In evaluating how Terre d'Hermès has been a resounding commercial success, but also a firm winner on the top lists of best fragrances on discerning consumers boards such as Basenotes for a couple of years consecutively, it is not difficult to understand its appeal and range of qualities that accounted for its popularity, earning it a newly fledged version named Terre d'Hermès Parfum.
The refreshing overture, the unusual, intellectual, mineral facets in its core and the great radiance of its woody bottom (accounted by IsoE Super, more on which on this article) are the cornerstones on which its reputation has been cemented.
Extrait de Parfum pour Homme is not the most usual concentration when one thinks about masculine fragrances. In fact the American generic term "cologne" for masculine scents is not without some sort of reasoning behind it: It seems that most men are accustomed to resort to splashes of scented eau on their neck after a good, close shave or a shower, and additionally they have been conditioned to believe that a men's fragrance should be light and not really perceptible beyond a certain number of paces. The belief has been a remnant of a patriachal code of conduct of the first half of the 20th century, in which men customarily earned the daily bread, read the newspaper while the wife put the babies to sleep and never wore anything remotely removed from lavender water, hesperidic eaux or aromatic concoctions that didn't leave any doubt to which team they were playing for.
Times have changed, new fathers pay more attention to their families, while some opt out of families in the traditional sense altogether, and the market has had to conform. Companies have realised that there is a new sophistication in the air, what with the emergence of the new metrosexual man, but also with the newly rediscovered ~for the Western world~ pleasure of reaping the benefits of aromatics and essences for the benefit oneself: A new audience that laps up niche offerings and ooohs and aaaahs at Pierre Montale's offerings or Amouage's luxurious attars is ready for a proposition that goes against the grain: Namely not an Eau de Parfum (in itself also a rare phenomenon in the universe of masculine fragrances) but an Extrait de Parfum, aka pure parfum! Thus Guerlain is offering their excellent Habit Rouge Extrait, Ormonde Jayne and Clive Christian are not far behind with their own, but it is Hermès that just launched a new version of their best-selling 2006's Terre d'Hermès in parfum concentration which will reign in terms of awareness and recognisability, I bet.
Terre d’Hermès Parfum explores a denser “Terre” (earth) than the original eau de toilette which married the skies above with the earth below. An intense concentration surely, yet not just ‘an intense version of Terre d’Hermès’ specifies Jean-Claude Ellena, but rather a rewriting that ‘amplifies the concept, and ‘heightens the contrasts’. Ellena has intensified the mineral-flint facets, and reinforced benzoin’s role resulting in a more bottom-heavy composition which nevertheless isn't far removed from the original. In the opening, shiso’s green, minty accents awaken the citrus tonalities a bit more perceptively. while the increased cedar allied to mossy notes tilt the composition from the aromatic hesperidic to the woody chypre; one of easy elegance. Still the experimentation in parfum strength seems like a studious exercise in concept more than practice, because the original had plenty of tenacity and diffusion already and its depths did not easily lend into a very intricate fugue treatment but more to a graceful and easy-paced minuet.
The spray bottle design is so similar, almost identical (well, slightly squarer) to the original Terre d'Hermès that one might dismiss it and think it's the standard product: At least I did! It was with the greatest surprise that I was gently guided at the boutique towards it, by a most graceful and passionate assistant who nodded his head sagely, insisting it's indeed the parfum. Its geometrical, graceful contours and big size belie its unusual concentration: At 75ml/2.5oz it's a LOT of parfum to last you through several months even if used every day! Tenacity, sillage and evolution on both blotter and skin are excellent, testament to the great technical merit of the reworked composition. Perhaps the only gripe could be the price which is unusually low for a parfum concentration, about half of what is asked for the similar products in the feminine range at Hermès. But I am hypothesizing that the masterplan behind this marketing move was that men are practical creatures when it comes to their grooming products and don't have the madly voracious eye that women have in view of luxury, so a reasonable approach might work better with them. At any rate, at those prices and for such potency and tenacity, it's a bargain; assuming you already like the original Terre d'Hermès of course and would like to complete your collection.
Notes for Terre d'Hermes Parfum:
Top: Orange, shiso, grapefruit, pepper
Heart: Flint, mineral notes, geranium leaves
Base: Woody Notes, oak Moss, vetiver, patchouli, benzoin
Available at boutique Hermès and soon in stores.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Interview with master perfumer Jean Claude Ellena
Photo of Jean Cocteau by irving Penn 1950. Pic of bottle via sfilate.it