Hermes Eau de Narcisse Bleu and Eau de Mandarine Ambree : Perfume Reviews

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When I reviewed Annick Goutal colognes recently, I mentioned that the trio would be great for those who are new to this fresh citrusy genre. The Hermès cologne collection would be my other recommendation. You can have a cologne flight starting from the champagne dryness of Eau d’Orange Verte and continuing with the white wine effervescence of Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. If you’re ready to try something more challenging, Eau de Gentiane Blanche offers a cocktail of green peppers and milky sap oozing from dandelions.

hermes-cologne

With Eau de Narcisse Bleu and Eau de Mandarine Ambrée having recently joined the collection, you have even more interesting choices. The fragrances round out Hermès’s cologne offerings with the elegant interpretation of spring flowers and sweet citrus. Both fragrances are polished and refined in a way that is typical of most fragrances by Jean-Claude Ellena, and either would be equally suited to both men and women.

As Hermès’s in-house perfumer, Ellena has a rare luxury in today’s fragrance industry of working as perfumers did in the days past–selecting high-grade raw materials, devising scents based on his ideas rather than an impersonal client brief and working closely with the fashion house and its designers. As a result, his fragrances have an immediately obvious fingerprint. To detractors, his etudes are too evanescent and are now increasingly familiar, but to the fans of Hermès (and Ellena’s) style, it’s the attention to detail and quality that are so refreshing in today’s world of mass produced luxury.

Eau de Narcisse Bleu is the most recognizable theme from Ellena which we’ve smelled before in Hermessence Paprika BrasilEau de Gentiane Blanche, and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert. But in this case, I don’t mind encountering the familiar faces (or notes, if you will), because I can’t get enough of anything green. “We want… a shrubbery!” I quote the Head Knight from Monty Python.

And Eau de Narcisse Bleu delivers plenty of foliage. It has a bright top note of green leaves, lemon slices and violet petals, smelling like a freshly tossed salad. Then the iris and orange blossom become more pronounced softening the dark green to chartreuse. As the soft woods and musks fill out the drydown, Eau de Narcisse Bleu turns more wistful. My idiosyncratic preferences  for greens aside, I enjoy this cologne for its graceful character. It smells like spring itself–the cool sweetness of daffodils, the musky richness of rain-soaked earth, the tangy bitterness of young leaves, but it’s tender and mild.  I see myself wearing it all year round, as a perfume equivalent of a crisp white shirt. It’s a perfect daytime fragrance that won’t offend anyone, while keeping you entertained.

I had a more difficult time with Eau de Mandarine Ambrée, although admittedly it’s an intriguing composition. At first, it’s a juicy mandarin orange, combining the sweetness of its flesh and the bitterness of its rind. There is also a sharp tropical fruit note–guava or passion fruit–that gives Eau de Mandarine Ambrée an unexpectedly exotic twist. The sweet amber and vanilla peak through the fruity layers, and as the perfume dries down, it makes me think of a cross between the bitter grapefruit of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune and the powdery vanilla of Shalimar. What I found less appealing was the bitter, almost sulphuric sharpness that reminds me of grapefruit flavored candy.  So, please try it on skin first and give it a thorough test.

Those of us exasperated with the brief longevity of Hermessence fragrances but like the sheer scents, will enjoy the moderate tenacity of both Eau de Narcisse Bleu and Eau de Mandarine Ambrée. (I would recommend at least 3-4 generous sprays.) Their sillage, on the other hand, is excellent.

Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu and Eau de Mandarine Ambrée Eau de Toilette are available in 100ml ($125) and 200 ml ($165) spray bottles. Sold at Hermès boutiques, counters, and online at hermes.com.

Sample: my own acquisition

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66 Comments

  • Lucas: Thank you Victoria for bringing us the review of two new Hermes Colognes.
    Personally I didn’t have much luck with Hermes. I tried a nice part of their offering but none of them was like “oh my, I must have it”
    I’ll be curious to check these two, especially Mandarine Ambree April 16, 2013 at 7:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh well, money saved then! 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Alyssa Harad: I would not mind one bit smelling like that particular tossed salad. Must sniff these, though I’ll be waiting and hoping they bring them out in the usual 15 ml travel size. Go Hermes. April 16, 2013 at 7:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I would love those 15ml travel sizes too, but since I wrote my review over the weekend, I returned yesterday to the boutique and bought a bottle of Eau de Narcisse Bleu as a gift for my husband. (I do plan on stealing some from his bottle time to time).

