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…….?