There is no collection in perfumery which more fully captures my attention than the Hermessences. Composed by Hermes in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena these deceptively simple constructs have been called everything from perfumed haiku to olfactory watercolors. Without looking back I’ve probably used these terms to describe these perfumes as well. It is an unsatisfactory way to capture the beauty of the best of the Hermessence entries. When they work it provides some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful moments in all of olfactory art. The most recent release Cuir D’Ange is one of the best in the collection.
Cuir D’Ange translates to Angel’s Leather and it was inspired by a visit M. Ellena made to the vault where the leather used to make Hermes accessories is stored. This visit was made in 2004 when he first came on-board as in-house nose. He knew as he walked amidst the stacks of tanned skins he wanted to capture this essence. One of the things that makes capturing a specific leather essence is the perfumer has to create a leather accord as there is no single note which mimics leather. Most often the components of a leather accord are deep heavy things like birch tar as it was for the classic leathers of the early 20th century. For Cuir D’Ange M. Ellena found a fusion of floral notes to complement his leather accord which makes it smell as if it is a Hermes purse or wallet which has been handled by a woman wearing the most delicate floral perfume.
M. Ellena uses hawthorn as his top note in Cuir D’Ange. Hawthorn is one of my favorite ingredients when used well as it imparts an indolic component along with the floral character. It is a great choice to start with as the indoles stick to the leather template which is also present from the first moments. The leather accord is that of a supple soft leather which smells of opulence. It is by turns dry and then voluptuous. In the early going it the dry aspect which matches up with the hawthorn. Then like the named angel unfurling its wings heliotrope arrives and Cuir D’Ange takes wing. The faux violet nature of heliotrope is perfect as it lifts the leather up and makes it feel luxurious, as a Hermes leather should feel. The final ingredient is a musk which evokes the smell of sun warmed skin. It is an especially apt finishing note as it becomes a duet of processed skin and living skin. It may sound a bit macabre but it is a fascinating study as it lingers on your skin.
Cuir D’Ange has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One of the things which allows the Hermessence line to stand out is not just the construction but how M. Ellena is able to take a relatively few notes and be so expansive. Cuir D’Ange might be the most successful of all in this collection at providing transitional grace notes. Despite the notes I describe above each of those notes carries subtle undertones and at different points you will get a hint of iris or a suspicion of almonds. Cuir D’Ange is a perfume which allows all of my senses to soar to new heights.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by the Hermes boutique in Vienna, VA.