      Speaking of salad, yesterday I discovered a very interesting new green called ficoide glaciale. It is fleshy, with tiny pockets of liquid all over the leaves and stems that give it an iced look. It’s absolutely delicious too–lemony, crunchy, with a surprisingly delicate texture. April 16, 2013 at 12:16pm Reply

      • The Blue Squid: The salad green you describe sounds tasty, but kind of unsettling.   Are you sure it is not the advance guard of some sort of terrible alien invasion?
        Thank you for the review!  I love cologne, and I will have to paddle off to the Hermes boutique to give these a bash ASAP. April 18, 2013 at 7:33am Reply

        • Victoria: *looks around for aliens* I don’t think so. 🙂 April 18, 2013 at 9:59am Reply

      • Leathermountain: Fascinating plant! Some nice info on it here: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/m/2012/04/crystalline_iceplant_ficoide_glaciale.html
        And for fellow New Yorkers, I found a NYTimes article from 2009 saying it was sold at Eli’s, Grace’s and Agata & Valentina. Maybe too tropical to grow locally? I’ve never seen it at the farmer’s market, but seeds are being sold online. June 20, 2013 at 3:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! I’ve spotted it again at the market the other day, and I couldn’t resist buying a bunch. It’s such an addictive texture. June 20, 2013 at 4:00pm Reply

  • maja: I totally get all the criticism surrounding Ellena’s work and sometimes participate in it. But nevertheless my used up bottles are all Hermes in the end. Maybe because of their clearly unisex character ( I share most of them with my husband). Eau de Narcisse Bleu sounds like something I would enjoy. Cant’ get enough of anything green, too and can’t wait to try it.

    ps. We want… a shrubbery! is a fantastic line 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 8:48am Reply

    • sara: i also complain but one of the bottles i used up completely was kelly caleche. 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: My husband’s fragrance collection (all selected by me) leans heavily towards Hermes. I love Terre d’Hermes on him, and Eau de Narcisse Bleu smells great too. April 16, 2013 at 12:17pm Reply

      • maja: Oh, Terre! My husband has gone through three bottles already. He likes it very much. Recently, I brought a sample of Declaration which he liked, too. Only later did I realize it’s Ellena’s creation. There must be a secret connection 🙂 April 17, 2013 at 3:43am Reply

        • Victoria: My husband liked Declaration too! 🙂 I think that he’s even more of a Jean-Claude Ellena fan than I am. My absolute favorite fragrance on him is The Vert. April 17, 2013 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Nicola: Thank you for referencing one of my favourite Monty Python sketches – The Knights who say Ni! And I’m with them (and you) on the shrubbery (but I’ll pass on the herring!). I have complained occasionally about the fleeting nature of many of M. Ellena’s recent compositions (Osmanthe Yunnan I’m looking at you) but I still want to at least sniff whatever he creates. Eau de Narcisse sounds as if it has my name on. I am so happy to be finally wearing some lighter fragrances, winter in northern Europe seems at last to be in retreat. April 16, 2013 at 8:56am Reply

    • Victoria: “Bring me another shrubbery!” I love this Monty Python scene too, and it always makes me laugh.

      I’ve read interviews with Jean-Claude Ellena in which he explained something about the brief longevity of his fragrances and how it’s something conceptual, but I haven’t been able to overcome my frustration with scents that just vanish within minutes. Plus, Hermessences are too expensive for that. April 16, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

      • Leathermountain: Indeed, I would rather gripe about the price than the evanescence. I don’t fully understand perfume economics, but I’ve read that fashion houses turn a high percentage of their profit from fragrance. Is that true? I don’t really want to underwrite leather goods and clothes that don’t come in my size.

        Perfume exists in the temporal medium. I don’t want permanent perfume any more than I want perfume that evaporates before I can smell it. For me, anything in between is fair game, part of the specific character of a composition.

        Regarding Ellena’s recognizable style: first I will admit that Voyage did strike me as a least-common-denominator of many of his other fragrances. That said, I think that exploring an idea from every angle is a legitimate approach to creative work. The polar opposite would be different for different’s sake — on the whole, perhaps less likely to generate greatness. I suppose I’m repeating my thought about time here: subtle variations, huge stylistic leaps, it’s all fair game to me.

        In any case I’d like to evaluate each work on its own terms. So far, maybe apart from Voyage, I have yet to smell an Ellena that wasn’t worth experiencing.

