Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li : Perfume Review

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The connection between eyes and nose can play funny tricks. The first time I smelled Hermès’s Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, the most recent release in its ethereal Le Jardin series, I thought that it was “dewy, refined and intriguingly minimalist.” When a couple of weeks later I revisited it during a blind smelling exercise, I was no longer thrilled. “Well, this thing is somewhat dull,” I thought to myself, and I was a little surprised to discover the name of the perfume I was sniffing. Surely, I couldn’t have come to such different conclusions about the same perfume?

hermes le jardin

Hermès is one of the renowned brands on the market, and its fragrances have quality, style and elegance. Simply holding the heavy glass bottle in my hand, I already expect that it will contain all of the above. Unfortunately, selecting perfume based on such preconceived notions will lead to a wardrobe full of expensive designer brands and little to thrill you. The only criterion that matters for finding the right fragrance is whether it gives you a jolt of pleasure. For all of its appealing traits, Le Jardin de Monsieur Li leaves me indifferent.

First, though, a few words on what makes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li a good perfume, and why I still urge you to try it despite my own cool reception. As a fresh, easy to wear cologne, it scores high marks. The sweet citrus rinds are steeped in salty vetiver to suggest a vignette of damp roots, glistening wet leaves and dew covered branches. The mineral, flinty notes give a curious brightness to the perfume, and while there is a fair bit of floral sweetness–jasmine floating on water, Le Jardin settles to an androgynous green woody finish. It’s also versatile. You can as comfortably wear it to a CEO summit (should you have such an occasion) as to a decidedly more bohemian venue. You will project confidence and good taste. You might even receive compliments on your perfume.

This is the main problem I have with Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. It’s overly polished. It’s too perfect. I miss a bit of grit and dirt in this impeccable garden, where I’d worry that a clutz like myself might stumble and ruin some precious flower bed. Smelling Le Jardin de Monsieur Li blindly was a revelation. Although I recognized that it was well-made and sophisticated, it didn’t move me. I was left craving the mossy moodiness of Chanel Pour Monsieur, the zest of Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade or the romantic flair of Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien.

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li won’t be with me for the long haul, but I’m nevertheless sad that Jean-Claude Ellena, its creator, is to leave Hermès. This fragrance is to be his last from the house, and his role as the in-house perfumer will be taken over by Christine Nagel. Ellena is a master of weaving materials in delicate, radiant compositions, and he gave the Hermès collection coherence and a distinctive feel. I look forward to the next chapter in his art.

Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li Eau de Toilette is available in 50 and 100 ml bottles via Hermès boutiques and counters.

If you have any suggestions for interesting fresh colognes, please let me know in the comments.

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121 Comments

  • Karen: Interesting review, and it must have been one of those revelatory (??) moments when you saw it was the same perfume you had enjoyed earlier. I think we can all be influenced by packaging (or else why would designers put their names/initials all over purses and other items). Good to recognize this – and nothing wrong with beautiful packaging, so long as the contents work as beautifully.

    No colognes to suggest, but I’m thinking about getting a bottle of 4711 to keep in the frig for the upcoming sultry and humid days. L’occtaine’s Lemon Verbena is refreshing and affordable. June 1, 2015 at 7:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember a story one colleague told me about smelling with a bunch of perfumers and marketing specialists and giving them a blotter scented with tuberose while intending to give a sample of musk. She didn’t sniff the blotter and kept on talking about it as if about musk, and half of the group nodded along. In other words, we are easily fooled by our minds and expectations. For this reason, I try to smell blindly as much as possible.

      Lemon Verbena shower gel is terrific! June 1, 2015 at 6:06pm Reply

      • Karen: Yes, our brains are really amazing – tests have been done where people will “see” the person they expect to be there if someone else changes places with them (botching the explanation, apologies). And eye-witness testimony can be really unreliable, so it’s understandable if our noses can also misinterpret information. June 2, 2015 at 6:33am Reply

        • Victoria: Like the studies on wine students describing colored white wine as having the attributes of red. Yes, brains are fascinating. June 2, 2015 at 4:19pm Reply

  • Awfulknitter: I was underwhelmed by this too. I adored the opening of rich, complex aromatic citrus and nearly bought a bottle there and then. I was very tempted, being in an airport duty-free shop! Knowing the tendency of Ellena’s fragrances to fade quickly, though, I resisted so that I could see how it developed. And it hardly developed at all! Forty-five minutes later I could hardly smell a thing, such a shame.

    I have been trying some of the 4711 Acqua Colonia range – sets of five assorted 10ml bottles seem to be quite common on eBay. I expected to like Mandarine and cardamon (two things I like so much) but it’s a real damp squib for me, hardly smelling of anything distinctive. The Lemon and ginger one I rather dislike, I don’t get any ginger and the lemon is very boiled sweet-like. Melissa and verbena surprised me (I expected to dislike it) – it is sweetish, floral, and probably granny-friendly. I also think this might be discontinued now, the website seems to list Lime and nutmeg in its place.

