You could do far worse than the contemporary line up of Hermès colognes. From the crisp, citric classicism of Eau d’Orange Verte (green, subdued and angular as it always smelled), the plush, more obvious pink grapefruit of Eau De Pamplemousse Rose; the calm, blue mysticism of Eau de Narcisse Bleu and the more sensual Eau de Mandarine Ambrée (the one I am closest to buying at the moment because it reminds me somewhat of vintage Calvin Klein Obsession and immediately makes me feel happy); and, now, Eau de Néroli Doré and Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate, these clear and relatively reasonably priced fragrances are clean, fresh, but effectively pleasing spring and summer scents that work well as taut, spritzy pick-me-ups.




As with the Hermessences, I like some more than others. Eau de Gentiane Blanche doesn’t really grab me (though I appreciate its pale and watery oddness), and though I enjoyed certain facets of Iris Ukiyoé,  Epice Marine, Santal Massoia, and Vanille Galante, ultimately, neither did they. The ‘new’ rhubarb, Rhubarbe Ecarlate  (which in fact smells almost embarrassingly familiar), also courts my ambivalence. It is quite nice, and should probably be a commercial success I would imagine with its faint vanilla custard note running through it (white musks), reminding me of particularly nostalgic boiled sweets you can still get from a confectioner’s shop in Hurst St. in Birmingham  ( Rhubarb and custard. I have always loved that combination). Over this soft and malleable skin scent base note is layed a fine, fruity, and indeed, truly red rhubarb accord that bursts forth from the flacon, appealingly rendered but a touch unimaginative, coming across rather like Rose Ikebana and Eau De Pamplemousse Rose’s sturdy, but perhaps less intelligent, younger cousin. That this is Christine Nagel’s first work in her new position alongside Jean Claude Ellena comes as something of a surprise, then, as it feels like a copy – albeit more rounded and smooth – of her co-worker’s own oeuvre, as though only just esconced in the Hermès studios she is as yet still afraid to really experiment.




Ellena’s own neroli (for which Tunisia and Morocco apparently had half of their annual neroli crop bough up by Hermès) is more successful in terms of creativity – a raspingly smooth, almost bitter, very natural orange blossom scent that is very neroli-centric and indeed smells clean and golden with an unusual underlay of saffron. I like it better than the recent Eau Des Sens by Diptyque, another orange blossom effusion (is this the latest ingredient du jour?)  because it smells less synthetic to me and more refined. Neroli lovers should definitely give this one a spin – it would make a very pleasing travel companion I would imagine, but my partner is a confirmed neroli-hater and I would never personally get away with it ( I sometimes secretly spritz on some Annick Goutal Neroli on sunny days when he is not looking, though, my personal favourite interpretation of these provocative and pungent, smell-me early summer flowers).






















Surprisingly, given how awful most reformulations or ‘reimaginations’ of classic, discontinued scents tend to be on the whole, Jean Claude Ellenas’s remixes of the classic Hermès masculines are more successful than I would have imagined. I was happy to reacquaint myself with Bel Ami Vetiver again recently- a beautifully rich and elegant scent that seemed like a real Duncan contender to me when I smelled it the first time, and better than the current formulation of Bel Ami which feels a bit doctored. (The original was great -like a hairy, gay 70’s porn star having a quiet night in at home in his leather dungeon) but I personally find it, now, a bit other era – only someone really working the theme with confidence and with the appropriately hirsute physique  could properly carry it off, in my opinion. The vetiver remake – more held together and now –  is more up to date, modern and more easily worn.




Another classic by the house, Equipage, by Guy Robert (Calèche, Doblis, Madame Rochas) was already the epitome of male elegance for me – one of the most appealing of the traditional cigar-smoking, properly orchestrated masculines – I have a vintage bottle that I dip into from time to time on an autumnal Sunday, say, in a thick-knit woollen sweater as the golden light of yellow leaves filters through the garden. Complex, citric, aromatic, floral (lily) and delicately spicy, Equipage represents the thorough dignity of the thinking male without the bulging thongs of the chest-thumping 70’s ballbearers. There are few classical male scents this intricate, light, yet simultaneously trustworthy, full and self-assured.




The geranium variant of Equipage seem to me to be Ellena at his more experimental and playful, taking a fresh and powdery, yet still quite manly fougère accord, draining out some of the smudged old-school musky animalics that date this kind of perfume easily, and flushing it with a cool, Hermesian fraîcheur, the geranium flower note hale, uplifting and fresh from the bathroom (in fact the whole very much reminds me, in its overall projection, with its rose and sandalwood and cloves, of Imperial leather soap,  a creamy and soothing smell which I have always loved and sometimes ask people to bring me from England when they come to stay). Its appearance in Geranium Equipage makes the perfume very wearable, humorous and life-loving – cool, neo retro at its very best.




All housed in similar bottles, now, as you can see in these pictures, the Hermès full collection of perfumes may represent a certain clean, held-back conservatism, bound very firmly by the Parisian laws of chic, and now, packaged quite homogeneously as well. But there is plenty of poetry and playfulness within these scents too. They basically all smell good, imbued with a luxurious feeling of calm and glassy detachment. In these woefully crass and oversugared times, I have to say that I do admire the dignity that the house seems almost effortlessly to maintain.













