Night with Delibes: :HERMES ROUGE (2000 )

 

 

 

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Because I would dance, clandestinely, alone, to the Nutcracker; would perform the imaginary role of Schéharazade in my bedroom (I secretly really loved the ballet: really not something you admitted to at the school I went to),  when I was nine, my mother, as a birthday treat, took me to the theatre to see Coppélia.

 

What was to have been a magical night at the theatre though, was in fact me, mortified; slumped in my seat at the deeply sissifying shame of being a boy – a ‘ponce’ –  at the ballet. Somewhere deep down, as I watched the action onstage, I was thrilled; ecstatic, but in my basic being I just watched the stage throughout in a mortified paralysis; slouched agonizingly  in my seat: dying,  with glandular, redly feverish cheeks.

 

 

 

My fears and shame notwithstanding, my terror of being ‘found out’ ( my mere presence at the ballet, rather than at the football stadium felt like damning evidence), the stimulating giddiness of the grand occasion, of the cultured, public big night out in childhood is something that really stays with you internally for a lifetime : the excited, womb-like darkness : the velveted, ruched-red, claustrophobia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rouge by Hermès reminds me very much of this sense of occasion and also the emotion underneath it; your mother cleaning your face with flurried powdered lipstick-spit as you climb the carpeted staircase together to get to your seats on time and then hear the first animated murmurings from arriving crowds; the beginnings of the orchestra as the players tune up their instruments in discordantly lavish cacophony:  a ravishing, stupendously romantic perfume (Rouge is very much a perfume, not a ‘fragrance’) that definitely deserves far wider recognition – in the extrait especially – where the troubling richness of its elegant carnality truly comes to the fore.

 

 

The perfume, a reworking of the earlier, and equally beautiful Parfum D’Hermes, dazzles in its sheer compact and multi-tiered complexity: impossible glamour from the first spray, but with that subtly distancing, impeccably  Hermès taste: a shimmering rush of powdery myrrh-fused roses, heated 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, musk……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is this disturbing finish, the Oedipal animality at the heart of this fragrance, contrasted brilliantly with the beautiful shine of the first notes, that makes Rouge so exciting as a still-available contemporary perfume. Superficially, and overtly, similar to Guerlain’s Chamade in many ways ( the Japanese perfumer Akiko Kamei who created it only made homages to Chamade ), Rouge nevertheless has more self-composure, sensuality, self confidence.

 

 

Where the former has an almost limpid, embarrassing sincerity (Chamade is probably the most ‘in love’, in many senses, of all perfumes), Rouge has more fortitude, is real flesh and blood. She is perhaps the same woman twenty, thirty, forty years later: richer, harder, more mature and more experienced,  careworn; yet still undeniably beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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46 Comments

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46 responses to “Night with Delibes: :HERMES ROUGE (2000 )

  1. ninakane1

    Love your Hermes Rouge review. Once took Dante to the ballet to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, and this pompous woman next to him berated him loudly for rustling his sweet papers. She started expounding on how children shouldn’t be allowed in to watch ballet! It was dreadful because he was already on that 11-year old cusp of nonchalently pretending he didn’t care whether he watched it but secretly really excited, and he was mortified for the remainder of it. He gave up salsa dancing soon after and insisted on doing football. But something good of it must stay with you. Your review is divine.

  2. ginzaintherain

    I hate such things happening. For me my love of ballet made me feel nothing but shame. And I don’t know if I am just projecting something onto this scent, but it does somehow convey those feelings to me. Very dressed up and perfumey. You must try it when you come!

  3. tonkabeany

    I love the notion of a Chamade that has regained its composure. Replaced that heady sparkle with impeccable gloss perhaps.

  4. ginzaintherain

    What a gorgeous way of putting it!
    Chamade sometimes strikes me as wearing its heart shockingly, on her sleeve. It is Duncan’s vote for best perfume of all time, by the way.

  5. alabasterwrists

    Lord…I knew we were kindred spirits! Started ballet classes at the age of three and made it to a professional level but stopped at age 23 due to an injury. It is a very difficult profession and not as glamourous as one may think.
    Neil, despite your reported clumsiness I think you would have made a great ballet dancer for your personality is so artistic !
    great post!

