Hermes Kelly Caleche : Perfume Review

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Kellycaleche

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

I finally had to admit to myself that Hermès Kelly Calèche disappointed me. It did not deliver on the promise to evoke the prized soft leather of Hermès bags, which naturally possess a subtle floral accent; nor was the signature of genius perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena fully obvious in the final result. The fragrance in my mind was glorious, the scent on my skin turned out but a pale shadow of it.

Released in 2007, Kelly Calèche was meant to be the first feminine leather fragrance in the Hermès collection. This is, of course, not quite the case–Doblis created in 1955 by Guy Robert came first. Alas, it has been discontinued for years, experiencing only a brief reintroduction in 2004. Although referencing the original Calèche (1961), Kelly Calèche was not to be seen as a flanker to this great classic. It was instead to be Ellena’s take on Hermès’ “leather soft as a peach,” an allusion to Jean Giono’s Jean le Bleu, and its passage about “making soles in angel leather.” Indeed, Ellena, who is responsible for the poetic Hermèssence collection and the strikingly beautiful Terre d’Hermès, would be the best perfumer to render any leather as “angelic.”

The shimmery citrus top notes provide a beautiful prologue to Kelly Calèche, before they lose their jewel-like shimmer in the soft floral heart. Then the story goes on several tangents, with the leather never gaining the center stage, remaining merely a demi-caractère. It is not that Kelly Calèche lacks beauty. The fragrance is certainly as elegant and refined as any other Hermès perfumes. Yet, in contrast to the recent Hermès launches, Kelly Calèche lacks clarity. The limpid mossy drydown is my least favorite part of the fragrance. I cannot describe the effect by any other word other than “muddled,” since the development of the fragrance does not follow the beautiful progression I typically find in Ellena’s compositions. With the core of a fragrance being murky, the entire composition loses its allure. Moreover, without understanding the message the perfumer intended, one cannot be moved on an emotional level. Unfortunately, this is the case of Kelly Calèche for me.

Kelly Calèche includes notes of leather, iris, mimosa, tuberose, lily of the valley. In 2009, the Eau de Parfum was added to the collection. The EDP includes notes of rose, violet, lambskin, leather, and vanilla. It plays up the floral notes of the original EDT, and this makes for a lovely effect—more floral than leather, but somehow more coherent and clear than the original. Pure perfume was launched in 2008, and it is composed of iris, jasmine, mimosa, tuberose, leather, and benzoin. Heavier yet on florals than the EDP, it also possesses a subtle oriental balsamic facet, which is interesting. Out of three formulations, my favorite is the EDP.

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33 Comments

  • violetnoir: Ouch! I was hoping Kelly Caleche would pay homage to my favorite fragrant jewel from Hermes, Doblis. It does not even come close to the sensuous, womanly feel of Doblis. What a shame!

    Hugs! July 16, 2009 at 11:49am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: R, I would give anything to have a reissue of Doblis, but I fear that it might reappear in such an attenuated form that it would defeat the purpose.
    And while we are at it, the first feminine leather for Hermes was Doblis! July 16, 2009 at 1:03pm Reply

  • MJ: Wanted to love this one, but it was just “there” on the skin. It didn’t go any place. I completely agree about it’s inability to evoke any emotion. “Muddled” is a good description. It reminded me of a too vigorous mixing of beautiful paint colors that end up that horrible brown/gray. By the way, why the pink? I am always influenced by the color of the juice. Do you think it would have had a different effect in a diffirent color, say, tan or clear? July 16, 2009 at 11:17pm Reply

  • Sveta: I got a bottle of Kelly Caleche for my birthday, and I wore it at first every day, but after a while I got bored with it. It’s not as memorable as some other Hermes fragrances. July 17, 2009 at 9:44am Reply

  • Clara M: Paradoxically, this review makes me want to smell Kelly Caleche! July 17, 2009 at 12:16pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I remember trying Kelly Cache a while back. I don’t remember what i thought of it (which probably says it all..:)). July 17, 2009 at 1:29pm Reply

  • sweetlife: If the scent was so lovely in your mind, it seems clear to me what the next step is, dear genius V…

    😉

    Thinking about this just a little more–I wonder if you find almost-but-not-quite scents like this inspiring, in a way? I find I am sometimes inspired to write by books that don’t quite meet my expectations in some way. They make it possible for me to see where I might contribute (and they make me feel that a flawed, but enjoyable product is sometimes just as valuable as perfect, but unapproachable one…) July 19, 2009 at 9:34am Reply

  • Luminous Phenomena: On me, the leather of Kelly Calèche blooms into the scent of sun warmed leather gloves holding roses. I wish it did this for you, V. I find it very lovely. July 19, 2009 at 8:38pm Reply

  • scentaddict: well i haven’t sniffed this.so i cannot give any comments yet- but if it turned out to be a dissapointment,thats a big shme – i was hoping for a new and glorious angels leather accord! July 20, 2009 at 8:03am Reply

  • scentaddict: well i haven’t sniffed this.so i cannot give any comments yet- but if it turned out to be a dissapointment,thats a big shme – i was hoping for a new and glorious angels leather accord! July 20, 2009 at 8:03am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: MJ, I wonder… The color was actually pretty as a part of the whole packaging scheme. However, tan would be lovelier, in my opinion. July 20, 2009 at 9:11am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, I wore it on and off trying to understand it, but I think that I have now given up. July 20, 2009 at 9:11am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Clara, you should definitely smell it! You might have a different opinion. July 20, 2009 at 9:12am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Lavanya, yes, it does! 🙂 July 20, 2009 at 9:12am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Alyssa, you are right, things that are not quite there are often inspiring in many ways. Consider, Coty Chypre and Guerlain Mitsouko. Chypre was magnificent, but very rough and almost barbaric. Guerlain took that idea and polished it. There are so many examples like this.

