Fragrance Reviews Two Colognes in the Register of Sunny: Hermès Néroli Doré  & Rhubarb Ecarlate

Two Colognes in the Register of Sunny: Hermès Néroli Doré & Rhubarb Ecarlate

08/18/16 07:42:28 (8 comments)

by: Elena Vosnaki

Re-arranging the classic cologne formula is a bit of a holy grail for contemporary perfumers; how do you render a recipe that is three centuries old new again? And yet something that stood the test of time for that long surely meets a demand that goes layers deep into the reptilian brain; a hunger for a need we do not register that goes limbidinal and thorny. The need for clarity and easy decisions. The need for refreshing solace from the heat that addresses the reptilian body and renders it human again.

Hermès Colognes at a glance

Eau d'Orange Verte (1979) 
(originally Eau de Cologne)
&
reissued 2009
Eau d'Orange Douce (2005)
Eau de Gentiane Blanche (2009) Eau de Pamplemousse Rose (2009)
Eau de Mandarine Ambrée (2013) Eau de Narcisse Bleu (2013)
Eau de Neroli Doré (2016) Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the exercise in 2016 the venerable French house left its two star perfumers to their own devices: Jean Claude Ellena, slowly melting into the sunset like a hero in a Far West film directed by a Japanese auteur, is credited with Eau de Neroli Dore; a fitting tribute since the management of sour notes has been warming the cockles of the master's heart for decades now. The emerging in-house perfumer, Christine Nagel, is credited with Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, the flamboyant heroine in tones of oriental, fiery red like a flag waving the war on corny and done. 

Rhubarb is an unusual note in perfumery, raw and fresh and somewhat tart though not quite. Burberry Brit Red is among the very few fragrances featuring it that I feel does a good job of highlighting its peculiar character. White musk is the natural contender for a "clean" feel in modern colognes thanks to its preponderance in functional perfumery; the scent of your laundry detergent or your fabric softener. Ellena had paved the way with the gorgeous and avant-garde "mineral" accord in Eau de Gentiane Blanche back in 2009 producing a stunning example of a very "dry" scent for Hermès that seems to be made of shredded chalk and is actually based on white musk.

Nagel however takes white musk into a sweeter and ultimately tamer trajectory, though still clean and starched for the expected "fresh" feeling that an eau de cologne should produce but with superior tenacity and projection than most in the genre.

The series of Colognes by  Hermès aims for a simple clarity. A pure pleasure that feels like a cold tall glass of juice drank when thirsty. Less poetry and more straightforward pleasure. The Eau de Rhubarb Écarlate (scarlet rhubarb) feels indeed much more red than green as the feeling of tartness recalls grapefruit (with a nod to the master's seminal "In Love Again" that started his grapefruit adventures) and red berries.  A fruit juice that is not producing the kind of startle a green vegetable broth would induce as seen through the clarity of glass. It's impossible to dislike.

It is this element nevertheless which prevents me from embracing it as a true rhubarb scent (which would therefore be rare among hundreds) and which makes me hesitate to fork down the money asked. Although not exactly predictable Eau de Rhubarb Écarlate lacks the innovative element that would truly elevate it to the podium of Gentiane Blanche which made me instantly acquire a bottle for my collection. But it's early days yet for Nagel in the saddler house and she will get a feel for combining her mystical and sensual touches she has exhibited in her illustrious career so far (who can forget Theorema?) with the sparse luxuriousness that dominates the line.

Therefore of the two new colognes, the one vanguarding on the rejuvenation of the traditional via the rethinking of the most traditional of notes for an "eau de Cologne" , neroli, remains Eau de Néroli Doré as thought out by Jean Claude Ellena. The tart beginning is reminiscent of the older recipes, bitterish and sour at the same time, meant to give a little jolt since Cologne started as a pick-me-up product. But it also has the herbal overtone that is only vaguely hinting at the herbaceous tonality of the refreshing and beneficial well-being feeling that the recipe used to give to its wearers.

Although it might seem like Eau de Néroli Doré is more masculine leaning and could be interpreted by the casual "sniffeur" as maudlin its crunchy texture is indicative of great dexterity in the treatment of ingredients and concepts. It feels at once golden and soapy and with a leather undertone like a handsome person who just put on the world's fluffiest T-shirt and trousers in Egyptian cotton and the softest leather slip-ons in existence just to enjoy a morning view of the orchard by the sea. I'm sold.

 

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.

Her writing was recognized at the Fifi Awards for Editorial Excellence in 2009 and in 2011.

She is consulted as a fragrance historian & expert and has been curating fragrance installations at museum exhibits at the Milan Expo 2015 and elsewhere. She also contributes to publications around the world.

 

MEH



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ChrisInBrooklyn
ChrisInBrooklyn

I adore the Hermes Eau de Cologne series... They may be fleeting pick me ups by their nature, but I always come back to them. I have Eau d'Orange & Pamplemousse Rose. And would gladly buy them all budget permitting... A few in the series are truly exceptional, but they are all great! Thanks for this review Elena.

Aug
19
2016
nexangelus
nexangelus

I have and love the 2016 released Neroli Dore. Have used over a third of a bottle this summer. It is clean, snappy and I am sure it has oakmoss in there somewhere. Saffron and neroli, what could be cleaner? I have also tested and loved the Rhubarb Ecarlate, Gentiane Blanche and Narcisse Bleu...I do have a thing for Hermes and colognes, though...

Aug
19
2016
spcmiller
spcmiller

I tried both of these when they first came out and found them to be quite lackluster in terms of the scents themselves and longevity-wise compared to previous scents.

Aug
19
2016
Konga5000
Konga5000

I love Neroli and have never tried Hermes. How expensive are these ? Hmmmm....

Aug
19
2016
Elena Vosnaki
Elena Vosnaki

@Migotka

good catch. That was a mistake. It's classified under Fragrance Reviews now as it should have been. Sorry for the mistake and thanks for alerting me to it!

Aug
19
2016
caribbeanislander
caribbeanislander

I tried Neroli and is really a wonderful creation, its crispiness of traditional colognes its contradictory with the boldness of this particular formula. Keeps the elements of traditional colognes, with a modern twist that only Jean Claude Elena can give, in the skin its a fling between fresh and sensual. I did totally regret I didn't buy it on my list trip.

Aug
18
2016
Migotka
Migotka

It surprises me to see this in "Bargain Fragrance Reviews" series. These are quite pricey and definitely not bargains! Unless you are on a big budget.

Aug
18
2016
chanelnumerocinq
chanelnumerocinq

I wish the Rhubarb one was stronger. It's almost perfect. Has anyone tried it on clothing with better results? Pamplemousse Rose & Gentiane Blanche are my favorites of this collection.

Aug
18
2016

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