    My favourite by a long way is Blood orange and basil, which is richly citrussy and spicy, and has the benefit of being quite long-lasting for a cologne. I am trying to use the prosepct of a full bottle of this to distract myself from wanting a full (and large!) bottle of Bigarade Concentree, which I am utterly in love with. It’s not really a cologne, but then here in the UK we’re not really having a summer yet!

    Oh, if you’re in the mood for a refreshing summery drink (and can overcome your tarragon lemonade addiction, Victoria!), I recently tried La Goudale’s witt (blanche) beer. Straight out of the fridge it has a lovely lemony richness, with a hint of apricot, and after a while in the glass and warming up it also has notes of bitter orange and cocoa nibs. June 1, 2015 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: That beer sounds wonderful. I will be sure to sample it. Meanwhile, my husband tried beer brewing for the first time, and the result is beyond what I expected–bright, citrusy, with a pleasant touch of bitterness from hops. He’s inspired to experiment further.

      Meanwhile, I need to make tarragon lemonade myself.

      Thank you for all of your cologne suggestions! June 1, 2015 at 6:08pm Reply

      • Awfulknitter: Ah, the home-brewing rabbit hole! So easy to fall down…That beer does sound rather good. People often ask my husband and I when we are going to start brewing at home, and we always say, when all the other breweries stop making good beers! There is only so much you can drink, and I like wine too, and I like cocktails too, and I like whisky too – and I also like not having hangovers! I stick to making drinks that I can’t get otherwise: sloe gin, which I find too sweet in commercial versions, and rosehip-infused rum, which is my own invention.

        I was wondering about how easy tarragon lemonade would be to make. I have a small Russian tarragon plant that I don’t really use – my mother-in-law put me off rather by telling me that the Russian one has an inferior flavour to the French one. June 2, 2015 at 5:16pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s true, Russian tarragon doesn’t have much flavor compared to French or Spanish, and as the plant grows older, it becomes even less flavorful. I wouldn’t use it in cooking. It’s hardy, though.

          I love making liqueurs and ratafias, and I just bought a Polish cookbook with wonderful recipes–cardamom and violet liqueur, for instance. June 2, 2015 at 5:27pm Reply

  • Sandra: I 2nd lemon verbena as well. Another affordable one is Eau des Minimes by Le Couvent des Mihimes & Crabtree & Evelyn Torocco Orange.

    When I looked in my small but sweet perfume wardrobe the other day I was shocked to see that I am almost finishing my Eau De Cologne by Chanel. I wore it on my honeymoon in the Grenadines- and it was my scent of choice while I was pregnant. June 1, 2015 at 8:03am Reply

    • sandra: Ah..I forgot Cristalle eau Vert-not really a cologne but I wore that a lot also during the summer and pregnancy. June 1, 2015 at 12:28pm Reply

      • Victoria: I guess, it almost could cologne, since it contains so much citrus. June 1, 2015 at 6:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: A girlfriend of mine wore Demeter Gin & Tonic when she was pregnant, and she swore by it. Actually, it’s a very nice cologne. June 1, 2015 at 6:10pm Reply

  • Austenfan: A pity, I’m sure you would have preferred his last from Hermès to be something you could both love and admire.

    I tried this once in a small Sephora in France. I loved it. I will give it a few more tries but I think I will get a bottle of this at some point. June 1, 2015 at 8:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I was thinking that those who liked Voyage might enjoy Monsieur Li just as well. What about you? Did you like Voyage? June 1, 2015 at 6:12pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Yes I do like Voyage, a lot actually. Although Li didn’t remind me of Voyage at all, but I haven’t sniffed them side by side.
        Your favourite Jardin is Mediterranee isn’t it? I think mine is Mousson, but my preference sort of shifts around. The one I didn’t really care for is Sur le Toit. June 2, 2015 at 2:54am Reply

        • Victoria: I wore them side by side today, and they don’t have identical scents, but their characters are similar–woody, green, salty-citrusy. Monsieur Li has more vetiver-grapefruit and is sharper, but Voyage lasts far better and has a better sillage.

          I don’t really like Jardin en Mediterranee that much, I’ve concluded. I admire it very much, but whenever I wear it, I feel that it’s missing something. Like a dish that’s missing a touch of salt. But I’m not sure, maybe it was reformulated? For now, Mousson is also my favorite. June 2, 2015 at 4:17pm Reply

          • bregje: Yes,it was reformulated! I still have a little bit in a bottle from when it was first released as a limited edition. Then it was off the market for a few years(i searched everywhere. A sales-person in Nancy tried to sell me mademoiselle instead saying it was very much like un jardin)
            And when it came back it was different.
            I absolutely love the original.

