When asked by Hermès to compose a scent based on the idea of travelling rather than a particular destination like his Jardins series, Jean-Claude Ellena admits – in the press release, no less – that he was “clueless, stuck, hesitant and lost”. Until, that is, he took the option of abstraction: the scent would conjure the most beautiful trip, “the one you haven’t made yet”.
Clearly, despite the fact that the ad shows a horse and a dove, the means of conveyance for this voyage is teleportation: Voyage d’Hermès is a scent in the midst of dematerializing, the barest shimmer in the air, with no notes given out except fresh-wood-musk…
Since this is Jean-Claude Ellena, this ethereal texture is obviously more of a stylistic choice than a case of running out of cash. After all, he often works on watery or hazy effects, in a bid to subtract as much as he can from a formula while still obtaining an original scent, which can render his work either deeply evocative or oddly laconic – as though he’d un-talked himself into a corner. But it is his style, a true exercise in elegance in the scientific sense of the word: the maximum effect obtained in the simplest terms. This is the impalpable done right, not as an aneroxic iFrag – though it can, and almost certainly will, entice consumers who’d shy away from lustier scents to take the journey into the ether…
At first sniff, Voyage fulfills its brief: it could indeed take you anywhere, as though the wearer’s imagination needed to supply the destination. But Ellena connoisseurs will certainly get a sense of déjà-smelled: the scent is a canny way of drawing in all the perfumer’s fans with a quintessence of Ellenitude; a palimpsest through which other formulas of the Ellena oeuvre can be made out.
That soft grapefruit-rose splice? Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, Rose Ikebana, Un Jardin sur le Nil, Kelly Calèche eau de parfum. That bitter note? Eau de Gentiane Blanche, perhaps, with a tiny rooty/iris-y quote. A peppery/woody mix that brings to mind Angéliques sous la Pluie. Ginger? Un Jardin Après la Mousson. Cardamom? Mousson again, as well as Déclaration. Tea? Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert seems to be subliminally quoted, right down to the transparent green jasmine. The scent is carried on mist of musk -- last spotted in the aforementioned Eau de Gentiane Blanche, from which I get the barest tinge of milk chocolate at times, a facet of some synthetic musks – riding on a breeze of abstract wood (shades of the iso-E super of Poivre Samarcande) veering towards cedar, which carries us back to Terre d’Hermès and its grapefruit top note…
Jean-Claude Ellena has often stated that he works by conjuring olfactory illusions; with Voyage d’Hermès, however, allusions are what this story is about. This fragrance is, first and foremost, a voyage through Ellena’s oeuvre, and I’m not the only one to notice (click here for Now Smell This, here for 1000fragrances, and here for J’aime le parfum…).
One can think of worse places to go. Voyage d’Hermès is chic, light-wearing but long-lasting, and very hard not to like. Besides, that clever, stirrup-shaped refillable bottle looks and feels as substantial as something you’d mention in your will along with your other heirlooms. For instance, a Hermès bag.
Illustration: Series N°9 White by Robert Ryman (2004).
Hi, D. I'm enjoying this Voyage d'Hermès quite a bit, in part because of it's allusive quality -- a sort of olfactory "best of JCE" retrospective. But I must ask (because it's driving me a bit crazy) -- do you detect a touch of mint in this? Almost like the impression of powdery mint on skin, like when you stick your hand in your pocket and find a stick of mint chewing gum you forgot about.RépondreSupprimer
Oh, this *will* drive me crazy. I meant "its allusive quality," not "it's."RépondreSupprimer
I am not really a fan of Ellena, in fact the only scent that he has created which I love is Terre d'Hermes Parfum. The Jardins series left me cold and a bit sniffly.RépondreSupprimer
Having read your review and some of the others, I am beginning to think that this one might appeal to me, especially if it has got the best bits of his other compositions in it. Can't wait to visit an Hermes boutique now to try it.
As ever, a pitch perfect review, thanks D! There is a sweet SA in the Hermes boutique (across from the Royal Exchange!)who is generous with samples and chat. I've tried this out a couple of times now and will go back and buy a bottle from her (keep the goodwill going!) and look forward to wearing it through late Spring/Summer at the office. I do enjoy the iso e super/Poivre Samarkand aspects particularly and the musk isn't toooo dryer sheet reminiscent. I agree that fans of JCE's catalogue will find something to enjoy here. Great bottle too. NicolaRépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, I think you may be reading the angelica/aromatic/peppery as mint, but I see what you mean.RépondreSupprimer
Prince Barry, I think you could dislike the Jardins and love this one: it's not one of the "wet" Ellenas.RépondreSupprimer
Nicola, I think this would be perfect for office wear when it's hot outside. The Royal Exchange, he he -- good memories!RépondreSupprimer
Hmmm. But why should I buy the omnibus when I already have the individual volumes?RépondreSupprimer
Amy, because put together they say something different? Still, if someone's got Terre d'Hermès and Angéliques sous la Pluie they might not want that one as well.RépondreSupprimer
I was really excited by this one and I tried it immediately. It's been only two weeks but I've already gone through two of the samples! I thought it smelled just like another one of the Jardin series (Apres la Mousson with greenery in lieu of the melon perhaps?) and a bit more musk. It's been perfect for the obscenely hot weather Texas has been enduring. JCE has definitely improved his stock with me, seeing as Vanille Galante wasn't my cup of tea. I can't wait for this to hit discounters so I won't feel bad about spending on a full bottle.RépondreSupprimer
Eric, glad it works for you -- I guess I can't see someone loving both Voyage and Vanille Galante, and I'd more easily wear the latter personally.RépondreSupprimer
And I can totally understand waiting to get it at a lower price, but somehow -- maybe it's because discounters are not as much a part of French culture as they are in the US -- the idea doesn't quite fit in with that chic Hermès bottle. If I were to get it, I'd go for the full Hermès experience, and walk out with the little orange bag tied with a brown ribbon.
Which is probably why I have a drawerful of chic little shopper bags: can't bear to part with them!