It takes a certain bravery to try something new. The ‘requirements’ for men’s perfumery are so entrenched, so unbudging, that it would be impossible to overemphasize how tired the whole enterprise often feels. Mainstream fragrance is often conservative at best, only inching very slowly, trendwise, in unchartered directions, sometimes even exacerbating already exaggerated masculine tropes – Dior Sauvage, Paco Rabanne One Million – to the point where an entire gender becomes shackled.

H24 is the first Hermès men’s fragrance release in 15 years, the last being the innovative, now-modern-classic Terre D’Hermès, a flinty, grapefruit, mineralistic vetiver suspended in Jean Claude Ellena’s minimal, but very tenacious, central concept that in the unfolding years has become highly popular. I personally find it tiring, but when it first emerged on duty free shelves back then it was very original – there was a new refinement and elegance; a toned silhouette with less brute muscle, more sinew.

Christine Nagel’s brand new creation for Hermès is entirely different to its predecessor, and even more groundbreaking: a futuristic take on freshness; green and clean, both alien and human, without a traditional masculine edict in sight. I am trying to imagine ‘your average man’ picking this up from the shelf in a department store or airport from the huge selection available and selecting this one as their first choice rather than a much safer bet : to a large extent the public’s scent receptors have long been formed on what is current, what they smell around them. If the norm for women is endless percolations of the candy florachouli, years, even decades, of Angel, Coco Mademoiselle, La Vie Est Belle, Flowerbomb, and all of their imitators, anything outside those socially accepted parameters becomes perilous and risky for the average consumer. People like to sink into their comfort zones. Men even more so.

Christine Nagel, the intrepid nose at Hermès, was adamant, nevertheless, that such widely accepted clichés would not form the basis of, nor even appear in, the new addition to the house’s collection, expressly avoiding the inexorable aggro-ambers that form the basis of the vast majority of men’s fragrances. Instead, she worked with the designer for the Hermès men’s collection, Véronique Nichanian, to capture the more evaporative but stimulating concepts of ‘workshop steam, cashmere, and botanical extracts’ through an unusual combination of clary sage, rosewood, a ‘co-distillation’ of narcissus, and a synthetic called sclarene that smells of metallic, freshly ironed steam. The result, at least on first play, is like nothing I have ever smelled before – in itself a wonderful thing.

The top notes of H24 are what make me nervous about the perfume’s commercial potential. There is a sharp, almost sour, fruity piercing of sap and light in the opening accord that is unplaceable (because it simply has never existed before) which, despite or because of its oddity, feels immediately optimistic, futuristic. Even dazzling. I do think that there will be an immediate divide between those who are put off by this novelty and unfamiliarity – the sensation of synthetic photosynthesis; a scything away of the funge of the past; mind-clearing — and by those who are attracted to its pristine newness. The middle section, green, perhaps more feminine, and for me with strange, distant echoes of the piquant verts of the seventies and eighties like Lauder’s Private Collection (the perfumer has referred to H24 as a ‘high tech chypre’), has a dreamy, almost melancholic interplay with the proactive energy of the main, and this is my favourite part of the scent: there is a vague nod to the past, in some distant galaxy – but with a fresh, youthful poise. The final accord is a more placid, metallic musk fused with the constant, but pleasant, leaf – like haze that is there throughout the perfume’s duration, with less impact on the senses and emotions, a little flat, a touch unmoving perhaps – yet as a holistic whole, I know I would still very much enjoy smelling H24 on a new generation of younger, more boundlessly emancipated beings.


Filed under abstract moderns, Green, Masculines

19 responses to “NEW DEPARTURES : : H24 by HERMÈS (2021)

  1. Without smelling it, I can’t predict which side I would land on. “Aggro-ambers” should be on a mandatory warning label for perfumes that contain them, though.

    • Oh my god – don’t make me even start talking about it again: I have ranted on here already enough.

      This scent deserves great credit for at least trying to break through those noseblocks. It is quite nice – even if the final musk may slightly remind me of Secretions Magnifiques – a no go area for me. Kudos for the positivity and innovation though.

      Now to find ways to subvert perfumes for women.

  2. Yes, aggro-ambers or sinus searing freshies are about all that is available in men’s fragrance. Very tiring. And the womens’ limited selection of endless etyhl maltol bombs and flora/fruitichoulis are just as tedious.
    H24 sounds amazing, I shall have to try it. A futuristic green chypre sounds like something unisex enough for me to pull off in the Monsoon humidity. (But way too outlandish and sophisticated for the males in my immediate family.)

    • Having worn it all day today, I can say the ending is more standard masculine (but in a way I don’t mind): it reminds me a bit of the old Colors Benetton. I don’t think I would say it is ACTUALLY a futuristic green chypre – my amazement with this scent is simply from the fact that a major brand is trying something absolutely different. For a really sharp green vibe for men I prefer Sisley’s Eau D’Ikar – which nobody else seems to like except me.

