Naming The Nameless – Review: Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver

L’Eau d’Hiver is one of my oldest perfume favorites, beloved and cherished over the years, and trusted whenever I need something to wear that is comfortable, light but still recognizably different.

Why have I waited this long to review it?
L’Eau d’Hiver is a familiar favorite, but for a long time it had no story.

In my mind I link every perfume I smell with some descriptor that helps me to place it, like dark vanilla, or woody incense. It can also be more of an insider description that has only significance for me, like funny blackmail (don’t ask!).

But curiously L’Eau d’Hiver has eluded its descriptor from the beginning.

Normally I don’t have to think much about it, it suggests itself pretty instantly, but not with this perfume. That is the reason it was very hard for me to write about it. I just didn’t know where to start, was struggling to find an angle.

So what do I know then? Facts first:

L’Eau d’Hiver was composed by one of my favorite noses Jean-Claude Ellena for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle in 2003, notes include bergamot, angelica, iris, hawthorn, jasmine, honey, carnation, heliotrope, caramel and musk. The perfumer calls it an Eau Chaude (“warm water”, to emphasize the opposite to the Eau Fraiche).

It is a very elegant, understated and muted perfume, one that never screams at you, but isn’t easily silenced either, it keeps close to the skin but is persistent and has a wear time of about five to six hours on my skin.

I racked my brain to describe what it smells like: it is so well blended nothing stands out, there is no one clear note I can make out, it smells round and smooth like a snowball. It is not cold, but not hot either, it has warmth, but not overwhelmingly so, it is flowery and sweet and fresh, everything in moderation and everything perfectly balanced. You see my dilemma?

But one phrase sticks: like a snowball. That could be my inner descriptor. Cool, smooth, round, white. But with the sun shining on it, starting it to melt just a little, warming it and immersing it in golden light.

Not a perfect description, but as close as I can get.

To end with an incredibly unhelpful phrase (but one that is undeniably true):

It smells just lovely.

This post was first published in December of 2010 (to a rather smaller audience). I am wearing L’Eau d’Hiver a lot this spring, so I wanted to post this review again – its essence still holds true for me: it smells just lovely.

Picture sources:,,  Snow White and Poison Apple by Cyril Helnwein via some rights reserved, thank you!

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37 Responses to Naming The Nameless – Review: Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver

  1. Tom says:

    I always thought it smelled like the weather just before a big snowstorm. Crisp and clean and slightly electric and oddly warm with the promise of a really good freeze coming in.

  2. Vanessa says:

    I quite agree about L’Eau d’Hiver defying description, however, you’ve done an excellent job here! I am going to go with snowball suffused in golden light, with a hint of caramel maybe? I might wear it today in fact – I need something ‘respondent in their home appropriate’. 🙂

  3. Ahhhhh. One of my all-time favorites!

  4. lucasai says:

    I like L’Eau d’Hiver a lot. Simple and lovely

  5. Wonderful review! I’ve always given this one a miss because the Malle range has so many standouts and I was never a JCE fan. However, you have convinced me to give this a try!

  6. Alice says:

    I’ve had one of those ‘its complicated’ relationships with this one, your know the sort of thing: Love it, bought a bottle, then wasn’t so sure, then fell in love again and almost drained the bottle.. now not so sure… Something about the combination of the ‘electric’ (to me almost chemical) cloud feeling combined with the almondy notes is hauntingly beautiful, but ultimately not really me (definitely not a snow white type!).

    Anyway, its a great idea to re-post reviews. I only joined these boards a few weeks ago, and keep coming across fascinating discussions on perfumes…but its maybe 2 years too late to join in! So take pity on us newbies and revisit older topics from time to time.

    • Olfactoria says:

      It’s never too late!!! I’m glad you say this, since I sometimes think an old favorite of mine needs more exposure. With your encouragement I feel less guilty for reposting a review now and again. 🙂

  7. Tara says:

    My almond-phobia has kept me away from this up to now but that must change thanks to your review. Also the fact that Vanessa is rather adverse to heliotrope but it’s going to be her Sotd.

    I know what you mean about needing a story to connect with. I’m wearing Seville a l’aube today and it’s wonderful but I associate it so much with Denyse’s story that I’m having trouble finding myself in it.

  8. brie says:

    I am not like Snow White but after this review I very much want to try it! Sounds like a perfect Winter Solstice fragrance!

  9. Annina says:

    Great review! I love the indescribable! I have been meaning to try this – now I’m even more curious!

    I have felt that way about one perfume – to me, indescribable, warm and cool, sweet but not. Biehl Parfumkunswerk gs01. It’s distinct but soft, and wears close to my skin. I had it on my fb list, drained a few samples. But I have never bought it and I don’t know why.

    • Olfactoria says:

      You know, those two have definitely something in common, so I guess you’d rather enjoy L’Eau d’Hiver.

      • Annina says:

        Finally tried this! It is snowy – powdery, fluffy, so-cold-it’s-dry snowflakes. Fluffy powdery snow at dusk, with a golden sunset. It’s that golden sunset glimmering through the icicles hanging off my roof. It’s powdery fluff insulates me inside my fluffy down coat. It’s perfect for today, everything us closed because if a winter cold snap – we’re at -56F.

        • Olfactoria says:

          Oh my, that is cold! You chose the perfect perfume for this weather, L’Eau d’Hiver is wonderful when it is really cold. I wish I had some left…
          Stay warm, Annina!

  10. Alexandra says:

    Ah now this is a fragrance I have always admired (and FM was my first foray into niche), but it just doesn’t wear well on me – it feels like it is sitting on top of my skin – such a shame. This one is on my ‘will revisit every now again’ list…

  11. Dear Brigit
    Splendid images and words for a perfume that is almost indescribably beautiful… like the whisper of an almost imperceptible winter breeze.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  12. Undina says:

    I feel a little bit ashamed: not only I neglected to try this perfume for years (!) even though I was at a store carrying the brand on at least 4-5 occasions but even after I got a sample a month ago I didn’t find time to do it yet.
    Such a beautiful review, Birgit! I have to try L’Eau d’Hiver.

  13. Pingback: Monday Question – Who Is Your Favorite Perfumer? | Olfactoria's Travels

  14. Johanob says:

    Wearing this today,immediately wondered what your thougts were!!I love the understated elegance of this perfume.It’s the beginning of Fall over here,and I feel this is perfect for this time of year.Also,finally a Heliotrope I can wear comfortably,as most perfumes containing it leads to unexpected headaches for me!(Etro I’m looking at you with a tiny tear in my eye…I do love the note!!)

  15. Pingback: Monday Question – What Are The Top Three Perfumes On Your Wishlist Right Now? | Olfactoria's Travels

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