Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The refreshing crispness of classical cologne with its brilliant citrus-woods accord and the uncluttered simplicity of its composition can belie a mesmerizing richness. One only needs to experience Guerlain Eau de Cologne Imperiale or Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien to understand how alluring a cologne can be on a hot summer day. Or, for that matter, on a freezing winter morning when reminders of spring are so welcome. At the same time, even more interesting are modern interpretations seeking abstraction where classical tradition relied on nature. For this reason, Hermes Cologne Trio was an anticipated launch for me, including as it did the classical Eau d’Orange Verte as well as modern renditions such as Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Eau de Gentiane Blanche.
The original in the series, Eau de Cologne Verte/Eau d’Orange Verte, was created in 1979 by perfumer Francoise Caron. A cologne married with the mossy chill of a chypre, Eau d’Orange Verte maintained a beautiful citrusy effervescence, underscored with the slight dryness of lemon peel and patchouli. Yet, the composition seemed to skirt the edge of harshness, with the bitterness of citrus peel adding a jarring note. In this light, I much prefer the newly rebalanced version, which is more luminous and elegant. The juicy mélange of citrus notes, from Seville orange to mandarin, is rendered bright and lively, while the moody darkness of the base only serves to highlight the overall vibrancy.
The most avant-garde of the trio, Eau de Gentiane Blanche is a curious juxtaposition of dry woods and stemmy greens. In a sense, it is a weightier, richer take on Paprika Brasil, which I dismissed as bland when I first tried it three years ago. Eau de Gentiane Blanche, on the other hand, is a revelation, as it fills in gaps that Paprika Brasil leaves open. The vegetal richness of leaves and twigs set against the luxurious backdrop of musky iris is captivating and memorable. The composition oscillates between the photorealism of a classical cologne and a modern abstraction, and this dissonance creates a memorable effect.
Eau de Gentiane Blanche is my favorite fragrance from the trio, given its unconventional allure, but fans of Jean Claude Ellena will find much to love in the scintillating Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. Sure, it would be a familiar composition to anyone who has followed Ellena’s creations closely over the years. From its green basil and grapefruit top to the base of fresh woods, Eau de Pamplemousse Rose echoes Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again as well as Hermessence Rose Ikebana. Yet, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and Eau de Pamplemousse Rose delights with its smiling, uplifting loveliness. The juicy, tart and ever so slightly bitter grapefruit accord is reason enough to revisit this fragrance again and again.
Eau d’Orange Verte includes notes of orange, mandarin, lemon, mint, along with black currant, oak moss and patchouli. Eau de Gentiane Blanche is composed of white musk, gentiane root, iris and incense. Eau de Pamplemousse Rose interprets the theme with notes of lemon, orange, pink grapefruit, and rhubofix (rhubarb-floral Firmenich aroma molecule,) rose and vetiver.