Christine Nagel: 20 posts

Hermès un Jardin sur la Lagune : Perfume Review

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How could something smell salty? It’s true that salt has its own rather mild scent, and depending on its processing and provenance, it ranges from bitter and iodine to flinty and flowery. However, perfumery is about creating an illusion, and many perfumers are masters at making us think that we smell salt. My teacher Sophia Grojsman used to play tricks on me by giving me accords to smell and then laugh seeing me lick my lips. Some of her combinations were so salty that I could almost taste the salt crystals. More typically, however, perfumers approach salty accords by relying on marine effects, as does perfumer Christine Nagel in Hermès Un Jardin sur la Lagune.

Of course, should one search for salt in perfume, one can do no better than to explore the whole Hermès collection. Eau des Merveilles is one of the best salted ambers. Un Jardin sur le Nil salts green mangoes. Voyage d’Hermès starts pickling bergamot and leaves a salt trail well into its drydown. Hermès Un Jardin sur la Lagune is very much in the same tradition. It’s a cologne based on citrusy flowers and finished with a briny accord. The place is Venice, the flowers are magnolia and Madonna lilies, the effect is salt and sunlight.

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Hermes Cedre Sambac : Perfume Review

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The moment I set my foot in lands where jasmine blooms, I find a flower to smell–a single blossom, a sprig, a garland. I think that I know exactly what jasmine smells like, but every soil makes for a different scent. Jasmine in Provence has an apricot nuance. Indian jasmine smells leathery. Spanish jasmine has a cinnamon inflection in the afternoon and a simmering musky warmth in the evening. Indonesian jasmine is green and sweet, the most unexpected combination. Smelling Hermès’s Cèdre Sambac, I wonder where the perfumer Christine Nagel found an inspiration for such a creamy yet transparent impression.

Nagel says that the inspiration for the five new Hermessences came from the Middle East. Jasmine attars from that part of the world have a certain richness that can be either opulent or smothering, depending on the attar-blender’s skill and the perfume lover’s capacity for jasmine. Cèdre Sambac, however, is all glow.

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Hermes Myrrhe Eglantine : Perfume Review

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When I first heard of the new Hermessence collection, with its ouds and myrrhs, I was apprehensive. The previous additions to the line were all sheer, opaline and ethereal, and I couldn’t see how Middle Eastern inspiration could continue the same aesthetic. As it turns out, I underestimated Christine Nagel, the current in-house perfumer for Hermès, because Agar Ebène, Cèdre Sambac, Myrrhe Églantine, Cardamusc and Musc Pallida have the radiance that gives the house’s perfumes its distinctive quality. They also have curves and sensuality.

Myrrhe Églantine is the most classical of the five new Hermessence fragrances and the one that pays the most homage to an existing perfume, Rose Ikebana. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, Rose Ikebana was one of the most underrated gems from the collection. Yes, it’s a pretty, fizzy rose, but it also had a level of precision and refinement that few other fresh roses possess. Myrrhe Églantine plays with the same shimmering effects, but it sets the rose against a velvety background.

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Hermes Galop d’Hermes : Perfume Review

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So here it is, the long awaited Galop d’Hermès. Few launches can boast of this much anticipation, save for the new big perfumes from Chanel, Dior or Louis Vuitton, but Hermès is a special house with its unique place in today’s fragrance world. First of all, it realized the idea of creating a truly artistic perfumery team, headed by Jean-Claude Ellena. In-house perfumers are nothing new, but in my view, Ellena is one of the few who actually have an opportunity to pursue his own vision. Second, Hermès is successful.

galop

This aspect is telling, because it proves that customers can spot quality, and Hermès’s perfumes have consistently been well-crafted and memorable. So, the efforts have been rewarded. Ellena’s work has a distinctive signature of radiance and polish, which over the years made for a coherent collection. Now, it’s time to add a twist, and the task has been given to Christine Nagel.

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Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate : Perfume Review

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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.

rhubarb

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.

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