Kelly Calèche Eau de Parfum (2009): More Than A New Concentration, More Than A Flanker {Perfume Review & Musings} {New Fragrance}

Kelly Calèche Eau de Toilette was launched in the summer of 2007 followed in 2008 by a pure parfum version. The Kelly Calèche Eau de Parfum iteration is the latest olfactory form and incarnation of Kelly Calèche to come out of Hermès in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena's perfume organ. While the first-in-the-series composition was not unpleasant, it had come across to me as being on the conservative side and I put off reviewng it for lack of any very definite ideas about it. The new EDP on the other hand has more personality and a winning softness and fruitiness. It also shocks you with the liberty it takes with the original rendition.   

More than just being an intensified version of the original eau de toilette (In fact, it is softer; I have not smelled the parfum form, but it looks like it has been re-worked to new effect as well), it is a new interpretation of the formula, different enough to be considered a major variation, perhaps even a slight departure from the initial more Hermès-focused theme with its more palpable and central reference to the house's vault of precious skins. The initial concept of a precious floral leather has become even more subtle in its treatment of the leather notes made buttery-creamy and soft. And here comes the surprise, it is also much fruitier, showcasing a green melon note that we saw last year in Un Jardin Après La Mousson...

Official notes are: Barenia, Agneau Plongé, vegetable vine rose, irisey violet, a veil of vanilla...

Perfumes of Experience

The interesting part is the way in which this perfumer's work reveals complete coherence, not so much, or first and foremost with the Kelly Calèche fragrance collection as with Ellena's personal vision and recurrent olfactory themes which are weaved into the new fragrance in a subtle yet rather unambiguous manner as if representing the personal vocabulary of the perfumer. The result is not mechanical, nor empty; it lives. But it is a little unexpected nevertheless to see how Kelly Calèche Eau de Parfum, which is currently widely marketed as an exclusive through the French Marionnaud chain of stores, dares to go in the direction of a personal perfume and I would even say, a perfume of experience (similarly Serge Lutens has made it felt more and more in his own perfumes that he privileges a sort of existential structuring of their development, on the model of a movie of life running in his mind).

The perfume of experience seems to place authenticity, life meaning, self-expression, first, and then the outwardly imposed necessity to be new, trendy, surprising, second. By letting go of a showy brand of originality, it reveals true personality.

Vetoing the Designer Perfume As We Know It

Creating in this manner is a departure from the model of the fashion shows mad productivity that have informed perfume launches since perfume history became intertwined with fashion history in the early 20th century, perhaps never more so than in the last few years or rather never more consciously so. I wager that the public discourse on perfume and perfumery having developed to a hitherto unknown scale thanks to the internet and the blog medium, this could only contribute to the industry's perception that perfume customers need to be kept interested.

Composing a scent in this manner for Ellena is thus like a resistance at the core to the idea of the designer perfume led by waves of fashion and the falsely appealing notion of novelty. After a certain point is reached, as we all know, the novelty imperative becomes replaced by the efficiency imperative, hence the greater number of smell-alikes thronging the shelves of perfumeries nowadays.

There is a difference however between a copycat and a creator's pursuit and deepening of her or his own themes of predilection. Ellena in particular being more mediatized than other perfumers is known for his variational approach to the creation of a perfume. Choosing which variation is going to represent best the idea of a certain perfume seems to be part of his thought process more so than for other perfumers as is typical in the industry given the greater freedom of creation he enjoys, a fact which is perceptible in the fragrances he makes for Hermès.   

From these, a paradox is born: Kelly Calèche instead of accelerating our sense of time as typical flankers do (it is not even supposed technically to be one; only the concentration changed officially), is slowing it down, asking you the perfume wearer, to think continuous thoughts about the rest of Ellena's work in the past.

Minimalism, Variation and Repetition

Kelly Calèche Eau de Parfum reprises the herbaly aromatic accord found in the eau de toilette as well as the light florals which are quite transparent here, but it is immediately fruitier, redolent of a green melon with that aquatic touch characteristic of the real fruit.

The perfume tresses threads of former perfumes: Un Jardin Après La Mousson, Déclaration, Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, Kelly Calèche EDT.

Next we find the mouthwatering spicy cardamom chaï with creamy vetiver found in Déclaration, a men's fragrance created in 1998. The melon, which is very much reminiscent of the melon note in Un Jardin Après La Mousson is paired with that accord. But the overall effect is very soft and skin-like, more evocative of soft luxury leather (Barania and Agneau Plongé) than of any kind of common leather.

If an eau de parfum is supposed to be more luxurious than the eau de toilette concentration and more intense in general when resting on floral essences, in this case the added sense of luxury is signaled by the increased softness of the leathers borrowing from the luxury code of the Hermès house rather than that of perfumery per se. 

Another familiar accord which is present is that of the green tea of Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert weaving its refreshing accord into the perfume.

The scent is very diffusive, smelling in the end of a marvelous rose floating in the air, long after you have sprayed the perfume on.

As for Un Jardin Après La Mousson, one has this feeling of a thought-out form of originality deriving from the familiar and the personal. Jean-Claude Ellena's self-imposed limited palette of perfumery materials, 200, encourages not only a minimalist style but the use of repetitive figures as an aesthetic choice and as a rather natural pendant to minimalism. However at the same time variation is introduced and the perfumer does not hesitate to seek new materials to enrich his fundamental palette.

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