Courtesy Picture Twilly d'Hermès in 85 ml © Quentin Bertoux
You're tempted to say that perfumer Christine Nagel has cooked the latest fragrance by Hermès rather than composed it so perceptible is the culinary influence in her new opus Twilly d'Hermès. She may well have wanted to bottle the house scent schtick - young women creating inspirational, eclectic styles in the streets of Paris in a bottom-up manner, with yards of silken Twillies - but she remains true to her inner core as a nose. This means that she is guided most of all by smells...
We hope you like the true smell of ginger because it defines Twilly d'Hermès. You will be able to experience what comes across as the most complete, three-dimensional, diffusive note of ginger in the history of perfumery, so far. Origins had the perfume Ginger Essence centered on this aroma; Lush too with Ginger Fragrance. Serge Lutens mused upon the luxurious and rare quality of ginger in the esoteric Five O'Clock au Gingembre. But the treatment here is without compare in the way it feels like a short film of the natural scent.
Courtesy Picture Hermès © Publicis & Nous
The composition opens on a hyper realistic fresh aromatic note. You think "fresh Curcuma, maybe"? Two seconds later, the sensation stabilizes as "ginger". You feel the crispness, freshness, fibrousness and juiciness of the root as you slice it up on a cutting board fresh out from the fridge. It smells cool and tonic. The perfumer has chiseled the material within the composition so as to make the note both stand out, singularly and overwhelmingly, yet mingle with the tuberose and sandalwood to create discreet shifts in olfactive tonalities.
The ginger itself reveals those natural, warm caramel, licorice and soapy nuances it has in reality. With the creaminess of sandalwood in the background and a dash of vanilla, it smells not unlike the pâtes grises vanillées Auzier, a gray, chewy French candy cut up in small cubes, invented in 1923 in Montpellier. The chews are based on the subtle association of natural vanilla and licorice sap, but also more implicitly woods, since the paste is left to dry on wooden chests for 48 hours. They don't say which essence of wood they use. In Twilly d'Hermès the candy paste is left to dry and blot up on a sandalwood chest perfumed with ambergris, the latter being a signature note of the house of Hermès in its Eau des Merveilles range.
Nagel likes to explore the cookery spectrum in her work. Her bestselling creation Si by Armani contains a cassis nectar accord. We once smelled an experimental Harissa perfumery accord she had created for Mane & Fils; and now we can only regret her long-gone, witty strawberry and buttery, caramelized popcorn combo in the first version of the modern Miss Dior. In Eau des Merveilles Bleue, she remembers the taste of beach pebbles and turns to fresh absinthe herbs, to our nose.
The tuberose's leguminous nuances mesh well with the ginger. If you smell its distinctive presence at first, it soon becomes part of the blend. Do not expect a full-on tuberose perfume.
Going back to the initial proposition, that of capturing the eclectism of a young generation of Hermès women, one can point out that the perfumer has turned to the concept of fusion cuisine to translate the clichéd idea. It is like cooking with ginger slivers, tuberose blossoms, sandalwood paste, vanilla bean and an ambergris infusion.
Besides the great ginger note, the other noteworthy aspect of the fragrance is in how creamy the drydown is, offering even a vintage vibe in the direction of the 1920s Zibeline by Weil. The sandalwood is milky, caramel-y, thanks to ambergris and there might be an unadvertized dose of Heliotropin as the scent veers slightly into almond-y massepain territory.
Twilly d'Hermès shows it is hard to escape the gourmand master narrative - and perhaps not desirable at all. Its signature tends to oscillate between bold originality around high realism and sedate conformism around pilllowy notes, a dynamic we already noted for Galop d'Hermès describing it as "blending the avant-garde with the mainstream". It is like, for in-house perfumer Christine Nagel, finding a happy medium between artistic daring and marketing realism. Hermès allows the nose to explore more, yet she is also conscious of external imperatives. Perhaps the tension will resolve in more natural ways in the future.