There are many fragrances which speak about capturing shadows in fragrant form. What that means most of the time is the weaving of dark notes within brighter ones. But is that a shadow? A shadow is an indistinct reflection of something which light shines upon. The latest release from Etat Libre D’Orange, Hermann A Mes Cotes Me Paraissait Une Ombre (from here on out just Hermann), got me thinking about shadows and perfume.
The incredibly long name of Hermann comes from a Victor Hugo poem entitled “What Two Horsemen Were Thinking in the Forest”. The specific line cited translates to “by my side, Hermann seemed to me like a shadow”. The press materials ask if your perfume might be your shadow. As I wore Hermann I found that it was a shadow of itself throughout its development.
Etienne de Swardt
Perfumer Quentin Bisch was invited to collaborate with creative director Etienne de Swardt for the second time. His first brief, as a perfumer, was for La Fin du Monde two years ago. Hermann is a very different kind of fragrance from that. Over the past year it seems M. Bisch has been enjoying using many of the Givaudan captive molecules seeing what the newest materials can bring to a fragrance. Hermann is no different as he employs four distinct synthetics. What I think he does very cleverly is to allow each synthetic to provide a shadow to another note. Sort of like one horseman is looking at the other from distance as they travel through the development.
M. Bisch opens Hermann with a fanfare of green galbanum matched with black pepper. This provides one bookend. The next stage of development is a strong blackcurrant bud note. It is sticky green and concentrated fruit. The last note is Calypsone providing the indistinct replica of the blackcurrant bud. Calypsone is an ozonic melon note. M. Bisch keeps its presence at a whisper because it is meant to be just a shadow of the fruit. The same takes place with rose and the synthetic Petalia. Petalia provides a fruity peony-like shadow to the rose, again modulated to be the lesser of the two notes. Geosmin’s earthy quality gives frankincense a grounded simulacrum. Pepperwood provides the spicy, weaker, twin to patchouli; to provide the other bookend to the black pepper on top. In the final stages Ambroaxan brings this to its finish.
Hermann has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage. You will leave a shadow of scent if you spray too much.
M. Bisch composed a study of olfactory point-counterpoint as for each focal point there was a note meant to reflect it as a shadow does. Hermann is not a particularly dark fragrance in tone. I think I’ll be able to wear it year-round. I think in the summer it might even be more pronounced in its pairs of notes. Walking the beach, me and my perfumed shadow.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle from Etat Libre D’Orange.