After several attempts to get into Hermes, I finally got to smell what I was after: Hermessence Violette Volynka. For the vintage perfumista, ‘violets and leather’ immediately conjures up Balmain’s Jolie Madame, or Christian Dior Fahrenheit: of the two, Volynka is momentarily closer to the latter – a brief flash of violet leaf clarity before a smooth, chamois lipstick patina of powdered, Hermes leather quickly takes over – elegantly sultry; composed; stylish; complete; a dusky, full bodied floral; warmer violet tones coming in later to settle down into the sueded tones of musked, quiet luxury that put me in mind of sloe-eyed slow dreamers like Ombre Mercure by Terry Gunzberg or the now defunct, magnetically perturbing Tom Ford Violet Blonde. I thought this was good – a scent of high aesthetic competence, sensual and subtly sexed, that you will basically take to instantly or not (I did not; there was something too gently nonagenarian and soaped; white-cardiganed, in the later stages I am not yet quite ready for ; I didn’t feel at ease).
Surprisingly, I found myself instead liking both of the recentish Byredo releases, Young Rose, and Eyes Closed.
I don’t know why I say ‘surprisingly’, really, as I also liked Mumbai Noise and the strange, mentholated blackcurrant oddness that was Mixed Emotions: perhaps it’s because in the past I had no time for the (admittedly exciting and photorealistic ) modern hyperflorals like Flowerhead, Infloressence and La Tulipe, nor the burnt amberwoods that sear through so many of this house’s creations like burning torches. Recent releases, though, have been gentler, more benevolent: both Young Rose and Eyes Closed founded on orris; cushions of sweet, powdered iris that give a pleasant lift to the senses with a positive immediacy. Young Rose is a Sichuan pepper soaked rose Damascena, couched in ambrette and musk; a perfume that smells happy and optimistic in one direct hit. So with the world as it is at the moment, sinking further and further into neo-Nazism and bigoted brutality, if people, young or old, want to go round smelling like this then that is absolutely alright with me.
I knew nothing whatsoever about Eyes Closed before trying it – in some ways the best approach, when sampling a new fragrance as you have no preconceptions – you just inhale and let your brain do the rest. Eyes Closed could signify a number of things (giving up/resignation; sleep; obliviousness) but on first inhalation I could tell that this was all about trust; about someone you love telling you to close your eyes before giving you something special, a surprise. The perfume sent me whirling down an instant tunnel of familiarity and safety, contentment; I couldn’t place the memory exactly (some childhood Christmas? a cosy wintery evening spent with D?) But anyway, a calming gingerbread iris spiced up with cinnamon, cardamon and carrot seeds and a curiously medicinal papyrus patchouli drydown unexpectedly, on a melancholic winter’s day among the crowds of Christmas shoppers rather caught my fancy. I would have to wear this properly over a day to decide if this is completely me; but first impressions are vital with any olfactory composition; a perfume should always speak to you with immediacy : and this one did.