When Twilly D’Hermes was introduced two years ago I think many missed its reason for existing. In the press release and subsequent interviews in-house perfumer Christine Nagel wanted this to be a perfume which would appeal to a young girl. Perhaps as a first perfume on her dresser. I tried to see it from that perspective and believed that Mme Nagel made smart choices in the tuberose, ginger, and sandalwood to appeal to that demographic. From my point of view I thought she succeeded. It wasn’t widely loved by the perfume community, but it wasn’t meant for them. I enjoyed the sense of fun which seemed to be interwoven throughout. Now Mme Nagel is here to take the child up a level with a slightly more mature composition called Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree.
Even though the name might lead you to believe this is a flanker; it is not. None of the keynotes from Twilly D’Hermes are present here. If there is any connection it is in the simplified three-ingredient aesthetic as that is repeated in Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree. This new fragrance is an entirely different style of perfume.
The press release tells me this new iteration is “the peppery spirit of the Hermes girls”. Based on the accompanying photos those “girls” look to be in their early 20’s. Mme Nagel hasn’t explicitly stated this is the demographic for Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree but I am thinking it is. Much of how I think of it comes from believing that.
This time the three keynotes are baie rose, rose, and patchouli. I spend a lot of time writing about how versatile an ingredient baie rose is. Mme Nagel spends most of this fragrance proving that. In the early going it is the fresh green herbal-ness which holds the attention. As a transparently powdery rose rises the slight fruitiness of baie rose transforms it into a subtle fruity floral through the middle stages. In the base the patchouli seems like it is a fractionated version with the herbal qualities of the ingredient enhanced. It allows for the baie rose to come full circle back to herbal in the end.
Twilly D’Hermes has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I believe Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree is going to have more fans outside the target demographic than the original did. I also think this is the kind of perfume which will be a best seller in that targeted generation of women. Twilly D’Hermes Eau Poivree is a level up for a woman who wants to leave children’s things behind.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hermes.
I have only been to Venice once. It was a visit which has lingered in my memory. One aspect was the secret of Venice. What lies behind the walls is beautiful. When we visited Mrs. C and I were fortunate to be invited to two private residences. As you walk through the city you are encased with walls which have doors. If you walk through those doors what we found were spectacular gardens leading to the door of the house. Because it was spring, we spent time with our hosts sipping our pre-dinner drinks. The scent of those gardens is a mixture of flowers, the water of the canals, and the stone of the walls. It is a distinct scent of place. Turns out perfumer Christine Nagel also must share my experience because she has made a perfume evoking exactly that; Hermes Un Jardin sur la Lagune.
The “Un Jardin” series might be the second most famous series in perfumery. That is because in a 2005 New Yorker article author Chandler Burr introduced the world to perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena and all that goes into making a perfume. If you have never read it here is the link. This would also become part of Mr. Burr’s book “The Perfect Scent” a few years later. While at Hermes M. Ellena created five “Un Jardin” perfumes with Le Jardin de Monsieur Li being one of the last perfumes he did before retiring. More than anything at Hermes this collection represented to me the overall aesthetic M. Ellena created at Hermes.
With the changing of the nose as Mme Nagel took over I wondered if she would even try to make her mark. Un Jardin sur la Lagune is the answer. If the Ellena Un Jardins were all about expansive transparency; Un Jardin sur la Lagune is working in a more compact perfume frame.
The press release tells me that Mme Nagel was inspired by a garden planted by an English Lord hidden behind walls. I am not sure who or when this took place, but I can tell you the secret gardens still exist. What Mme Nagel does is capture the closeness of the walls enclosing a blooming garden surrounded by canals.
Un Jardin sur la Lagune opens with the florals. When I first sniffed, I thought I detected a lot of florals. It wasn’t until I saw the note list that I learned it was only a couple. The floral keynote is magnolia as if that is the centerpiece of the garden. It is seemingly surrounded by wisps of jasmine, orange blossom, and osmanthus. All of that came from Mme Nagel’s inclusion of pittosporum. Some verbena provides a spicy green foliage effect. That is the “jardin”. Mme Nagel then surrounds it with a stone and sea accord capturing the rest of the milieu. If you tried Eau des Merveilles Bleue you have an idea of what this accord smells like. In that earlier perfume it is a focal point. In this perfume it is a framing device; a way to capture the floral quality in a gentle aquatic mineral embrace. This is where Un Jardin sur la Lagune completely captures a hidden garden in Venice.
