Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kelly Calèche: fragrance review

The haunting, eerie feeling of Eric Satie's Gnossienne no.1 is tied to my mind to smells that resemble Kelly Calèche, the new feminine scent by Hermès, created by acclaimed house perfumer Jean Claude Ellena.

Like the ethereal yet stangely hypnotic nuance of the musical piece, this new perfume takes sparse elements and interweaves them into a complex and evocative piece of abstract, almost atonic art.

The name of the fragrance derives from the notorious Kelly bag, made famous by Grace Kelly who used it to hide her pregnancy on a photo shoot for Life mag in the 50s and somehow the name stuck. Calèche is of course the delicate and classy floral aldehydic chypre created by Guy Robert in 1961 which takes its cue from the fineest type of carriage (however the one depicted on the house's logo since 1945 is le gran duc).

Since Hermès begun its illustrious career in 1837 selling bridles and harnesses, catering to the equinine rather than the sartorial -for which it is more widely known today- leather scents had been into the core of the house for a long time.
Equipage (1970) is linked to that tradition mostly by name while Bel Ami (1986) is indeed encompassing the warm tannic, bitter notes of leather for discerning males. However a leather scent for women was missing from the line-up and Kelly Calèche was to be the new addition to the pantheon.

The luxurious and haughty manner of previous Hermès perfumes like 24 Faubourg for instance has been substituted with a sparseness and minimalism that is due to the signing up of Jean Claude Ellena as house perfumer fairly recently, a move that resulted in such offerings as the mineral-smelling Terre d'Hermès, the quietly serene Un Jardin en Mediteranée , the limpid, tart wonder that is Un Jardin sur le Nil and the restraintely gourmandish Elixir des Merveilles. But maybe he is mostly known for his Hèrmessences, a pleiad of scents that are selectively distributed only in Hermès boutiques, which present facets of different textiles tranlsated into an olfactory ambience. Needless to say that Perfume Shrine has long been a fan of mr. Ellena's work.

In this one he was inspired by a passage from writer Jean Giono's Jean Le Bleu. There the narrator talks of his departed father, a cobbler, who is "making soles in angel leather." (quote according to Woman's Wear Daily). The muse sounds incredibly alluring and it has created an anticipation across perfumephiles like no other scent for its upcoming release in summer. Luckily provident procurers have made it possible for me to obtain a sample and test it in the convenience of my own home which is always a plus.

The official notes are:
mimosa, narcissus, iris, lily of the valley, climbing rose, tuberose, leather

If I am to be honest, I have to say that this is not exactly what a die-hard leather fan who likes to don breeches and carry a whip, like the one depicted in the naughtily tantalizing yet very classy ad of the house, would imagine. The leather is so subdued as to make this incredibly wearable by all, eminently pleasant and very easy to adopt by women, as easy as a pair of driver's kid gloves in a buttery shade.
Men who like to dabble in women's scents unabashedly (and so they should) will find this a little too whispery for their tastes, perhaps. It's a very soft caress.
The floral notes do not make their appearence simultaneously. At the opening a limpid, slightly tart and a tad bitter citrusy note, comparable to the green mango-grapefruit note of Un Jardin sur le Nil , is opening the act to lure us into the ethereal dance of the flowers in attendance. In contrast to the afore mentioned scent however it doesn't last throughout, giving way to notes of powdery iris for a short while and then a honeyed mimosa note, so charming, so delicate, that plays tricks along with slightly greener blossoms. The soft touch of blanched suede is emerging slowly whispering words of cherubic innocence as the coda.

Like Satie's piece Kelly Calèche retains a coolness that is not to be mistaken with haughtiness. It is rather the slightly melancholic gaze of a woman who would also wear Après l'ondee by Guerlain. And this is no mean feat in my books.

Kelly Calèche makes its debut at the new Wall Street Hermès store on Friday June 21st 2007, then distributed more widely in other Hermès boutiques in August while it will be available in high-end specialty stores in the US, undivulged as yet.
According to Woman's Wear Daily :
"The new fragrance's lineup includes a 50-ml. eau de toilette spray for $75, a 100-ml. edt spray for $110, a 200-ml. body lotion for $65, a 200-ml. bath and shower gel for $45 and a 100-ml. spray deodorant for $40.
Prices are for the U.S."

You can purchase samples and small decants though through "Fragrant Fripperies".

Pic of Grace Kelly courtesy of Quorbis and ad pic from Hermès advertising.
Youtube clip originally uploaded by muzikahram.


  1. Anonymous21:36

    l loved kelly caleche perfume that is the greatest gift l received from my husband.

  2. I am very happy for you then. You have a discerning hunsband, obviously.



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