Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The trend of bespoke perfumery which has been growing steadily over the past few years has never interested me much. After all, almost the entire classical Guerlain line feels as if it were custom made to reflect my taste, from the bittersweet beauty of Après l’Ondée to the windswept elegance of Sous Le Vent. Yet, if I were to name my ideal fragrance, it would be Hermès Doblis. Its soft and gilded presence is always perfect, notwithstanding my mood or the occasion for which it can be worn. The harmony of the composition is almost mesmerizing. From the camomile accented aldehydic top notes that brush like warm sand against the skin to the supple leather base, Doblis never loses its luminousity. If it were music, Doblis would be Beethoven’s Cello Suites. If it were a painting, Doblis would be Raphael’s Fornarina. …
Doblis was created in 1955 by Guy Robert, a perfumer whose portfolio is quite dazzling : Hermès Equipage and Calèche, Christian Dior Dioressence, Madame Rochas, Gucci No 1, Amouage Gold, and several hundred others. Its birth foreshadowed the establishment of Parfums Hermès ; previously the Hermès company was renowned for saddlery, silk and luxury leather goods. With the launch of Parfums Hermès and the debut of the beautiful Calèche, Doblis sank into oblivion. Yet, in 2004, the company brought it back to life with the help of Guy Robert’s son, François Robert (the creator of many Les Parfums de Rosine fragances and Lanvin Vétyver).
The reformulated Doblis is just as breathtaking as its original counterpart. Its graceful form exemplifies the best of the French perfumery tradition—seamless orchestration, effortless elegance, and understated seduction. Its aldehydic top notes which are marked with Guy Robert’s polished touch fall onto a silky floral heart. The warmth of camomile is a perfect ornamentation for the rich rose, accenting its honeyed facets and balancing out the sweetness. The leather base is simply exquisite—tender and buttery like a calfskin glove, seductive like a sip of cognac and lustrous like a pearl. The leather is blended with woods, musk and moss, resulting in the weightless foundation for the rose-jasmine heart of Doblis.
While the mossy chill of Doblis recalls the refined beauty of Calèche, the smoldering animalic notes give the composition a completely different character. Doblis seems to straddle the line between a handsome classical chypre and a sumptuous woody oriental, presenting different aspects of its arrangement as time goes on. Doblis almost imperceptibly transforms from breezy airiness to seductive darkness. Revisiting it only heightens my love for Doblis, its beauty serving as a perfect antidote to the daily routine.
Doblis used to be sold at select Hermès boutiques, though right now auction houses are the best places to find it.
Photo of striking 1955 Doblis edition via Jaime L.