hermessence: 12 posts

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 Cuir d’Ange : Perfume Review

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Cuir d’Ange is the most recent addition to the Hermès Hermessence collection, a line of fragrances sold exclusively at the house’s boutiques. The idea is to capture the nuances of famous Hermès leather, which smells of flowers and musk. The perfumer behind it is Jean-Claude Ellena, a master of the most ethereal and delicate compositions, and as you would expect, Cuir d’Ange, Angel’s Leather, stays true to its name. It’s wispy and sheer, as if the leather that inspired it was polished to remove any traces of animal funk and made to smell like someone’s clean skin.

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Cuir d’Ange is pure comfort. Although I like to think of myself as someone unafraid of the raunchiest animalic scents, my favorite leathers in perfume bottles are soft and cuddly. I’m more in the camp of Bottega Veneta than that of Robert Piguet Bandit on most days. So, here you go. For this reason, the first time I smelled Cuir d’Ange, I felt that I discovered my ideal leather–creamy, suave, and mild. On the other hand, if you want the odor of a beaver in heat and don’t wish to settle for anything less, Cuir d’Ange will strike you as wimpy and bland.

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Hermes Epice Marine : Perfume Review

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When it comes to telling compelling stories, Hermès takes the prize. The house’s perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, is the author of Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent and The Diary of a Nose, and he is a natural storyteller. Perfumes in the Hermessence collection are like pages from his personal journal, some inspired  by his travels, others by his native Provence. Epice Marine, introduced earlier this fall, was likewise inspired by Ellena’s adventures, but this time it’s also marked by a collaboration with another artisan.

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The fragrance came together as Ellena met and corresponded with chef Olivier Roellinger. Ellena travels the world in search of interesting scents, while Roellinger’s quest is for spices. Back in Brittany, a fog shrouded region along France’s northern shore, he composes spices into complex bouquets. If your idea of a spice blend is a Madras curry mix, then Roellinger’s delicate, harmonious blends will come as a surprise. When I sprinkle his Poudre Sérinissima over a tomato salad, I also want to dust my skin with this ginger and saffron accented powder. Who else could be a better collaborator and muse for a perfumer?

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Hermes Hermessence Santal Massoia : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

There are linear, vertical woods like cedar, and others that are horizontal, round, supple and velvet-smooth, such as sandalwood and massoia. With this understanding in mind, I composed this enigmatic, inviting yet distant perfume of milky woods, with its unusual, pungent hints of resin and dried fruit, and familiar smells of dulce de leche and flowers.” This description by Jean-Claude Ellena, the creator behind the newest launch from the Hermès’s Hermessence line, Santal Massoïa, captures the idea of this creamy woody composition. It is unusual and surprising in its treatment of sandalwood, the impression of which oscillates between the characteristic milky rose and sweet fig. At the same time, Santal Massoïa also smells hauntingly familiar and intimate: a mélange of warm skin, cold cream and green tea.

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