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.