            The thing about monsieur li is that it did not remind me at all of a chinese garden.
            It’s a nice fresh scent but not at all what i expected(perhaps jasmin,lilies,tea,ceder,lotus,water,bamboo,ginger,rice,anise,magnolia,lychee,azalea).
            I hoped it would be mysterious and light.Like a japanese pond with lilly’s in it at night surrounded by fragrant tree’s.
            Instead i didn’t find it memorable June 4, 2015 at 4:03pm Reply

            • Victoria: Ah, that explains it… I really thought I’m just getting jaded.

              Wore Monsieur Li today to test it out in warm weather, and it vanished even quicker. But the start did feel nice and refreshing. June 4, 2015 at 4:43pm Reply

  • orsetta: thank you for this review, Victoria.

    i tried really hard to be charitable towards Monsieur Li 😉 but you are absolutely right, it is too ‘chiselled’, not even a smallest grain sticking out from the slinky olfactory column of this cool (= not cold) scent 😉
    even other Jardins seem incredibly substantial compared with this one…

    but enough complaining! i will still cherish and enjoy so many of Monsieur Ellena creations that i can simply forget about this one 😉 June 1, 2015 at 8:23am Reply

    • Victoria: I also don’t want to be complaining, since I love so many other perfumes from Hermes, but oh well… 🙂 Do you have a favorite fragrance from the Jardin series? June 1, 2015 at 6:14pm Reply

      • orsetta: i think my favourite would be Un Jardin sur Le Nil but your question re. colognes reminded me also about his Eau de Gentiane Blanche, which for me is perfect in its bitterness and coolness (i actually bought one of those mega-bottles, where they add a funnel etc.), though i know that for some people its dryness and bitterness are simply too much

        but a cologne which really moves me is Eau de Campagne – one of the earliest (the first?) Ellena’s creations. for me it embodies ‘A Garden in the Meditteranean’ much better than the one in Les Jardins series! 🙂 June 2, 2015 at 12:54am Reply

        • Michaela: I like Eau de Gentiane Blanche very much, too! Also Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, ‘…Le Nil’ , ‘… en Mediteranee’.
          Hermes won’t be the same without him, I dare to think.
          I don’t know Eau de Campagne, but the old JCE perfumes I adore are First, Eau Parfumee Au The Vert and Declaration. June 2, 2015 at 7:00am Reply

          • Victoria: Oh, definitely try Eau de Campagne then! I think you would enjoy it. June 2, 2015 at 4:32pm Reply

          • orsetta: oh yes, Michaela, please do try Eau de Campagne 🙂

            and you reminded me of Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, thanks – it is also a very good one.

            First is also great – and i was surprised it was created by Ellena – so far away from his recent work…
            i agree Hermes will not be the same without him – on the other hand, Christine Nagel is behind my Holy Grail – Theorema, so i will be eagerly looking forward to her output too 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 1:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also really like Eau de Campagne. It smells like sun parched herbs, hot stones and saline breeze. A whole scene in a perfume bottle. June 2, 2015 at 4:15pm Reply

  • Betsy: I tested this twice and stood in front of the display at Sephora for a very long while at the ready to purchase. I think it is very lovely, but something held me back. Price mainly, but perhaps the lack of punch that you mention. If someone gifted this to me I would not be unhappy…but I don’t think I will take the plunge. June 1, 2015 at 8:49am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s never a good sign if you don’t feel strongly one way or another about a perfume. I’ve fallen in love with fragrances I’ve disliked at first (Mitsouko, Nahema, Chanel No 5), but never with scents that simply left me unsure.

      It’s a good perfume, of course. I’m sure it will have its fans. June 1, 2015 at 6:16pm Reply

      • Michaela: Good tip, again! It should be love or hate for a perfume to move you, right? Otherwise, you may like it, but never really much, never quite sure, never an adventure… not love. June 2, 2015 at 6:45am Reply

        • Victoria: It has to intrigue you somehow and leave something in your memory. That’s my main criterion. June 2, 2015 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Leah: Greetings Victoria – I have been waiting for this review, hoping that I had missed something in my testing. This Jardin is nice enough, but not truly memorable. I will enjoy my sample but life’s too short and there are too many other spectacular fragrances 😉 to be dazzled by June 1, 2015 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m becoming more and more convinced that unless it’s exactly right, there is no point settling for something “just ok.” It seems obvious, but I just took another look at my wardrobe and realized that I have a few perfumes like this: that smell nice, but they lack something special. As a result, I never wear them. June 2, 2015 at 12:51pm Reply

      • Karen: Good point about “just ok”! My criteria for purchasing/wearing anything is now do I love it, love it, love it? Agree with Keah, life is too short for the ho-hum! June 3, 2015 at 6:52am Reply

        • Victoria: And expensive! “Just ok” and expensive is my least favorite combination. 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 11:30am Reply

  • The Scented Salon: Hermes leaves me underwhelmed most of the time. Even the Hermessence line, which has so many beauties, is really difficult to love because of the high prices and mediocre sillage and lasting power of the perfumes. All of the Hermes perfumes I have smelled would be perfect for a CEO summit but not for the real lives of most people. Ellena has a masterful touch but it is just not enough. June 1, 2015 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: There are a few perfumes from the collection that I really love–Eau de Narcisse Bleu, for instance, is one of my staples. I also adore Vetiver Tonka and went through a bottle of Ambre Narguile. But there are many perfumes that also leave cold. June 2, 2015 at 12:52pm Reply

