When it was announced that Christine Nagel would replace Jean-Claude Ellena as the in-house perfumer at Hermès I remember wondering whether the house-style that Ellena had crafted to be so distinct would change. Both are idiosyncratic perfumers with a bold style and Ellena’s mineral watercolours are as far removed from Nagel’s voluptous compositions as they can be. So we’re now four launches into Christine Nagel’s tenure at Hermès and it is safe to say that yes, the house style has changed from minimalism to a subtle maxamilism (i’m making that a thing, by the way), but it still remains completely faithful to the one thing that Hermès always delivers: luxury.
Hermès latest launch is Twilly d’Hermès – a fragrance named for the brand’s Twilly scarves, which are colourful, think silk scarfs that can be worn in a multitude of ways, and the scent really cements the brand’s new style, which feels a little bit more accessible. Twilly the perfume is just as vibrant as the scarves and Hermès use words such as “joyous”, “impish” and “playful” to describe it. The presentation, which sees the fragrance housed within a carriage lantern-style bottle topped by a bowler hat and finished with a Twilly tie, says that this fragrance is young, fun and full of surprises. So let’s not wait any longer and give Twilly d’Hermès a sniff.
Hermès’ topsy-turvy Eau des Merveilles is one of my favourite fragrances from the brand. Heck, Eau des Merveilles is one of my favourite fragrances full stop and it was the scent that got me into all things Hermès – it was my Hermès gateway drug, if you will. So you will understand that I’m a little bit protective when it comes to my Merveilles, but so is Hermès and whilst they have produced a number of flankers for this fragrance, each one has brought something new to the franchise and as with all things ‘Hermès’, each Merveilles flanker has been expertly crafted.
Eau des Merveilles exists on the horizon, where constellations meet the deep blue sea. It’s a scent of adventure and navigation, both nautical and extra-terrestrial, which as you can imagine makes for an incredibly exciting olfactory experience. For Eau des Merveilles Bleue the latest take on the Merveilles signature, Hermès’ in-house perfumer Christine Nagel has removed the scent’s head out of the stars and plunged it firmly into the shallows of the sea at dawn. Eau des Merveilles Bleue encapsulates in scent, the freshness and crispness of a new day, through the translucence of the colour blue. I’m relaxed just thinking about it.
“The wonder of Hermès is rooted in childhood, when our eyes are open to the world, and marvel at everything.
I marvelled at the pebbles, wet from the ocean; they had such a particular colour and luminosity, and I discovered on them a salty, mineral taste …”
The brand new fragrance from Hermès, ‘Galop d’Hermès’, is an interesting one on a number of levels. Firstly, and most importantly, it is the first fragrance for the brand by Christine Nagel since she became in-house perfumer (she previously created their Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate whilst Jean-Claude Ellena was still the nose-in-residence), but it also shows the house of Hermès firmly looking back towards their equestrian roots. Galop d’Hermès is a fragrance that many will look at to ascertain whether this new collaboration with Nagel will see their distinct house style put to bed in favour of a new one, or whether it will be maintained as part of the Hermès heritage. Galop d’Hermès is the first indicator of what is to come in the future and therefore, a very important fragrance.
Galop d’Hermès is an essay in two ingredients: leather and rose. Housed within a stirrup-shaped bottle, which is adorned with a smart leather tie, in vivid Hermès orange no less, the fragrance, presents itself as a scent that captures the very essence of the house, right from the overarching concept to the individual notes of the perfume. Leather is an integral element within the Hermès DNA, finding its way into many of their luxurious accessories, whereas rose has been a key ingredient in many of the brand’s illustrious fragrances over the years. Together these two notes are presented in a pure parfum that is undeniably Hermès but also entirely exciting and new.
“At Hermès, I discovered all the femininity of leather. I composed Galop d’Hermès like a painting with two main colours…two raw materials that are emblematic to Hermès and to perfumery: leather and rose.”
Super Scent is back, again! As you may or may not know, the idea of this series is for Basenotes, Persolaise and I to pick a perfume house and list our top five (or a few more if the house has an extensive catalogue). We are not allowed to discuss or show each other our lists before we publish and we must pick fragrances currently available and in their most recent formulations. We encourage you to share your top fives too and it’s always fascinating to see both the similarities and differences in our lists. So please do join in!
So far we’ve super scented Estée Lauder, Dior, Etat Libre d’Orange, Chanel and today, we’re taking a good old look (or should that be ‘sniff’) at the house of Hermès. No other brand says luxury quite like the big H and they have arguably created some of the most beautiful fragrances on the market, with a current collection that boasts a veritable cornucopia of styles. In recent years, the house has worked with legendary perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, an irreverent and cerebral craftsman, who has built an entirely unique style, one of watercolours and transparency, that has now become undeniably ‘Hermès’. As Jean-Claude steps down and hands the Hermès baton over to Christine Nagel, let’s take a look at some of my personal favourites from this most iconic of French houses.
