Source: from the book A Garden in Venice (1903) by Frederic Eden. Exterior view.
Perhaps one could start a review of new Un Jardin sur la Lagune by Hermès by stating that, paradoxically, it is the olfactive reflection of a private garden, one cannot hope to visit anytime soon, shielded as it is from the eyes of the public for reasons both economical and aesthetical in 2019 still...
The scent baptised with a French name, which translates as "A Garden upon the Laguna" is a reference to the Eden Garden in Venice located on the island of Giudecca, created by Englishman Frederic Eden in 1884. It has become part of literary anthologies so inspirational it is.
While most of us can only imagine it today, it was fashioned in the English style of landscaping originally by a man who yearned for firmer earth and countryside greenery in the midst of sea landscape.
If one skips a few decades, one then encounters the memory of Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser who purchased the property in 1979 keeping it until 2000; he is known for having let it go the way mother nature intended it to be.
While the Giardino Eden, located at 138 Rio della Croce, remains closed to the public, Hermès in-house perfumer Christine Nagel managed to obtain special permission to visit it following her discovery of Eden's book A Garden in Venice (1903).
And while the garden is said to have been originally planted with an array of plants: pine trees; cypresses; oleanders; lemon trees; magnolias; pomegranates; bergamot; vines; violets; tropical plants; verbenas; roses, the new scent is a construct of a shorter list of notes.
Hermès nose Christine Nagel decided to make the composition revolve around main notes of salicornias, magnolias, pittosporums and Madonna lillies.
What Fragrance does the Flacon Hold?
Salicornias are edible plants which grow by the sea offering a highly salty taste. They are also used for making soda ash needed for the manufacturing of soaps and glass. Un Jardin sur la Lagune takes this inspiration, as it turns out, to bring some surprising soda bite to the formula.
The perfume opening is more astringent than one might expect at first blush when expecting to inhale the scents of magnolias and pittosporums on a random walk in the springtime. If the lemony facet of certain species of magnolias is well showcased, supported by other hesperidic notes, there is however a "fizz" effect which one is tempted to ascribe to the process of creating soda with salicornias; it smells a bit sulfurous, and we advise to wait and reapply a few times to get used to it. We certainly did ourselves. The fragrance will mellow overtime.
At the same time, it does not lessen its olfactive grip, as a base mineral accord keeps the composition smelling a bit street-wise and generation-Z. We will have occasion to return to this mineral accord in young women's fragrances, which we spotted a couple of years back in an unpublished post (so far). This skews the eau de toilette in a contemporary direction as it clearly targets those who were shaped by Gen Z olfactive culture. If you're older, you need to get used to this hard-nosed feminine accord.
The pittosporums sweeten however the end-result with their noticeable honeyed facet. The Madonna lillies are there mainly to suggest creaminess and powderiness, but they are not heady, i.e., they do not smell heavily indolic. A dose of Ambroxan reminds you that a maritime landscape awaits you down a garden alley in Venice - the modern translation for sea-floating ambergris - but also that it is an iconic note at the house of Hermès since Eau des Merveilles.
This latest opus in the Jardin series is not as meek as you might expect nor just hedonistic. It holds a statement about what "unisex" means for perfumer Christine Nagel as she was sponging up the atmosphere of an abandoned garden by the sea. Gender-neutral fragrances, to her, smell both sweet like honey and brisk like soda and stones - when minerals perhaps came to evoke for her the time-tested meditative exercise of the contemplation of ruins.