There are a few perfume ‘genres’ that I have never really ‘got’: green, woody and amber. Well, with time (and through this blog) I’ve learned to appreciate green and to love woods, but for the most part amber still eludes me. Amber, for those of you not familiar with it, is a blend of benzoin (a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of a number of trees within the Styrax genus), labdanum (a sticky brown resin sourced from shrubs) and vanilla that creates a warm, glowing sweetness that is soft, fluffy and gauzy in texture. It is the backbone of big oriental fragrances such as Shalimar, but it’s also used as a standalone theme in many modern perfumes.
More than being an iconic perfume genre, the amber is also the perfect scent for this cold weather. I like to think of ambers as winter warmers – those gloriously toasty and enveloping scents that get stuck in one’s winter scarf, wafting a hedonistic aura around the wearer. So as the winter draws in, it makes sense for everyone to have an amber in their wardrobe. But what happens when you don’t really like amber? Or, you think that you don’t like amber?
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?
Happy new year to you, Dear Reader. I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas involving lots of fragrant gifts and that your new year was a ball. 2016 will be The Candy Perfume Boy’s fifth year and it feels like the blog has come a long way since our very first post (a review of the ill-fated but remarkably beautiful Shalimar Parfum Initial, no less) back in July of 2011. Last year was a stressful year for me personally, due to work, the loss of a friend and an exciting, yet complicated house move, and it would be fair to say that my posts have not been as regular as they should have. I hope to change this for 2016 with more regular reviews and instalments in series such as The Scent a Celebrity Series and The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to. Here goes!
One thing I’d like to do is look back a bit more. The perfume industry is so active, with thousands of launches each and every year, and it’s very easy to get caught up in all that’s new and exciting. So when there is time and the mood strikes, I’d like to focus on fragrances that aren’t brand new, but are wonderful none the less. Kicking us off on that theme are two recent discoveries for me from the legendary niche house L’Artisan Parfumeur. These two scents, Tea for Two and Bois Farine, show how meticulous and measured the brand was during its more focused days. L’Artisan seem to have been seeking an identity for themselves over the last few years and have created some exquisite scents along the way (Séville à l’aube, Traversée du Bosphore, Déliria, Al Oudh, Nuit de Tuberéuse etc.), but the greatness of the some of the oldies in the collection cannot be ignored. Tea for Two and Bois Farine are two standouts.
In this new series, I put together a quarterly overview of five of my favourite fragrant subjects that have been piquing my interest over the last three months. These items can be individual perfumes, brands or houses, genres or even themes that have been taking my fancy. They can even include other books, bottles and other blogs that have been keeping me entertained. There are no rules. Well, there are three rules with this series; 1) the subjects must be linked to fragrance somehow (a rule that I’m allowed to bend); and 2) the hitlist is to be published towards the end of each quarter; and 3) the list must include my favourite things, as if I were a fragrant sort-of Oprah.
So, now we’re heading towards the end of March what’s topping my hitlist for quarter one of 2015?
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.