Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Hermès Eau des Merveilles, created by Ralf Schwieger (the nose behind Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose) and Nathalie Feisthauer for Hermès in 2004, is a fragrance that catches by surprise. From the first accord, it vacillates between reflecting either the translucent amber and delicately sweet tobacco or sweet glow of citrus. Intertwined with the scintillating central accord is lily of the valley. The floral aspect is rather subtle, resembling a crushed flower stem caught in the driftwood on the beach, however it lends an interesting facet.
An inky note appears in the heart of the composition, and although slightly sharp at first, it develops into salty undercurrent, touched by dry peppery warmth. The base notes glow through the translucent layers, creating a scent of sand and sun warmed skin, which remains rather subtle. The winey veil of ambergris is touched by a lush whisper of hyacinth, which is elusive, yet during certain moments, its sweetness appears suddenly, caressing and seductive, only to fold back into the base accords.
Where Eau des Merveilles is punctuated by the green coldness of lily of the valley, Parfum des Merveilles, which has debuted in the fall of 2005, has a warmer feel. The winey warmth that gives Eau des Merveilles its elegant twist is amplified in the extrait de parfum. The smooth cognac-like sweetness runs in a rich wave under the jeweled citrusy veil. Yet, the citrus is closer to candied variety than to fresh zest, which suits the composition well. Its dark woody notes become more pronounced as the fragrance develops, following similar patterns as Eau des Merveilles, but reinterpreting each point as darker and richer. While Eau des Merveilles is a scent of sun warmed skin, Parfum des Merveilles evokes a vision of driftwood covering the water’s edge on the solitary beach. In order to so, it does not resort to the typical marine notes. Instead, the salty undercurrent provides an elegant counterpoint that acts as an olfactory surprise against the warm notes, recalling a sensation of biting into a piece of salt water taffy.
Notes include elemi, bitter orange, Italian lemon, Indonesian pepper, pink pepper, “ambergris accord”, oakwood, cedarwood, vetiver, balsam of Peru, benzoin. Notice the lovely Serge Mansau designed bottle that is ornamented with silver stars and glitter against orange background. Eau des Merveilles and Parfum des Merveilles are available from Hermès boutiques, Neiman Marcus as well as other selected retailers. The former can also be easily obtained from various online stores.