Blog post by Gwen

Passage d’Enfer – woody and floral and a timeless beauty

When perfumeniche was launched my first blog was about Passage d’Enfer from L’Artisan Parfumeur because it was the fragrance that brought perfume back into my life.

In my previous life, I collected fragrances. While friends were discovering their ‘signature’ scent (usually a fragrance their mother wore), I had a different relationship with perfume. I loved the classics of the day, fragrances like Rive Gauche, Joy, Shalimar – you get the idea. I loved thinking about what scent would suit my mood when I dressed for the office in the morning or prepared for a night out. Did I want to be seductive or flirty, elegant or playful? Who needed a signature scent? Why choose just one? So, I ended up with a collection of perfumes because I couldn’t stick to just one.

Then, my mother was diagnosed with emphysema. She became acutely aware of, and sometimes fearful of, scent – soaps, detergent, candles, the smell of food cooking, and so my beloved perfumes were packed up in a box carted down to a thrift store. Passage d’Enfer

A few years after my mother’s passing, I was in New York with a friend. We had tickets for a show one night, and she wanted a new lipstick, so we popped into Bendel’s. Tired from a day of shopping, I sat down at the L’Artisan Parfumeur counter while I waited for her to pay for her lipstick. “Can I help you?” asked a sales assistant. “No, thank you,” I said. But the names on the bottles looked so intriguing. “OK, sure,” I said. She brightened and asked me what scents I liked. We chatted for a while, and then she gathered a few testers on the counter in front of me, and we spritzed paper strips, sprayed the air, and sniffed. This was fun! Then, I saw a bottle of Passage d’Enfer. Translated literally, it means ‘passage to hell.’ Well, with a name like that, I had to pick it up and smell it on my skin. Something shifted as it wafted up to my nose, and my love of fragrance, which had been dormant for so long, was re-awakened.

On me, Passage d’Enfer opens with aloe wood, or agarwood, which smells of warm, balsamic incense. It’s not dark and heavy but light and smoky. As it settles, it’s joined by a subtle note of white lily. The lily adds a floral freshness and a soft verdure from its green-tinged facets. A note of frankincense, woody and spicy, amplifies the woodiness of the opening. It links to benzoin, which adds suave sweetness to the fragrance as white musk smoothens it out.

I learned later that Passage d’Enfer was signed by Olivia Giacobetti, who is known for creating minimalist, uncomplicated, ethereal masterpieces, and Passage d’Enfer is one of them. This is no dark, heavy, resinous churchy scent. Instead dries down to a gauzy, light, airy incense-centric fragrance that is more woody than resinous and just spellbinding.

I bought my first bottle of Passage d’Enfer at Bendel’s that day and have bought many more since because its beauty is timeless.

Check out Passage d’Enfer in our Shop.