Here at T&C, we pride ourselves on our discerning eye for quality. With Tried & True, our editors will give you an inside look at the pieces they simply cannot live without.
As it turns out, lightning can strike twice.
Four years ago, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Rose & Cuir had me at hello. A peppery geranium (with, as the name indicates, a suggestion of rose and leather) created by former Hermes perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, it continues to be the fragrance I wear nearly every day; it is season-less, occasion-agnostic, and so intriguing to others that it always garners compliments. The moment I first sprayed it, it fit me like a glove. I thought, I may never encounter another perfume that feels more me than this one.
Until I smelled Heaven Can Wait—and once again, Frederic Malle and Jean-Claude Ellena blew my mind. Though I should clarify: it might not do the same for everyone. While I am a well-documented lover of all things rose, and I do sometimes crave the pearl-clutching primness of a white flower bouquet or a springtime-sweet gust of lily-of-the-valley (hail, Dior Diorissimo), my tastes tend to skew towards less crowd-pleasing notes. Nothing really gets me—in a can’t-keep-my-nose-off-my-wrist way—more than the earthy, rooty, haze of iris or the spicy floral scent of clove. Heaven Can Wait has both.
I know where your mind goes when you imagine the smell of clove. Pumpkin spice. Eggnog. Maybe mulled wine? Don’t worry, that’s not where we are. This is clove in the guise of carnation—there is a jammy, plummy facet to give it roundness and depth, and a touch of vanilla in the drydown, but to me, what Heaven Can Wait evokes most is the warm, cinnamon-dusted bloom of a dianthus flower. I have a historical fondness for carnation-forward fragrances that get discontinued—Tom Ford’s phenomenally baroque Shanghai Lily for one; Aedes de Venustas’ gorgeous Oeillet Bengale for another—and although the flower can be old-fashioned, I find it to be romantically so, like the whirl of air around a twirling Fred Astaire, carnation pinned to his lapel. Carnation perfumes can also be refreshingly surprising—because carnations themselves have devolved into the saddest of scentless bodega flowers, there’s something about their aroma that suggests a glamorous past we have somehow let slip away. They’re also sexy, in my opinion—all that spice and heat give carnations a raciness that more delicate florals can’t rival.
I met with Frederic Malle when Heaven Can Wait launched earlier this year and he said that for him, the clove/carnation heart of Heaven Can Wait imparts an air of distinctly Parisian elegance. Why? Because it contains whispers of Coty’s famous L’Origan fragrance from 1905, which he describes as “the most Parisian perfume ever made.” L’Origan, he says, gave birth to Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and others with a sort of spicy, floral, powdery structure. “It’s as if those perfumes were oil paintings, and Heaven Can Wait is the same theme but done just with one single crayon.”
On my skin, Heaven Can Wait opens with an earthy waft of iris and a hint of carrot seed, and then, in a movement so swift it’s as if someone has fluttered a veil and quickly whisked it away, the carnation note takes over. The coolness of the iris juxtaposed with the warm pulse of the clove is part of what makes the scent so compelling. I find Heaven Can Wait to be the perfect winter fragrance, as cocooning as a luxe cashmere blanket, but also intriguing—a scent that lingers, that makes others want to lean in. Jean-Claude Ellena is famous for translucent, watercolor-like fragrances, but Heaven Can Wait has almost corporeal volume—even if, in its effortless sophistication, it is still unmistakably his creation.
Malle and Ellena developed Heaven Can Wait during the Covid lockdown, and Malle says there’s something of the quietness and intimacy of that time captured in the scent. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but I think I can smell that too. Even if I don’t, I want to. “If we’re lucky, all of us have had moments in our life that we didn’t want to end,” Malle says. “Beautiful paradises. If you are connected enough to your feelings, you can recognize them. Those moments when you want to enjoy yourself, and you don’t want to think about what’s going to happen afterwards. It’s bliss, a sense of suspended time. Hence, Heaven Can Wait.”