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.”
The most fascinating aspect of perfumery is the building blocks – the familiar (and often unfamiliar) materials that come together to create something entirely new. For me, I am endlessly beguiled by the way in which a singular material can, not only be so versatile in its use, but also add nuances to a fragrance that are so far removed from the material when experienced in isolation. One could call this magic, but it’s not, it’s chemistry, and perfumery is a fusion between art and science, where the latter is used to convey meaning and emotion from the medium of smell.
For me it’s always been the synthetics that hold more interest than the naturals. Without synthetic materials (incl. isolates, captives and aroma chemicals) modern perfumery would smell a heck of a lot different. We just wouldn’t have the perfumes that we’ve had for the last 100 years or so – what we’d have is inconsistent naturals that, due to their own density and complexity, often lead to an opaque soup when blended together. Synthetics give the space and definition to these materials allowing them to compliment, contrast and extend each other. They pull the naturals apart and bring new dimensions into play.
One of my favourite synthetic materials is Ambroxan. OK, so it’s not a fancy material, nor is it a particularly expensive one. It doesn’t take 3,000 years to mature under moonlight on an exotic island. No, it doesn’t have to be expressed from the anal glands of unicorns (perfumery has always had a weird fascination with the contents of animal butts, tell me I’m wrong) by golden-locked virgins in the dead of night. But it is an incredibly useful and popular material, and it finds way into many modern fragrances in both prominent, and stealthy ways. I see it as a bit of a ninja – it swoops in quietly, bringing dimension and space to dense compositions allowing them to expand, giving them tremendous lift but also a fascinating mineral facet. To put it simply, Ambroxan is ‘the nuts’.
I have a weird little rule when it comes to reviewing fragrances: I don’t wear a fragrance until I’ve photographed it, after which I can spray on as much as I like in anticipation of the written part of my review. I’m not saying I don’t have a cheeky little spray before the shots are taken, but I definitely make sure that the bottle remains mostly full. Why is this, you may be wondering? Well, it simply looks better when the bottle is full, so it’s purely for aesthetic reasons. Anything for the perfect shot, right?
Well, in the case of Eau de Citron Noir, the latest addition to Hermès’ Cologne Collection, I broke my own rule. This happened casually and regularly and I found myself not only sneaking a spritz here and there, but also giving the scent numerous full wearings. Perhaps it’s just the good weather we’ve been having, or maybe there is something irresistible about it. Whatever the reason, you may notice in the photos that the bottle is not 100% full. I’m sure you’ll find it in your hearts to forgive me.
Eau de Citron Noir is Perfumer Christine Nagel’s second cologne for Hermès (the first being 2016’s Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate). They describe it as showcasing “The striking and explosive vitality of citrus fruits combined with the depth of subtle smoky and woody notes of black lime.” That all sounds rather tempting, doesn’t it? Not to mention the fact that that deep blue bottle is heave on Earth…
I’ve become a bit obsessed with working out. 12 months ago I worked out once approximately every, well, 12 months. Now I’m on a regular cycle of six workouts a week. The transformation in my physical and mental health has been tremendously positive and I generally feel much better about how I look, and how I feel, despite the fact that I still have a long way to go to meet my goals. So every week I run 5K twice (not bad for someone who previously despised running), do two days of weights, one day of core strength and on my sixth day, a mixture of all of these things dependent on my mood. I may ache pretty much all of the time but I feel fantastic for it.
Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’ve turned my life into one of routines. I have routines for working out, for eating, for the clothes I wear (basically EVERYTHING is Superdry, I don’t know why, I must like the colour orange) and for the scented things I use. So, in this article I want to briefly take you though the contents of my gym bag to show you some of the scented (and non-scented) things I swear by. There are things for the skin and for the shower, and of course there’s scent too, because I’m The Candy Perfume Boy and I kind of have a thing for fragrance… Anyway, into the gym bag we go!
“I am free” says Perfumer Christine Nagel as she sits comfortably in the handsomely furnished apartment above Hermès’ New Bond Street store in London. Nagel is here to talk us through the five new fragrances she has created as in-house Perfumer at Hermès. The five are her first additions to the Hermessence collection, a series of olfactory haikus created by her predecessor Jean-Claude Ellena. Nagel’s style is somewhat different from Ellena’s – his domain was of watercolours and minerals, wrapped in cerebral, thought-provoking compositions that birthed the Hermès olfactory signature. If Ellena created this signature, then Nagel’s has opened it up to a new-found richness with her more immediate, grander and more voluptuous style. Despite their stylistic differences, the creations by both Ellena and Nagel are undeniably ‘Hermès’ in every way.
Anyway, back to freedom. Christine Nagel has full creative freedom at Hermès and with it she has chosen to create a collection of five oriental fragrances to add to Hermès iconic Hermessence collection. Nagel wanted to return to “the origins of perfumery” to create three Eau de Toilettes and two oil-based Perfume Essences. According to Nagel, when she proposed this to the CEO his answer was simply ‘yes’. So off to the origins of perfumery Nagel travelled, focusing on the noble and historic notes of myrrh, musk, agar wood and cedar, with which she has created five distinct fragrances that celebrate the styles of the orient in a way that is truly and faithfully ‘Hermès’.
I’m always crushing on something scented or other. My nose knows no limits. Candy Crush is where I showcase the beautifully scented things I’m crushing on right now so you can hopefully develop a crush too.
I’ll be entirely honest and say that Twilly d’Hermès was a bit of a grower for me. Launched as an obvious attempt to court a new, younger customer, the fragrance, which was inspired by the brand’s famous Twilly scarves, was the first pillar from Hermès new in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. It is a very exuberant offering from the brand, with a giant shock of fresh ginger up top and a fresh, waxy tuberose note over a soft bed of sandalwood and musk. I thought it was cool last summer when I reviewed it but it wasn’t until the winter that I fell in love. Twilly and her quirky ginger-tuberose vibes are on regular rotation in my scent wardrobe, so imagine my excitement when I heard that Hermès were launching a range of accompanying body products. I died (figuratively, of course).