H24 is the first masculine pillar fragrance to be launched by Hermès since Terre d’Hermès in 2006. I think we can all agree that those are some pretty big shoes to fill and I’m sure Christine Nagel, Hermès’ in-house perfumer, did not approach the task lightly – standing in the shadow of Jean-Claude Ellena’s modern classic must be somewhat daunting! But, Nagel seems unphased by such things and much like Ellena before her, she seems determined to put her own stamp on the olfactory style of Hermès. What was once cerebral, water colour and delicate, is now full-bodied (Myrrh Eglantine), whimsical (Twilly) and modern (L’Ombre des Merveilles). It’s a big shift and H24 is a great example of how Hermès as a perfume brand has changed since its perfumer evolution.
H24 is described by Hermès as the “olfactory expression of the contemporary man, in motion, agile, vibrant, and in perfect symbiosis with his environment.” Nagel has talked about how she was inspired by Hermès’ artistic director of menswear, Véronique Nichanian, and the creative overlaps in their work, especially their individual relationship with materials. H24 intends to reflect the innovation and technical expertise found within Hermès’ modern menswear collections, using classic materials, both natural and synthetic, to create a signature for the man that wears Hermès today. Terre d’Hermès is Jean-Claude Ellena’s vision of the Hermès man in 2006 and H24 is Nagel’s in 2021. As one would expect, they are two entirely different visions.
Sage, Narcissus, Rosewood, and Sclarene
Christine Nagel (Hermès)
How Does it Smell?
H24 starts out warm and soft, with a distinctly rhubarb-esque woodiness. There’s an immediate coolness and a soft green element that hints at dry herbs. On first sniff, I’m reminded of two Nagel creations for Hermès: Terre d’Hermès Eau Intense Vetiver and Un Jardin Sur la Lagune, with H24 sharing the warm rhubarb fruitiness of the former and the breezy, cottony musk of the latter. The narcissus is creamy and the rosewood is auburn and supple, combining with a distinct, silvery freshness to create a sense of contrast. It’s an initial impression that won’t make you think “wow, this is different”, but it’ll most likely make you think “oooh, this is nice”.
The note of Sclarene, which is derived from clary sage, sits at the heart of H24 and it’s the steaminess of this material, contrasted against the warmth of the rosewood, and the cool powderiness of narcissus that gives H24 its signature. It adds a subtle, metallic sheen and a thick, creamy sense of texture. It amplifies a soapiness that feels clean and comforting. Nagel was inspired to use Sclarene at the core of H24 to pay homage to Hermès’ heritage of craftsmanship, saying that it “brings a warm and sensual metallic note, evoking the smell of hot irons on damp woolen cloth that pervades Hermès’ sewing workshops”. That certainly comes across and the image of iron-steam and cloth is vivid, but it is somewhat derivative (see Penhaligon’s Sartorial, which is more bold in its tailoring-steam imagery) if I’m being picky, which clearly, I am.
H24 appears to me, to be a perfume of texture. It has a creamy, soft quality that is cool and refreshing, boosted by the ozonic, metallic nuances of Sclarene, but there is contrast found in that powdery, herbal and woody warmth too. It’s affable and easy, choosing to approach familiar themes from a new angle rather than reinventing the wheel. No, it’s not as daring as Terre d’Hermès was when it launched, but it certainly is as handsome.
So what’s the verdict on H24? Is it as innovative and exciting as Hermès say it is and does it feel like a modern classic in the making, much in the same way Terre d’Hermès was? Well, whether it’s a classic is a difficult question, and one that only time will answer. What’s more, very often these things aren’t immediate and I will say that H24 doesn’t make a particularly instant impression on me. I neither feel excited nor disappointed by it. It’s pleasant, has novel elements and is certainly a cut above many modern, mainstream masculines. It passes the ‘does it smell good?’ test but I don’t think it’ll be something I reach for. Instead, it’s the type of fragrance I will appreciate on others, which is handy because it has often found its way onto my husband, who seems to like it a lot. I find myself catching a whiff and asking him ‘what’s that?’. So maybe there is something intriguing in there after all.
In summary: H24 is an easy, modern masculine that has some novel elements. I appreciate its steamy, textural approach to freshness which, in the context of ambroxan-powdered fresh fougères such as Sauvage being the norm in masculine perfumery these days, makes H24 stand out as something different. A Sauvage clone this is not (thankfully).
H24 is available in 50ml (£61) and 100ml (£87) Eau de Toilette. Bottles are refillable.
Images are my own. I paid for my bottle of H24.