Hermès’ Un Jardin series, which was started by the previous in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, is an ode to nature that doesn’t necessarily rely on nature to showcase the botanical. Through both natural and synthetic ingredients, the collection takes one on a journey through many gardens around the world, capturing specific and often surprising elements of these landscapes. For Un Jardin En Méditerranée, the piquancy of tomato stems evoke fig trees in a Tunisian garden, whilst in Un Jardin Apres La Mousson paints a watercolour of rainsoaked concrete through melon and spices, creating a mineral, atmospheric beauty. In my favourite, Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, plasticky notes of kumquat and jasmine create a collage image of an imaginary garden – one that could only exist in the mind. Each of these ‘jardins’ is full of suprise.
Now Hermès has Christine Nagel as their nose and with their latest garden, Un Jardin sur la Lagune, Nagel continues the story. Her first jardin is inspired by a dream – a secret Venetian garden imagined in the deepest part of her subconcious. Nagel describes this garden as a “cycle of trees and flowers, nature still enduring within it”. From an olfactory perspective, la Lagune is a soft aquatic floral pieced together with transparent colours – cooling and warming as the sun moves across this most dreamlike of olfactory gardens.
Magnolia, Pitsoporum, Madonna Lily, Sea Breeze, Samphire and Woody Notes
How Does it Smell?
Upon first spritz, Un Jardin sur la Lagune presents itself as a transparent floral with a distinct honey facet. It’s a little bit juicy, but the predominant facet is a nectar-like sweetness that is entirely evocative of the delightful rewards offered up to bees and such. This sits behind a misty waterfall of ozone, which adds a sea spray facet that leads one to imagine deep bodies of water winding their way languidly through earth and rivers of earth and stone.
What would a garden be without flowers? In Un Jardi sur la Lagune the beds and borders are filled with magnolia, lily and pitsoporum. Together, they create something more akin to honeysuckle with just a hint of the lemon edge of magnoli and the fleshiness of lily. It does all feel very dreamy, especially as it drys down to a silky soft base of woods and musk, almost as if Nagel has really pieced together a distant memory of a garden filled with flowers – the brush strokes are broad but they paint the general shape of flowers, just not in vibrant detail.
As this is Hermès, you won’t be surprised to learn that Un Jardin sur la Lagune is not a vivid symphony of a fragrance. Whilst Nagel’s style is much more curvaceous than Ellena’s mineral watercolours, her treatment of woods, flowers and spices here is more in tune with his than what we’ve seen of her work at the brand so far. Un Jardin sur la Lagune is not a vivacious floral, instead it’s a hazy breeze upon which the scent of flowers is carried amidst droplets of sea water and greenery. If I were being more critical I would call it wan, but to be anything else would not be in keeping with the delicate nature of this collection. So instead of wan, let’s go for weightless and crystalline.
Un Jardin sur la Lagune is undeniably, a lovely perfume. It passess the smell test in the sense that it smells good (the most imporant thing for a fragrance, no?) and I can easily see myself spritzing it on in the hot weather. That said, I don’t feel that it moves me in the way that many of the other Jardin fragrances, or many of the other Hermès fragrances do. It lacks the character of a truly great perfume and it feels like it could have come from a whole host of luxury brands, not just Hermès, lacking the distinct style of the house. Perhaps it will grow on me, but for now, my heart rests solely in the garden of Monsieur Li.
Un Jardin sur la Lagune is available in 30ml (£43), 50ml (£63) and 100ml (£89) Eau de Toilette.
Sample (pictured) sent by Hermès for consideration. I was not paid for this review and Hermès had no input in the contents of this article. Notes and quotes via Hermès. Images are my own.