    What I find most interesting about Kelly Caleche are its various separate elements, citrusy top, floral heart, mossy-chypre accord… July 20, 2009 at 9:16am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Luminous Phenomena, what a beautiful image! Thank you for sharing. Now I will be looking for a fragrance with that idea! July 20, 2009 at 9:16am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Scentaddict, well, now I am looking forward to Ellena’s next work for Hermes. I am sure that there will be plenty of interesting things. July 20, 2009 at 9:17am Reply

  • scentaddict: Dear BDJ, as someone who creates fragrances myself( i am based in Nigeria and self taught) i know how hard it can be living up to peoples expectations all the time.

    People have different tastes and preferences, however when a perfumer of the likes of JCE creates a scent one always seems to expect another great classic of the likes of Van cleef’s first!.
    When evaluating other brands perfumes it’s like trading places with the consumers’ for once

    Anyway as you have said lets hope there will be more interesting stuff coming from him in the future- fingers crossed! July 21, 2009 at 8:33am Reply

  • carmencanada: I find Kelly Calèche to be a good rendition of water-gorged petals — and by that, I mean flowers in a puddle — but as for leather, not so good. I know it comes out on many people, and I think that promise of leather was a source of great disappointment to the ones who didn’t elicit that note…
    I guess I’ve pretty much given in on it too, but as always, I’ll be up there to smell the next JCE early next year. July 21, 2009 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Scentaddict, you are absolutely right! It is hard to live up to other people’s expectations, and we always are more critical of those we hold in high esteem. 🙂 July 22, 2009 at 11:02am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: D, flowers in a puddle is an apt description! I just cannot get past that muddy mossy drydown. Otherwise, I really like certain facets of the composition. July 22, 2009 at 11:03am Reply

  • ppr: Smelled great and interesting on paper, not so great actually on me. Not much leather there. Oh well. July 26, 2009 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Tara C: I too was disappointed by Kelly Caleche. It intrigues me, but I don’t enjoy wearing it. I keep the bottle just to sniff it in the air once in a while. July 28, 2009 at 2:11pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: PPR, yes, I did not get much leather either. Well, in the meantime I can enjoy my Cuir de Russie for my leather fix. July 29, 2009 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Tara, I have a large decant on my desk, and I too smell time to time. The reason it took me so long to decide on Kelly Caleche had to do with my inability to give up on it so easily. July 29, 2009 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Freya E: I have found Kelly Caleche to be a really wearable day-time fragrance that smells quite peppery on me and I do get a hit of leather too. However, most people I know seem to prefer Eau de Merveilles instead which I bought at the same time. I think therein lies the beauty of mystery of scent: that one person can dislike it, one can find it blah and someone else can adore it! August 25, 2009 at 11:24am Reply

  • Lissette: OH, I was a die hard Caleche fan, until Kelly. The leather note does tend to tone down quickly, but it is still more multi-layered and richer than Caleche. It has become my favorite, my signature fragrance. September 13, 2009 at 11:42pm Reply

  • hollyc: I found the KC EdP a confusing mishmash of floral notes with absolutely no leather. The EdT however stole my heart. It is no wimpy excuse of a leather fragrance, but rather, grabs you and smacks you with its initial leatheriness (much stronger leather than Bandit). Also too, praise be to the perfume Gods, the leather in this never leaves and is always there as an underpinning to the delicate florals. Although this was marketed to a younger crowd, I find it very sophisticated and restrained. The EdT has good, not great, lasting power of about 3 – 4 hours. I have a hard time NOT reaching for this one in my cluttered perfume cupboard. It’s love. Now, can someone tell me how the extrait treats the leather note? Very curious, since I find the EdP and EdT in this completely different fragrances. February 6, 2011 at 10:59am Reply

  • birkin: I remember trying Kelly Cache a while back. I don’t remember what i thought of it December 28, 2011 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Stanzy: Was your review for the Edt or Edp? August 26, 2013 at 1:41am Reply

    • Victoria: I discuss all versions in this review. September 8, 2013 at 8:24am Reply

  • Nati: Im glad to know that you like the edp a bit more Victoria, I find it very pleasing and its the freshest perfume I can use, for I like sweet powdery scents, or gourmand. For me Kelly Caleche edp is green, fresh and lovely! I think of fresh showers and a waterfall falling on rocks nearby a beach… October 31, 2014 at 8:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, that’s too. So fresh, green, sparkling! November 1, 2014 at 9:06am Reply

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