Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Hermès Perfume

Nearing the end of my Parisian perfume journey, I came to one of the most well-known fashion addresses in the city: 24 rue faubourg-St. Honore, home of the Hermès flagship store. While it is better known for its luxury handbags and silk scarves, Hermès also has a rich history of creating beautiful perfumes. The fragrances are located on the ground floor right next to the scarves. I must say, the scarf department was wild! There were sales associates lined up along one side of the long counter, with seas of beautifully colored scarves on the counters in front of them. Lined up on the other side were droves of eager customers waiting to choose their silken treasures! It was very high energy and chaotic!

Next to that, the perfume department was like the calm in the eye of the hurricane! There was just one sales associate, and a great display of testers so one could, if one were so inclined, spritz happily to one's heart's content. Which is exactly what I did! The Hermès classics were all present and accounted for: the green floral Amazone; the floral woodsy Caleche; and the rich amber floral 24 Faubourg.

But the main focus of my attention was The Hermessence Collection.

The Hermessence Collection is Hermès' contribution to niche perfumery and is available only in select Hermes boutiques. Launched in 2004, this line currently has six beautiful fragrances created by master perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. They include:

  • Rose Ikebana, a blend of rose petals and crisp rhubarb; peony; pink peppercorns, grapefruit, vanilla and honey;

  • Ambre Narguilé, combining honey and amber with benzoin, labdanum, vanilla, caramel, sugar, tonka beans and sesame seeds;

  • Poivre Samarcande, pepper softened with mellow wood and musk

  • Vétiver Tonka, the strength of vetiver and the smoothness of hazelnut blended with neroli, bergamot, and tonka;

  • Osmanthe Yunnan, a soft floral blend with tea, osmanthus flower; orange; freesia and apricot

  • and the latest, Paprika Brasil, combining the essence of capsicum with the flames of brazil woods, spices and cloves.

These are available in 100 ml bottles ($175); the luxury version of 100 ml in a leather case ($420), and in Discovery Sets of 4 15-ml bottles for $120. The predetermined "variety" Discovery Set features the first four fragrances only: Rose Ikebana, Ambre Narguilé, Poivre Samarcande, and Vétiver Tonka. You may also purchase the Discovery Set with four bottles of the same fragrance of your choice.

My personal favorite in this collection is Osmanthe Yunnan. I am growing increasingly partial to the osmanthus flower and when blended with another of my favorites, freesia, it is a real delight. This fragrance also lasts an extremely long time on my skin, especially for an eau de toilette (well over 8 hours).

For more information, please see the Hermès website or telephone the NYC boutique: 212.751.3181.
photo credits: Christine Pierce


Mike P said...

The Hermessence line was my actual first journey into the strange world of high-end scents.

I can't agree with you about the Osmanthe - I prefer the Ambre Narguile, Vetiver Tonka & Paprika Brasil (in that order) and now I'm in love with the new Elixir des Merveilles.

I'm SO jealous!

christine said...

Hi, mike p,

I must warn you, once you've stepped into the world of fine fragrance, it's hard to go back. Welcome!!!

I have not yet smelled the Elixir des Merveilles -- but your comment has put it at the top of my "to try" list. Thanks for writing!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the Osmanthe Yunnan -- Gorgeous! There is something so special about Hig end fragrance. It's a luxury that lingers and keeps on loving you.