If you are succeeding a perfume legend would you step right up and invite comparison? I think if you are confident in your abilities the answer is yes. The perfumer who succeeded Jean-Claude Ellena as in-house perfumer at Hermes, Christine Nagel has spent some time showing she is confident enough to invite those comparisons. I have been very impressed with her early releases for Hermes. Even so I admit some trepidation at the thought of her creating a flanker of one of M. Ellena’s best known perfumes, Terre D’Hermes. Turns out she continues to show respect for the Hermes aesthetic refined by M. Ellena while continuing to re-define it. The new Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver is a great example of how she does this.
Terre D’Hermes was groundbreaking in 2006 because M. Ellena relied on one synthetic ingredient, Iso E-Super, in overdose. The formula was 55% Iso E Super. Because of the size of the molecule there are people who can’t smell it. For those people if you ask them what they do smell they will say vetiver. That’s because in the non-Iso E-Super 45% Terre D’Hermes is a grapefruit and vetiver prominent fragrance. That is where Mme Nagel begins.
I don’t have access to all the synthetic vetiver ingredients but for Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver it seems like Mme Nagel has decided to allow what I believe is a vetiveryl acetate analog to take up some of the Iso E Super percentage. The reason I think this is there is a saltiness to the vetiver that I’ve only experienced in synthetic versions I’ve smelled. It is a fantastic effect by itself. Layered onto the core of Terre D’Hermes it forms a summery bright fragrance.
The opening is the classic bitter grapefruit and pepper. For Terre D’Hemes Eau intense Vetiver, Mme Nagel switches out the black pepper of the original for the more versatile Szechuan pepper. I like this top accord much better than the original. I have really come around on this complex ingredient. It carries lots of nuance which allows for Mme Nagel to find just the right version to use. What comes through is more herbal quality pepper which captures a bit of the sulfurous grace notes in the grapefruit. It has an almost minty freshness which sets the stage for the synthetic vetiver. This is a salty vetiver with a hint of smoke. Mme Nagel uses it to pick up on the green zestiness of the grapefruit and the herbal quality of the Szechuan pepper. It comes together in an expansive vetiver dominant accord that is compelling. Then the Iso E Super arrives with its scent of desiccated pencil shavings. This is still here in high concentration, but I will bet it is under 25% this time.
Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver is a recognizable flanker of the original. It is also a recognizable change from the original as Mme Nagel chooses to amplify some different qualities. The vetiver she uses makes it seem like we are near the coast without tripping over into full on aquatic. By putting vetiver on top, she has created a worthy successor to one of the best masculine perfumes of this century.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.