Jean-Claude Ellena © Richard Dumas for Hermès
Jour d'Hermès Gardénia comes three years after the initial launch and a year after a denser re-interpretation, Jour d'Hermès Absolu (2014).
What in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has done on the surface for this new opus is pull out the more understated gardenia heart of the first fragrance to magnify it in a soliflore, which we shall call a "pseudo-soliflore". In reality, and while there is a new element of conspicuousness to the gardenia core, it does not waft alone but well-accompanied by a retinue of master flowers of perfumery: a sweet rose, a raw jasmine - and most noticeably a conquering tuberose...
Tuberose is often coupled with gardenia but if you are used to Jour d'Hermès, you will notice that the two flowers are associated rather than blended together indistinctively.
The new floral eau de parfum, out in May 2015, is a much more substantial and indolic floral composition than the original issued in 2012. While words like "misty", "light-handed" and "dewy" seemed to be apt descriptors for a good part of the scent coming before this one, this time the fragrance invites a haughty tuberose to its banquet feast together with a cohort of jasminey indoles.
In a quirky twist which adds interest to a classic explosion of white florals, a licorice, Car-en-Sac nuance - named after a brand of iconic French licorice sweets on which many a schoolchildren have had their fingers stuck in the middle of the school courtyard - comes to add sweetness, woodiness, and a supplementary unexpected charm to this bouquet.
If the original let out at times fleeting hazelnut nuances seemingly surfing on Virginian cedarwood, here the gourmand addition is much more obvious, albeit still subtle.
The perfume smells creamy, but while a creamy white floral is jazz standard of perfumery, a creamy white floral which smells of chewy licorice and caffeinated caramel is much less so. This alludes in a more personal manner than with the matrix eau de parfum to the olfactory palette of predilection of Jean-Claude Ellena. The kitchen pantry is where the nose likes to unearth potential quirks like he did with Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert nosing about in tea caddies, or in his series of Hermessences by pairing up tarte tatin with tobacco, licorice with lavender or spices and Bruichladdich whiskey with the sea of Brittany.
So, this is a gardenia renewed thanks in particular to a gourmet pairing with pyrazines and edible woods. It is also renewed and refreshed within the series of flankers as a lusher and more tropical gardenia in a second thread of inspiration which surfaces later on, consistently meshing with the first one, about that licoricey touch.
If Jour d'Hermès evokes the time of spring, Jour d'Hermès Gardénia is more of a ripened perfume of summer.
The mingling of tuberose, jasmine and now the tiaré accents of a gardenia which smells of Tahiti after a while, make it feel less temperate and more island-like. The licorice facet prevents it however from being just another Tahitian getaway fantasy, steering it in the direction of a sophisticated retake on the beach fragrance, away from the relatively simpler hedonistic accents of the likes of Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum or Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess which started out as Tom Ford Azurée Oil in 2007. The commercial impetus can be felt. Both are smashing successes.
Jean-Claude Ellena © Richard Schroeder / Hermès / MimiFroufrou Médias
The flowers were virtually plucked from the same plants but the stylization is different - its spirit offers a supplementary layer of complexity. The intrinsic blackness of licorice makes you think of the lustre of the black pearls of Polynesia, adding an element of luxury. Olfactorily speaking, because the accord is more unusual in this context it adds on a sensation of rarity.
Tiaré gardenia perfumes are usually wholly hedonistic and play with a palette of neutral beiges and creams which pair well with the representation of a beach of fine sand and white-washed port of calls. This is a tiaré fragrance which has an element of darkness and black-pearl sheen to it, a bejeweled quality of preciosity. In a rather typical Ellena new-manner however, the drydown is airy and light once more.
The perfumer remembered some of his 80s powerhouses yet just enough to strike awe and then engage the senses in a more watercolorist fashion in the end, with a woody-gourmand twist added in between to good and consistent story-telling effect of an exotic and coolly elegant summer.