Thursday, June 16, 2011

Voyage d'Hermès

Here's another familiar ad campaign from Hermès - this time, I pick up in the imagery nuances of Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps (1947) and Guerlain Vol de Nuit (1933), two timeless classic perfumes that made wings, or flight, maybe even escape, or voyage, their theme. The beach, the angelic white dove against a sturdy horse's back, are all part of the motif we've seen before, in Hermès ads for Amazone, and in its abstact form for Kelly Caleche. In Greek mythology, Hermes is the inventor of the lyre, a messenger and a guide to the Underworld. An Olympian god of commerce, his symbols include the winged sandals, the winged hat, and the caduceus (a herald's staff with two entwined snakes)given to him by Apollo, god of music. Mercury, a Roman god, who had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, is likewise a god of trade, often depicted wearing a winged talaria and winged petasos. Mercury is also identified by 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus as the Germanic god Wotan, the chief god of the Germanic peoples, a god of war, poets and seers, bringer of victory.

Hermès, a brand name synonymous with quality and exclusivity, has been given a whole new spotlight thanks to this 2010 unisex offering which earned respectable FiFi nods in both Women's and Men's categories. Voyage d'Hermès, another elegantly minimalist fragrance by Jean-Claude Ellena, earned the most prestigious honor of being chosen Perfume Extraordinaire Finalist at this year's awards ceremony held in New York. As Voyage d'Hermès takes me on a maiden voyage, smell-tasting international culinary delights, being pampered by some vegetal-coconutty skin treatment lush enough to drink, I believe Voyage d'Hermès will be a sleeper hit with me. I didn't think I'd like it as much as I actually do, because at first, as delicious-smelling as it was, I was taken aback by how sharp, bitter and stridently sour it smelled. Later, after wearing it on skin for a few hours, I understood a good cologne must be astringent at the beginning in order to stay starchy clean and fresh-smelling through the course of its wear, down to the very tip of its tux tails' trail of sillage.

According to Osmoz:
Voyage d'Hermès by Hermès (Woody - Floral musk, 2010)
Top note: Lemony Notes, Spicy Notes, Cardamom Note
Middle note: Tea Note, Floral Notes, Hedione, Green Notes
Base note: Musky Notes, White Woods

I don't know about these white woods, since all I get is a musky satinwood, sort of like a quieter Calvin Klein Eternity or Carolina Herrera 212, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was Australian sandalwood in Voyage d'Hermès. I'm sure I've smelled it in Elixir Des Merveilles; this type of sandalwood has a slightly medicinal, orangey and sparse tone, not as sweet, mellow and harmonious as the endangered Mysore type. Although this Australian sandalwood could never replace the scent of Mysore, in the context of a transparent-type of Woody blend (with a "rosewood" type of sharp, clean woodsiness), I could see it being tweaked and refined and used a lot. I also get a warm, pungent spice - cardamom, but also nutmeg (I once read that smelling too much nutmeg can drive one mad, as it is psychoactive and toxic consumed in large doses...); basically, it starts out sharp, gingery, hot / dry and herbal / cool, like ginseng, lavender and gulab jamun mixed together, until it turns pine-green, more traditional Men's cologne-Fougère-absinthe-like (specifically, like By Kilian A Taste of Heaven). Voyage d'Hermès takes me on the other side of the world, where a therapeutic-smelling Chinese herbalist's shop leads to a spice market in India, maybe because garam masala contains nutmeg. All this adventure, yet it hasn't even one tenth of the austere woodiness of Terre d'Hermès - this one keeps it light, breezy, free as a bird!

I find I don't crave Voyage d'Hermès necessarily, since the initial spritz is so piercing and alarming, but it is a quirky, wonderful fragrance, one I admire. It is a buoyant, airy composition reminiscent of the eerily whimsically conceptualized Un Jardin aprés la Mousson. This is French perfume. It is aesthetically well-balanced, an exemplary execution of artisanal skill. It's not a fragrance that exerts its presence even in terms of it being particularly memorable, and yet it's grabbed me. If you can tolerate the sinus-clearing, piquant (sour if I'm to be honest) and spicy top notes, what awaits is normally annoying musk beautifully complemented by gingery freshness, resulting in an antiseptically clean Woody Musk in which the musk smells as clean as sushi with extra ginger and wasabi on the side. This is clean with a barely audible whisper of a stroke of fine leather, the most well-mannered of its kind since Équipage.

Even though the musk gets stronger, it maintains balance with the lighter notes and smells so clean, like fresh pink ginger - what a feat to be so proper and appetizing at once!

I like to draw olfactive comparisons so that my readers might recognize familiar perfumes, but the only thing that comes to mind that I think smells similar to Voyage d'Hermès is Red Flower Hammam cardamom amber oil. The notes are listed at Beautyhabit: cardamom, bergamot, rose, jasmine, sandalwood, sweet orange, apricot. It is only a bath and body product, not a fine fragrance, and you won't get any authentic, buttery soft Hermès leather in that, so it's not that close, but they definitely share qualities, compositionally speaking, anyway. Do try the Hermès, maybe my new fave alongside Aprés la Mousson, Rouge, 24, Faubourg and more.

Related links:

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Portrait of a Lady - June 27, 2011

Untitled by Maison Martin Margiela - June 12, 2011

Eva Longoria - June 06, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana - July 17, 2011