    • solanace: My exact feelings. Give me a baroque Guerlain any day. June 2, 2015 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: The only J. C. Ellena I love is First.
    I have Monsieur Li on my wrist right now, but I can hardly smell it. June 1, 2015 at 9:54am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Correction: I love Voyage and Déclaration, and maybe other Ellena-perfumes, as long as it not too minimalistic. June 2, 2015 at 7:05am Reply

      • Michaela: I knew it! 🙂 You have much recommended Déclaration, so it’s hard to believe you don’t like it. June 2, 2015 at 7:50am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Right you are! How sweet of you to remember my recomandations! June 2, 2015 at 7:54am Reply

      • solanace: Déclaration is terrific. I also adore Rumba. So skanky, in the best possible way. June 2, 2015 at 12:58pm Reply

      • Victoria: I know that he doesn’t like being called “a minimalist,” but really, some of his perfumes feel extremely paired down. So, yes, I like fragrances with some curves. June 2, 2015 at 4:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: It lasts ok on me, but it’s one of the more fleeting Jardins.

      I’m a huge fan of his Bulgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert. June 2, 2015 at 12:53pm Reply

      • bregje: me too!
        And i like Jour.
        ( the ones mentioned above as well)
        Sometimes jardin sur le toit

        I’m a fan of Ellena’s work.Although i don’t know all of his fragrances. June 4, 2015 at 4:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: Jour is one of my favorite florals. So radiant and effervescent. June 4, 2015 at 4:44pm Reply

  • Figuier: Seconding Bigarade Concentree. I have a 10ml mini of this, it’s gorgeous & incredibly long lasting. For me cumin isn’t massively present, rather cardamom, which goes so beautifully with the orange.

    Another expensive cologne type scent is L’Heure Brillante in the Cartier Les Heures line; basically an intensely lemony cologne, gorgeously refreshing. That said I have absolutely no intention of purchasing at that price, so once my free sample runs out, that’s it…

    You’ve mentioned these already on this blog, but Roger & Gallet does very nice colognes – I like Cedrat & Eau des Bienfaits best. June 1, 2015 at 10:16am Reply

    • Figuier: Oh and I didn’t say a thing about Mr. Li – which sums up my response. I’m still too much in love with my Narcisse Bleu to want to look at another Hermes 😉 June 1, 2015 at 10:17am Reply

      • Victoria: I love that one as well. It’s one of my cologne staples, and I like that it’s a bit different from the usual citrusy blends. June 2, 2015 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also get more cardamom than cumin out of Cologne Bigarade, and it lasts well on me. Another Jean-Claude Ellena fresh perfume I love is Malle’s Anqeliques sous la Pluie. It’s like gin & tonic in a perfume form.

      Roger & Gallet’s Eau des Bienfaits is one of my recent discoveries, and yes, it’s fantastic. June 2, 2015 at 12:54pm Reply

      • Figuier: I do like angelica in perfume — not surprising since g&t is my favourite summer drink (after champagne!). About 2 weeks ago I picked up a sample of Angeliques sous la Pluie at les Senteurs and have been enjoying it very much – it’s delightfully dry. Still not sure whether it edges out Chanel No 18 tho. I guess they’re very different, despite the shared angelica note. June 3, 2015 at 11:20am Reply

        • Victoria: They smell different to me, but they occupy the same niche in my wardrobe–bracing, uplifting, dry cologne. So, having both is a bit too much for me. For now, I’m happy with my large bottle of No 18. June 3, 2015 at 11:38am Reply

  • Hamamelis: How good a practice to smell a perfume ‘seen’ (including lovely bottle) and blind. I wonder if besides the ‘Hermes conditioning’ other factors play a role, mood, skin temp, weather, hormones, feromones… what causes a perfume to give a jolt of joy, and when, and when not? So far in the fresh cologne range, Eau du Sud and Cristalle (if that counts as a cologne) have been consistent in providing me with that jolt. L’occitane’s Verbena is lovely but the joy jolt too short lived.