      This is definitely worth trying though – next time you are at the airport, wrap your nose around it : Duncan said this morning it reminded him of grapefruit and peach slices in jelly: right now it is just smelling to me (from the bottle) of boutique hotel sheets. Quite hard to evaluate/ categorize but the point is…….NOT A WOODY AMBER for which we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

      • ALSO: the very fact that it is explicitly targeted for men is all that some men need to hear to at least try it. They might give it a go. The word ‘unisex’, which I never use, as I find it very neutering and dull, resounds terrifyingly with some people.

  3. OnWingsofSaffron

    Yes! “Aggro-ambers” — that phrase immediately caught my attention! That’s just the word!!
    Luca Turin somewhere talks about modern masculines as a “genre distinguished by asteroidal bleakness”, and it is above all those aggro-ambers which contribute to the never-ending horror.

    • Brilliantly put. This new perfume by Hermes is slight, and slightly flimsy in a way, and quite weird, but it is NOT THE STANDARD – and that is all I care about. For that reason alone it is iconoclastic.

  4. Tara C

    I haven’t smelled it, but a male friend who did was very put off by what he described as a screechy synthetic chemical smell. I will sniff it when I get the chance but my expectations are very low.

    • As they perhaps should be. It IS very screechy and synthetic and peculiar – hence what I said about worrying about the commercial viability. It is a very odd release for Hermes – but kind of brave.

  5. Robin

    Sounds kind of cool. Do you think Ric would like it? He hates things that attack his sinuses (FM Superstition), as you know. Also as you know, he thinks that Le Lion is a complete pussycat of a fragrance, cuddly and fuzzy and powdery.

    Do you think I would like H24? I do like some synthetics very much, even if Ric is sensitive to many of them. The chemistry experiment that is Bottega Veneta, the chemistry experiment that is Narciso Narciso Rodriguez (white cube), the natural/synthetic bomb that is that notorious Superstition, the nuclear fallout situation that is Amouage Bracken Woman: a big noseful of something interesting and attractive, regardless of how tethered it is in the natural world, can be a good thing.

    • Beautifully put. I can go there sometimes as well, but on the whole I do think I recoil – and this is definitely not for Ric’s sinuses. I find it hard to describe: I smell neither narcissus nor clary sage nor rosewood – but there is a greenness. I may be wrong but I think you liked Jardin Sur Le Nil more than I do (I don’t like that pointed ‘greenness’ that doesn’t feel natural at all and have never been able to enjoy that perfume). This has some of that quality initially and keeps morphing. It went really boring at the 3/4 mark, and then became more macho in the final stages – but not in an unbearable way. It is an odd chimera: I am looking forward to hearing what you think about it.

      • Robin

        Oooh, I AM intrigued, dear Neil. Must track it down. Thank you. That’s so well described. Yes, I do love Un Jardin sur le Nil and also Terre d’Hermes (Ric, too). I liked Nagel’s Galop; Ric did not. There’s potential there in H24. I think Ric and I might quite like it.

      • Scared for you in advance. I am ambivalent, for sure, but think it is definitely kind of exciting. A little sprayed on a T-shirt could be fascinating as he lumberjacks dans le foret

      • Scared for you in advance. I am ambivalent, for sure, but think it is definitely kind of exciting. A little sprayed on a T-shirt could be fascinating as he lumberjacks dans le foret

      • Robin

        We both have the same mental image, then. Bring on the plaid flannel.

  6. JulienFromDijon

    The top notes accord of H24 disappointed me, because it’s very weak despite the novelty.

    But a second accord seems to bloom on skin one hour later, like a fata morgana. (Twilly also reveals itself better on my skin). It’s a citrusy orangeflower on its branch, levitating on soapy waxy green leaves notes. It’s veeery nice. But I think I’ll need to use H24 by the ton.

    Today I was reminded that the original Kouros has clary sage. Then, all of a sudden, I was no more that keen on bothering with H24.

    • I love Kouros – and hadn’t made that connection. Love your description of H24 though (don’t you find the base note a tad boring, though?)

      • JulienFromDijon

        About the basenotes of H24 : I haven’t tried it again since.

        I don’t expect a dry-down from H24. I like that it’s centered on clary sage, it’s rarely used alone, and it’s a rather weak note in perfumery (else you end up smelling too much like an apothecary)

        So I like that it’s fading to a low salubrious hum, with the possibility to apply it again, like most cologne.

        My next step would rather be to ask a friend : she’s hyperosmic to different woody-amber and white musk than me. For example, I was very positive on one of Lutens Eau fraîche, and she said “don’t you smell it, it’s shrieking?”. I wanna be sure that over-applying H24 is not a faux pas.

      • The end was actually quite persistent and macho on me – never ending and boring.

        N E X T !!!!

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