Passage d’Enfer was launched in 1999 by L’Artisan Parfumeur. The name translates to ‘passage to hell’, and while that suggests a fragrance that is fiery, heavy and tinged with sin, it doesn't refer to the fragrance but comes from the address of L'Artisan's former head offices in Paris.
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 more since because its beauty is timeless.
Notes: white lily, aloe wood, frankincense, benzoin and white musk.