Un Jardin sur la Lagune has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is such a perfume of exact geography I am enchanted by the way I feel like I’m back in Venice. Mme Nagel has taken me back behind the walls into a garden of terrestrial delights.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Hermes.
As we entered the new millennium the trend of niche perfumery was taking hold. Throughout the mid-1990’s there was this segment of perfume producers re-writing the rules. Pushing back against the commercial with a vision that perfume could be something more. I write over and over about those founding brands of the style of fragrance which changed the way things were done. What gets lost is there were some brands who were also looking to find their audience while never surviving. These were the putative failures. Except they really weren’t. There were equally great ideas at the brands which got left behind. This month I look at one of those with Spazio Krizia Donna.
Mariuccia Mandelli and her husband Aldo Pinto founded Krizia as a ready-to-wear Italian brand in 1954. Sig. ra Mandelli was a trendsetter as one of the mothers of the short shorts known as “hotpants” her most well-known innovation. As the 1990’s began Sig. ra had begun the diversification that every successful fashion brand had undergone. They had started making perfume in 1980 with their debut release K de Krizia by perfumer Maurice Roucel. They would follow that with four other perfumes. All five of those perfumes were nicely done. In 1991 is seems like Sig. ra Mandelli had decided she wanted the perfumes which carried the Krizia name to have something to say. By collaborating with perfumer Dominique Ropion she wanted to lead the way with her fragrance collection as she had with her fashion. With the release of Krazy Krizia she succeeded. For the next fifteen years she would keep making interesting niche-style perfumes. My favorite is Spazio Krizia Donna.
Spazio Krizia Donna was released in 1998 it was the “donna” version of the “uomo” version released five years earlier. Beyond the name there is no comparison Spazio Krizia Uomo is a crazy herbal vetiver in a moss-covered ocean cave. Spazio Krizia Donna was composed by Christine Nagel which confirms Sig. ra Mandelli’s eye for talent. It is best described as a floral gourmand a term which had not ben coined in 1998.
Spazio Krizia Donna opens with a spicy rose floating on a cup of slightly bitter brewed coffee. There have been quite a few floral coffee releases the last year or so. This is more floral than coffee, but the roasted contrast is a nice companion. Mme Nagel uses an ingredient which is not used very much these days, cascarilla bark. The essential oil from the distillation of this wood is a kind of allspice effect. If you smell it by itself you will think you are smelling a blended perfume of pepper, nutmeg, and green herbal-ness. In the case of this perfume it elicits a response from the spicy core of the rose. Paradise seed is also present providing a nutty cardamom piece. This is such an interesting accord as Mme Nagel uses alternative sources for specific spice effects. It gives it a lighter feel than it probably would have if the regular ingredients were used. The base accord covers the florals in a sticky coating of honey which is warmed by amber and musk.
Spazio Krizia Donna has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
The collection of Krizia releases from 1991-2006 contain some great examples of the early days of niche perfumery. They continued to be available until three or four years ago. The brand was sold in 2014 and it was soon after the fragrance collection was contracted to just four perfumes; none from the time period I mentioned above. The scions of niche perfumery are well-known. If you want to find the creative brands which couldn’t thrive you have to visit the Dead Letter Office.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received from a reader.
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.
There are things in life I like dry. My martinis are one of them. What that means is I want only a drop or two of vermouth in my chilled gin. That gives a more astringent effect as I sip my drink. There are many perfumes which also benefit from that same dry style. Foremost among them would be cologne. One of the more interesting explorations of cologne comes from the Hermes “Eau” collection. It has always provided the perfumer an opportunity to interpret this classical perfume architecture as a post-modern version. The latest release fits right in; Eau de Citron Noir.
