Plum Pudding with Cumin

Fleur d'immortelle, originally uploaded by mistercham.

On Christmas day, one of the two bottles of Eau d'Hermes that lived on the shelf at the downtown Vancouver Hermes boutique made it into where it belongs – my perfume collection. My boyfriend, who finally realized this year that my wish lists are created while browsing perfume boutiques, made a mental note and got it for me as a Christmas gift quite some time ago, all the while pretending to read my very old wish list I made for him last year (which he completely ignored, by the way). Of course that would have been useless – because that list is no longer valid (except that I am always happy to have fresh freesia flowers in my home, which I usually get myself any way).

Anyway, I have been watching the shelf for months now (since the summer, to be precise - shortly after my return from France) and have been trying it ever since. Back than, it smelled more masculine and fresh to me. While the freshness is apparent even now in the winter, it reminds me of preparing the last bits and pieces of a wintery Friday dinners with my family: squeezing lemon juice and getting the lemon oil (fresh from the tree) rub onto the fingers; and dousing the beet salad and the customary tahini dip with the tart lemon juice and fragrant cumin.

What is it about Eau d’Hermes that makes it so magical? Perhaps it’s its versatility and adaptable formula. It never feels over the top. It never really feels like perfume, come to think of it. And it blends with its surrounding in the most curious of ways.

Following the savoury-culinary opening, Eau d’Hermes turns into a completely different beast: more daring and sensual than it was in the summer, with the jasmine far more pronounced yet with some sweet-ambery and powdery violet-like nuances that I have never noticed before (come to think of it, there was a moment when I was reminded of Michel Roudnitska’s Eau Emotionelle!); and having been accompanied by it since Christmas day, I can assure you it goes well with its surrounding in the winter as well as the summer: it goes well with roasted Turkey (not that I at any) and cranberry sauce, with buttered Brussels sprouts and baked yam, and with rich chocolates, shortbread or the legendary flaming plum pudding. It really does. And it smelled sexy and elegant all the while, making anything that I did or experienced feel like it was truly mine and truly special. Like a silent reminder that my rustic upbringing is what makes every part of my life today so much more elegant and real.

Whoo-Hoo, Christmas Pudding, originally uploaded by John in Mich.

Eau d'Hermes

Eau d'Hermes, originally uploaded by strange_sickness.

Eau d'Hermes, originally uploaded by strange_sickness.

This afternoon is my first time wearing Eau d’Hermes. I stepped into the boutique on Burrard and Alberni after running some errands in the area (spontaneous trips to upscale boutiques takes off the edge of how stuffy the experience could be – especially since I’m always there just for their cheap perfumes and not the Kelly bag). My initial intention was to finally try Pampelune Rose (samples run out at Holt Renfrew and this was the first time in a few days that I wasn’t covered in Femme EDT when I left the house). Surprisingly, the 3 new Eaux didn’t even arrive at the Hermes boutique. So instead I decided to try Eau d’Hermes. I liked it right away sniffed out of the bottle, so I didn’t even bother spraying it on a paper beforehand. I’ve already heard about the cumin note so unfortunately this was not a surprise for me. But since I was a cumin kick anyway, it only made sense that I wear some on.

Eau d’Hermes didn’t quite smell like an eau at all. Instead, it was simultaneously fresh and warm. The cumin note, which must have been ahead of its time probably was what gave Olivier Cresp the idea for the Femme reformulation. But here it smells surprisingly clean and woody, not at all the carnal sweaty steam one gets from Femme. It is decidedly rather masculine and dry and the sensuality underneath reminds me more of oriental leathery compositions for men rather than the sanitary character of a short-lived “eau”. And despite the cumin, it did not smell like curry (or maybe, a French curry… I had Indian food in France and the only spice I tasted in there was cumin!), but rather woody and almost like caraway in that sense. And also a warm woody spice like cinnamon bark. There is a hint of masculinity at the top which proboably comes from lavender, and also an underlying leathery and tonka and perhaps patchouli notes. But what I particularly liked is how the jasmine shines through at the heart, along a rosy note. It's a very spacious floral accord (probably because of hedione, which has become somewhat of a signature of its creator, Edmond Roudnitska) and an unmistakable animalic sensuality of these florals while dariating a very well-behaved, lightweight presence overall.

I stepped out of Hermes feeling very content with my choice, and enjoying every moment of it and how it interacted with the environment. It’s rare to find a scent that does that so seamlessly – being present but mingle with your surroundings. I passed the hot dog stand and the cumin went well with the sautéed onions. Walking by hot pavements and sun-warmed asphalt it became part of that too, and my last stop before heading back home and writing this, I had some peculiar scoops of Marron Glace and Lemon Cream at the air conditioned Mondo Gelatto and it went well (both flavoured were contaminated with something else – the lemon cream had some kind of a chocolate and cloves rice crisps on top for no apparent reason; and the candied chestnut scoop seemed to have some brandied cherries thrown into the mix). But it all went well together – some peculiar warm-spicy and chilly-clean experience.

Simultaneously fresh and warm, Eau d’Hermes is not exactly an “eau” in the usual sense of a light, short living olfactory experience. In any case, expect something more along the lines of Habit Rouge or Le 3me Homme rather than Eau de Coq or Eau d’Orange Vert.

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