Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hermes Hermessence" Iris Ukiyoe": new fragrance

The upcoming Hermessence exclusive Hermès fragrance by Jean Claude Ellena is named
Iris Ukiyoe, centered around the noble rhizome of iris and set to launch in November 2010. We had discussed this as a rumour, stemming from a conversation I had with the House and the perfumer about their upcoming projects, last winter, but discretion didn't allow Jean Claude to elaborate on what was still on the mixing lab, so to speak. Now after much time it seems conclusive, as depicted on this page (the bottom bottle in purple is of the upcoming Iris Ukiyoe).
The composition is focusing on "a new, unexpected variation on the iris flower". Ukiyo-e means "images of the floating world" and is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints from the 18th and 19th century (for instance everyone knows this one). This Far East predeliction is in tempo with Jean-Claude's own "zen" approach to his art (Spartan use of materials, utter refinement, a sense of tranquility and a detest for "easy" solutions). It's also in the context of the theme of the House for this year which is "Tales to be Told". But it could be also seen with the -contemporaneous- news of Hermès launching their new line for the market of China. As we had announced last January: ""It was also announced in late December that the French label plans to launch a new brand in China, called Shang Xia. The goal is to play a bigger role in the Chinese market by creating items and styles using materials rooted in the Chinese culture". Is China a market similar to that of Japan now? Seems to be growing beautifully. Japan is considered among a luxury house's dream destinations, at any rate.

Judging by the Japonesque name of Iris Ukiyoe, which alludes to delicate artistic woodcuts, the new Hermessence fragrance would include Ellena's beloved dosage of transparent woody Iso-E Super alongside an aqueous note (much like he did with Vanille Galante, infusing vanilla with an aqueous net of salicylates). My own personal interpretation is that it might also contain a surprising hint of cocoa, a natural facet of the iris not yet exploited fully in perfumery (and certainly not in the already iris-infused offering of the house, Hiris, Kelly Calèche, Eau de Gentiane Blanche and Un Jardin en Mediteranée among them, but on this I cannot say more for now...

Available at exclusive Hermès boutiques around the world 100ml of Eau de Toilette for 170 euros (November 2010) and later online at Hermes.usa.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Hermessences, Jean Claude Ellena interview, Hermes reviews & news, An iris problem: how to build an Iris fragrance, Upcoming releases.

info confirmation alert thanks to my good fairy :-) pic via L'Express


  1. Another perfume which goes to my "to try list". Japan + Jean-Claude Ellena = my most anticipated fragrance right now.

  2. Mimi Gardenia15:04

    My fave is Paprika Brasil with it's iris heart so I'm looking forward to this one Helg !
    Love to you ! :)

  3. Zazie17:01

    I am ashamed to say that I really don't "get" Ellena's creations. They are nice but their delicate style doesn't hold my interest for long... The one hermessence I appreciate the most is vetiver tonka, but my sample is still almost full, after one whole year.

    ...but orris, a note, intrigues me.
    I like to detect its effect on some of the Guerlains I love the most, and I liked VC&A bois d'iris very much, though I often have problems with iris-focused perfumes.

    I have a question for you: I loved the way iris was rendered "buttery" in Chanel la pausa. Do you know other fragrances in which the material has been treated in a similar, buttery way? What about mythique?

  4. Gosh, that sounds lovely. Thanks for the scoop.

  5. I'm excited to try this one, Ukiyo-e was a particular love of mine when studying Japanese art history!

  6. Another iris for Hermès also by a 'minimalist' nose? I wonder how it'll differ from Giacobetti's Hiris.

    It sort of makes sense, though, Hermès even have a leather colour this season called Iris (a brigh bluish purple, a bit like that on the Hiris box). I like a lot of what they do, so I'm looking forward to trying it.

  7. Anonymous16:06

    Gasp! We were right, E! I remember us talking corresponding about the possible direction of Hermessence. Wow.

    Yes, Ukiyoe does fit the "tales to be told" theme, but judging from the recent delicate political issues between Japan and China I don't know if having a Japanese name will allow an easy expansion into the Chinese market. I think it's a more overall decision--Ellena thinks Hermes is a mix of Mediterranean generosity and Japanese clarity. (But I do think it will boost markets in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, who are quite receptive to the Japanese aesthetics.) Again, Asian markets are not clear cut.

    And just in case: Ukiyoe can be so easily mis-pronounced...it's not "you-ki-yoe", which would sound like a certain popular Japanese anime/game (won't get into it here)...the name is more like "woo-ki-yo-eh", with the "u" the same pronounciation like the udon noodle and the "e" (gets its own syllable here) more like our Canadian proverbial way of ending the sentence "eh".

    Anyhow, more later. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous04:39

    PS. FYI I thought more about the different ideas associated with the name and came up with some off-beat cultural background for your enjoyment Helg.

  9. Isa,

    it does create lots of excitement! Since there are some (h)iris-rich perfumes in the line, I think it's safe to assume a very new take. ;-)

  10. Hello honey! How are you?

    You pinpointed the one iris-rich frag I forgot, so thanks!! It should be something innovative, I guess. The name is certainly poetic and predisposes for an aquatic/woody take on the theme. Let's see.

  11. Zazie,

    no need to feel ashamed, there is no prerequisite to like an artist's oeuvre even if we all agree he is an artist with a very distinguisable style.
    Vetiver Tonka is probably my favourite among the Hermessences still. I wear it quite a bit and it always pleases. Then again, I like many of his.

    Buttery iris...hmm...I think La Pausa is overall a softer, less rooty iris than most, so no turnips there. Mythique is muskier with a "modern", comfy feel. It might please.
    Have you tried the original Hiris? I don't get carrots/turnips from it, rather a skin smell. It's a Giacobetti, which means it's also diaphanous, though; it all depends on just how creamy you want it to be. I can recommend a cocoa-dusted iris in L'Erbolario: simply called Iris. It's very good!

  12. March, darling,

    thanks for dropping by! Should stop at the PP and say hello, one of these days, I've been so swamped with things to do, but...

    This is news I'm super excited about, that one and the new Malle, Portrait of a Lady (reported on it the other day). They both sound like something to look forward to!

  13. P,

    oh, then you're ahead of us in this game by miles! can't wait for your take on it.

  14. Abyss,

    it's my understanding that they're planning to "drop" the original Giacobetti, so it would make sense. I never understood why that one isn't more commercially successful but I think I can see why: too niche feeling in the mainstream lineup.

    Nail on the head on the colour scheme!! Kudos!

  15. A,

    I do recall and reference you, as should be done, it's an exciting new release and at the time they weren't revealing too much, sneaking hints but not being too explicit. So there was some guesswork involved. And poor me, can't say more than I am allowed to say sometimes, which is a bummer. But then again, I can reveal whatever I or we have guessed correctly, right? ;-)

    Thanks for the pronouncement guidelines, I take your word for it!!
    I think the Asian markets is something that interests Hermes a LOT. It will be revealed later on in fuller extent.

  16. And will check it out! Thank you!

    (Hope you're very well, sorry for the incommunicado spell...)

  17. Anonymous01:52


    The feeling is mutual--I referenced you (as usual) on my latest post devoted to this subject, too, since by right you gave us the name. When I first read your entry I was simply surprised that our dectective work would be this spot on considering how subtle are the clues--mais c'est l'esprit d'Hermès, non?

    Yes, there's no doubt that Hermès is keen on expanding the Asian markets--along with the other players. What I was pointing out is that it isn't automatic with the name: it's also about what goes along with it--I merely named countries that would be more receptive to the name. (Incidently I just got report that Osmanthe Yunnan has been doing well in Taipei.)



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