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.