    Maybe it is for the best that Ellena’s last perfume is not a joy bringer (I wasn’t overjoyed with it and sampled it a few times) so we will not miss him too much! I love Cuir d’Ange though, maybe a better swan song. June 1, 2015 at 11:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m sure other factors play a role, but at the end of the day, a perfume has to wow you nomatter what. Because ideally you want the kind of fragrance that will make you feel happier whenever you wear it–on a gloomy day, on a stressful day, whenever you cuddle with a book, a dog or your loved ones. 🙂

      Of course, some fragrances require a longer courtship or maybe an acquired taste, but if you smell something and think, “it’s nice, I suppose,” then it’s probably a “no.” June 2, 2015 at 12:59pm Reply

    • bregje: That’s what i meant with ‘sometimes jardin sur le toit’!
      Most of the time i barely notice it but every once in a while on a hot day or a sunny spring day it smells absolutely divine on me(even if i say so myself 😉 ).
      I tested it on such a day(in aix en provence) and my boyfriend and my mother urged me to buy a bottle. June 4, 2015 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: In the last of the Jardin series and Ellena’s departure from Hermes, I, too am disappointed in his “last hurrah”. I only recently discovered that so many of JCE’s creations not only for the acclaimed House of Hermes have been favs but others away as well. I so looked forward to this fragrance but sorrowfully it gets a thumbs down for me. June 1, 2015 at 12:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh well, we will find something else to love, Nancy. I have no doubts about that. 🙂 June 2, 2015 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Aurora: It’s good to have you back with a very interesting review. I am a fan of JCE, but his work has a way of growing on me. It took me a while to pay attention to Voyage, now one of my most worn fragrances, I love Sur le Nil, ditto en Mediterranee, love Eau Concentree d’Orange Verte which I wore in combo with Liz Earle No1 during last summer.

    I think he did a lot for Hermes and I hope he’s not retiring yet.

    A cologne recommendation: Alvarez Gomez, the original Agua de Colonia Concentrada, my Spanish uncle’s signature scent, he introduced the rest of the family to it. Do you know it Victoria? I don’t think it’s very easily available out of Spain though. June 1, 2015 at 12:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: I see what you mean. They are introspective fragrances, and this gives them a curious feel. Many do wear wonderfully well, even the ones I’m not that crazy about, but in my case, I just forget about them. Now, Eau de Narcisse Bleu is a totally different story. I already feel more content simply looking at the gorgeous dark blue bottle.

      I haven’t tried Alvarez Gomez colognes, no. The old Spanish brands like this tend to be terrific. June 2, 2015 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Merlin: ‘I’d worry that a clutz like myself might stumble and ruin some precious flower bed.’ Victoria, you must be thinking of someone else!

    I will try it – but make sure my expectations are not too high 😉 June 1, 2015 at 12:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Dancers are known to be clumsy, unless there is music playing or someone is giving them count. 🙂 June 2, 2015 at 1:05pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I had heard that too. Quoted by a choreographer/dancer so I assumed she knew what she was talking about. Funny phenomenon though. June 2, 2015 at 1:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: Seriously, it’s frustrating. For instance, I climbed two mountains in Georgia, but where do you think I fall and end up with a huge bruise? That’s right, standing on flat surface! June 2, 2015 at 4:01pm Reply

          • Austenfan: I do the same skiing. I think it’s to do with focus. I envy you your Georgian hike. It must be stunning there. Take care though! And get some good hiking boots. June 3, 2015 at 5:29am Reply

            • Victoria: I didn’t plan to hike, but whatever I had worked out ok. June 3, 2015 at 11:27am Reply

              • Austenfan: It’s none of my business anyway :), hope you are having a good time. It seems like a stunning country.

                And on the matter of clumsiness; I still have a really hard time going through doors. Keep wanting to take out doorposts with my shoulders. And the other day I tried to move a stone pillar with my tibia, my leg lost of course. June 3, 2015 at 2:45pm Reply

                • Victoria: Eh, a similar battle lost between a stone flower pot and my thigh. 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 3:16pm Reply

                  • Austenfan: I do feel that at the end of the day limbs are just quite disappointing soldiers! June 3, 2015 at 4:36pm Reply

          • Michaela: Right! I used to ski and hike for years, and I definitively damaged my tooth by falling on the stairs of my own home! Austefan is correct about focus. June 3, 2015 at 7:51am Reply

          • bregje: Recognizable! Lol.
            As long as you don’t stop moving you’re fine.

            But bruises go with dancers like peanut butter and jelly 😉
            Sometimes i read these articles about perfect summer legs.They tell you what to do if you have ‘a’ bruise(God forbid). I can’t remember ever having bruiseless legs.
            Before i read these stories i hadn’t realized that it was a problem 😉 June 4, 2015 at 4:29pm Reply

            • Victoria: Gosh, if I don’t have a bruise on my legs, it’s an event. In any case, I bruise easily, and I kind of accept having these marks on my legs. It was more of an issue when I danced. Giselle with a huge bloody bruise on her shin is not exactly the right image (not for the second ethereal act, that is). June 4, 2015 at 4:47pm Reply

              • bregje: That’s why tights were invented 😉
                And midi-tutu’s.
                And if all else fails white grime-make up.