    • ginzaintherain

      Thanks a lot….I don’t know if I could have, but I know that I just have to hear Tchaikovsky to tear up…and Black Swan KILLED and KILLS mex

      • alabasterwrists

        I know EXACTLY what you mean ….it took me many,many years before I could see a ballet, let alone listen to music that one associates with it (such was the profound psychological effect and believe it or not I still have dreams about being in ballet classes and wake up in a cold sweat). I never allowed my children to even entertain the idea of ballet classes for I knew that as an art form it was extremely hard on one both physically and mentally.

      • ninakane1

        I know what you mean alabaster wrists! I’m sorry to hear about your injury. My mum was a ballet dancer and dislocated her knee in her early twenties so was forced to give it up. It’s very difficult because the way ballet dancers used to be trained made it an all or nothing activity and also the emotional development of ballet (and its themes) has a relationship to tragedy and ephemerance, so it is very hard on young ballerinas when something happens to interrupt the development. Have you ever done any Five Rhythms by Gabrielle Roth? It’s great for dancers. Her book ‘Sweat Your Prayers’ talks about how she developed the dance techniques when her own ballet career was interrupted by injury. I think ballet is taught in different ways these days with more emphasis on holism and balance and mixing it with other dance forms to relieve the pressure on the body. even so I remain a little wary of it too.

  6. Cath

    Aaaah, Hermes Rouge. It’s on my want list, then off again, then on again. Some days I love the powdery dry woody fragrance with ylang ylang, other days all I smell is roses, ugh. The only way I like roses are as fresh flowers. In perfumes roses always turn green/sour/dusty on me, depending on the rose used. I might have to buy the smallest bottle available just to get it over with, and cross it off my to buy list. But I’m afraid that next time I step into the Hermes store and start testing, I might end up leaving the store with something else, or be indecisive and buy several perfumes. The Kelly Caleches are also on my wish list you see. Aaaah, Hermes what have you done to me?

  7. Lilybelle

    Ooooo…I loooove Chamade, and Rouge sounds beautiful. I’ve never tried it but I’ve always meant to. My mother took me to the ballet, too, when I was a child. I loved it, but at least, being a girl, I didn’t suffer any mortification about it. 🙂

    • Lucky you.

      Chamade is Chamade – utterly wonderful, but I also think that Parfum D’Hermes (which Rouge was derived from and is even better…..you would LOVE it) is gorgeous. It is the same basic smell, but where Chamade is green, Rouge is definitely red, if that makes sense. It is plush and romantic and gorgeous.

  8. I love thinking of the ballet superimposed with the aura of Rouge d’Hermes, makes a pirouette seem so elegantly parfumed now 🙂
    I have to say, besides Caleche, Rouge d’Hermes-originally known as Parfum d’Hermes (now known again as PdH) is one of my all time favorite scents. It just seems to embody the hedonistic days of the 80’s, with that more is more vibe, yet it is completely elegant.
    I remember receiving a small deluxe miniature of Parfum d’Hermes when I was young and just falling head over heels in love with it; a love that still holds true, I wore it in HK last November and it was perfect.
    This is a scent that should truly be in every fragrance lovers collection, at least once to experience it.

    • I think Parfum D’Hermes is head spinningly gorgeous, and Rouge (how similar do you find them) was a good attempt to modernize it. Not sure how popular it is now, but it is so deliciously romantic.

      • Well, technically Rouge is supposed to be the same fragrance, just renamed, although I always felt it was slightly tweaked and reformulated; when I worked for Sephora the representative told me it was the same scent, just rebranded, but I could sense the difference. According to information from the Hermes boutique in Boston, when we had a Basenotes get together in Boston a few years back, they are supposedly the same…but the name is changed back again.
        Now for my honest opinion 🙂 , I could smell the thread connecting Parfum d’Hermes with Rouge, I never felt they were “the same scent”, I felt it was an updated version which was quite faithful to the original. The Parfum d’Hermes being sold now is much less faithful to the original, than is the Rouge. Confusing n’est ce pas?
        The original PdH, which I decided to wear après bain, thank you for inspiring me, is just one of the MOST gloriously sweet, creamy, envelopingly soft orientals to be found. I feel as though I am wrapped in a delicious cocoon of spiced chai latte, with a bit of caramel drizzled on top. This is such a lush, elegant, sophisticated, yet personal and intimate scent. If you do not have it, I will have to send you some to indulge in.
        The big difference between the original and the Rouge, along with the one available at the moment is the perfect balance of all the notes in the original , not to mention the perfectly smooth transition from top to basenotes.
        You can tell this is a scent “truly” close to my heart…and soul.

