Hermès will release the 10th opus in the Hermessence boutique collection, entitled Santal Massoïa. The source of inspiration for the perfume is reminiscent of a work that in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena did in the past for L'Artisan Parfumeur called Bois Farine, one of his most original creations. In both cases an idea springs from a local species of tree with an ambiguous, edible smell. In Bois Farine the tree scent was reminiscent of flour and peanut, in Santal Massoïa, the Massoïa tree bark wafts of coconut...
Despite the aerial and pared-down style of many of Jean-Claude Ellena's perfumes, a gourmand touch is more often than not included in his compositions as if to make his work less desincarnate and as if that type of facet were an insurance taken against an over-intellectualized perception of his perfumery.
Déclaration by Cartier was inspired by chaï; Un Jardin sur le Nil by green mangoes; Un Jardin après la Mousson by melon; Hermessence Ambre Narguilé evokes warm apple pie; even some of his most economical perfumes like Paprika Brasil cannot evoid adding a touch of kitchen spice while Vanille Galante manages to evoke a custard in some of its stages.
Santal Massoïa turns to yet another exotic source of imagining, the Massoïa tree (Cryptocarya massoia (Lauraceae) which has been used for centuries in beauty rituals in Java and Bali. The essential oil of Massoïa bark smells sweet and has a coconut character with peach and butterscotch inflections.
The other element in the pairing is sandalwood, a material which has been under duress in the past few years. It will be interesting to see how the nose restores, potentially, some of the rich milky, lactonic effect of Mysore sandalwood. It looks like coconut might be singing the ancient glories of the rare material.
Even if Ellena is famously set on restraining the number of materials he uses, he is nevertheless somehow, pushed like explorators to add a few more new, exotic ingredients from time to time, like that strange-coconut-smelling tree from Indonesia.
The new perfume will be available from November 2011.