        Now is it worth money? June 20, 2013 at 3:52pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’ve put it really well, and yes, I can’t agree more. I also prefer something in between. For me, a good perfume has to have a distinctive presence and it has to linger. I also agree that all Hermes perfumes are an interesting discovery, and it’s pleasure to wear and try them. June 20, 2013 at 4:07pm Reply

  • Jenna: Are they in the UK already, do you know? Eau de Narcisse Bleu has my name on it. April 16, 2013 at 9:02am Reply

    • Victoria: I think so. They’ve been sold at the boutique in Brussels since the beginning of the month. April 16, 2013 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Lauren: Lovely review!! And the Monty Python quote made me giggle! Cute 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I’m glad I could make you smile with that reference. April 16, 2013 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Heather: I want a shrubbery too! I haven’t been so excited by a new launch in months. Eau de Narcisse Bleu sounds like it has the potential to become my spring/summer staple this year. Thanks for the lovely reviews! April 16, 2013 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: I must have been living under a rock, because I didn’t even hear about the new colognes until I saw them displayed at the windows of the Hermes boutique here in Brussels. That stopped me in my tracks, and of course, I had to investigate. 🙂 I do like the original cologne trio very much, and these two are good additions. April 16, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

  • sara: thank you for making me smile today. just want to say thank you because you’re here. i needed something like this today. April 16, 2013 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your kind words, Sara! We seek comfort in whatever ways we can, even if it’s something as seemingly frivolous as perfume. April 16, 2013 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Jennifer: +1 for Monty Python reference. Lol. I haven’t tried any of the Hermes colognes but the narcisse sounds interesting. April 16, 2013 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: I need to watch it movie tonight! 🙂

      If you like colognes, but want something more unusual, I recommend checking the whole collection out. I know that Hermessence line has many fans (and I like some scents in it too), but I prefer the cologne collection to it. April 16, 2013 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Samantha: Bulgari Eau The Vert is my holy grail perfume (he he, pun intended, you’ve quoted from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). I’m really curious to sniff Eau de Narcisse Bleu. April 16, 2013 at 10:03am Reply

    • Victoria: Your comment made me laugh out loud. 🙂 Ok, then, you should try Eau de Narcisse Bleu for sure. I also love Eau Parfumee au The Vert, and it’s in the same ballpark. April 16, 2013 at 12:29pm Reply

  • Leah: I love the understated complexity of Ellena’s creations for Hermes – they feel like grab and go fragrances but they unravel so beautifully. These sound like great warm weather fragrances. I love Gentiane Blanche – such an odd bitterness and you described it perfectly – dandelion stems! Evevn though it is a sophisticated fragarnce, it reminds me of childhood summers April 16, 2013 at 10:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I know exactly what you mean! It makes me think of rolling in the grass with my cousins and blowing the fuzz off dandelions. 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Austenfan: My favourite bits of Holy Grail are the French Taunting and the discussion about swallows, coconuts and whether or not swallows or coconuts are migratory. Thanks for reminding me of that bit of British absurdity!
    The colognes sound wonderful. I would love a set of all of them in smaller bottles. I love Orange Verte, and liked both the Gentiane and Pamplemousse when I tried them. Ellena’s creations sort of sneak up on me. I may not be wowed by them when I first put them on, but wearing them more often, they have a way of worming themselves into my affection. April 16, 2013 at 10:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I also love “It’s just a flesh wound.” That whole movie is full of such absurd, as you well put it, snippets, but they are so hysterical.

      I’m sure that those who enjoy Pamplelune would like Eau de Mandarine Ambree too. I have decided recently that as much as I admire Pamplelune, I simply can’t wear it. April 16, 2013 at 12:33pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I should get a bottle of Pamplelune, I just get this wonderful grapefruity rose. Is it too sulphuric to you?

        The black knight bit is hilarious. Especially when the black knight proposes to call it a draw after King Arthur has chopped off both his arms and legs! April 16, 2013 at 1:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: On me, it just smells sweaty and sharp. I don’t get the same pungent note on the blotter, so unfortunately, it must be my skin chemistry. But if Pamplelune works as well on you as it does on one of my friends, it can be downright sexy. April 16, 2013 at 2:17pm Reply

  • OperaFan: I came to Monty Python late, but the husband can quote the entire Holy Grail movie script from start to finish, and of course, we HAD to see Spamalot on B’way!
    Guess I’m with you and the rest of the green/shrubbery-loving crowd and Narcisse Bleu has MY name written all over it. Incidentally, I’m trying Futur on for the first time today and just loved that sharp, stemmy green opening…

    Cheers! April 16, 2013 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Did you enjoy Spamalot? 🙂

      The shrubbery loving folks like us don’t have too many choices, because most people don’t enjoy too much green in their perfumes. I also loved the green stemmy intro to Futur, although the drydown took an unpleasant turn on me. April 16, 2013 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Natalia: Thank you very much for the review, Victoria 🙂

    I am a huge fan of Ellena’s style, in fact, I’d probably state that he is my favorite contemporary perfumer. I love the paleness, the tranquility, the intraverted and unisex nature of his work. It’s sort of an olfactory portrait of myself, an olfactiry expression of who I am. Really, if I had my own personal perfumer, I would ask him to create exactly these kinds of fragrances. I hope JCE’s career will continue blossoming for years to come.