Loomi a.k.a Black Lemon a.k.a. Citron Noir
When I saw the “noir” in the name I was wondering what might be going on. I then looked up “citron noir” and was introduced to the Persian cooking ingredient “loomi”. It is formed by drying limes after boiling them in salt water. They look like charred unappetizing black globes. As this material transferred from the Middle East to the Western world loomi became lemon and the color was obvious. So black lemon is “citron noir”.
Perfumer Christine Nagel follows up her first cologne for Hermes, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate, with something different as she embraces the citrus origins of cologne with modern eyes. To recreate loomi as a perfume she blends multiple citrus ingredients before steeping them in black tea. It forms a spectacularly arid accord just like the material itself.
Mme Nagel uses lime as part of her citrus mélange, in a nod to reality, but here the black lemon accord is really made up of pieces of lemon-like ingredients: Lemon, lemon blossom, and Buddha’s Hand citron. It forms a swirly tart accord with almost no respite from that until she boils it in black tea. I don’t know what tea ingredient she uses but the effect is that of a smoky style akin to Lapsang Souchong. The tea accord also dries everything out. It wasn’t particularly juicy prior to this but now it is like a desert instead of a dessert. The slight smokiness is reinforced by the base note of cabrueva wood which provides a very light woody finish.
Eau de Citron Noir has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Eau de Citron Noir is another excellent entry into the Hermes “Eau” collection. Because I’ve been wearing it in these early days on unseasonably cold days there were times it never felt like it opened up as fully as it might a month or so from now. Even on these cooler days the skirl of a thin tendril of smoke through the very dry citrus was still enjoyable. I am looking forward to trying Eau de Citron Noir while sipping the drink I discovered looking it up for this article, iced loomi, later in the summer.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
When someone is tasked with having to follow a highly respected predecessor they know there will be comparisons. One way to approach this is to make significant changes making the enterprise your own. Another option is to understand what made the previous occupant successful and find a way to evolve that. It is the latter which has been occurring at Hermes as Christine Nagel has taken over from Jean-Claude Ellena as in-house perfumer. She has worked her way through most of the collections adding her imprint upon them. One of the few left is also one of the most important, the Hermessence collection. She has now opened the Nagel era of Hermessences with the release of three eau de toilettes and two ‘essence de parfums”.
I reviewed the three EdTs; Agar Ebene, Cedre Sambac, and Myrrhe Eglantine yesterday. Those are the slow evolution which has been happening as Mme Nagel provides her artistic perspective on that style. What has captured my attention more fully in this new set of Hermessences are the two “essence de parfums”; Cardamusc and Musc Pallida. These are significantly different from what has come before. Oil-based formulations which give an entirely different textural feel. They still hew to the minimal ingredient concept with which this collection was founded. What really changes is we leave the ethereal behind for shimmering depths.
Cardamusc is what the name portends cardamom combined with not one musk but a few. Mme Nagel uses cardamom in overdose. This has to be the single loudest ingredient in any Hermessence, ever. As is typical when a high-quality ingredient is used in overdose there are unexpected nuances not usually noticed. Cardamom at typical concentration adds a woody-tinged citrus effect. Cardamom in Cardamusc provides a multi-faceted single ingredient accord. The lemony citrus effect is enhanced as is the woody underpinning. What also becomes more evident is a set of nuanced green facets which hide underneath. There is a mint-like aspect, a leafy herbal one, and a slightly grassy vein. This is cardamom like I have never experienced previously and since it is one of my favorite notes I was hypnotized. It gets better as tendrils of a warming musk accord start to intersperse itself throughout. The cardamom is never cool as it can be in other perfumes. It starts warm but the musks provide a heat mirage style effect. I felt like this rose off my skin in waves.
Musc Pallida is also what is given in the name, iris and again not one musk but a suite of them. As with Cardamusc the iris is what comes first but this is not at high concentration. It is an iris effect seen in better perfume versions. I presume Mme Nagel is using an orris butter of some kind because it has that nuanced feel of the better ones I’ve encountered. What it means for Musc Pallida is Mme Nagel uses a set of musks which cover the entire octave of musk. Early on it is a white musk which makes the powdery nature of iris expand on the transparent bubble it provides. A mid-weight musk captures and enhances the violet-like floral quality. A slightly earthy-animalic musk teases out the rhizomal rootiness. Together as it was in Cardamusc it makes up this shimmery style which also waxes and wanes on my skin. It is a lovely combination of ingredients.