                I do think a bruise suits a peasant girl. i mean, a girl running through the fields and working the land is bound to have a few cuts and bruises…
                But of course(as you so cleverly added)in the second act she’s a spirit and do spirits have marks? Now that’s an interesting question.(i’ve never met a real one.at least not that i recall) June 4, 2015 at 8:58pm Reply

              • Austenfan: This hysterical. Imagine the White Swan with a huge black eye! June 6, 2015 at 2:46pm Reply

                • Victoria: There was a famous dancer Lydia Lopokova, who had a knack for embarrassing accidents on stage. Like dropping her undergarments as she danced in La Sylphide or something else equally otherworldly and ethereal. But she also had a talent for turning such mishaps into little thrills for the audience. June 8, 2015 at 2:07am Reply

  • elisa p: Interesting read about the blind sniff. I had high hopes especially because of its significance r/t JCE. I think I was trying too hard to like it for that reason, but in the end it was just “meh” for me: too minimal and bare. And also not particularly unique.
    Cologne-type fragrances I enjoy:
    Diptyque Geranium Odorata which I find tangy and aromatic and uplifting (although my husband says it smells like bug spray)
    Diptyque Virgilio was a green favorite.
    Atelier Pomelo Paradis of which I really enjoy the first hour and then it’s kind of “meh”.
    Tauer ZETA with its lemony-grassy linden and soft honey drydown. Sadly not available anymore.
    I am curious to try the new Tauer Vetiver and Petitgrain Splash. June 1, 2015 at 2:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your cologne favorites! Now, I need to try Geranium Odorata at long last. June 2, 2015 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: I love the idea of a scent based on a Chinese garden: The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is one of my favorite places in the city. This scent does not do the idea justice, sadly. I found it pleasant, but rather dull. It’s so disappointing, because so much more could have been done with a Chinese-garden idea! Just off the top of my head: The Four Gentlemen of Flowers (Orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, plum blossom), the Three Friends of Winter (pine, bamboo, plum), something with peony (though perhaps that’s too pink and popular these days), lotus, narcissus, jasmine (I know there’s supposed to be jasmine in Monsieur Li, but I barely smell it), I could go on… June 1, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Gretchen: These are such evocative names (and the fragrances practically lift off the laptop screen!), I surely hope someone takes you up on this idea and creates these Chinese beauties. I surely would be interested. And who, do all our readers, suggest to take on this challenge??? June 1, 2015 at 9:04pm Reply

      • Victoria: Calice Becker would do them splendidly! June 2, 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Annikky: These are lovely ideas and a peony scent is definitely needed, something opulent and extravagant. I rather like Monsieur Li, but it smells more like a Japanese garden to me. Or a very restrained Chinese one. June 2, 2015 at 7:37am Reply

    • Victoria: Now, all of these would make terrific perfume briefs. Your words and into some perfumer’s ear. 🙂 June 2, 2015 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Ann: One of my favorite colognes is another Hermes: Eau d’Orange Verte. It also has a longevity problem, but it can be found on discount sites and eBay for not all that much… so one can at least spray with abandon without going broke. Great scent! June 1, 2015 at 3:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: It is! Spraying it with abandon on a hot day is one of the best summer luxuries. June 2, 2015 at 1:08pm Reply

  • Annikky: Despite its shortcomings, I enjoy Monsieur Li quite a bit, especially the opening – I wish for more jasmine and oomph after that. For a classic cologne, I like Chanel’s version the best; for interesting variations, Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu, TDC Tokyo Bloom and Bergamote, and Parfums de Nicolai colognes. And then there are always Cristalle and Eau Sauvage, both perfect. June 1, 2015 at 4:39pm Reply

    • Austenfan: Have you ever tried De Baschmakov? Also TDC, I wonder if it might appeal to you. June 2, 2015 at 8:37am Reply

      • Annikky: I have tried it and I was absolutely certain I would love it, but there’s something that just doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t put my finger on it and I should probably try it again, maybe things have changed. June 2, 2015 at 1:19pm Reply

        • Austenfan: Fair enough. I like it well enough. I snatched a bottle of it on ebay for a song. Would never pay full price for it though which I did for Divine Bergamote and Bois d’Iris. But it is quite quirky and unusual which you seem to like most of the time, so that is why I mentioned it. June 2, 2015 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Eau de Chanel is really one of the best colognes out there. Impeccable craftsmanship and lots of polish, but it still has warmth. June 2, 2015 at 1:09pm Reply

    • orsetta: i remembered you are a Tokyo Bloom fan, too, Anniky!

      and Victoria is right – Chanel Eau de Cologne is undoubtedly high quality, polished but also warmly appealing thing (and that’s what i miss about Monsieur Li).

