Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hermes Un Jardin sur le Toit: fragrance review

Un Jardin sur le Toît, the fourth installment in the Les Jardins series at Hermès, a technopaegnia sample more than a simple fragrance, follows the success of Un Jardin sur la Mediterranée, Un Jardin sur le Nil and Un Jardin Après La Mousson. But whereas the narrative in the latter sprung naturally from the motifs of the house  (Un Jardin sur Nil was based on a previous design of river greenery captured in porcelain) or the perfumer's own travel associations (Un Jardin sur la Mediterranée was inspired by the moment when someone brought a plate of cut figs at the garden of an Hermes's executive house in Tunisia, while Après la Mousson was purposely composed chasing the monsoon in Kerala, India), this latest entry feels a bit constrained.

Constrained for associations: Hermès tend to a rooftop garden (i.e.jardin sur le toît, you see) at Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré above their Parisian headquarters, but come on; how spontaneous would it be to search for inspiration so close to home now, I ask you? Constrained for accomplishments, too: The fragrance feels a sort of déjà vu, despite its poetic arc and delicacy of execution, traits typically Ellena. Finally, constrained for marketing: Hermès went out on a limb ~amidst braving the hostile take-over attempts from LVMH~ and invited journalists to a cooking class, a horticulturist's part-time occupation and a press presentation no less, all three rolled into one! So the question is, does the fragrance succeed in what it set out to do? It depends on the angle from which you're watching it unfold.

From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, Un Jardin sur le Toît is ~as always for latter part of the house's fragrance portfolio~ an ethereal, beautiful, elegant composition. I wouldn't expect anything else from perfumer Jean Claude Ellena who eschews easy, run-of-the-mill recipes in order to cut out his own path. Un Jardin sur le Toît is typical Ellena; fans will be on the verge of orgasming, detractors will complain about his vegetal, unusual -for standard luxury- accords once again.  But therein lies the danger of repeating himself as well: The problem with Un Jardin sur le Toît is exactly what should be its strong suit: It's so reflective of its creator it's hard to differentiate it from his other opus. The top section is eerily reminiscent of Kelly Calèche, the drydown dangerously close to the woody-green parts of Un Jardin sur le Nil. Much as one might love both fragrances (and I do), they might wonder at the necessity of launching a separate third fragrance which sounds very much like conceptual looping: the accords sound like a talented DJ's sample scratches, looped into infinity. Inside info wants Jean Claude Ellena to have deemed the Jardin series complete at number three (that's Mousson) and being actively coaxed into producing a fourth one. Pas mal, considering.

Un Jardin sur le Toît from Hermès takes the scent of wet soil, foliage and wild flowers (really, a vegetable patch) as the stepping stone into an herbal epanalepsis of its creator's favourite soundbites. The top stage is effervescent with the tomato leaf (vert de tomate), slightly bitter green, pungent accord that he favours so much (even as far back as Sisley's Eau de Campagne). Whereas in the past this was a bracing breath of fresh air, totally unpolluted, this time Ellena fuses a slightly sweaty element; a bit tarrish, a bit like wet dogs, a bit like compost, in a good way, which merges in a refined way with the more flowery (rose) and fruity (pear, apple) elements. The rose is transparent, more like the greenery in L'Ombre dans L'Eau by Ditpyque or its tratment in Kelly Calèche than anything overtly feminine; peppered and citrusy, a whiff of magnolia in there. Officially classified as a floral fruity, this Rooftop Garden fragrance is as wildly removed from the standard surupy floral fruity as À la Claire Fontaine is from a mass supermarket jingle. Jean Claude Ellena describes it ‘the scent of sunlight and pleasure… a fruity botanical floral’ and that's totally on mark.
Fairly linear and totally unisex, Un Jardin sur le Toî, sustains that repetitive vegetal chord over an indeterminate woody-mossy bass which gives the background that makes the fragrance last and last. The inclusion of oakmoss (evernia prunastri) is what is so sorely missing from many modern time chypres: Who knew the elation of getting one's hands in good, honest earth was only a rooftop away?

The new Hermès fragrance comes in the standard bottles of Les Jardins series, this time in light green bottom, available in 50ml (£55) and 100ml sizes at the eponymous boutiques, major department stores and online.

music A La Claire Fontaine by Shang Wen Jie


  1. Eva S15:13

    Thank you so much for fullfilling my wish about a review of this new scent! From your description it sounds like something I would likely appriciate a great deal, my only qualm is as you point out that it might be too similar to earlier JCE scents, I already own Kelly Caleche and a number of others. Perhaps I'd better manage to smell it before commiting myself to a full bottle!
    Which jardin-scent is your own favorite, is it UJ sur le Nil?
    Eva S Sweden

  2. Eva,

    you're most welcome. I fully intend to honour as many as possible of the requests of readers. I didn't just ask only in order to ask. :-)

    Glad you liked the review and it seems you caught the gist perfectly: if you have everything else it's not something you absolutely need. But then again, you would like it, most probably. So, yes, do sample if you can.

    My own personal Jardin favourite is -bravo, good memory!- Sur le Nil (which I have worn to bits ever since its launch), but I also admire Mediterranee very much indeed: He captured something very regional in it and thoroughly poetic about that corner of the world.

