Niche Perfumery Epice Marine from Hermès: the new Hermessence

Epice Marine from Hermès: the new Hermessence

08/02/13 03:34:42 (11 comments)

by: Elena Vosnaki

The 11th Hermessence, part of the more upscale line sold exclusively at boutiques Hermès, Epice Marine (translating as marine spice), both compliments and disjoints the line-up with that most unexpected of combinations: the pairing of a spice bouquet to an olfactory accord which doesn't recall the sea, per se, but is built on oceanic, algae notes nonetheless. But then master perfumer Jean Claude Ellena is perfumery's great illusionist and this time he collaborated with his friend, Breton chef Olivier Roellinger, to unite the culinary with perfumery in a surprising blend.

Olivier Roellinger and Jean-Claude Ellena

As Ellena himself says "The Hermessences are the most Hermès out of the Hermès fragrances. Their authoring does not require a predetermined context, rather they come out of my personal experimentations, therefore they are conceived in total freedom, without exterior pressures, in a manner that can be said to be completely egoistic". [1] Since his arrival at Hermès in 2004, the Hermessences have proven that indeed they follow no commercial pattern (being neither tested nor focus-group marketed), an exploration in materials, effects and subtle sensibilities.

Epice Marine is inspired instead on the one hand by the Saint-Malo milieu, full of Celtic traditions and the marine songs of the changing scenery of Mont Saint Michel, that is so familiar to Roellinger (owner of Maisons de Bricourt in Cancale), and on the other hand by the Provençal countryside of Cabri where Ellena spends his days immersed in the serene Mediterranean blue. The conversation between these two opposing, and yet converging worlds, took the course of a passionate and prolonged epistolary exchange of views between the two men during the course of many months, starting with Roellinger's invitation to Ellena in October 2011 to come over to Cancale at La Maison du Voyager (the voyager's mansion) where the chef grew up and keeps his spice and savory archives for his restaurants.

An idea begins to take shape in Ellena's mind as he listens to his friend recount the seafaring adventures required to amass and distribute green cardamom and Sichuan pepper on the Spice Route during the 16th century and the trafficking conducted by pirates. Contrary to bourgeois perfumery, which uses several accords and complicated combinations "to render an effect," Ellena likes to zero-in on the essentials, rendered in an artistic way which allows highlighting of unexpected facets. Toasted cumin grains, sent from Cancale to Cabri, seal the deal for the new concept: Epice Marine will focus on this polarizing note which is central to the adventures of seafaring. But contrary to the usual cumin essence which has a tendency to recall human sweat to some people, this toasted cumin variety renders an aromatic oil which is human-smelling all the same, carnal and skin-like, as Ellena divulges, but in a very sensual tonality.

Ellena has this spice distilled to render an essential oil which encompasses notes of toasted bread, hazelnut, sesame; these nuances are deeply exciting to Ellena, who proceeds to write to Roellinger to relay his appreciation and to inform him that he is continuing with a bigger order for the toasted spice, allied with cinnamon and cardamom.

Epice Marine also uses a generous helping of bergamot to give a vibrant start. To that he has added a synthetic molecule which recalls algae, a more oceanic feel than the sea accord. This is done intentionally as the "sea" note is sweeter than the ocean at Bretagne, which is drier, saltier, more savory. The coupling of the algae note with the spice manages to evoke that. But one thing is missing...

The scent of the marine mist, that deep humid scent that comes out of the seabed. This is the definitive accent, provided by a smoky, peaty note of whiskey constructed anew by Ellena himself, specifically inspired by the Bruichladdich whiskey (a gorgeous single malt from the Hebrides with elegant floral notes). It evokes the boiled buckwheat and the North-East winds of the foggy Brittany. After 24 mods, he is still not satisfied with the development of the composition. The smokiness and the oceanic notes seem a little flat to him. He reworks the oakmoss essence variety used in the base and deducts the vetiver to lessen the salty aspect of the fragrance. It is now March 2012. In two months the finished fragrance will be ready but it will take a while to sea the light of day: in September 2013 it will hit the boutiques. The adventure begins ...

