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?
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.