This Perfume was Made for Fancy Farm Girls Like Me

It’s the most faithful lilac scent I’ve ever smelled.
Publish date:
August 25, 2015
perfume, Frederic Malle, memories, lilac

I grew up on a teeny tiny farm in North Dakota, where my closest neighbors were my grandma and two of my uncles. It was a pretty idyllic place to spend a childhood: a giant yard to run around in, spending time “farming” with Dad in the combine harvester, going for long walks down gravel roads and picking prairie roses and lilacs.

Even now, as an adult lady, I go to the farm when I need a break from my brain and my city life. There’s something about standing on the road during grain harvest and seeing for miles and miles that really settles you down.

That being said, I can’t run away to the farm every time I feel like it. It’s only four hours away, but that is one boring-ass drive. And in the cold of a windy North Dakota winter, where temps can dip well below zero, it’s not necessarily paradise.

One of my favorite things about perfume is its transformative quality. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but anytime I smell my favorite college perfume, I’m transported back to those happy days living with my three best friends. There are scents that punch me in the gut because they remind me of the dudes who broke my heart. There are comforting scents, too, like the ones my mom wore when I was a child or the dusty violet scent of my grandma’s house. When I miss my best friend Amy, who moved to Chicago, I spray on some Le Labo Ylang 49 because it reminds me of her. It’s not her signature scent, so I don’t feel like I’m trying to SWF her; it smells like something both of us could wear.

I use fragrance to make me feel more confident, more calm, sexier… It’s pretty easy to see why I’ve amassed a collection of over 20 bottles.

Frederic Malle’s En Passant is not a fragrance I’d usually go for. It’s lightweight—decidedly not my powerhouse style—and it’s floral. Actually, let’s rephrase that: it’s much more than a floral. It’s an “impressionist floral,” meant to capture the scent of lilacs after rain. And capture it it does.

If I had to narrow it down, the smell of lilacs in the springtime is probably my second favorite fragrance of all time. (The first? A slightly sweaty dude who smells like air, grass, dirt, exhaust and soap. Ughhhhhhhh.) There was a big lilac bush near my childhood bedroom window, and my current street blooms heavy with them in the spring. They only last a few weeks, so the enjoyment is fleeting.

That’s why I had to grab En Passant. It’s the most faithful lilac scent I’ve ever smelled; I kept coming back to sniff it again and again.

En Passant was created by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti and is built around a base of white lilac, with cucumber and orange leaves. It’s fresh and doesn’t take up too much space; it’s content to be simply pretty.

Besides the insanely gorgeous lilac note, there’s a hint of wheat to flesh it out and give it extra depth and more earthiness. Did I mention the smell of a field after wheat harvest is another one of my favorite scents? I love nothing more than standing near a field on a hot August day after the farmers have harvested all the grain. I always say that’s when and where I want to get married because it smells so heavenly.

In short, En Passant is a perfume made for a farm girl who moved to the city but still wants to escape every so often, and that’s just what I am.

  • Which fragrances take you back?
  • Which ones help you escape, or feel like a better version of yourself?

Photos by Emily Ruf.