Elegant: 159 posts

Versatile and polished blends

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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Atelier Cologne Jasmin Angelique : Perfume Review

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Angelica may seem like an esoteric perfume note to be obsessed with. If people associate it with anything, it’s with the candied green stems that make their way into cakes.  As I discovered when I was researching an article for my FT column, it’s an essential ingredient in many types of fragrances and a fascinating material. Angelica combines musky and green nuances with a bright, peppery touch, making it a perfect partner to florals, citrus, woods and musks. Atelier Cologne Jasmin Angélique is firmly in the floral camp, but its angelica layer gives the fragrance complexity and radiance.

The first impression of Jasmin Angélique is so green and peppery that it’s a surprise every single time I put on the perfume. It’s the hit of gin, the bite of black pepper and the pleasant bitterness of greens rolled into one accord. The illusion is created by the use of frankincense that can smell either dark or shimmering depending on what notes accompany it. Here it is paired with leafy notes, and the effect is dazzling.

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Monsieur de Givenchy : Cinema, Fashion, and Perfume

The great couturier Hubert de Givenchy passed away at the age of 91 on March 12th. It’s fitting that in remembering him every obituary mentions his collaboration with Audrey Hepburn. It was thanks to her that he found fame, recognition, and a chance to design the wardrobes of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Princess Grace of Monaco. Today we take for granted celebrity endorsements, but in the 1950s it was novel. Yet, the collaboration between Givenchy and Hepburn was different from today’s business ventures between Hollywood stars and designers. The duo inspired each other, serving as each other’s muses. Givenchy’s clean, elegant lines and innovative techniques left a lasting imprint on fashion.

Hepburn contacted Givenchy to design her clothes for Sabrina (1954). Givenchy was in his 20s, running his first boutique on Plaine Monceau in Paris, having previously trained with Elsa Schiaparelli. Givenchy had an impressive career working for Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Lucien Lelong, Pierre Balmain and Robert Piguet, but he was unknown. Hepburn felt that his designs would be perfect for a young woman who returns from a sojourn in Paris. The Hague exhibit told the story of Givenchy initially refusing the offer. As he told at the interview recorded for the museum, “I was busy preparing my next collection so I told her I wouldn’t be able to do it, but she was very persistent. She invited me to dinner, which was unusual for a woman to do back then, and it was at dinner that I realized she was an angel.”

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Musky Warmth of Angelica

Angelica essence smells of musky flowers and foggy autumnal mornings. It’s a fascinating aroma because, despite its delicate aura, its character can be quite assertive, and although it starts on a bright and shimmering note, the earthy base layers betray its darker leanings. Angelica is used widely by perfumers to give a green touch to an accord or to soften a citrusy cologne, but it rarely stars as a leading note. On the occasions it is given center stage, however, it reveals its full capacity to surprise.

Though angelica is not as a well known perfume ingredient as rose or jasmine, it’s a fascinating material with a diverse range of effects. It can be sweet and spicy, green and musky, woody and floral, depending on how it’s used. To uncover more facets of angelica, I selected it for one of my FT column topics. In the article, Musky Warmth of Angelica, I talk about this material and some of the most interesting perfumes, in which you can smell it clearly. You can read the article by clicking here.

If you have tried any angelica perfumes, please let me know which ones you like.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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