It is with these “essence de parfum” Hermessences where Mme Nagel makes this collection her own. Both are like nothing else in it. Also it is early but I can not get enough of Cardamusc. Right now, it is close to all that I want to wear. If you feel about iris the way I do about cardamom I believe Musc Pallida has the same quality to entrance you. If you’ve stayed away from the Hermessences because they seemed too light or ethereal you might want to see if Mme Nagel’s “essence de parfums” provide a more satisfying experience. With the release of both Mme Nagel has completed the process of making the fragrance side of Hermes her own.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I received with purchase from Hermes.
Much to their credit the changeover from Jean-Claude Ellena to Christine Nagel as in-house perfumer at Hermes has been a gradual effort. Mme Nagel has been adding new releases to the existing Hermes fragrance collections. Except for one. Perhaps the most important one, the Hermessence collection.
Begun in 2004 by M. Ellena it is the private collection which all designer brands have. It also consisted of the most diverse display of his minimalist aesthetic. The individual perfumes were frequently described as haiku. One of the reasons I was enthusiastic over Mme Nagel’s appointment as M. Ellena’s successor was she had done a version of Hermessence-like perfumes when she was at Jo Malone; 2010’s Cologne Intense Collection. In the press release for that collection she said, “I chose to take potentially opposing ingredients of very high quality to create unexpected yet harmonious fragrances”. Remove the “potentially opposing” out of that sentence and it is a description of the Hermessence aesthetic.
M. Ellena’s last Hermessence was 2016’s Muguet Porcelaine. I was waiting for Mme Nagel to begin her Hermessence collection. In what I think is another smart move Mme Nagel opens the new era of Hermessence with a set of five releases; three are the same eau de toilette concentrations as the previous releases with two additional released in “essence de parfum” concentration. I am going to review all five over the next two days. I’ll start with the three eau de toilette releases today and continue with the “essence de parfum” releases tomorrow.
Agar Ebene has had a lot of fuss made about it as being the first Hermes perfume to feature oud. After wearing it I’m not sure that line has truly been crossed. The press release makes a big deal that this is “agarwood” the uninfected tree which becomes oud. Which is sort of the small print to keep the oud pledge still in place. All of that should tell you the star of Agar Ebene is not the agarwood but the other ingredient, fir balsam. Mme Nagel uses a rich version around which, I believe, she wraps a precisely balanced oud accord. It allows for only a touch of the agarwood to “infect” the balsam. There are moments when it smells like the beginning of a leather accord. It ends up making this, unexpectedly, a comfort scent. If you’re looking for a Hermes oud this isn’t the one.
Cedre Sambac is the one which calls back to that desire to take “potentially opposing” ingredients looking for the harmony. Mme Nagel takes a strong cedar and finds that the indolic jasmine sambac doesn’t clash. Cedar is the most pedestrian of perfume ingredients. By taking a fully indolic jasmine and allowing it to grow up the trunk of that cedar. The skanky effect of the prototypical white flower snaking around the slightly green woodiness of the cedar was compelling each day I wore it. It is my early favorite of these three.
Myrrhe Eglantine is a spring rose and myrrh duet. It is my least favorite of the three eau de toilette versions. Some of that is probably because the rose is a slightly spicier take on the typical debutante rose rampant in spring rose releases. The myrrh is a whisper underneath the rose which rises in intensity the longer it was on my skin. I suspect this will be the best-seller among the new collection because it is the easiest to wear.
The three eau de toilette releases are Hermessences but they are recognizably Nagel Hermessences. Which I am happy to see. For where Mme Nagel is really making her mark on the Hermessence collection come back tomorrow for my reviews of the two “essence de parfum” releases.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.
