I have been reading the book The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr. It details the process of creating two perfumes – “Lovely” by Sarah Jessica Parker and “Jardin sur le Nil” by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes.
The think about perfume is that it isn’t virtual. Unlike almost every other art form (and I do believe scent-making is an art – based in chemistry), there isn’t a visual aspect to it. You can’t take a picture or a video or a recording of a scent. To experience it at all, you have to experience it yourself in person. In a time when a digitized version of practically the whole world is available at my computer screen or speakers… that is a pretty unique thing.
As I was reading the book I wanted to smell the perfumes that were being written about. And in Kansas City that is hard – Hall’s has some unique stuff, and there is Sephora… but Hermes perfumes? I wasn’t sure.
And then DH and I were walking around San Francisco and I saw a young man dressed just like Chuck Bass on casual Friday with several Hermes bags – that very very orange color. And my heart lifted thinking there is an actual Hermes around here that has the actual scents I have been reading about. I literally whispered this to DH. And then my heart fell. I get the cold shoulder at Nordstrom’s in Overland Park – chubby, decidedly Midwestern me in my Eddie Bauer parka is not going to be welcome at Hermes. Luckily DH doesn’t have the very stupid hang-ups I do.
So he convinced me to go in. Whoa. Nordstrom’s looks like the Raytown Walmart compared to this place. Gorgeous. I slinked over to the perfume counter and stood there, probably literally with my jaw open. And there were the perfumes. I got *really* excited. A very nice, if not a bit crisp, salesman talked to us about scents and let us smell lots of things. The elite line (“Hermessence”) is well out of my price range… but I smelled everything in the “Jardin” series. Yum and yum. I ended up buying a small bottle of the Mousson. I love love love love it. And it isn’t any more expensive than any good perfume, as I justified it to myself. (Incidentally, the total for our Chuck Bass friend was still up on the register when I made my purchase – over $2500 he spent!! In one shopping trip to one store!! Some people have too much money.)
The best part was that I think the salesman appreciated my obsession with the Hermes perfumes and could ascertain that I was of little budget because I kept asking “ok, well how much is the smaller one?” and loaded me up with lots and lots of samples. Just like the nice lady at the Sephora in Liberty does for me.
So now I have my own little piece of real world scent.
In a moment of perfect timing, today Chandler Burr mentioned another of the perfumes from the Jardin line in his summary of good ocean scents.
And, for reference, here is what Luca thought of the perfume in his Perfumes: the A-Z guide (which I now own two copies of because I couldn’t resist the cute paperback version):
**** floral pepper
This is Jean-Claude Ellena’s third Jardin, after the innovative Mediteranee and the somewhat sullen Nil. Ellena is a perfumer of great inventiveness and refinement, and this is a piece of work to admire as well as enjoy. The core accord, best enjoyed on skin for simultaneity of effect, is a remarkable idea: a combination of melon, capsicum, and peppercorns that, to my nose, adds up to the incongruously fruity note that distinguishes habanero chilies from mere hot ones. Ellena’s skill here is didactic: as you smell it, the construction comes apart and flies back together like an instructional video, and the effect is delightful. On a paper strip or on fabric, the fragrance is rather different, with the notes peaking at different times in a succession of fresh, watery effects that holds the attention while remaining abstract. I have often complained about a slightly bloodless aspect of recent Hermes creations. In this case it is essential to the artistic effect and completely convincing: as often happens with perfectly tuned fragrances, the mix is much stronger than it appears at first sniff. Excellent.