Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A(I)RISTOCRACY. French masters of equestrian elegance - Hermès - are described as one of the last outposts of true luxury in Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by journalist Dana Thomas (2007). I agree with Ms. Thomas’ assessment – their sense of quality and craft are certainly reflected in the selection of fragrances on offer.

In the Hermessence-line in house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena explores different high quality raw materials in “olfactory poems”. This concept of simple, yet personal and original perfume goes especially well with Mr. Ellena’s trade mark airy “legere” style.

My encounters with this range follow below – beginning with my favorite ones (and continuing in descending order).

Vetivér Tonka: Much like L´Occitanes’ Vetyver this is not a vetiver for the hardcore aficionados of the pungent grass/root. Rather Vetivér Tonka takes a mild and tempered approach to vetiver with soft complementing notes. A slight smokiness does however remain, mingling beautifully with sweet caramelized hazelnuts and mellow tobacco. Official notes include Neroli, Bergamot, Vetiver, Roasted Hazelnuts, Dried Fruit, Cereals and Tonka Bean – but the blend is seamless and mostly radiates of a peppery, clean masculinity.

Vetivér Tonka is an incredibly elegant fragrance. Discreet, yet as sharp as a meticulously tailored grey flannel suit. There are similarities to some of Ellenas’ other work, especially Terre d’ Hermès, but I strongly prefer the crisp and straight forward composition of VT. Liquid sophistication.

Ambre Narguilé: This is gourmand done right. Ambre Narguilé perfectly balances “edible” notes with thought and moderation. The end result is best described as a classy and highly wearable cinnamon apple pie. Boss Bottled from Hugo Boss is a bit in this direction but ultimately ventures into synthetic mess. AN instead excels in its ambition of transparent contemporary oriental with sweet honey, creamy vanilla and smoky dried fruits.

Official notes include benzoin, labdanum, musk, vanilla, caramel, honey, sugared tonka bean, grilled sesame seeds, cinnamon, rum, coumarine and white orchids. Rich, dense and opulent – but never too much. Amazing longevity and decent sillage on this one.

Poivre Samarcande: In some ways Poivre Samarcande feels like a tribute to classic Eau d'Hermès. They definitely share the same “dirty” yet refined vibe – most certainly thanks to cumin. At the same time PS is quite modern and not unlike some othercontemporary stuff out there - I suspect this is due to some usage of Iso-E Super.

For instance Poivre Samarcande is similar, to Bang by Marc Jacobs. Similar but vastly superior. I just love the dry, crackling black pepper and salty leather notes in this. Official notes include black pepper, Chili pepper, Oak, Cedar, Musk and Chinese Moss. Spicy, warm and slightly animalic.

Rose Ikebana: A stunningly bright take on rose. Ellena’s trade mark is instantly recognizable in Rose Ikebana that shares a strong resemblance with Eau de Pamplemousse Rose – especially with a sparkling grapefruit note – but also some similarities to the lovely tartness found in the Jardin-series. A natural, tangy rhubarb adds instant freshness to the dewey and gentle rose petals. The overall feeling is of a moist beautiful garden with plump fruit and lush greenery. Delicate, sheer and extremely wearable for men and women alike. Impossible to dislike. According to others longevity on my skin is far better than I perceived myself. Official notes include rose petals, peony, magnolia, pink peppercorns, grapefruit zest, green rhubarb, vanilla, honey, and black tea.

Paprika Brasil: Beautiful and original, Paprika Brasil is by far the most feminine in the range to my nose. Here dry, powdery and floral iris is paired with austere cedar wood. The result is a chillingly chic blend that I picture to be the perfect choice for formal galas or dinners. For women that is. PB is just too much femme fatale for me –its aroma immediately conjures up images of lipstick and expensive red stilettos in my mind. Official notes include pimento, clove and paprika Iris and green leaves Reseda, ember wood and “woody notes”.

Brin de réglisse: In many ways a departure from the rest of the series. Brin de réglisse is more direct and brutal than it’s siblings. The opening immediately has intense licorice and pungent lavender battling it out before settling into a mellow, creamy base of said notes. Reminds me of a slightly less complex but deeper version of Piguet´s Cravache. Fun but unfortunately very fleeting. Personally I think Eau de réglisse by Caron does this concept more effectively, with better staying power and way cheaper. Official notes include lavender, licorice, orange blossom, hay, incense, vanilla and leather.

Iris Ukioyé: Clean and pleasant iris fragrance. Somewhat more contemporary ambiance compared to Olivia Giacobetti’s masterpiece Hiris from 1999. Competent but ultimately unexciting compared to others in the range.

Vanille Galante: For a lack of better words I would describe this as an “organic” vanilla. Very far from the synthetic vanilla accords that are so commonplace in perfumery of today. Vanille Galant has a fleshy substance to it with some indolic notes. Very vivid and not sweet at all. Think of bitter and smoky vanilla pods together with blossoming orchids and pungent jasmine - original and cool. Floral, sharp and quite feminine.

Osmanthe Yunnan: Someone at Basenotes described this one perfectly as smoky, milky apricot tea. Osmanthe Yunnan is gentle and mild and features a toned down version of that peachy suede accord that is found in many of Serge Luten´s creations. On my skin OY wears a tad too weak - it just doesn’t really take off. Nevertheless a pleasant ride while it lasts. Official notes include: Yunan Tea, Orange, Freesia, Osmanthus, Apricot and Leather.
Year of Launch: 2004-2009
Gender Classification: All are unisex – Vetivér Tonka, Ambré Narguilé, Poivre Samarcande & Un brin de réglisse belong to the more masculine ones.
Longevity & Sillage: Great variations – moderate longevity & sillage as a whole with Ambré Narguilé being the big exception.
Overall rating: 8/10 for the series as a whole.

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