What is there to say about the career of Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena at the house of Hèrmes as it draws to an end? His work speaks for itself and through the perfumes that constitute Ellena’s body of work at Hèrmes one can detect a distinct DNA that has been carefully crafted and woven through the olfactory outputs by the man, who is arguably one of the greatest perfumers of all time. Jean-Claude Ellena has created a signature that is now undeniably ‘Hermès’. It is a complexly pieced together as a Kelly bag but as ethereal and light as a silk scarf. To put is simply, Ellena really has taken the spirit of the house of Hèrmes and bottled it.
Ellena’s work is so often referred to as fragrant watercolours and his lightness of touch has proven that perfumes need not be loud, confrontational and weird to be beautiful, they can portray light and shade in utter simplicity. This style in itself is divisive because the fragrances can so often seem imperceptibly simple or transparent, but they are, in fact, incredibly complex. It’s a testament to Ellena’s talent that he can say so much with such reserved abstraction. His work is cerebral and intelligent in a way that modern perfumery isn’t nowadays, and he has always been a refreshing voice amongst the cacophony. The man is nothing short of a genius and one of the handful of true master perfumers who have earned the title through a life’s work.
For his final piece at Hèrmes, Jean-Claude Ellena has attempted to capture the elusive lily of the valley, a flower that smells so intense, yet yields no fragrant oil usable within perfumery. The work is a construction of the flower, of course and as Ellena puts it, he wanted to “snatch the fragrance of these flowers from the dawn sky, together with that of the foliage that envelops them”, thus crafting an homage not only to white blooms but also to its accompanying greenery. The result? Well, Hermès describe it perfectly as “a shower of delicate bell-shaped flowers evoking the opalescent white of porcelain – radiant, playful, diaphanous”. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Hermès have to be admired for their consistency. Since installing the inimitable Jean-Claude Ellena as their in-house perfumer (he is soon set to retire and step down from his post), the house has regularly turned out fascinating, beautiful and nature-inspired fragrances in a cohesive style. Ellena’s perfumes for Hermès are not grand dames or challenging experiments, they are landscape paintings in pastel-coloured chalks or water colours. Their transparency and weightlessness are what sets them apart from the crowd, and whilst they follow a distinct style, they never fall into the trap of being too similar. There is variety in this extensive oeuvre as well as beauty.
One of Hermès more popular collection of fragrances is the ‘Les Jardin’ series. The five fragrances from this series are designed as fragrant tales of lengthy strolls through glorious gardens in various locations around the globe. Whether they be set on a roof top in Paris or along the Nile in Egypt, these are transportive scents that fit somewhere between abstraction and reality. Their delicate and translucent style gives the impression that air from each location has simply been bottled, and as one sprays this scented oxygen, the garden comes to life right in front of their eyes (or should I say, ‘nose’).
For 2015, Hermès has launched ‘Le Jardin de Monsieur Li’. Following a visit it to China, Jean-Claude Ellena pieced together this imaginary idea of a Chinese garden, that is designed as a retreat – a contemplative place for the visitor to take solace in and seek tranquility, and peace. “We all have something in us of Mr Li” says Hermès, and we all need a safe haven to run off to when the stresses of life take hold – Le Jardin Monsieur Li is that very place, and in it one can seek both happiness and a true sense of calm.
“For women who dream with their eyes wide open and see stars in daylight.”
Yesterday I shared the news that Hermès are launching a limited collector’s edition bottle for Eau des Merveilles to celebrate its 10th anniversary. This got me thinking about the scent itself and the fact that I had never taken the time to sit down and review it in full – a truth that is absolutely criminal seeing as it is one of my all-time favourites. So today, rather than focusing on something ‘brand new’, I’d like to give a brief nod to a beautiful fragrance on its 10th birthday.
Eau des Merveilles was created for Hermès by perfumers Nathalie Feisthauer (Gardénia Pétale and Putain des Palaces) and Ralf Schweiger (Fils de Dieu, The Afternoon of a Faun and Cédrat Enivrant) in 2004 as a topsy-turvy perfume that displays no top, middle and base notes, instead opting for an “unusual revolving structure” consisting of three accords; “The Spirit of Wood”, “The Memory of the Ocean” and “The Sparkle of a Constellation”. The result is something entirely unconventional, yet incredibly familiar, evoking the feel of a well-know melody caught on the breeze – recognisable, yes, but difficult to identify.
Since its launch, Eau des Merveilles has been through the Hermès flanker-mill a number of times. To date, the family consists of; an Extrait version (Parfum des Merveilles), a richer and more gourmand interpretation (Elixir des Merveilles), a version that displays more transparency (Eau Claire des Merveilles) and even one flanker that is full of edible amber (L’Ambre des Merveilles). As with all things Hermès, these familial fragrances are all brilliantly executed, but it is the original that remains the most striking and even ten years down the line, Eau des Merveilles is still the star of the collection.