Winter Water: L’Eau d’Hiver

“He has the ego to believe that what he thinks is important, the intelligence to make it thoughtful, and the style and skill to put it across in a concise, detailed way. he has the informality of the French, which is to say he has the mode that, in a reactionarily formal culture, acts as a facsimile of informality: Informal interaction is as carefully crafted and ornately stylized in France as its officially formal counterpart; it’s simply delivered in a manner designed to give the appearance of being relaxed.” ~ Chandler Burr, ‘The Perfect Scent’

Ever since reading about the tantalizing ‘L’Eau d’Hiverby Jean-Claude Ellena in Chandler Burr’s enchanting ‘The Perfect Scent’ I’ve been desiring my own taste of that delicious juice. Andy was good enough to make that wish come true for Valentine’s Day, and right now there’s a bottle of Ellena’s ‘L’Eau d’Hiver‘ in my fragrance cabinet. It could not have come at a more perfect time, as many of us are in the midst of a winter deluge of unprecedented cruelty. Sometimes something pretty is all we have to combat this most wicked of seasons.

The origin of Ellena’s L’Eau d’Hiver, a scent he created for Frederic Malle’s ‘Editions de Parfums’ is fascinating, and not what one might initially assume:

“He conceptualized sleeping in hay in the summer. Heat. Sun. A powder that envelops without weight. He began the perfume’s construction with a gorgeous absolute of hay, one of the most sublime of all perfume materials. Hay is, as literally as possible, the smell of liquid summer sunlight. He wanted to create with it the scent of a cloud filled with sun. People expected L’Eau d’Hiver to be a cold water (the name means “winter water”). In fact, he was building the opposite, a hot water for a cold winter.

L’Eau d’Hiver smells of ultrafine ground white pepper and extremely fresh, cold crab taken that instant from the ocean. It is a brilliant, marvelous, utterly strange perfume, unique – it references nothing – and among the greatest ever created. ~ Chandler Burr, ‘The Perfect Scent

I too originally thought that “winter water” was meant to invoke a more literal reading of the season. The notion that it’s more of a talisman of sun and summer in the midst of this damned winter is a wonderful background to such a scrumptious scent. It’s also a quieter fragrance, something I’ve learned to appreciate the older I get. Whereas bangers like ‘Black Saffron‘ or ‘Amber Absolute‘ scream and demand to be noticed, there’s something to be said for a softer attack of seduction. There’s no longer such a need to grab the focus with such blatant strikes of silage, and the wispy yet still-substantial veil of L’Eau d’Hiver is precisely what my current mood reflects.

It’s definitely a diaphanous fragrance, powdery and ephemeral, with a hefty dose of heliotrope, which has always signified summer in the best possible way. How fitting that heliotrope should play such a major part – when all things helios are my sole focus in these frigid times. After a long hot shower, I spray it directly on my chest, and it warms me in the wildest winds. From the heart, it emanates heat and light throughout the day – a skin-close secret that fortifies against the cold.

“Perfume is an adjunctive sense, and time is indissociable from its creation. Time is also a sensual element, a sort of action at a distance which inscribes itself in memory.” ~ Jean-Claude Ellena

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