  3. The other day I went to Hermes to try this one - I rest unconvinced. It feels like good old Jardin sur le Nil, which I'd love to get in extrait for somewhat denser effect, but with some hard candy and white flowers thrown in.

    At the end, I got Iris Ukiyoe instead. Silly me.

  4. L,

    I can feel how and why you chose how you chose. I would have probably done the same thing. Iris Ukiyoe is ...unique for lack of a better term, whereas I'm pretty much covered with Nil and Caleche myself. I'd resort to this one if there was a sortage to the two others mentioned.
    Nil in extrait? Now there's an idea. But I find it very projecting, very lasting too, myself. Maybe it gets amplified by the heat? Don't know. Have worn it on consequent summers with much success. Do you need me to send some virtual sunshine? It's rather hot now here.

  5. Anonymous00:15

    Danger, danger:

    Liked this one on a strip even though it was not my usual style, but on skin it went straight to smelling, well, pissy. Which is a rare occurance for me. So definitely wear it an see ...

  6. I just happened to come across your blog. Nice posts. I like this one very much. They are more content oriented than the usual ones you find these days. And the best part is the simplicity in your posts and the language you use in them. I have added you to my favorites. And I will continue to pay frequent visits to your blog. Expecting more such quality stuff from you. Carry on !


  7. Helg,
    you're right that Nil is pretty... projecting is a perfect word for it. I can imagine the extrait with a touch of incense or resins for the base. It would be probably even more unusual than the edt but if you compare Terre d'H in the two concentrations, I imagine something along that line. I love fragrances that are tart and somewhat pungent in extrait version although those qualities are rather encountered in colognes and other summery stuff...

    Sunshine is welcome although we have something of a summer already. Just waiting for a rainstorm, in fact, and it's nastily hot and humid outside, I wanted to do some gardening and I only went around the corner to the garden shop and got drenched in sweat so I happily resorted to writing, and gods know that I'm not writing happily or easily.

  8. Thank you so much for this review. I have been comparing the new Toit to Nil, Nil to Kelly etc. The conclusion I have come to is the style bears Ellena's signature so strongly, it is like listening to the Beatles. You always know it is him. I perceive the difference between the Nil and the Toit is the sweetness is upfront in the Toit and the green is next. In Nil it is reversed. I also think the Toit lasts much longer. Love, love, love all his Hermes fragrances. They are light, alive and do not give headaches! I have one (Mediterranée)and for me that is enough to get the idea for now...

  9. Anon,

    thanks for letting us know about this rather unfortunate experience. I can't say I find myself experiencing pissy on my skin, but there is a very subtle wet dog/musty sweat note in there. I think it adds to the interest, but of course it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

  10. Eperfume,

    thanks. I wouldn't think of simplicity as being my foremost value (although I do deem it a most important one and one I strive for, with little success so far) so it surprises me your saying so, in your perfect English. And then I saw the spammy link...
    Better not try this a second time around, all right? We do sponsored ads where it's clear, what is what. Ask us for rates. :-)

  11. Liisa,

    humid....yuck!!! Major yuck! My most detested state of things. I like a little heat when it's dry and I'm by the sea (or on the mountaintops) but not in the city. Hope your writing and reading goes well.

    You have a great point about tangy extraits: not a common sight! I appreciated TdH for that reason: absolutely stellar tenacity and projection and yet fresh as tomorrow. It might be a nice idea to do an extrait version of all Les Jardins in a coffret edition for collectors! *giving evil ideas at Hermes headquarters*

  12. Tucasam,

    what a beautiful and precise way of putting it! You're welcome and I thank you for articulating it so succinctly. Yes, it's "him" all right and yes, it's immediately recognisable. Like a Monet or a Debussy piece and I know he would love the comparison.
    Now, alive is the perfect term! They have this effortless elegance and joie de vivre about them: you can see these scents moving and living around people; they're not museum pieces or crafted as an art project that is meant for dissection. Yet, they're complex.

    I do find Nil fascinatingly lasting though (it lasts for weeks on fabric), don't you?

  13. Helg, no collector coffret, please, I wouldn't want to see this great idea going the way of Doblis. Normal nice bottles, and afficonados can get a nice box, should they want. Something like the leather sleeves for the Hermessences.

    Tart extrait... okay, since it's you, I'll send you something very special as soon as I get a flacon it deserves.

  14. Kelly06:11

    Iactually got a sample of Un jardin sur le toit today...it reminds me a lot of Un jardin sur le Nil,which I wore all last summer.Ialso tried Jour d'Hermes,so similar to ...le Nil as well...I'm wearing Kelly Calleche every winter since it was launched,(living in Greece where the winter is rather mild)and all the above mentioned perfumes do not remind me of KC at all...thank you for all your great posts,they are extremely helpful! Kelly

  15. Hello Kelly and thanks for commenting!

    καλή σου μέρα και καλή άνοιξη να έχουμε :-)

    They're all made by the same perfumer and he inserts his leitmotifs here and there constantly. He's progressing his ideals via all his releases, I feel, therefore familiar phases are bound to emerge. (notice how the initial herbal segment of KC is given a totally different take later in his Jardin scents)
    I do like Kelly Caleche and think it's a sleeper success (a perfect youthful fragrance for women entering "real perfume"). Please compare it to Florabotanica to see how a different marketing spins the exact same idea ;-)


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