Christine Nagel has fully taken the reigns of perfumery at Hermès and she is seeing in a new dawn that is at once, respectful of the house signature that Jean-Claude Ellena spent years forging, but also entirely her own. Nagel brings a bit more body to Hermès’ once pastel and watercolored approach to perfumery, evoking luxury with more vivid colours and richer textures. She has brought a playfulness (see Twilly d’Hermès) and has even subverted the very essence of Hermès’ Hermessence collection by giving it an oriental twist – all to make her own stamp. Now it’s time for Nagel to bring us a new twist on the brand’s signature masculine: Terre d’Hermès.
Terre d’Hermès is perhaps Ellena’s most iconic creation for Hermès – it’s also a big seller and easily one of the greatest modern masculines on the market. With that in mind it’s easy to see it as hollowed ground in a way – something not to be touched and tinkered with. But touching and tinkering is what the perfume industry does best and Terre d’Hermès has been reinterpreted by Ellena on two occasions (the Parfum and Eau Très Fraîche) and now it’s Nagel’s turn with Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vétiver. In her version, Nagel presents a rebalanced interpretation where “the initial woody and mineral balance of Terre becomes woody and vegetal.”
Top: Bergamot and Grapefruit
Heart: Geranium, Vetiver and Sichuan Pepper
How Does it Smell?
In Eau Intense Vétiver, Terre d’Hermès has been livened up what initially feels as a knife’s edge of citrus. It’s super sharp and zingy for a moment, with a refreshing tone. Quickly though, the initial flash settles and the impression becomes much warmer and sweeter. To my nose, the combination of sweet, acerbic grapefruit and sparkling bergamot creates a rhubarb nuance that glows bright red, replacing the luminous orange of the original. What was cool and aloof in Terre becomes joyful and inviting in Eau Intense, brining a juicy character that would bring a smile to the face of the hardest cynic.
The key theme here is how rhubarb is tied neatly to the fragrance’s vetiver facet using the grapefruit facet of both to create synergy. The vetiver itself is warm and roasted, with a supple, earthy quality, but also hints of salt and anise. It’s a rich, intense vetiver (the name fits) but it doesn’t scream “VETIVER” at you – in fact, I’d almost say that it’s more of a stealthy vetiver, one where the concept is to show how a vetiver facet can enrichen a mineral amber accord to give it both depth and contrast. It just all seems to work perfectly.
Eau Intense Vétiver feels most like Terre d’Hermès in the dry down. What made Terre so wonderful was that flinty, mineral amber in the dry down that gave the impression of cool, clay-like earth scooped up from the desert. The difference in Eau Intense is this constant vein of warmth that runs through its core all the way into the amber base. It’s warmer but also airier, which is strange given the fact that it also feels richer. There’s a contradiction between these two characteristics – between weight and transparency, but still they work together, creating a dry down that captures fragments of earth as they are caught on a breeze.
Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vétiver is absolutely stunning. It is rich and warm, auburn and luminous – an olfactory illusion evoking the image of a vast sky during an endless sunset. Skies ablaze with evening light. It is tremendously good and my only niggle (I really hate having one here) is the fact that it really feels like a standalone fragrance – I don’t get too much ‘Terre’ out of it (there are similarities of course, but the relationship is not glaringly obvious) and I feel like it could have happily been an entirely new masculine pillar – Ciel d’Hermès, perhaps?
Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vétiver is available in 50ml (£65) and 100ml (£89) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, notes and quotes via Hermès. Images are my own.