      • No I do have the Parfum D’Hermes in extrait, and think it is truly heavenly. There is no way Rouge is the same. It is much more……cherry powdery or something, more rosy. I would stake my life on them being different. Very similar, yes, but different. I did a post on the parfum d’hermes actually. Perhaps you could check it out and we can rant and rave further (though now, hideously, I must get ready for work). THREE MORE DAYS.

      • We will definitely chat more on these Hermes beauties. 2 days left now, Bon courage!

      • It comes up if you search for ‘extraits’.

  9. Rouge Hermes is a quiet beauty, Neil. I have the version in the photo and I actually wore it last week. People always move in closer to have a sniff. You can find it quite easily in mini size. It’s the myrrh and rose that make it special for me. I’ve always thought Mariella Burani in the edp is the sister to RH. I find Chamade aldehydic and green. Might track down the Pd’H. I’m mad for discontinued, vintage frags.
    Best, Star.

  10. I love Coppelia and Rouge! Rouge could match very well with The red shoes ballet’s atmosphere.
    This fairy tale written by Andersen was adapted on screen by the mythical couple, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Released in 1948, this is one of the first technicolor film. Many designers and artists mentioned it as a source of inspiration in their works. This is the kind of timeless classical you’re always delighted to watch and rewatch, whatever how old you are.
    Emilie

  11. I not suffered much be the only kid in the theater. I felt kind of embarrassed but also some pride, my parents to share the beauty whit me. It may be because I’m a girl.
    Rouge a belated discovery now imperative. I am happy with my bottles, large and extait.
    Excellent and nostalgic opinion.

    • Thankyou. I love this perfume, but I do think that being a girl at the ballet must have been an entirely different experience. For me, it felt ‘gay’ and shameful, and it is a feeling that I will never forget.

  12. rprichpot

    What a gorgeous review. You really make me want this. Great writing.

    • Thankyou. I bought the solid parfum the other day and am really enjoying it.

      • Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

        Cher M Ginza
        What a lovely come back to you on the velveteen tones of Hermes Rouge and the puppeteer moods of Coppelia.
        I bought a vintage bottle on your recommendation and it has accompanied me throughout stern and stormy weather. The connexion with Chamade, an oldtime companion, is apt.
        So exciting and warming to read and sense you
        Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose
        Have to install me and my digital signature all over again .

      • Truly delighted to have you back!

  13. I haven’t yet smelled the current Rouge d’Hermes, but I thought I’d try on some of my vintage Chamade and contemplate it with a view to this lovely comparison:

    “Where the former has an almost limpid, embarrassing sincerity (Chamade is probably the most ‘in love’, in many senses, of all perfumes), Rouge has more fortitude, is real flesh and blood. She is perhaps the same woman twenty, thirty, forty years later: richer, harder, more mature and more experienced, careworn; yet still undeniably beautiful.”

    Hmmm. Being 60, given what you say, I’m not sure if Rouge wouldn’t be perhaps a little . . . aging on me? Sometimes it’s a younger woman who can better pull off those more mature scents. I can imagine it would be dynamite on a man. I’ve also heard comparisons to Nahéma and Samsara and am curious to know what you think about that. I’m so tempted to blind-buy the Rouge (your descriptions never fail to do this to me) but also wondering, with my large cache of vintage Chamade, Nahéma and Samsara, if the modern ingredients in it be up to snuff, relatively speaking? I do get spoiled with the under-the-skin-ness of vintage, as we talked about quite recently, I think. Ah. Yes. “Both under the skin and sublimating the air around you.” So well-put.

