When I hear people say things like they don’t make perfumes like they used to I usually respond quite vociferously that we live in a golden age of perfumery right now. I do believe that there are a very few perfumes which have never had a modern equivalent that stands up to the comparison. One of those is the first fragrance to carry the Hermes name on the flacon.
About thirty years prior to the Hermes fragrance collection we are familiar with coming into being there was one lone perfume. In 1955 Hermes commissioned perfumer Guy Robert to create a perfume for the brand. That perfume was called Doblis. Then, as now, Hermes was known for its leather goods and silk scarves. M. Robert wanted to capture both of those influences. The early going has a cool green shiny silk sheen before transitioning through a floral heart into one of the most transparent leather accords I have ever experienced.
Doblis opens with a trio of coriander, thyme, and chamomile. There are also a halo of aldehydes fizzing above all of this. The herbal notes provide a warming influence for the chamomile. The top accord is really a chamomile construct made modern by the addition of the aldehydes and herbs. The chamomile joins with jasmine and rose in the heart. This is where Doblis feels like a silk scarf with a floral print. The herbal notes provide a sort of green shine over the florals. It often feels like an olfactory illusion when I wear it. If I concentrate on it the notes become apparent and the mirage dissipates only to arise again once I just let it work its magic. I wish I could tell you what M. Robert used to form his leather accord. The best way I can describe it is as the finest pair of Hermes riding gloves after being worn in a walk through a stand of oak trees. The base of Doblis is a singular leather accord matched with oakmoss and musk. It is this moment where I wonder to myself if they can make perfumes like they used to.
Doblis has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Doblis was supplanted by Caleche in 1961 as the standard bearer of fragrance for Hermes. It briefly made a re-appearance in 2005 as Guy Robert’s son Francois oversaw the re-formulation. I can say that version is every bit as good as the original. This is another of those perfumes which commands extremely high prices when it appears on the auction circuit. If you don’t have oodles of money the sample site Surrender to Chance has some samples for sale, although these are still pricey as well. Doblis is an example of perfumery that hasn’t been seen in many years.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of 2005 Doblis and a decant of 1955 Doblis I purchased.