Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li: new fragrance

It is official. The final chapter in the Jardin fragrance series by the historical house of Hermes is inspired by a garden redolent of in house perfumer Jean Claude Ellena's favorite flower: jasmine. The flower he grew up with (Jean Claude was taken as a child alongside the family, working with the workers, for the dawn picking of the lush white blossoms which smelled halfway between flower and flesh, as he recalls in his Journal d'un Parfumeur/Diary of a Perfumer).

The inclusion of the unusual note of kumquat, a small citrus fruit with a rich scent favored for the preparation of a special liqueur on the island of Corfu, recalls the fruity hesperidic note in Colette 1873 by Histoires de Parfums.

The name, Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, is of course recalling a garden fantasy, as previous editions in the series did: the plate of figs offered in a garden in North Africa as translated into Un Jardin en Mediterannee (2003), the green mango and sycomore trees in Assouan, Egypt, in Un Jardin sur le Nil (2005), the monsoon in Kerala, India in Un Jardin apres la Mousson (2008), and the actual garden atop the Hermes headquarters which provided vegetables for the Dumas family during WWII in Un Jardin sur le Toit (2011).

Of course this is the swan song of Jean Claude Ellena for Hermes as well. He is to be succeeded by Christine Nagel, as we had announced on Perfume Shrine a while ago.

The new Jardin fragrance by Hermes, Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, is set to be available at the flagship Hermes boutique on Madison Avenue (in NYC) in early March 2015.


  1. Miss Heliotrope00:45

    Despite it not looking like it will be available to those of us who live here on Mars, it sounds rather lovely. Jasmine can be beautiful (or overdone) & is one of those where people seem to view it as pretty floral more often than the flesh as noted above. Kumquat - fabulous. My mother in law started making kumquat marmalade, which became an obsession for me - it's bitter but juicy & intense with a floral honeyed edge -

    1. Nah, the Jardin series are available over the counter in department stores, aren't they?

      I think jasmine and kumquat sounds like a good creative combo: the fruit is juicy and succulent in a different way than grapefruit (which JCE has done to death, probably) and jasmine is of course both a lush floral note with fleshy overtones and a light infusion lent to tea, so the idea can be pulled in several directions, the tea better reflecting the Chinese theme.
      I haven't tasted the marmelade of kumquat, how fun! (And you're giving me ideas). The liqueur and the candied fruits I have tasted in Corfu are certainly delicious!

  2. The name made me think of something for the Chinese market, which stereotypically means watery. But this definitely sounds like it's worth smelling.

    Big hopes for Nagel - provided she brings out her more mischievous self (Theorema, Archives 69), and breaks free from the confining Jo Malone suburban quiet.

    1. I do believe that it is intended for the Chinese market, but the including capacity is vast. The Jardin series do very well in the Mediterranean countries as well, because summer wear requires something lightweight, yet with interest to it. So people who don't want to do the 90s "ozonics" are always on the look-out for something along that line (for instance I know that both Poivre Samarkande and Jardin apres la Mousson are best-sellers in the Athens boutique of Hermes).

      I have hopes for Nagel as well. JM has never been a daring brand, especially after being bought. Hermes allows for much more creative freedom, I should wager ;-)

  3. Anonymous20:12

    Sounds lovely, even the name is perfect-maybe you will make your thoughts available, once you have had a chance to sniff!

    1. Thanks Carole, I sincerely hope so!

  4. Anonymous21:13

    The good news for me is his departure actually, not this fragrance. Everything he does smells citrucy, there's grapefruit in almost every fragrances, which doesn't smell interesting to me. Jour d'Hermès is so shy, celery-ish and unobtrusive, I think I'd rather wear sweet stuff young girls like. And the Absolu version is way too strong on the...hmm let me think, oh yes, grapefruit that's right, so predictable with Ellena.


    1. Emma,

      thanks for commenting, hope everything is going well for you.

      Well, you're certainly entitled to your evaluation of Ellena's work and it's not like what you're saying isn't true to an extent. The reason I "get" his insistence is because I have come to the realization that like a painter, like Picasso for instance, he sees "the same table a different way each time". To the perfume wearer, this might not seem like a big deal, but to a true artist every little switch on the knob makes for a difference. So, I think the insistence on citrus is due to that aspect of his truly artistic personality. Most perfumers are craftsmen because they work on a commissioned work they don't choose themselves which operate on a brief, fueled by design, changing their "style" enough to fit into the requirements of the task at hand. With Ellena (and Roudnitska before him) the artistic exploration (and the artistic freedom Ellena enjoys) takes a more personal path and the creator can become an artist because they theorize, they develop a clear "signature" that evolves with each supplementing piece and they explore all the nooks and crannies of a particular style (like for instance Chopin did with his Etudes).

      In what has to do with grapefruit in particular, I believe the quest is to Ellena something of a holy grail because grapefruit is a notoriously difficult "note" for various reasons: tenacity problem, translation into citrus rather than sulphur, avoidance of inadvertently creating unpleasant smelling esters within the formula.
      So, Ellena's insistence isn't without logic or merit.

      However I do recognize that his style is very specific, his aesthetic eminently (and superhumanly) refined for too much comfort, and that many of his compositions do not translate too well for people living in cold climates most of the year.
      That said, he has composed some warm, comforting, "cossu" fragrances (you will agree) during his stint at Hermes, very good ones: Ambre Narguile, L'Ambre des Merveilles, Eau Claire des Merveilles, Vetiver Tonka, Vanille Galante...

      My fingers are firmly crossed for Christine Nagel. :-)

  5. Anonymous17:14

    I completely understand your point of view, besides my criticism is not as elaborate, sort of Fashion Police style biased judgment, not as serious.
    I don't mind his minimalist approach, I just have an aversion to grapefruit note. I don't find it interesting, I don't think it smells bad, but it's not interesting, just like I don't find sweet fruity notes interesting.
    I'm wondering if sluggish sales of Jour d'Hermès is behind his leaving. Hermès is expanding a lot with new investors all over the world, they're probably looking for a more commercial direction.


    1. Apologies for the late reply. Just managed to get on board.

      Oh, no worries, I like criticism when it has something constructive to offer and "not interesting" isn't a point not worth considering. Thanks for providing it. I find it rather interesting (not so much anymore as I first did, granted) but I don't like sweet fruity notes either, much like you don't.

      The reason behind Ellena's leave isn't tied to any commercial sluggishness, on the contrary. It's just that his contract came to an end. He's an older man now, intent on pursuing his own goals, he has prepared his successor too (Nagel has been his protegee for years on end) and has introduced his daughter, Celine, to the Home fragrance side of Hermes as well. They're on perfect terms.

      Hermes of course is expanding all over the world but they have the class to produce a separate line for China besides the classic one and in general they have the kind of pedigree and appreciation of that pedigree that makes me admire them. And they're probably the most philhellenic of the luxury brands too (now that Diptyque has sorta effaced its original style and quirks), which is touching!


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