vendredi 30 novembre 2012

Jour d'Hermès by Jean-Claude Ellena: The hermeneutics of flowers




"I say: a flower! and, apart from the oblivion to which my voice relegates any contour, understood as something other than the known calyxes, musically there arises, idea itself and pleasant, the flower absent from all bouquets"
 The French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who wrote those lines, is said to be hermetic. And though Jean-Claude Ellena’s style veers more towards Apollonian clarity, Jour d’Hermès remains something of an enigma. No notes. No “known calyx”.

Jour d’Hermès is placed under the sign of dawn, which the French have two words for. Aube comes from “white”. Aurore was once thought to spring from the same origin as the Latin for “gold”. Homer’s rosy-fingered Eos, whose tears are morning dew, wears a saffron robe embroidered with flowers. Add a bit of green, and you’ve got enough colors to form a bouquet, stems overlapping to form a helix, propelling floral sprays into the air.

A sour splash of lemon on heady floral flesh: magnolia? Round green juiciness, like apple yet not apple… tip of the tongue… pear, the olfactory cousin of rose, offered up to our gnosis? (Gnōthi seautón, “know thyself”, read the inscription on Apollo’s temple in Delphi – but it’s so hard to know what our nose knows…). And so it goes: sweet pea, which is all at once orange blossom, rose and carnation? The delicate fruity greenness of gardenia, without the mushroomy rot. Something salty, definitely (ylang, lily, carnation?). A green, snapped-stem moistness that seems to be trending at the moment (it’s been obsessing me for months and I’ve smelled it in two other future launches). A tinge of orange-blossom soapiness. And then an underlying, sexy-skin softness – balsams, musk: Ellena can do sensuous – in fact, I suspect his famously concise style is his way of harnessing a tremendous appetite and curiosity (in his Diary of a Nose, he states he enjoys and enjoys playing with “indecent”, “disturbing” smells).


When he has obtained the scent he wants, Ellena will not alter the formula to make it more long-lasting, but he is entirely capable of creating a fragrance that unfurls on skin for hours. Thus, Jour d’Hermès is tenacious and strongly radiant (it garners spontaneous compliments), yet it is also stealthy, playfully – or perversely? – flying under the radar of identification... 

When you speak of the fragrance of certain flowers with perfumers, they’ll often explain that once removed from its source and bottled, it would come off like an undefined bouquet. In this case, JCE has inverted the process like the finger of a glove, skirting perilously round the the mille-fleurs (a name once given to the mixed leftovers of various fragrances sold cheaply to poorer markets) to achieve a conundrum. As though he had created a hollowed-out form from which any flower could spring like a hologram, which turns out to be his very intention, according to the press material:

“I wanted to offer armfuls of flowers to smell, people could put in their own choice of flowers, smell what they wanted to smell.”

So: “let it be a thousand flowers! Armfuls, bouquets, sprays, garden flowers, cut flowers, morning flowers, evening flowers, mischievous fragrances, bewitching smells, a whole profusion!
I like to leave voids, ‘blanks’ in perfumes so that everyone can add their own imaginary world; they are ‘voids of appropriation’”, he explains in his Diary of a Nose (my translation).

Jour d’Hermès is therefore a matter of hermeneutics, to be interpreted like Pythian prophecies; but also, a perfume to be performed (in French, you say “interpret” to express this action).  What makes a perfume live is the fact that it is worn, rewritten by the wearer into her own story: the peculiar alchemy (Hermes Trismegistus) between skin, air and soul. In Jour d’Hermès, this performance/interpretation is literally written into the concept.

Jour d’Hermès will available in Hermès boutiques as of Saturday December 1st, and will launch in all other points of sale on February 15th 2013.

In order to take the “perfume performance”concept a step further, I will be drawing three samples of the scent: once the winners have had the opportunity of testing them, I’ll publish their interpretation. 
The draw will be open until Friday December 7th. Just drop a comment, and I’ll announce the results of the draw on Monday December 10th.

Illustration: the goddess Flora in a detail from Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

74 commentaires:

  1. What an amazingly frustrating yet irresistibly attractive way to introduce a new perfume! JCE never ceases to surprise and delight me with his creations and I can only pray to the perfume gods that I can be a lucky recipient of a sample =)

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  2. Womo, I hadn't realized it sounded so frustating! As for perfume gods, between Hermès, Flora and Aurora (not to mention Dionysos, Apollo and Aphrodite), that's a lot of incense to burn!

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  3. Jordan, c'mon, it ain't the Second Coming either!

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  4. Oh dear. You make this sound somewhat like a postmodern Estee Lauder Beautiful, which I must admit is a horribly appealing idea to me. Thank you for the draw.

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  5. Susan, I'll have to re-smell Beautiful with that in mind!

