Hermès Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche ≈ The Scented Salamander Summer of 2016 Selection {Perfume Review & Musings}


Perfume Review of Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche Eau de Toilette

The unmistakable signature of Terre d'Hermès, one of the most powerfully sensual and discreet ones available on the market, comes wafting by while engaging with the new addition of citrus groves - grapefruit in particular, with a hint of green-orangey Thai Tangerine to this nose, although Hermès pinpoints bitter orange and cool aldehydes...

While soft and sensual woods play in the background, the bitterest of grapefruit accord meanders forth attaining medicinal quality. It's more than what the pressed rind of the fruit could do to your nose on an ordinary day. It's about harnessing the power of grapefruit and bringing it to new summits. Like a violin player might want to hold a lamenting note for as long as possible, and then make it linger in the air some longer seconds, perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena is expressing the acrid, burning sensations of grapefruit - its sulphur component - to the maximum.

In Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche (2014) is contained, unbeknownst to the casual smeller, a study of grapefruit which makes you think of one of those 18th century encyclopedia botanical prints ripping apart any plant that might want to resist the inquisitive mind of the encyclopedist. Fortunately, there is always art in science and the beacon of knowledge, while shining onto the fruit to be sliced open on the altar of the Goddess Reason, brings clarity to the accord, it also creates a fruit which does not exist.

Johann Christoph Volckamer p.172 "Pompelmoes Occident." From Nurnbergishe Hesperides. Nuremberg, 1708-1714. Approx. 12 1/4 x 8. Copper engraving. (Source: The Philadephia Print Shop)

Grapefruits in nature on their own cannot exaggerate - unless you were to hold the two halves of a yellow grapefruit on each side of your nose and replenish along the day. Or, unless you're working in a grapefruit factory, perhaps. But no, the scent of grapefruit cannot be that relentless without the intervention of the perfumer's art.

On a more relaxed level - and if you do not insist on analyzing the scent up close - what you get is a persistent single-minded hesperidic sensation which recreates the classic citrusy accords of blanched, white eaux de cologne, only much more streamlined and dogged.

This is not a grapefruit soliflore (or solifruit). It has none of the gentle compromises that make for a polite soliflore made to showcase a popular single note couched in olfactory flourishes meant as accessories. Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche has the stark purity of a study. You do get a frame around your yellowed 18th century botanical print - and those are the warm tones of the fundamental woodsy, cedarwood accord of Terre d'Hermès. But be not mistaken that there is a serious work of perfumery showcased in the heart of the fragrance.

If you compare for instance this fragrance to the Mülhens 4711 cologne reinvention by Tom Ford called Neroli Portofino, you get a sense that the latter is much more derivative. It minimally modernizes the ancient Kölnish Wasser. Neroli Portofino is much more about asking the following questions : what are the current fashion codes in perfumery - and how can we translate the classic German cologne accord into perrfumery's contemporary language?

In this perfume, something different is at play. There is a sense of timelessness based on the timeline of a personal reflection. You get the chronology of Terre d'Hermès and an original work which goes back to a direct study of the fruit, transmutated by experience and an intuition of what it is interesting to explore at a certain point in time. So, yes, there is a current of bitterness cutting through fine fragrances these days, but if you are capable of going back to a movement of study and personal reflection, as Jean-Claude Ellena proves he can, it does not have to smell trendy. It smells authentic and original.

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