There are moments through my early perfume exploration when I smelled something, and it connected intensely. I was excited as I entered the L’Artisan Parfumeur boutique within Henri Bendel in NYC. In those early days L’Artisan was one of the brands which had drawn my attention. I was looking forward to trying what I had not previously been able to. One reason that I had become so attracted to the brand was perfumer Olivia Giacobetti was doing a lot of work for them. She remains one of my favorite perfumers.
On that day at Henri Bendel I was looking to fill in some blanks. Top of my list was one named Passage D’Enfer. In those early days I was very into incense scents. I had been told this was Mme Giacobetti’s take on incense. When I tried it on the strip I was taken aback because what I smelled first was the coolness of lily. But as if there were incense sticks burning below skirls of smoke began to impose their presence. Passage D’Enfer remains one of those outliers of an incense perfume in that it has a delicacy to it. Which was why a perfume called L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage D’Enfer Extreme had me concerned that would be lost.
That Mme Gicobetti was behind the wheel allayed much of that concern. In a weird way it made me more interested. I wondered what she would choose to emphasize. When I received my sample it turns out that it is a more layered incense effect where the lily appears from through the smoke. It also provides a sturdier base which is where the “extreme” really appears.
In this new version the incense comes first. This is that slivery metallic version which seems austere. To roughen it she adds just a pinch of black pepper. This picks up that undertone in incense and brings it forward. It is done so she can then create a second slightly smoky incense layer. Embedded within is the lily for this version. The pepper makes an ideal contrast to the freshness of the lily as the incense flows around it. At this point I would have said “extreme” is not the adjective running through my head. The original base was an unobtrusive cedar. For this Extreme she chooses a much deeper base accord of sandalwood and vanilla. It causes this to take on a sacred shrine vibe as it all comes together over sweet woods.
Passage D’Enfer Extreme has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The original Passage D’Enfer is one of my favorite summer incense choices. Passage D”Enfer Extreme is going to be what I reach for in the other months. Mme Giacobetti is the daughter of photographer Francis Giacobetti. He achieved much of his fame through his use of lighting. I’ve always thought she has the same ability to use ingredients in the same way to expose new facets of ingredients. As I enjoyed Passage D’Enfer Extreme I thought this was her taking the original and changing the lighting and shading. It also exposes a new beauty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from L’Artisan Parfumeur.