Recently we looked at Terre D’Hermès, the magically disappearing/reappearing masculine sensation by Hermès in-house alchemist Jean Claude Ellena.


This curious olfactory phenomenon, whereby a fragrance seems to have vanished entirely, only to sneak up behind you in great clouds of secrecy, and which I believe is unique to this perfumer alone, is not, however, limited to the ubiquitous Terre. It is even more impressive in the underrated, Houdini-esque Poivre Samarcande from the Hermessence Collection: a broody, peppery moss and spice scent that is invisible, almost, on first application, yet will suddenly surrender its dark grey velvet cloaks in the night like the Hooded Claw, revealing a troubling heart that can be smelled from the other side of the street – just not necessarily by the person that is wearing it.
























One of Duncan’s Holy Grails, Poivre Samarcande is almost too dastardly suave, dry and sexy for me ( I never like the feeling of being reeled in, and this perfume for me has ‘sly, elegant beast undercover’ written all over it….  ): the Chinese mosses, bone dry cedar, and chilli peppers brook no softness, no sweetness; the river-pebble wateriness of the peppercorn-drenched opening a precursor of nothing other than a strangely cold, yet fiery and emboldening GREY (for me this is by the far the greyest/grayest scent ever made: mean, stone-laden eros-fruit for the flies….)


























Although, like many other people who have tried this scent, I was initially dismissive, I was to realize its perversely understated power the first time we were in Berlin. We had entered a bar, the dingy but refreshingly unfashionable ‘Tramps’ if I remember correctly:  a motley, ancient venue full of gay bikers in leather, worse-for-wear Otto Dix decadents, and other, trashed, and generally hors de la société types, and were standing by the counter ordering a Flensburger Pils or two when some people sitting in the corner, several metres away from where we were, approached us uncoyly to ask us what that incredible perfume was. Flattered they were enjoying my duft ( Montale Aoud Lime ) I proffered myself for inspection but was rudely scoffed away immediately. It was Duncan who was flaming up the moths from afar, and it happened again later that same night in the street, a stranger coming up to us from behind and asking the same question – what is that unbelievable smell…….?











Filed under Flowers

26 responses to “GREY VELVET: POIVRE SAMARCANDE by Hermès (2004)

  1. Lilybelle

    I’m way behind on Hermes by JCE. Must catch up someday. That sounds nice. I have only recently begun to enjoy pepper. I’m always behind the curve, in another century – and not always just the last one! 🙂

  2. brie

    Duncan’s Holy Grail?I have always wondered what Duncan wore….you really had me on this one until I read the notes- “cumin”….on me it is what I smelled like after a long sweat dripping ballet class in NYC in the summer in a studio with no air conditioning and the temps registering at 100 degrees F outside…in other words…not pleasant… Cumin does not like my alabaster wrists, I am sad to say (for I love eating it….Indian food is one of my all time favorite treats). How pronounced is the cumin in this one? for the fragrance you have described really does sound divine!

    • I am not even sure that it DOES have cumin in it as it doesn’t smell the slightest bit sweaty…I have just read it somewhere that’s all ( I am very slapdash with ‘official notes’ and so on…)

      I reckon you might like it.

  3. Pepper is one of my favourite smells. And I loved reading all your descriptions of it. Some food for thought 🙂

    • It is a very light scent, while being quite severe at the same time…very peppered, taut and austere. Quite sexy actually, although if you read reviews of it, many people say they can’t even smell it. For me it is the opposite….

    • Partly this was also a retort to Luca Turin, who was ridiculously dismissive of a perfume which deserved a better review. It is rather watercolour like in a way, probably intentional, but it certainly DOES have a smell!

      • I admire Luca’s fascination and humour but he’s lauded around as the only seal-of-approval. As with anything, scent is objective (as you know). To be honest you’re encouraging me to try this out describing it as “light and severe”. Kinda how I imagine it, and like it!

      • I have a feeling you might be rather dashing in it. It is both subtle yet also darkly swarthy.

      • Why thank you! I’m blushing now hehe

  4. ninakane1

    ooh I like the sound of this. Been wearing lusciously floral Jane Packers in the last couple of weeks, but it’s too much, and I could do with something quiet, peppery and a little under the radar. Your photos are magnificent here and instantly said ‘Berlin’ before I had even read this. I SO want to be in Berlin right now. I bought a copy of Heinrich Boll’s ‘Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum’ the other day from a church bookstall, and have this huge desire to read it cover to cover. I keep scanning it, and understand the fringes of it, if not the heart. I may have to go and buy this perfume just to conjure Berlin, now you have set this association in motion. (re; the jane Packers – they are well-made and delightful but so rich and lush – resolutely flower rich – can almost feel the velvety mush of petals on your skin, and they are strong on alcohol – spritzed them under the arms and my armpits stung for half an hour! They are a little sad and seductively pragmatic in the elegance of their thin bottles and black tulip tops – I guess she had an inkling she was dying when she made them, there is something of a swan song in their excess. But they are lovely. Particularly keen on the green orchid, vetiver and lemongrass one). But bring on Berlin.

    • ….and Duncan in this, reeking up the streets of Schoeneberg….

      • ninakane1


      • Brie, that’s so lovely of you, thank you! And Neil too! But I really know very little of perfumes – I am amazed when I read the comments on here how extensive everyone else’s knowledge is, particularly yours Brie, and I always enjoy reading your posts! The perfume community – particularly the one gathered around this lovely blog – are friendly and welcoming I think. I love writing (and do indeed scribble under pseudonyms and hop onto other perfume blogs from time to time), but wouldn’t know enough about perfumes to write a blog on them myself. I’m very happy pootling onto the Narcissus and putting a twopennorth of musings there, but that’s largely due to being inspired by Neil’s writing on them (which does encompass other things) and his immense understanding of them. No, I’m a happy dabbler, c’est tout. x

      • A genius dabbler, then.

    • brie

      you need to be writing perfume reviews….I adored this!
      Neil- take her under your wings!

      • Nina’s blog would be amazing and unique, and I reckon she will do it at some point (she might already, under a pseudonym, for all we know), but she already has a million things on the go, so I don’t know….

      • I will patiently (and eagerly) await this! and along with you be one of her first subscribers!

  5. ninakane1

    Let’s all meet up there soon.

  6. ninakane1

    My Berlin perfume is Guerlain l’Heure Bleu, but I also wore Aveda Chakra 1 (heavy on patchoulie and vetiver) when I was last there, and that went down well when I met up with these blokes in a gallery in Kreuzberg. One of them was wearing Bulgari, which smelled a bit patchouliesque (don’t know if it has this in it), but by the end of the night we were spritzing the chakra 1 all over the place singing English sea shanties utterly pissed on heavy red wine. I want to be there NOW Neil.

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