As in fashion, fragrance outfits that engage in-house perfumers find themselves in a bind. On the one hand, one expects new designers to exercise their vision, but on the other, the fragrance industry is far more conservative than couture and they have to maintain the house’s creed. Christine Nagel’s first fragrance for Hermès, Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, is a promising sign of things to come, because not only does she retain the radiance lit by Jean-Claude Ellena, she adds curves and sultry touches of her own, even in a fairly straightforward cologne.
Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate is my rhubarb-rose sherbet in perfume form, albeit with a moderate dose of sugar. Since the French word écarlate, comes from the Persian word saqerlat–do you hear the echoes of “scarlet”, vivid red?–this association is fitting. Nagel softens the green, acidic edge of rhubarb with berries, but she retains enough of its savory, green nuances to make sophisticated perfume and not confiture.
The choice of rhubarb is clever, since it is one of Ellena’s favored notes, found in many of his fragrances, from Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again to Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. The first impression is of the crunchy rhubarb stem, and it’s so bracing that every time I spray on the perfume, I get a pleasant shiver. Rhubarb is paired with raspberry, a duo that dazzles in cuisine, as it evidently does in perfume. Raspberry itself is made up of components that smell of musky violet and rose, and there are touches to accent the floral elements and fill out the composition.
Colognes generally pack the most drama into the top notes and then fizzle out within minutes. Not Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate. It lingers well and has enough richness and depth revealing some sweet but tempered layers. There is plenty of soft musk, and the perfume is flirtatious, airy, and luminous. Some were quick to fault Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate for being simple and commercial, but I don’t see anything amiss with uncomplicated, likable blends, especially one as well-crafted and charming as this cologne. It still retains the refined aura that makes Hermes perfumes distinctive.
More rhubarbs, from the sweetest to the less so (Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate would fit right next to Bombay Bling): Yves Saint Laurent Baby Doll, Burberry Brit Red, Neela Vermeire Bombay Bling, Hermès Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Olfactive Studio Flashback. Do you have any other suggestions?
Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate is available at Hermes boutiques and counters. Like all other colognes in this series, Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate is suitable for both women and men.