CONTRADICTIONS: TERRE D’HERMES / HERMES (2006)

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Minimalist perfumer Jean Claude Ellena really shook up the world of men’s fragrance with this innovative, modern masculine that eschewed the aggro-baiting air of many standard ‘aftershaves’ in favour of something far more interesting and persuasive. Leaving its crude, leering competitors in the dust, it has become something of a modern classic. 

This scent is original in many ways. Firstly, it is made without animal by-products or musk, in fact without any bodied components at all: the scent is virile, but transparent; an animist spirit passing invisibly over forests and rivers. Pine, pepper, and a mineralized accord of flint and grapefruit smell like warm sun on rocks, while the ‘earth’ of the name is a sexually enticing, yet contemporary and elegant, dry, sun-baked cedar/vetiver.

Spatially, Terre is also interesting. The scent seems to do a vanishing trick: on first application it is a refreshing and purifying scent that might seem slight, almost imperceptible. In fact, as the scent unfolds it hovers somewhere in the vicinity of the wearer (rather than on him or her), elegant; seductively aromatic; an effect that is fascinating.

My only gripe with Terre D’Hermès is my feeling that it is one of the most invariable scents I know, smelling almost identical on every person I meet. On men especially,  there is that familiar, that deeply overfamiliar, grapefruit and profound, overstrident vetiver that rises up and announces (the projection of this perfume is unbelievable sometimes, as if someone were wearing it in another room at high dosage); emphatically, that you are wearing TERRE. When a scent becomes fashionable, and is as insistent as this, it is rather easy to get sick of. 

9 Comments

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9 responses to “CONTRADICTIONS: TERRE D’HERMES / HERMES (2006)

  1. Terre d’Hermes is my most favorite perfume on my SO. It means I know it well. But I can’t say I smell it around much. Probably I live in less fashionable part of the world 😉

    • All the better : I bought it for my special other too, on the spot the first time I smelled it. There is a bottle upstairs. There’s no way he is wearing it now, though….overexposure has killed it for me.

  2. Katy

    I think I appreciate it’s super radiant splendor but I just do not care for it. I have tried it at least four different times and I just do not like it. I had a similar reaction to Tom Ford Noir.

  3. Debbie Lauri

    As usual, your way of describing these scents tells the reader a story. ~ an animist spirit passing invisibly over forests and rivers.~ LOVE it! The world is missing out on a magnificent book if this remains private. You stun me daily with your prose & vivid imagination. You did the unimaginable- you made me actually notice perfume other than Obsession.

    • Deborah you embarrass me!

      Actually, as I often say, I worry that a lot of what I write just comes across as pretentiousness, but the animist spirit was literally how I saw the scent, much as I have mixed feelings about it: there is a quality of spatial transcending here that is very interesting. It also smells very sexy and I reckon you might like it (on a man, not on you! – though some women wear it very well, better in fact, I would say…)

      I just hate macho anything. And yet, sometimes we can’t help ourselves….

  4. Dearest Ginza
    Well, here you have it…. the truth:
    Terre is just about the only Ellena that The Dandy really can’t be bothered with.
    It may well be its ubiquity, but this just says ‘corporate suit’ to me.
    No doubt well made, but beautifully cut?
    One great big yawn from over here… though I know I’m practically alone in that.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  5. cj

    I love the way you’ve written about Terre. It was the first perfume that really clicked for me, sparking a deeper curiosity about fragrance. It led me, through Ellena, to Frederic Malle and down the rabbit hole, as they say.

    When I wear Terre, as a woman, I don’t find it to be particularly masculine, but more like a poetic, abstracted impression of nature, in the manner that you’ve described. It has a quiet strength that makes me feel confident, comfortable and subtly sexy. I can see how on a man, particularly in a setting where it is commonly worn, it could seem a bit suit-like, as the Dandy suggests. But, removed from a masculine context, it has a very different effect.

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