Thierry Mugler is one of the most successful mainstream perfume brands ever. Starting in 1992 with the release of their first perfume, Angel, they invented the gourmand style of perfume. I looked back over my master list of all that I own and within the mainstream sector there is nothing that comes close to the number of Thierry Mugler bottles. I would say that the creative team at Thierry Mugler seems to have cracked the code on how to market challenging niche-type fragrances to the masses. Despite all that success when you are working with that mindset there are going to be times you don’t make the connection to the mass market. It took twelve years for the first miss to happen, B*Men.
As is obvious from the name B*Men is the sequel to A*Men. What is less obvious is this wasn’t meant to be alphabetical per se. Instead Thierry Mugler is a big comic book fan and these were meant to be the beginning of a team of perfume superheroes. The ad above from the release in 2004 gives you an idea of what the superhero looks like. The third member of the team would come along in 2007; Ice*Men.
B*Men was composed by a team of A*Men perfumer Jacques Huclier assisted by Christine Nagel. A*Men had been the masculine gourmand partner to Angel. B*Men was going to go in a more traditionally masculine direction building around citrus, spices, and woods. Which might be the beginning of why this didn’t succeed. The first four releases; Angel, A*Men, Innocent, and Mugler Cologne would never carry the adjective traditional. B*Men seemed to want to see if classic fragrance making with only slight Mugler tweaks could still appeal.
B*Men starts on a duet of tangerine and rhubarb. The rhubarb is used as a vegetal grapefruit surrogate. It adds green and tart to the sweeter tangerine forming a soft citrus top accord. The heart is a sturdy redwood which is surrounded by cardamom and nutmeg. The base veers away from any hint of gourmand as amber replaces the signature base accord of A*Men. That makes B*Men much less of a powerhouse than A*Men is.
B*Men has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Everything about B*Men, except for the rhubarb, is traditional masculine tropes. I think it is one of the better versions of this style of perfume. When I’m in the mood for this B*Men is one I consider. The rest of the world gave a collective shrug of the shoulders. The most consistent criticism was it wasn’t “as good as A*Men”; which shouldn’t be a disqualifier. I think it more likely a perfume brand which had conditioned its consumer for something different lost them with something so similar to other perfumes. It makes it one of the more interesting denizens of the Dead Letter Office. Sent there for being too normal.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
I have been very pleased with the direction that Christine Nagel has been taking as she begins her tenure as in-house perfumer at Hermes. The earlier release of Eau des Merveilles Bleue this year has shown Mme Nagel imparting her sensibility on the brand as she diverges from the previous style of Jean-Claude Ellena. Through her first set of releases it appears she will retain the minimalistic aesthetic that has become synonymous with Hermes fragrances; refined over M. Ellena’s time as in-house perfumer. With the latest release, Twilly D’Hermes, it also appears she is going somewhere different as she has designed something unabashedly fun but which manages to retain enough style to not be dismissed as a trifle.
Hermes Twilly scarf on a Hermes Birkin bag
The name Twilly D’Hermes refers to the narrow Twilly scarves sold by Hermes. Those Twillys have been used to wrap the handles of Birkin bags. They have also been tied into bracelets, hair ties and other fashionable accessories. It is the versatile Hermes scarf that lends itself to being interpreted in lighthearted ways. That sense of fun is one of the things Mme Nagel is trying to capture. The other is she states this is a perfume for a younger person; a young girl. I can almost see a subliminal label of “My first grown-up perfume” underpinning all of this.
7 Ways to wear a Twilly
As I was wearing Twilly D’Hermes I thought about what that would mean if you were aiming to introduce a young girl to perfume. You would keep it on the floral side you might add a fruity partner and finish with a light woody note. This is meant to be an enticement to add perfume to your day to a young woman who hasn’t done that.
As I wore it I also reflected on whether it was so facile that it wasn’t enough to hold my interest as I am very much not the target audience. What I want is a solid floral keynote paired with some interesting companions. I never found it so slight that I didn’t enjoy wearing it.
