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Super Scent: Hermès

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.

Floral Architecture
Floral Architecture

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?

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li - The Final Instalment in Hermès' 'Un Jardin' Series
Le Jardin de Monsieur Li – The Final Instalment in Hermès’ ‘Un Jardin’ Series

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.

Desired Constellation - Eau de Merveilles by Hermès
Desired Constellation – Eau des Merveilles by Hermès

“For women who dream with their eyes wide open and see stars in daylight.”

– Hermès

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.

Eau des Merveilles - 10th Anniversary Edition
Eau des Merveilles – 10th Anniversary Edition

Luxury goods brand, Hermès have launched a special collector’s edition of their popular Eau des Merveilles fragrance to celebrate the perfume’s 10th anniversary. Created by perfumers, Nathalie Feisthauer and Ralf Schweiger in 2004, Eau des Merveilles is an unusual and beautiful woody-citrus perfume with a striking ambergris accord that speaks of deep ocean waves and bright stars in the night sky.

The 10th anniversary collector’s edition of Eau des Merveilles, sees the perfume’s flacon “adorned with radiant silver edging”, creating a luxurious feel on the fragrance’s topsy-turvy bottle. The perfume itself, remains unchanged and is the wonderfully offbeat marine-like fragrance that we all know and love. It’s a fitting tribute to a modern classic – happy birthday, Eau des Merveilles, here’s to many more!

Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche
Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche

I don’t wear masculine fragrances that often but when I do, I like to think that I choose pretty well. One of my all-time favourites is Terre d’Hermès, a glorious olfactory representation of orange-coloured earth created by master perfumer (and Hermès’ nose-in-residence) Jean-Claude Ellena. I’m not the only one to love it either and since its launch way back in 2006 this most modern masculine fragrance has become a cult perfume amongst fragrance lovers and general consumers of the male species alike.

Hermès is a house that is always respectful of its heritage and unlike many brands they have resisted the urge to dilute the Terre d’Hermès signature by releasing flanker-upon-flanker and including the subject of this review they have only revisited the fragrance twice to launch new interpretations, one of which was simply a Parfum concentration. So it’s safe to say that when Hermès do ‘mess’ with their line of fragrances, they do so in a respectful and tasteful manner.

Which leads me nicely on to my subject of today, ‘Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche’ -the latest fragrance in the Terre d’Hermès lineup and a perfume that is billed as a “new crossing of the elements” where the water, sky and earth all meet. It pays homage to Terre d’Hermès but instead of capturing the idea of dry earth, it intends to create the vision of water springing from the soil in a lighter, more lively and refreshing rendition of Jean-Claude Ellena’s phenomenal and undeniably classic masculine.

“Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche is a dot above an i. The line is the man on earth, the dot is his spirit. Inseperable.”

Mood Enhancing Perfumes and Five Whole Years
The Joy of Mood Enhancing Perfumes and Five Whole Years

I often find myself staring at my perfume shelf of a morning, glancing over the cluttered bottles and pensively deciding what to wear. The question that regularly pops in to my mind during my ritual browsing is “Hmmm, what am I in the mood for today?” and it’s funny how our moods, along with other external factors such as season, fashion and weather influence our choices in regards to perfume.

But how about fragrances that do more than compliment our mood? Those fragrances that go one step further to enhance the emotions we feel and boost our moods. Perfume is after all, an incredibly emotional art, capturing nature and bottling memories. The power of scent to affect how we feel is undeniable.

In conjunction with some of my favourite bloggers I would like to share with you two fragrances that enhance my mood. As the world of perfume brings me nothing but happiness I thought it appropriate that both of my fragrant suggestions be ones that spark feelings of joy and serenity, with one in particular having priceless sentimental value.

[Don’t forget to head over to Persolaise, Olfactoria’s Travels, Eyeliner on a Cat and Fragrant Moments to read about their mood-enhancing perfumes!]

Candies 2012
The Candies 2012

I can’t believe it but it’s the end of 2012 already, which means that it’s time for us perfume bloggers to put together our lists of the very best and very worst perfumes of the year, honestly, where did the time go?! This year I’m affectionately entitling my awards ‘The Candies’ as a short, punchy alternative to The Candy Perfume Boy Awards. Neat huh?

Across all genres there have been many interesting, exciting and unique perfumes unleashed on to the market along with the usual amount of celebrity dreck, dud flankers and down-right-bizarre niche offerings. All-in-all it’s been a busy year with over 1,300 launches. Impressive but exhausting!

Below you will find my awards for Best Masculine, Best Feminine and Best Unisex Fragrances for both niche and mainstream houses. In addition to this I’ve also included awards for Best Flanker, Best Celebrity Fragrance and Best Ad Campaign. But we’re not just celebrating the very best of perfumery in 2012 here, no sir, we’re also highlighting the very worst with the Sour Candy Award, reserved solely for the naffest perfume of the year.

So I hope you’re wearing your very best frock (or tux for the boys, or frock if you prefer, it’s up to you really) and sipping on some fine Champagne as The Candies 2012 are underway…

Yesterday as I was tapping away at my computer putting the finishing touches to my review of Jour d’Hermès i was touched by a serendipitous union of sound and scent. In a stroke of genuine genius for once (not the pretentious ‘Hey we’re apple we’re so clever’ kind that we’re so used to) my iTunes delivered a perfect audio compliment to the scent I was writing about.

The piece that popped up on shuffle to match Jour was one of my all time favourites (not to be morbid but I want it at my funeral, it’s that good); The Great Work Begins by Thomas Newman from the HBO adaptation of Angels in America. It manages to perfectly capture the mood of Jour d’Hermès, specifically the promise of the dawn, of the new day and a new start after the darkness.

A New Dawn
A New Dawn

Hermès must win the award for the most consistent style of perfumes within one line. Ever since installing the incomparable Jean-Claude Ellena as their in-house schnoz, each perfume launch has been a variation on the theme of Ellena’s pastel shades and watercolours, evoking both clarity and luxury.

It is for this reason that their latest offering, Jour d’Hermès is so interesting, it manages to perfectly replicate Ellena’s signature style of spacious scent, but it does so bigger, brighter and bolder, almost as if he’s thrown down the watercolours in a moment of madness (read: genius) and opted for full technicolor. Jour d’Hermés is Jean-Claude Ellena writ large.

“From dawn until dusk, a luminous and sensual floral that flourishes.”

Jour, meaning dawn, is a perfume that captures the myrhiad of colours and emotions promised by the prospect of a new day. It is a perfume that seems to have arrived with little fan fair yet the odours that are contained within its rather simple and unpretentious bottle are most definitely worthy of attention.