Epice Marine, the 11th Hermessence fragrance, is inspired on the one hand by the Saint-Malo milieu, full of celtic traditions and the marine songs of the changing scenery of Mont Saint Michel, that is so familiar to Olivier Roellinger (3 stars Michelin chef & owner of Maisons de Bricourt in Cancale) and on the other hand by the Provencal countryside of Cabris where Hermès perfumer Jean Claude Ellena spends his days immersed in the serene Mediterranean blue. The conversation between these two opposing, and yet converging worlds, took the course of a passionate and prolonged epistolary exchange of views between the two men during the course of many months, starting with Roellinger's invitation to Ellena in october 2011 to come over at Cancale at La Maison du Voyager (the voyager's mansion) where the chef grew up and keeps his spice & savory archives for his restaurants.
|pic provided to PerfumeShrine via Hermes|
An idea begins to take shape in Ellena's mind as he listens to his friend recount the seafaring adventures required to amass and distribute green cardamom and Sichuan pepper on the Spice Route during the 16th century and the trafficking conducted by pirates. Contrary to bourgeois perfumery, which uses several accords and complicated combinations "to render an effect", Ellena likes to zero-in on the essentials, rendered in an artistic way which allows to highlight unexpected facets.
Toasted cumin grains, sent from Cancale to Cabri, seal the deal for the new concept: Epice Marine will focus on this polarizing note which is central to the adventures of seafaring. But contrary to the usual cumin essence which has a tendency to recall human sweat to some people, this toasted cumin variety renders an aromatic oil which is human-smelling all the same, carnal and skin-like, as Ellena divulges, but in a very sensual tonality. Ellena has this spice distilled to render an essential oil which encompasses notes of toasted bread, hazelnut, sesame; these nuances are deeply exciting to Ellena, who proceeds to write to Roellinger to relay his appreciation and to inform him that he is continuing, with a bigger order for the toasted spice, allied with cinnamon and cardamom.
Epice Marine by Hermès also uses a generous helping of bergamot to give a vibrant start. To that he has added a synthetic molecule which recalls algae, a more oceanic feel than the sea accord. This is done intentionally as the "sea" note is sweeter than the ocean at Brittany (la Bretagne), which is drier, saltier, more savory. The coupling of the algae note with the spice manages to evoke that. But one thing is missing... The scent of the marine mist, that deep humid scent that comes out of the seabed. This is the definitive accent, provided by a smoky, peaty note of whisky constructed anew by Ellena himself, specifically inspired by the Bruichladdich whisky (a gorgeous single malt from the Hebrides with elegant floral notes). It evokes the boiled buckwheat and the North-East winds of the foggy Brittany.
After 24 mods, the perfumer is still not satisfied with the development of the composition. The smokiness and the oceanic notes seem a little flat to him. He reworks the oakmoss essence variety used in the base, deducts the vetiver variety used previously, and works on a source water "note" to lessen the salty aspect of the fragrance. It is now March 2012. In two months the finished fragrance will be ready but it will take a while to see the light of day: in September 2013 Epice Marine will hit the boutiques. The adventure begins...
certain notes thanks to Sybille Grandchamp of Vanity Fair France, translated by the author.