    Certainly looking forward to trying the new colognes! April 16, 2013 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like his fragrances for their approachable demeanor and quality. Occasionally I gripe that I’ve smelled some of the new Hermes fragrances before, but you have to admit that a house with a distinctive style is becoming a rarity. Anyway, these colognes won’t change the opinions of those who don’t like Ellena’s style, but his fans will enjoy trying them. April 16, 2013 at 12:40pm Reply

  • Dovey: Hi Victoria,

    I’ve been hoping to see your review ever since word surfaced about Eau de Narcisse Bleu and Eau de Mandarine Ambrée! I really enjoy Hermès fragrances — and these florals / citruses sound right up my alley. I will have to do my best to seek them out!

    Incidentally, I enjoyed the ‘shrubbery’ comment quite a bit 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂

      If you like Hermes perfumes, then definitely try them. They’re very much along the line of Ellena’s other fragrances, although Eau de Mandarine Ambree is a touch more voluptuous. I really expected something sheer, but I was surprised by its curves. Too bad, it didn’t work on me at all. April 16, 2013 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Figuier: I love the Hermes colognes, especially the Eau D’Orange Verte, & can’t wait to try Narcisse Bleu. I’ve been wearing old Eau Sauvage cologne I found at my parents’ and enjoying it vastly…aromatic, bitter salad-leaf loveliness is definitely in tune with this lovely late spring. April 16, 2013 at 12:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: They also had Eau D’Orange Douce as a limited edition a few years ago, and it was very nice. But I don’t miss it too much now that it’s gone, especially when there are so many other great orange scented choices.

      I know exactly what you mean when you say that you find the old Eau Sauvage salad-y. Basil, lemon, tarragon–it’s quite a vinaigrette. 🙂 I love it! April 16, 2013 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Beth: Victoria, I always enjoy (and dread) reading your reviews. Dread because my sample list at STC is getting out of control. This one is especially bad because lately I’ve been going note/theme crazy. I just finished ordering 10 oud scent samples last month and now I’m curious about greens. I’ve been challenging myself to try a genre/note that I’d previously said “nope, don’t like that” without a whole lot of exploration. So your shrubbery comment had me giggling, then going ‘hmmmmmm’.

    PS, The holy hand grenade of Antioch, and the coconut clopping are pretty much my favorite parts 😉 April 16, 2013 at 1:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Bravo for testing your boundaries this way, Beth! Overdoing those sample orders can be dangerous, but even if you smell a couple of new challenging perfumes every now and then, it will already be fun.

      Greens is a great category! I’m not sure where you live and what you have available in the way of perfume shops, but even the mall and Sephora can be good hunting grounds. Hermes Eau d’Orange Verte, Marc Jacobs Ivy cologne, Chanel No 19 and Cristalle are found easily (so, no need to buy samples!) April 16, 2013 at 2:23pm Reply

      • Beth: thanks Victoria! I’ll check those out! April 17, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

  • Elena: I’m going to have to search Narcisse Bleu out. Green and Ellena? My wallet is creaking open already. April 16, 2013 at 1:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a dangerous combination for me as well! 🙂 April 16, 2013 at 2:28pm Reply

  • carole macleod: These sound just beautiful! I wonder if the Narcisse has a good narcissus note-I love original Je Reviens, for the narcissus note. Never found anything that compares to that particular note, for me. I love Gentiane Blanc. And oddly enough i have worn the Pamplelune fragrance with Shalimar-one on wrists, the other on ankles. It was a good experience to be covered in head to toe Guerlain but I liked both fragrances on their own rather than mixed. I cannot wait to try them-thank you for sharing this news, on a lovely spring day!
    Sincerely,
    Carole April 16, 2013 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I notice narcissus because I looked for it, and with such a name, it’s hard not to be influenced. But to me, it really has a tinge of narcissus sweetness, such as what you get when you smell the flowers and notice also the scent of their leaves and earth caked stems. April 16, 2013 at 2:29pm Reply

      • carole macleod: Leaves and earth caked stems???? I might not hace cracked before, but now I have to yield to its charms! April 16, 2013 at 4:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: I would love to hear your thoughts when you get to try it! It’s an unexpectedly romantic scent for me, since it evokes such spring-like images. April 16, 2013 at 5:45pm Reply

