French Lover (or Bois D'orage as it is known in the US) was one of the first fragrances I sampled from the Frederic Malle line. In many ways I had only recently become addicted to the whole perfume thing and Frederic Malle was about as niche as could be, for me, and in many ways still is. I admire quite a few perfumes from the line, but I would say that in general, they are not easy perfumes to like; they require a bit of perseverance and even then, there are some you might not grow to like. French Lover is one of those for me. For some reason I have never taken to it, although I do acknowledge that it has a certain something about it. The notes include pimento, galbanum, iris, angelica, cedarwood and vetiver. Other sources list incense, patchouli, mosses, musk, clove and bergamot. What I do know is that French Lover opens with a crackerjack shot of pepper/pink pepper, that reminds me almost of gunpowder, which I think might be the initial burst of galbanum. It is dry, dusty and almost cough-inducing, but as the top notes fade a more recognisable galbanum note seeps through, greener and sappier. Alongside this I detect a very definite clove note and some musk and cedar. There is a floral vibe going as well, or I thought it was floral but perhaps it is angelica. After about fifteen minutes or so I detected a vaguely sour note, slightly spicy and citrusy, which I thought is bergamot. That strange gunpowder note lingers.
French Lover kept on reminding me of another perfume. At first I couldn't put my finger on it and then it struck me: Isfarkand by Ormonde Jayne. Isfarkand is all about pink pepper, musk and cedar, not a huge leap from pimento, musk, spices and cedar, it must be said. Thinking about it a bit more, I also detect a similarity to Cartier Declaration, without the cumin note. Into the heart and early dry down French Lover softens considerably, with a sweeter mossy note that strengthens and takes this into less austere territory. I must say that I don't detect any iris or patchouli, but that's not to say they aren't there.
Writing this, I still can't quite say why I don't like French Lover more. It is a good perfume and I know it has lots of fans out there. Perhaps it's the association first of all - I don't personally think French Lover is a very apt name for it. I don't find it a particularly sexy fragrance. If anything it is quite austere and severe, particularly in the first third of development, but that's just my personal take on it. I think it is definitely one of the more masculine fragrances in the Malle line, but having said that, it would be interesting to smell this on a woman. I think a lady who enjoys the style embodied by Ormonde Jayne in particular would quite possibly enjoy this.
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