the last year from the sweeter scents to the ones that a step up in complexity and definitely not quite as sweet.

      Have fun in NYC! I'm jealous! I hope you have a wonderful time there 🙂

  • Eileen

    Hi Escritora;
    Hi Anon,

    The names of products are often changed when they are marketed in different countries and most companies actually do a name study before releasing the product to make sure the name strikes the right notes with the intended consumer. Bois D'Orage (Wood Storm) actually makes more sense from a descriptive standpoint as the dominant trait of this scent is woods (particularly cedar) and vetiver. It's like a damp green forest. For the US market, Bois D'Orage also has a more exotic sound to it. French Lover, on the other hand, doesn't tell you anything about the scent and actually sounds kind of cheap and cheesey–like you'd buy it at CVS or Walgreens 😛 Not exactly the image Malle wants to promote.

    This name changing business really took off back in the sixties. One infamous incident involved Chevrolet. Chevy had a cute, sporty little car called a Nova. In English, Nova had a fast and futuristic sound thanks to the Space Race of that era. But, when the car was marketed in Latin American countries, it failed miserably and became a huge joke because "no va" in Spanish means it doesn't go! LOL Lesson learned!

    Hi Sabrina,

    Your sister sounds like an absolute sweetie! The best surprises are always those that are completely unexpected. She sounds as charming as you.

    • Eileen, what would we do without you? You are such a wealth of information. I love it!

      Thank you for the sweet comment about my sister. I love her to death!

  • Oh my goodness, Carnal Flower sounds SO lovely! Definitely my kind of fragrance (I am BIG on tuberose and jasmine!). I will have to see if my nearest Barneys has this so I can take a sniff!

  • Anonymous

    Hi! Just wanna say I love your blog. I've got one question to ask you. I want a cool toned eyeshadow palette. I really like taupe colors like Becca Enigma or Chanel Prelude quad. I don't want to buy Chanel because I live in Asia and we have the baked formula eyeshadow and the texture is quite dry and hard to work with. I heard that US version is much more better but it's pretty hard to get one. Do you have any recommendation for which eye palette I should get other than Chanel? I have a lot of warm toned eyeshadow and I want something new. Thanks!

    • Hi, I'm not really familiar with all the brands available in Asia – for neutrals I do love Dior Earth Reflection and Iridescent Leather (these are quints). Bobbi Brown often has great quality shadows and neutral palettes. Also I'm not sure if Urban Decay is available where you are, but either of their Naked Palettes are amazing in terms of quality and color. Hope this helps!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your answer. I have NAKED 1 and I like it but it leans toward warm shades. I guess I'll have to find Chanel Prelude US version. The colors are exactly what I want right now. There are Asian brands like Suqqu and Lunasol in where I live. I'm a fan of Lunasol but they don't make cool, taupey eyeshadows like Chanel Prelude. I might try Suqqu eyeshadow though.

  • Anonymous

    Eileen- thanks. admittedly, however, when i first saw it as french lover, i was in a perfumery in london (I'm from NY), and i remember subconsciously approving of the name as i said to myself– "well, who wouldn't want a french lover?? let me try this." lol. also i remember learning of the chevy nova thing during some point in school maybe, funny stuff. thanks 🙂

  • Barney's is my fave location for browsing fragrances. They have a great range andI always make a new discovery, I also just love Barmeys.. Period.. I have a very finicky nose myself and recently picked up Dyptiwue Eau Duelle from Barney's I adore it, it might be becoming a signature scent for me, which I never thought possible. I loved reading your fragrance review, you describe the scent do well. I want to run out and try Carnal Flower immediately, it sounds terribly lovely.

  • Ah-Hah!! You have discovered my secret!!! I found Fredric Malle almost two years ago in NYC for NY's. I walked away with an investment named, Portrait of a Lady. I adore it's aroma but sometimes wonder if it's a bit strong for those around me. I would definitely call it a winter/evening scent.

    I have a few more favorites I'm going to add on my next trip to the city.

    Excellent blog, it's one of the few I check on regularly. Thanks! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I love " En Passant " and other creations from Frédéric Malle. Noses are all very famous ones, perfumes are masterpieces for many of them. If you wish to order perfumes I would recommand Jovoy, I don't know if they ship internationally but there are very fine perfumes there ( not Frédéric Malle though ).