[1]via Sybille Grandchamp of Vanity Fair France, translated by the author.
Olivier Roellinger and Jean-Claude Ellena. Credits: Benoit Teillet via vanitifair.fr

 

Elena Vosnaki

Elena Vosnaki is a historian and perfume writer from Greece and a Writer for Fragrantica. She is the founder and editor of Perfume Shrine, one of the most respected independent online publications on perfume containing fragrance reviews, industry interviews, essays on raw materials and perfume history, a winner in Fragrantica Blog Awards and a finalist in numerous blog awards contests.

Her writing was recognized at the Fifi Awards for Editorial Excellence in 2009 and she contributes to publications around the world.

 



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Shtefitza
Shtefitza

I can hardly wait to try this! I love Bretagne and adore Provence! A combination of fragrances from both regions must be an explosion of herbs, salt, sea, sun and mystical fog. Can't wait to try this!!!

Aug
09
2013
freddiefingers
freddiefingers

Errm,I may be the odd one out here but I can wait! If those who cant wait to sniff,eventually do get hold of a bottle and it bores them,please dont forget to pass it on to me at an affordable price please...that's how I build my collection

Aug
05
2013
nattonline
nattonline

I'm so gonna be broke again. Thanks everyone.

Aug
04
2013
Eos
Eos

I'm bummed to read that he intentionally toned down the saltiness as I was all excited for a salty-cumin laden frag. Nevertheless, I'm interested to see what it smells like.

Aug
02
2013
snowtree
snowtree

Sounds fantastic. There is only one from the Hermessence line I don't wear, the rest are really amazing and I have every one. This one could be another stand out. I love JCE and his minimalist style. Considering the market is flooded with overly complex creations, it's refreshing to have such a brilliant nose give me plenty of simple and sublime creations to enjoy! Excellent work Elena V/Fragrantica. You are always on top of things. Did I mention how lame Basenotes now is and how fantastic this site is?

Aug
02
2013
Oslo-fjord
Oslo-fjord

Hmm.. A mix between Declaration and Erolfa? Sounds quite dirty!

Aug
02
2013
Mr. Doody
Mr. Doody

I've been a fan of all the Hermessence juices - gotta have respect for JCE's mad skillz. But I have yet to fall in love with any of them. I'm not a big gourmand fan, so we'll have to see how abstract this "toasted bread" is ;-) . The peat sure sounds fun though!

Aug
02
2013
IMsooKool4Real
IMsooKool4Real

A very new and refreshing interpretation on a gourmand fragrance. There is something strangely beautiful about pairing a soft cumin oil, cinnamon & cardamon notes to a strong dose of bergamont and whiskey note - it sounds like a sophisticated improvisation on something like Halston Z-14 or Rocabar - which would be great and has me excited.

I just hope it falls into that more unique Ellena creations column and not the more typical transparent, safe, minimal, clean green, plastic type scents he is now becoming known for.

I disagree with him that "The Hermessences are the most Hermès out of the Hermès fragrances."

Even with beauties like Vetiver Tonka and Osmanthe Yunnan there is still nothing in the line that defines 'Hermes-ness' more than Bel Ami, Rocabar, Equipage & 24 Faubourg.

That said I'm really hopeful about this one and will definitely test it.

Aug
02
2013
EnPassant
EnPassant

Can't wait to try!

Sounds great! But I confess... I'm getting tired of Ellena's minimalism.

Aug
02
2013
Bandit
Bandit

Wow, I never get excited about a new launch (because they bore me to hell), but this one does it! Touché for making an unusual and therefor interesting pairing of notes (at least on paper).

Aug
02
2013
chayaruchama
chayaruchama

I simply cannot wait for this !
Wonderful interchange between the two - and marvelous photos .

Aug
02
2013

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