      How do you feel about Guerlain colognes, Anniky? June 3, 2015 at 1:16pm Reply

  • Joy: Such an interesting article, Victoria. Your analysis covered the actual smelling of the fragrance, and covered the psychology of choosing a fragrance. I had an experience this winter when I purchased a bottle of Hermes Caleche. The elegant, amber box with gold lettering, the beautiful bottle with gold top, but it was not coming together for me. I was so disappointed in the fragrance, but could not quite believe my own disappointment. I kept opening and closing the box, looking at in on my counter top. Finally after a couple of weeks, I returned it to Sephora with relief.
    On the other hand, I have a bottle of Musgo Real by Claus Porto that I enjoy so much. It does not have a lot of sillage, but the fragrance will last most of the day. This is a men’s after shave with notes of bergamot, mandarin orange, musk, and amber. Its cost can be $25-$40 depending on where purchase.
    Cost does not need to be a factor in one’s enjoyment of a fragrance. It is really how the fragrance strikes one. June 1, 2015 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Michaela: Joy, I like your story very much! I admire you for returning the perfume that did not touch you instead of keeping it and trying hard to like it. June 2, 2015 at 6:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, I had something very similar with Kelly Caleche. I have tried to love it so much, but all in vain, it started boring and ended boring.

      Do you like Claus Porto soaps? June 2, 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

      • Joy: I love Claus Porto soaps. June 2, 2015 at 7:23pm Reply

  • SilverMoon: I agree with the general views expressed here. It was dull, underwhelming, uninspiring, with little lasting power or sillage, and so on. In a way, I was disappointed since I really wanted to like it.

    Luckily, we have Cristalle, Eau Savage, Thé pour un Eté, Osmanthe Yunnan, and so on. These cover similar territory but from different angles. June 1, 2015 at 6:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: I tested it (non blindly) against a few other Jardins, and yes, Monsieur Li fades faster than others on my skin. June 2, 2015 at 4:14pm Reply

  • annemarie: I think the point made above that JCE’s perfumes don’t always suit the real lives of most people is a great one. It reminds me of a point that Sophia Grojsman made in an interview on YouTube about how she hoped that her fragrances would appeal to a woman who had worked all day and had come home to yet more jobs and chores for her family. A dab of perfume would, Sophia hoped, make her feel ‘like a woman’. It is a remark that shows enormous respect for her audience, I’ve often thought.

    Of course JCE has a different style and flourished in a different era. But it seems to me that instead of meeting people where they actually are in their lives, JCE’s fragrances have helped build an image for a brand. I really can’t imagine his fragrances for Hermes being bought over and over again, or that they will live in the memory the way SJ’s do. June 2, 2015 at 6:53am Reply

    • Annikky: A very eloquently made and well argued statement, but I don’t think it’s true for everyone. I’m not the biggest Hermes fan, but there certainly is a place in my life for Ellena’s extremely easy-to-wear but high quality fragrances. I never feel like I’m being talked down to by his work, it’s intelligent and for me, very practical. When I want to feel crisp and fresh, Eau de Narcisse Bleu is ideal. When we’ll have these two warm and humid days of the summer, Un Jardin sur le Nil will be perfect. It’s not only when I come home from work that I need perfume, it’s also – and maybe more – when I’m running around like crazy at work and need a pick-me-up, something that will not scare the colleagues. It is of course a different genre than something very feminine and precious and I completely understand that Ellena’s style might be too aloof for some people. But at least in my life, there is room – and appreciation – for both. June 2, 2015 at 7:58am Reply

    • Michaela: Your story about Sophia Grojsman is wonderful! So warm a person she must be…
      I admit I depended on her Tresor for many years.
      But I love JCE’s work as well, at least what I’ve become to know of it. Ethereal but with quite an impact, I think. Not to mention his old charming brilliant First, far from ethereal. June 2, 2015 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Their approaches are indeed very different. Ellena’s fragrances are much more introspective, understated, cool, while Sophia’s are big, enveloping, dramatic. She was my teacher, remains my mentor and friend, so I can’t be entirely objective about her perfumery, but I wear more fragrances from Ellena than from Sophia day to day. The ones that speak to me have a very appealing personality, and I often crave the kind of fragrance that creates a subtle aura around me. I love Sophia’s Tresor and Paris, but they wouldn’t be right for this task. Jardin sur le Nil, Eau de Narcisse Bleu or Terre d’Hermes are perfect, however. Since I already smelled a Terre d’Hermes prototype in a bunch of household products, I’m guessing it has entered the mainstream. June 2, 2015 at 4:31pm Reply

      • SilverMoon: I agree. JCE’s approach to perfumery is special and I usually love his work. Jardin sur le Nil is one of my summer favourites. There is something so satisfying and uplifting about it. This is partly why I found This latest one so disappointing. June 3, 2015 at 11:35am Reply

        • Victoria: I also find it comforting somehow. Like putting on a favorite silk camisole, something beautiful but easy to wear and non at all high-maintenance. Effortless elegance, in other words. June 3, 2015 at 11:47am Reply

  • Michaela: Jean Claude Ellena leaving Hermes is bad news. Sorry… His fingerprint is so unique. I can’t say I know or love all the fragrances he created, but I can almost always recognize his signature and like it very much. Not easy to impose a perfumer style now a days, probably. I hope we soon hear about him creating new fragrances.