  14. But again, just thinking: the modern Rouge might not feel so dated in the wearing . . . ?

    • Not ageing AT ALL. Just sensually flattering. And not like Samsara, which despite its obvious ( TOO bloody obvious) SEXINESS I find intolerably vulgar. Nahema: a little bit. What it feels like is a powdery, polished, red version of Chamade without the galbanum and hyacinth and with real filth in the base: I was scandalized the first time I smelled it, although I haven’t tried it at the boutiques recently.

      • You? Scandalized? It must bit some filthy! I will look for it next time I’m in the big city. Good on Hermès, since filth isn’t something they’ve been putting in bottles recently.

  15. And would the intensity of your response to Black Swan somehow tie in with those memories of anguish at the ballet?

  16. Thought about it and thought about it. And. I have just ordered a bottle. Oh, Neil. Wheee!

    • Seriously, I have been wearing it a LOT recently and think it is gorgeous. Really dirty but lush and beautiful. Better than Nahema I would say. Let me know what you think when you get it. What kind of bottle is it? ‘Vintage’?

      • I believe it’s the new packaging, clear bottle, red label. Couldn’t find vintage that could be mailed to Canada non-problematically. I hear that it can be construed as “rosy” which is an issue for some, but not for this woman! I don’t blind-buy much (have done in the past with patchy results) but I trust your take on this.

        “What it feels like is a powdery, polished, red version of Chamade without the galbanum and hyacinth and with real filth in the base.”

        I can hardly wait. Should be another ten days or so getting here. Counting them!

      • I don’t understand why I wrote that it was without hyacinth though because it is VERY hyacinthy! Must be a typo.

        I am just worried that you might get a fresher rosier, de-dirtified edition, where the costus of the red bottle is so integral to me.

      • And “better than Nahema” is quite the selling point as well. Whoah!

      • Better than current Nahema, anyway, whose flaws have now come into focus.

      • Oh, no. Pity about the new birthday Nahema. Perhaps it will improve with a different season, warmer weather?

      • Que sera, sera, I guess. Hope it’s sufficiently dirty, if not as filthy as we’d wish.

  17. I am wearing my new Rouge!

    Neil, how can I thank you? I cannot believe I overlooked this one. You have done it justice. It is just as you describe.

    Good news: you were worried that this newest formulation (batch code is January 2016) might not be sufficiently filthy, but it is riddled with filth. It’s got that dirty myrrh note all tied up with a smoky, wet-dog labdanum and dirty-hair costus, the effect of which — thank you — I now understand. It’s a different kind of filth than that expressed through animalic musks, civet and castoreum, and in the world of rose-centric fragrances, a welcome breath of grimy air.

    On first inhalation, there was immediate recognition. I time-and-space-traveled back to California, to the family home south of San Francisco. We had a massive myrtle bush weaving through the veranda, and that’s where Rouge took me. The scent of myrtle leaves and berries is somewhere between juniper, bay laurel and rosemary, as spicy as it is herbal. To me, it is this myrtle note that really distinguishes Rouge. I do like the cedar in it as well, in sync with the myrtle; there’s something sporty, outdoorsy and masculine about it that contrasts with all that classic, plush, curvaceous femininity: like a woman wearing a long, formal red velvet evening skirt, heels, white silk satin blouse . . . and a short, fitted riding jacket.

    Perhaps carrying a riding crop.

    It’s very sexy.

    • SO glad to read this. What a fantastic description.

      It IS gorgeous, no?

      But such a strange release for the year 2000

      • Yes. Strange indeed for that time. We have to give it to Hermès to keep the costus et al.

        My sense is that mine has been, hmm, not gutted by any means, but certainly streamlined — at least compared to the voluptuous composition that was in my mind when I was reading your description. Like a lot of reworked fragrances I’m familiar with, there’s that feeling as though some ingredients have been substituted: an old musk for a new, a different, “head-space” synthetic sandalwood for the real McCoy. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear it during the day, anywhere (although I’m fairly brazen about such things). Which is not a bad thing at all.

        I can see why it’s said to lean toward Chamade rather than Nahéma. I wore both along with the Rouge. Nahéma is more luxurious, unctuous. Mind you, mine is a little older, so the newest might be different.

        Credit to them not to sanitize Rouge for the Twilly crowd.

        Thank you again, Neil. I’m glad to own a bottle.

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