Because I danced to the Nutcracker and used to perform the imaginary role of Schéharazade in my bedroom (I secretly really loved the ballet: not something you admitted to at the school I went to), when I was nine, my mother took me to see Coppélia. What was to have been a magical night at the theatre though, was me, mortified; slumped in my seat at the sissifying shame of being a boy – a ‘ponce’ – at the ballet. Deep down I was thrilled, ecstatic, but I watched the stage, throughout, in mortified paralysis. Slumped in my seat: dying, with embarrassed, glandular, feverish cheeks.
The excitement of the big night out is something, though, that stays with you; when you close that front door behind you and go out, dressed up; to the theatre: the darkness……….. that red-ruched, velvet claustrophobia.
And this perfume by Hermès – much under appreciated, in my view – reminds me very much of that sense of occasion and the emotion beneath it; your mother cleaning your face with flurried powdered lipstick-spit as you climb the carpeted staircase and then hear the first animated murmurings from arriving crowds………. a ravishing, stupendously romantic perfume (Rouge is very much a perfume, not a ‘fragrance’) that definitely deserves far wider recognition, in the extrait especially. Rouge dazzles in its compact, tiered complexity: impossible glamour from the first spray, but with that Hermès impeccable taste: a shimmering rush of powdery myrrh-fused roses, warmed and lit up with bright ylang, cedar, and a light veil of spice; pulsating beneath this delicious cloud a costly seduction of resins, vanilla, costus, and musk……
It is this troubling finish, the Oedipal animality at the heart of this fragrance, contrasted brilliantly with the beautiful first notes, that makes Rouge so exciting as a still-available, contemporary perfume. Superficially, and overtly, similar to Guerlain’s Chamade in many ways, Rouge nevertheless has more self-composure. Where the former has an almost embarrassing sincerity (the most ‘in love’, in many senses, of all perfumes), Rouge is the same woman twenty years later: richer, harder, yet still incredibly beautiful.