The official site introduces Eau d'Hermès as "For me. For you. His and hers" and if an androgynous sensibility is already simpatico to you, the special Eau has the potential to surprise in other ways. Notoriously refered to as "that stinky Hermès" among perfume aficionados, this cologne has had a somewhat dimmed profile for many years, ever since its introduction in 1951 by renowned perfumer Edmond Roudnitska and still to this day enjoys a rather underground cult status.
The ~originally proficient in saddlery and leather goods~ luxury house has some of the most interesting Eaux around anyway, with the latest Eau de Pamplemousse Rose and Eau de Gentiane Blanche having me rave recently for their unassuming spontaneity and unassuming intellectualism, with the ultra-popular Eau de Merveilles with its saline note of ambergris and the mouthwatering Eau d'Orange Verte rounding out the edges. But the original Eau from 1951 is still a small marvel because it manages to recalibrate the Eau formula (a traditional recipe of herbs and hesperidia) into a dazzling kaleidoscope combining frank animal notes, spices, and the illusion of tobacco, a mirage that’s at once textured, elegant and "skanky". In some ways there is a bond with the famous fougère by Guerlain, Jicky: The proper lavender touch, the unabashed sexiness of civet, the contrast of old money and an almost cubist outlook. Only the sequence in Eau d'Hermès is in reverse ~first the objectionable part, then the sumptuous, dignified drydown! There is also kinship with some of the older lovely masculines in the line-up: Équipage and Bel Ami, which I also like very much.
Frankly I don't get much of the "dirty" vibe for which Eau d'Hermès is referenced myself, meaning it doesn't smell either really sweaty (rich though it is in cumin, the usual culprit as per received wisdom) or diaper-like/fecal (copious amounts of civet tend to do that). I get a finely tuned citrus-leather violin and piano duet with some white flowers peeking underneath discreetly. This might have to do with either my skank-eating skin or my seriously wrapped-up perception of what "dirty" really is (Apparently my threshold is rather raised in comparison to the average WASP sensibility, I've been told.) My money is on the second hypothesis, at any rate, and most Roudnitska creations with their improper parts always peeking through the layers seem to perform well. But as usual, try before you buy, because perception is everything when it comes to perfume appreciation and what's fine with me might be unbearable bathroom ambience to you. And cumino-phobiacs*, please beware!
The first bottle of Eau d'Hermès in my life was a gift from an artist friend who has a high brow in art issues and a low brow in matters of everyday commodities; which even now befundles me as to which end of the intellectual and aesthetic spectrum predominated when the choice for this gift was made! Eau d'Hermès is perfectly legible as a composition that doesn't trumpet its credentials in your face (there are luxury ingredients in it, but they never show off the bill, if you know what I mean), it nevertheless has some unusual streak which reminds me of another friend, a writer who hails from an old family tracing roots in the Byzantine Empire, and who likes to wear little hats cocked off-kilter and combine odd socks with her evening outfits. Bottom line, it conjures images of non-prim respectability, like an old, faded aristocrat who has the pissoir jugs displayed alongside the family china.
Notes for Eau d'Hermes: citrus, cumin, birchwood, moss, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla
Please take care not to confuse Eau d'Hermès with the semi-oriental Parfum d'Hermès from 1984 (in the round disk bottle) which is a completely different fragrance. The newest version rerworked by in-house perfumer Jean Claude Ellena is a bit more refined, a little more brainy and airy than the vintage, but still fantastically marvellous and arresting in the most incospicuous way. It is sold in all Hermes boutiques at an Eau de Toilette concentration, just ask for it.
Three different commemorative limited editions of Eau d'Hermès have circulated over the years, highly collectible and beautiful to look at. One is from 1993, depicted above, showing a rider upon a horse. Another is from 1994 with an etched Pegasus on the bottle depicted on the left, the other depicting the sun-carriage of Phaethon also etched on the crystal from 2001 depicted on the right. They're both available on Ebay right now for ridiculous amounts of money (A lesson for us all to stock up on rare limited editions instead of bonds, I guess).
*Some of the other cumin/sweat-infested fragrances include: Kingdom (McQueen), L'Autre (Diptyque), Santal Blanc , Fleurs d'Oranger, Muscs Kublai Khan (Lutens), Declaration (Cartier), Timbuktu (L'Artisan), Gucci Eau de Parfum, Black Tourmaline (Olivier Dubrano), Rochas Femme (1984 reissue).
Paintings by the Spanish artist Juan Gris with music by Barry Mitchell performed by the Locrian Ensemble