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  6. I read the book-sounds as if JCE was able to materialize his complex ideas. The sweet pea note-i have never smelled that flower. It's intriging. Did you sense any narcissus? i love vintage Je Reviens, and i would really welcome JCE's interpretation of that note.

    Thank you for the draw,
    Sincerely,
    Carole MacLeod
    ps-have you tried Tawaf yet? It's so beautiful!

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  7. Carole, from what I've understood "Féminin H" and Narcisse Bleu are two different projects, the latter for the cologne series. JCE does mention sweet pea for the feminine he was working on while he was writing Diary of a Nose. The ones I most recently smelled weren't that strongly scented because it wasn't warm enough, but there is that orange blossom + rose + sweet william combination.

    I adore Je Reviens as well, in fact it deserves its name since it is a flashback unrelated to any specific memory (I must have smelled it in the drugstore when I was a kid). And, no, I haven't smelled Tawaf.

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  8. oh, hermeneutics and another parfum d'Hermes- wonderful writing
    would love to be able to try this
    thank you, Denise

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  9. O, it sounds perfect for such a dawn event. But then I've only read about it not inhaled it, yet!
    What would you be wafting for such a metaphysical or possibly mythological dawn? A nard of muskroot?

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  10. Irina, I couldn't resist the various plays on the name of the house! You're in.

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  11. Jordan, if we go by Homer, rosy-fingered dawn would be scented with rose, saffron and a side-order of dew...

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  12. Fascinating, Denyse. I wonder if my local Hermès boutique will have it? It's Saturday, December 1 today. (Oh, and Tawaf is quite beautiful, yes).

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  13. Hey Jarvis! (waving across the Atlantic). I would imagine they'd have it, since the press material states Jour d'Hermès went on sale today in all the brand's stores. It's worth spending a while with, since though it can be immediately appealing, lots of its attraction for me was following that brain-teasing 1000-flowers morphing.

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  14. I am very fond of JCE work for Hermes
    Always a of sublime quality.I am looking forward to this new release

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  15. Anonymous, if you would like to enter the draw it would be better to sign your comment, otherwise it gets a bit confusing... Hope you pop back in!

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  16. .

    I am very fond of JCE work for Hermes
    Always a of sublime quality.I am looking forward to this new release


    Phanie Constanta

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  17. Sounds like my kind of scent, would love to try it.

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  18. Anonymous, I'd love to include you in the draw but I'll need a name!

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  19. As a theatre scholar, I'm really interested in how performance renders things. I'm especially interested in the performance of myth, those open vessels of universality that an individual story can be inserted into with resonance. I have always loved the play on words between "perfume" and "perform"....through smoke or through form. I'm glad you brought it up here!

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  20. Jared, "we are the performers of our perfumes" is a line from my book; in French you say "interpret", which takes on a very different connotation but still works. I don't know if you're familiar with Garcia Lorca's notion of "duende", which has to do with performing arts -- be it music, dance, bullfighting or recited poetry, shifting ephemeral forms... That's one of the reasons B. Duchaufour and I called Séville à l'aube "duende" while we were working on it. I highly recommend Lorca's conference on the subject, "Play and theory of the duende" --the translation is available online.

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  21. A profusion of flowers and yet withe 'blanks'. Sounds like a contradiction and yet it does make sense. I love the 'performance' idea and it is wonderful that JCE is acknowledging what perfume wearers have always known. The way you express it is so much more more subtle than that tired old cliche that 'you make your own perfume on your skin'.

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  22. Annemarie, I don't know whether JCE has always known it as well, but he is a very subtle man and I find it fascinating that he has put that idea into words, and worked it into his process. The way he speaks of it in his book, it's not a matter of "chemistry" but the blank left for the wearer to write her own story.

    Despite the fact that fragrances do have different developments according to the wearer's skin/diet/environment, it would be a poor performance indeed if they changed *that* much from one person to another. The way we "go into" a fragrance seems much more relevant.

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  23. That sound like a perfume that I could like, thanks for the review!

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  24. Brigitte, you're welcome, and you're in the draw!

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  25. thank you for this beautiful description, it sounds like it shares some qualities with PC Tuberose-Gardenia, plus a sensual drydown, can't wait to try it! Cybele

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  26. Cybele, it's quite possible someone who loves PC Tuberose-Gardenia would enjoy Jour d'Hermès, but the latter isn't as "legible" and has a much moister, muguet/cyclamen feel.

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  27. Yes, skin differences only go so far. Otherwise we would never recognise a fragrance on anyone. That old gentleman who once passed you on the street and smelled Habanita would not have recognised it if your skin had transformed it completely. The great thing is that he both recognised it, but conjured forth his own imagining of 'Habanita' based on ... well, we will never know. Someone in his life who had performed it for him in a very particular way, it seems.