Filed under Citrus, Flowers


  1. I like this style of yours, too. Concise, clearly descriptive without being pedantic, on the objective side of things but with your usual wit. Suits these scents very well. Interested to know if you’ve smelled the current Amazone and if you can tell us how it compares to the original. I loved it when it first came out in 1974.

    • Actually that was one I never could get my head around, somehow. I know where there is a vintage bottle of edt in Zushi, near where I live, but I haven’t yet bought it. Isn’t a bit nondescript in its mossiness? Give me the lowdown.

      • (I love the magic of the internet. So many miles separate you and your readers, and yet we can communicate so quickly and effortlessly.)
        It’s been years, but I remember it not as mossy, but as a blast of blackcurrant bud with a dash of cassis: fresh, green and fruity, with some interesting woody things lurking around and underneath. It was a bit like a young Rhône, if you can imagine. Quite juicy and delicious. I don’t expect the vintage would be in great shape at this stage, but one never can tell . . .

      • You have made me really want to experience it again as I love blackcurrant bud when it is done well (First, L’Ombre dans L’eau). I will have to check it out again.

        And thanks for the compliment about the piece: as you know I do have this cooler side to me as well and when I am in a certain mood, that is how I write. The breathless, florid maniac always reappears again in due course.

      • Lilybelle

        I quite like Amazone. It’s dry/tart/fruity and clean soapy smelling, developing into something a bit strange but pleasant. It’s an odd scent but I like it. I’m no good at describing fragrances. I still prefer Calèche, but I’d like Amazone on my free spirit younger sister (or brother).

      • Mmmm, definitely want to try it again now!

  2. Also, love the wine references, though I am more of a consumer than a connoisseur. On the whole I tend to like Italian and Spanish more than French for some reason.
    Does that make me a heathen?

    • I also love l’Ombre dans l’Eau. Wouldn’t hurt to check out Amazone again, eh? Try the current one at least and see how it stacks up to the others you’ve written so well about. I like all the temperatures of your writing, you know, including this cerebral one. I think Duncan must never find you dull.
      I was just thinking myself how much I love Italian and Spanish wines. Sometimes the merlot- and cabernet-based French wines can be a bit murky and sour somehow, especially in the lower ranks. Give me a good Spanish Rioja any day!

      • HA! I am not into Cabernet at all, and D almost always goes for Rioja. I quite like Argentinian Malbec as well. A Bordeaux is nice with Sunday lunch but on the whole I find French wines very disappointing. We have actually had some excellent Turkish and Indian wines recently as well – at least to our full throated palates. I either like the more watery Italiani (the only white I can drink as well), or else bodied strong reds. What I detest in red wine is what I call a ‘creamy’ note (and yet is what seems to win certain red wines gold medals). Like Academy Awards with films, I am learning that if the bottle has a rosette, I am probably not going to like it. Eau, the perversity!

    • Lilybelle

      A young Rhône = perfect descriptor.

  3. I know what you mean about creamy, I think. I’m thinking an almost sour-cream note?
    I also can’t handle anything too “purple” when it comes to red wine – and come to think, those are often the sour-cream ones. Like crappy merlots. They can also have a weird green-pepper note, garbage-like.
    A decent Argentine Malbec can be good and ripe and spicy, gutsy without being harsh. Nice choice.
    I think perfume appreciation and wine appreciation are closely related.

    • Possibly, although in my case my palate is no way near as sensitive as my nose.

      • Most of the pleasure of wine – and most of its complexity – is in the scent, so you’re well-equipped to appreciate it!

      • Yes, I have never really done the nose swilling thing as I always found it looked ridiculously pretentious. Particularly in public. I can’t stand any forms of prescribed behaviours and often the very worst kind of people do that thing (you know it is true) even if in fact that is the best way to appreciate wine.

  4. Lilybelle

    I love this house best of all for modern, contemporary scents, or for classics that are reformulated but still smell good, not degraded. I haven’t smelled them all but that just leaves me lots to discover. I have my step father’s bottle of Equipage and the talc. I mostly keep it in memory of him but I do like the fragrance very much. I want to smell the Blue Narcisse one.

    • Equipage is inherently emotionally evocative even without actual personal associations. I can only imagine how it must make you feel smelling it.

      The Narcisse Bleu I am constantly intrigued by but wonder about the base notes, whether it would dry down to something comfortable on me. I agree that they are very appealing though, generally. More even than Chanel in many ways, which have a lot of tacky dross in their current lineup. Hermes keeps things cool, calm, and collected.

      • Lilybelle

        Yes, precisely. Cool, calm, collected – but never blasé. There is usually a pleasant surprise.

  5. I hear you. I’ve seen a lot of pretentiousness. And no it ain’t pretty. But it’s amazing how discreet you can be and still get some molecules up into your nostrils.

  6. Nancysg

    “Quaff” is a wonderful verb and one you have now inspired me to use and to do!

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