    I love all your blind smell stories! June 2, 2015 at 6:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Very true. It’s hard to leave your own mark on perfumes, since most are market tested very heavily.
      I look forward to whatever he does next. June 2, 2015 at 4:32pm Reply

    • orsetta: Ellena leaving Hermes is sad, i agree (as i also did in my comment to your comment to my comment above 😀 )

      on the other hand, Christine Nagel is behind so may great scents – actually her Theorema put me down the rabbit hole with perfumes… June 3, 2015 at 1:21pm Reply

  • limegreen: I’m afraid I had high expectations for Monsieur Li, since I was projecting that it would be a Chinese-themed sequel to Osmanthe Yunnan. That was my own fault and so I was bound to be disappointed. The fragrance did take me somewhere fleetingly, and I did enjoy the walk through the garden all the way to the smell of wet stones.
    I will mark the Hermes finale of Ellena’s tenure with a wearing of Osmanthe Yunnan, perhaps my favorite of Ellena’s and definitely one of my favorites.
    Victoria — have you heard if JCE will work with Malle again (now that he’s no longer bound to Hermes)? June 2, 2015 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t heard anything about it, but then again, I’ve been traveling for the past 2 months, so maybe, I’ve missed out on some news.

      Osmanthe Yunnan is also one of my favorites, and in general, few other fragrances come close to capturing the scent of an Asia garden. At least, for me. June 2, 2015 at 4:04pm Reply

      • Alicia: Osmanthe Yunnan is a marvel, but on me such a fleeting one that it’s heartbreaking. June 2, 2015 at 9:39pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes. That’s why once my bottle was used up not long, I haven’t repurchased it. June 3, 2015 at 11:24am Reply

  • Septimus Hodge: I commented this on another review of this fragrance, but I quite like it. I grew up in Suzhou, China – a province that is famous for its gardens – and this fragrance did not remind me of them, but it did evoke cold chrysanthemum tea for me. Odd because it does not smell anything like chrysanthemum, but gave the same “vibe.” I thought it was nice, but Osmanthe Yunnan is better. June 2, 2015 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a coincidence, I’m drinking chrysanthemum tea now. Of course, I had to go and fetch my sample of Monsieur Li. You know, I can see exactly what you mean! Thank you for pointing it out. I probably wouldn’t have made the connection myself. June 2, 2015 at 4:05pm Reply

  • Emma: I smelled this at Sephora, again I thought how disappoing this was, it smells nothing new and exciting at all I’m afraid, just another grapefruity unisex cologne which somewhat veers towards masculine, unimaginative, boring.
    On the contrary I’m happy about Ellena’s departure, I have high hopes Hermès offers true perfumes with personality and character in the near future, true grand feminines. I’m sick and tired of expensive unobtrusive unisex grapefruit stuff! June 2, 2015 at 2:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very curious what Christine Nagel does next! June 2, 2015 at 4:05pm Reply

      • Emma: I’m hoping for a modern take on old Hermès classics such as Doblis ans Faubourg, a little like what Mathilde Laurent did with La Panthère for Cartier. That would be really nice. June 2, 2015 at 4:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: I agree, that would be fantastic! June 2, 2015 at 4:11pm Reply

  • Anna: Thanks for this thought-provoking, generous and careful review, Victoria!
    I agree, though I did find Monsieur Li quite intriguing & lovely at first, it just ended up too safe.
    Very evocative though, and I also smelled chrysanthemum tea, it reminded me of yum cha outside on the terrace in Chinatown when I was a teenager…
    Extra note: when I first tested Monsieur Li, the assistant sprayed my wrist once (where the scent disappeared in a few hours) and my viscose scarf twice.
    Four weeks later, and my scarf still smells unmistakably like a watery breeze wafting through a mysterious garden! June 3, 2015 at 5:51am Reply

    • Victoria: I sprayed it on my scarf as well to test the sillage, and yes, it does stay well on fabric. Even my fleeting Osmanthe Yunnan lasts well this way. My mom often sprays her scarves with perfume, and I think it’s one of the reasons why she received lots of perfume compliments. June 3, 2015 at 11:29am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: Le jardin de monsieur li reminds me of hedione/helional drenched compositions.
    I stick to my old Diorella bottle (or, for something still in production, “l’eau d’été” de Patricia de Nicolaï).

    From an Elena composition, here is one that I could easily appreciate.

    Maybe there is a tiniest twist in the top note. Something like davana or a strange citrus, in the way Duchaufour like to sneak some in formulas.

    To sum it up, it’s cleverly blended together, but a bit too demure for a generic theme. Finally it didn’t catch my interest more than that.

    On the same field of “citrus-hedione, 90% intellectual 10% pleasure”, I’d rather try again “l’heure brillante VI” of Cartier (if money is no issue), because it spreads so many different thing while it unfolds. I get tired of abstraction in mainstream perfumery where it hides cheap-ass formula (not that it is the case in Hermes line, just a general statement).
    Could we get back abstraction AND evolution? June 3, 2015 at 6:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: That would be great! Yes, please. 🙂 June 4, 2015 at 4:18pm Reply

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