  • Jillie: Thank you for writing about these – the Eau de Narcisse sounds like exactly my sort of thing (you are a temptress)! I am so excited and can’t wait to try it. The notes seem reminiscent of Miller Harris’s Jasmin Vert, which is a great favourite of mine; do you know it, and would you think them similar? April 16, 2013 at 1:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that someone else can pitch in about Jasmin Vert, because I’ve tried it such a long time ago that I don’t remember it. Based on my recollection, I would say that they are different. Eau de Narcisse Bleu is really more like Eau Parfumee au The Vert with more iris/violet and more crunchy greens. How does Jasmin Vert smell to you? April 16, 2013 at 2:31pm Reply

      • Jillie: I would say that JV is green, but not “crunchy”. It’s also not really jasmine! And certainly not a heavy, indolic jasmine. To me it smells a lot like narcissus, but is softened with other notes like rose and violet leaves. It mellows into a light green/white musk with a mere whisper of sandalwood. April 17, 2013 at 1:31am Reply

        • Victoria: I wanted to add that Eau de Narcisse Bleu on the whole is quite soft, rather than sharply green, but when you get up close, you notice its spring-like, green notes.

          Jasmin Vert sounds like something I should like, so I’m going to look for a sample. Thank you for mentioning it! April 17, 2013 at 3:07am Reply

  • perfumekev: I can’t wait to try these. I really loved the Gentian Blanc. Then agian I really havent found a Jean Claude Ellena fragrance -begining with Eau de Campagne , to Jour that hasn’t worked for me. Like many others I find my self buying refill bottles since my partner and I wear them very often. I have also had to gift a few to friends who fall in love with one of his perfumes.

    I think the man is more than brilliant, we are lucky that he is alowed to be so prolific since we all benifit from his fantastic concoctions. April 16, 2013 at 4:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even if I’m not in love with all of his fragrances, I admire his work. Like you, I’ve noticed that perfume newbies among my friends tend to appreciate his fragrances. They’re easy to like, but they have enough nuance to keep their interest. April 16, 2013 at 5:49pm Reply

  • poodletwins: Love the shrubberies! Thats one of the notes im exploring this spring. The JCE Garden series piqued my interest in the perfume rabbit hole. You explain it exactly. The quality and imprint shine through at the mainstream countertops. And for that, i will give him kudos, luring me into this wonderful escape. April 16, 2013 at 6:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: You said it so well! Un Jardin Sur le Nil and Un Jardin en Mediterranee (and not Hermes, but Bulgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert) are the perfumes I usually recommend to my friends. My husband is already on his second bottle of Eau Parfumee au The Vert, and I just love the way it smells on him.

      Two perfumes I didn’t care about from the recent Hermes releases were Kelly Caleche and Voyage, but even so, they’re nicely done. April 17, 2013 at 3:13am Reply

  • Emma M: I’ve yet to find one of the Hermes cologne series that’s really ‘me’ – I find them nicely done, but just not that exciting. Disappointing, as I do admire Ellena and like the Hermes line.

    Narcisse Bleu sounds lovely though, so both of these will go on the ‘to try’ list – and while I’m at the Hermes counter, I’ll revisit gentian blanche and pamplemousse rose to see if my perceptions have changed. And I’m sure I have a long neglected sample of Orange Vert somewhere, that I really should dig out… April 17, 2013 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s worth trying, of course, but I think that if you aren’t a fan of Hermes colognes so far, you probably won’t change your opinion. Eau de Mandarine is somewhat more voluptuous, but both of them are as sheer as the rest of the collection. April 17, 2013 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Dionne: Victoria, quoting Monty Python? Well that just made my day! 🙂 I’ll look out for these the next time I’m in the Bay (they finally started carrying the non-Hermessences, yay!). Right now I’m working through the Merveilles iterations. April 18, 2013 at 4:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Dionne, don’t get me started with quoting Monty Python! 🙂 I love them!

      Eau des Merveilles, along with its variations, is great. Eau Claire is a perfectly elegant, but tender and mellow fragrance. Ambre smells autumnal and warm. The original is still my favorite though. April 19, 2013 at 2:32am Reply

  • eminere: Love the bottles in this series but I just can’t get over the font they’ve used (is it Verdana?). It looks so cheap and just ruins the overall look. April 19, 2013 at 1:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: It doesn’t look like Verdana to me, but I’m not a font expert. I actually like it. April 19, 2013 at 3:52pm Reply

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