French Lover (Frederic Malle)

French Lover has been on my radar for one reason: it's by Pierre Bourdon. I happen to be a Bourdon fan, and expected this Malle perfume to smell amazing. Pretty much everything by Bourdon smells amazing, from his stoic Cool Water, to his variable Féminité du Bois, and with the exception of his relatively unknown work for Romea D'Ameor, Faberlic, and Ulric de Varens, French Lover marks an endpoint in his career, the last of his "blockbuster" fragrances. It's hard to say that anything niche could be blockbuster, but I was around and paying attention in 2007 and 2008, when this Malle scent was brand new. I'm here to remind everyone of just how excited they were when it hit the world stage. It wound up being one of Malle's most successful fragrances, something that put the brand on the map, and for a short time was a basenotes and blogosphere darling. People love this stuff. They should - it smells good.

I happen to like it, but not love it. It reads as a very minimalist composition on my rather dry skin, a simple combination of notes, namely bergamot, black pepper, angelica, vetiver, and cedar. It smells wispy and transparent - not what I expected - and focuses its energies on vetiver and cedar in the drydown, losing most of the astringent citrus and peppery angelica after an hour. For a good five or six hours, French Lover is a slightly grassy cedar, loosely resembling stale cigar smoke, and at the six hour mark it fades away. This tends to happen with popular niche scents that I try for myself - the expectations are high, in large part because of the hype. Then I wear the fragrance, and inevitably think to myself, "Okay, this is very nice, but if it were by Ralph Lauren and sold at Macy's, it would already be forgotten." Ditto for French Lover.


  1. Hmmm, I think I may agree... I was in Seattle this past week at a convention, and during breaks had the chance to get out and try a lot of things that I would not normally get to sample. Of course, part of the price you pay for all this self indulgence is making conversations with SA's while they help you find things... This can be great, or just wear you out, depending on how much they are authentically interested in scent and not just hitting you with boilerplate sales patter. Luckily for me, the woman who was gamely extolling the virtues of Frederic Malle ('every scent is a work of art!') was mostly focusing on my wife, who (a.) hasn't read it all already like me, and, (b.) is looking for something anyway [and (c.) never buys herself a damned thing, and certainly deserves to have someone drop $250+ on a bottle of something for her...] Anyway, we smelled a lot of stuff. I agree with you about Vetiver Extraordinaire in almost every aspect of your review... and I think I may, regrettably, feel the same way about your review of French Lover (now "Bois d'Orage")... a little sample vial of it is sitting on my dresser, but I am not as excited by it as I'd hoped I would be. Right next to it is another little vial... This one was from the next day, when I was surprised to find a tester of Egoïste at the Chanel counter. I told the guy behind the counter that I was delighted to finally test it, as I'd thought one couldn't find it stateside. He smiled and handed me a carded sample.. of Egoïste Platinum. You can't win them all. When am I ever going to feel as hygienic and straightforward as I suspect either of these scents want me to be?

    1. French Lover is decidedly bloodless and clean, an oddly dull but competent fragrance saved only by its above average materials. Vetiver Extraordinaire at least "pops" and feels alive. FL just feels like an inert woody "polite" fragrance that you wear to formal dinner parties.

      Have you seen my thoughts on sales associates? They are probably the least helpful people in the fragrance world, and companies are just fine with that. It isn't about knowledge and information, it's about "hype" and "try this." I usually just abide them as courteously as possible, but I rarely listen to them.

      BTW, I found the original Egoïste to be a fairly boring scent, also.


Thank you for your comment. It will be visible after approval by the moderator.