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  28. Annemarie, I'm touched you remember that anecdote! I was too young and feather-headed at the time to stop and ask him about it, sadly...
    I smelled it recently on a French actress. I'd contributed a piece of writing to the event we were attending but didn't know it was going to be recorded by her as part of the musical background. When she confirmed she was wearing Habanita, it felt like a sign of fate.

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  29. I happened to visit the Hermes boutique outside of Philadelphia on Friday,(replenishing my supply of Osmanthe Yunnan) and next to the cash register, was a tester of Jour d'Hermes. I googled it on my iphone immediately, and spotted the review you had just posted! The SA said they expected to have the bottles available for sale the next day. I snagged a sample, so you don't have to enter me in the draw ;)

    I'm not one to choose white floral perfumes, but the green note in this does appeal to me. I think Osmanthe Yunnan still ranks #1 for me, but I'm looking forward to getting to know this one better. Nice longevity too!

    I'm also on my 2nd sample of Ellena's more recent launch L'Ambres des Merveilles. I can't decide if I need to buy this bottle next. I love ambers, I love the Merveilles line, but I keep wishing this lasted a tad longer....
    --Gail


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  30. Hi Gail! Please report back once you've formed an impression. As you say, this isn't quite a white floral, so even if you're not fond of those it might appeal to you.

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  31. I'd love to participate in the draw - thanks, Denyse! Always curious to try a scent by JCE.

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  32. Hi Denyse, I'm sooo intrigued by this perfume and the idea of JCE doing a new floral with some complexity and sensuousness. I'd love to try it. Thanks for the review and the draw.

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  33. I love this review.
    -MD

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  34. I am a big JCE fan and can't wait to try this newest release. Tomorrow is my birthday, so I hope my luck holds out and you pick me!! Thanks for the review and the draw.

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  35. Your beautiful essay, opening with the words of Mallarme and conjuring so many scented flowers, makes me long to smell this elusive and ambiguous scent!
    Ariane

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  36. Julie Ellen, happy birthday, wishing you many deliciously fragrant returns!

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  37. Ariane, I was sure you would appreciate the Mallarmé... a poet who dedicated much serious thought to adornment.

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  38. Isn't this embargoed?

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  39. I am perhaps more excited than I ought to be, given that many JCE creations twist a knife during the second hour on my skin. Nevertheless!

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  40. Anonymous, from the moment it's in stores I don't see what could keep anyone from doing a review, and it's been in stores since Saturday. The embargo is for magazines.

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  41. Em, that's a pity. Perhaps this one will play nice with you?

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  42. great presentation of a new scent, more of a trailer actually, than revealing the whole truth, you leave me quivering with curiousity, Bee

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  43. My favorite place/smell on earth is walking into the doorway of Liberty in London where all the flowers were sold and getting that scent plus the combined smells if all the cosmetics, wood, and clothing beyond. This sounds like heaven. Count me in.

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  44. Your description sounds amazing. I must try this in Denver boutique next time I'm there:) Thanks for th draw!!

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  45. Bee, is there such a thing as revealing the whole truth about a fragrance? Glad I've made you quiver!

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  46. Tracey, I've experienced that, it's divine! It's all I can do not to pop into every flower shop I pass to inhale...

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  47. It such a great idea to allow people "to know thyself"- to reimagine the world of certainty with fantasy. Beautiful! Looking forward to the launch!

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  48. Lena, I like the idea of a perfume with no notes given, that's built in such a way that we can read different things in it. Know thyself and lose thyself in flowers!

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  49. I think Susan is right, there is some connection to Beautiful.

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  50. could this be the one that snaps me out of my dislike affair with elena's recent work? it's the first one that sounds as if it has a shot!

    i found myself imagining small, usually unnoticed wild flowers from a field - my own way of filling in the blanks... and i haven't even smelled it yet!

    cheers,
    minette

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  51. Minette, there are similarities with the Jardins series, but to my nose more heft and headiness.
    Love the idea of the small neglected flowers in a field, just what's needed a few days from winter!

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  52. Your post made me so curious about this perfume. Thank you for the draw and for the chance to try it.

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  53. Did Iris Ukiyoe also have green stem? Is the stem in Jour d'Hermes similar?

    Thanks for much for the draw!

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  54. Leslie, Jour d'Hermès and Iris Ukiyoé are not unrelated, especially in the top notes, but the former has more heft and sensuousness.

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  55. That sounds like a lovely floral.

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  56. Tomatefarcie, the draw's still on, so you're in!

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  57. I am JCE's loyal follower. If floral is what the master wants, then floral we shall receive. We shall thoroughly enjoy it and our synchronized shivers of rapture will shake the heavens. Amen

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  58. Kostas, holding back a giggle here: you do "cult-speak" very well! Seriously, I see the scent is well received by several of my fellow bloggers, so rapture there is. Or at least pleasure.

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  59. I'm a huge JCE fan and would like to be added to the draw. Thanks so much Denyse! Hermoine11

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