Twilly D’Hermes has three listed notes ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood. When I saw tuberose on that list I thought that is just going to be too intense. What I was greeted with when I applied Twilly D’Hermes is a fresh slightly buttery version of tuberose which has only a tiny amount of the more confrontational indoles. It is that choice which exemplifies how smart Mme Nagel is. If you scrub the indoles out completely it becomes insipid. Give the indoles too much play and the young girls will shove it away as smelling like old ladies. The choice here is to keep them here but they are like the purr of a contented kitten coming from within the soft floral moments. The tuberose is so light I expect many are going to think orange blossom is the central floral note. As I wore it there were moments when I thought the same. The ginger used here is different from how it is usually presented. Most of the time it adds a kinetic presence lifting the notes underneath it. Mme Nagel doesn’t need any lift what she needs is an atypical fruity note which is what the ginger provides it reminds me a bit of the smell of ginger ale. The base is a sandalwood where the sweeter creamy aspects are amplified and dovetail with the creamy nature of the tuberose. It is another intelligent choice.
Twilly D’Hermes has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I can’t really speak to whether this is going to be appealing to young women. I know I will be watching with interest and I suspect it has a chance to do well with the desired demographic. There doesn’t seem to be anything which should be off-putting to them. From my perspective wearing this during the summertime was ideal. It was a light tuberose floral that wasn’t too strong. The ginger and sandalwood provided pleasant accompaniment to the tuberose. I found it to be the fragrance equivalent of a Twilly scarf; not as rich as a full Hermes scarf but a fun versatile thrilling frill.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Hermes.
If there is a perfume series on which to take the temperature of an in-house perfumer at Hermes it might be the Merveilles series. Begun in 2004 with Eau des Merveilles by perfumers Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer. It was meant to be a salute to ambergris and it was amazing in its ability to capture the subtlety of that important fragrance ingredient. Just after Jean-Claude Ellena was named in-house perfumer one of his earliest compositions was Elixir des Merveilles. M. Ellena’s take was to float the ambergris not on top of the ocean but instead a sea of luscious chocolate. It has always been my opinion that this was M. Ellena’s response to Thierry Mugler Angel as a way of doing a sophisticated gourmand. M. Ellena would do another in 2012 L’Ambre des Merveilles which was more in keeping with his minimalist aesthetic. Now that Christine Nagel has taken over as in-house perfumer at Hermes it is her turn to add to the Merveilles line; Eau des Merveilles Bleue.
Mme Nagel decides to concentrate on the eau of the ocean for this latest Merveilles. It is a fascinating commentary on how the aquatic genre can be re-invigorated with imagination and by resisting using Calone along with the other typical ozonic notes. In the press materials, there is this quote from Mme Nagel, “I marveled at the pebbles, wet from the ocean; they had such a particular color and luminosity, and I discovered on them a salty, mineral taste”. Instead of going for sea spray and ozone Mme Nagel chooses to go for stone and salt as she translates that “salty, mineral taste” into a perfume.
The juxtaposition of those two inspirations shows up right away. A mineralic accord is matched with a sea salt accord. To mimic the luminosity of the brine covered pebbles Mme Nagel shines a shaft of lemon to provide the sparkle of sunlight off the pebble in your hand. Then the tide goes out leaving the pebble drying out on a piece of driftwood as at least a couple of the dry woody aromachemicals are used to create a soft desiccated wood accord. All during this the mineralic accord transforms from damp stone into dried earth. The base is a mixture of white musks and patchouli. As in the previous development Mme Nagel is keeping this on the drier side which makes me think this is a fractionated patchouli being used but I am not sure of that. The bottom line is this ends in an accord of the sand drying out as the waves recede with the tide.
Eau des Merveilles Bleue has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
For nearly twenty years I avoided the aquatic genre because of its banality. In the last couple of years, I have been shown time and time again that banality is due to lack of creativity. When a perfumer really is given the freedom to create even in what seems like an overexposed segment of fragrance they can show you there is lots of space to be explored. Mme Nagel has shown that the aquatic genre is not played out it just needs imagination. She has created a new aquatic which I know I will be wearing a lot as the days get warmer. Eau des Merveilles translates to “miracle water”. Eau des Merveilles Bleue should translate to Miracle Mineral Water.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hermes.