Friday, February 15, 2008

Better Butter? Doblis by Hermes: fragrance review

At Hermès, craftsmen work with various luxurious materials: Barenia calfskin, Mysore goat (chèvre Mysore), and taurillon Clémence, as well as lizard, ostrich and crocodile skins. One of them is "Veau velours Doblis" suede. This suede comes from a variety of cowhide that is treated in such a way as to render the most velvety, buttery tactile feel on the hand.

As I pass outside the boutique Hermès at the buzzing city center, I swift on my heels to catch a passing glimpse on the shop window at the corner, opposite the jewelry stores of hefty carats and heavy industrialists. The version of the Birkin bag in marron glacé especially is trully breathtaking, reserved for someone who commissioned it, catching my eye inadvertedly ~despite my realization that the prices of those bags are so obscene as to sound almost unethical in a world of hunger and pain. The covetability of the item as an almost obligatory status symbol in recent years, referenced and ultimately spoofed in pop culture, demeans the sheer beauty of the noble materials and the superb craftmanship and makes me view it with added apprehension. It does pose a big question mark over such an object of abject, materialistic excess and it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

In the words of Comité Colbert, however, an organisation for the protection and patronage of luxury French brands:
“It’s not a crime to love luxury and talk about it. Even if people have their doubts because it can go hand in hand with excess; even if luxury is often confused with wealth and today does not suggest rarity so much as products, corporations and industry.”
So let’s talk about Doblis: The rare gem that shines in the milky way of scents, this time!

Trés elégante, Doblis the fragrance has the pedigree not to shout its aristocratic lineage. Instead it whispers seductively of good taste, restraint, moderation and sheer quality. It is bon chic, bon genre always, just like the silk scarves of the house, and it smells like old money.
Doblis was conceived in the fertile imagination of perfumer Guy Robert in 1955, a perfumer who has worked on emblematic Hermès fragrances such as Calèche and Equipage; both echoing the tradition of the saddle –making luxury brand first established in 1837. Doblis was re-arranged and festively re-issued in winter 2005 to commemorate 50 years of its launch by Guy's son François Robert (according to French Osmoz) who has also worked on many of the modern Parfums de Rosine (the latter incidentally do not bear any relation to the inspiration of Paul Poiret who first issued the line).

Coming across Doblis I am reminded of sniffing an upholstery catalogue of leather and suede swatches as a child. A family lineage of architects, among other things, meant an early familiarity with the materials used in interior decoration. Those alternatively buttery and acrid pieces of treated hides held a secret of initiation: Codes like P25, P5, P12 and P2; and dreamy names like cinnabar, parchment, stone and oyster to correspond…

There are elements of the aldehydic soapy waxiness of both Calèche and Madame Rochas, other revered Guy Robert perfume creations, but in Doblis the effect I get is warmer than the former and less prim than the latter with the addition of an herbal accent. The floral touches of noble Grasseois rose and jasmine blossoms meld right into the skin; they do not stand out, merging with the leathery touch that makes its presence instantly known.
Comparing the current extrait de parfum on my wrists with my tincture of natural deer musk with its warm, almost urinous smell, asserts that the natural component does not make an appearance. Yet there is a refined animalistic streak running through the background of Doblis with an orientalised feel that takes some inspiration from the warmth of Shalimar. The finely sweet aspect of a leather accord in this fragrance might suggest inclusion of styrax and the suaveness of sandalwood. Its smoothness is only comparable with the seamlessness of the rather more easily procured Diorling. Still, it is an indulgence that will leave me sad when it runs out.

Official notes:Chamomille, coriander, thyme, rose absolute, jasmine absolute, leather, moss, musk infusion.

The bottle of Doblis is inspired by a lanterne de calèche, the lantern on an exquisite type of horse-drawn carriage {you can see a comparable model clicking here and many more antique looking models if you're so inclined here}.
A cabouchon cap wrapped with a leather cord of Doblis suede velours crowns it. Only 1000 numbered, collectible bottles of extrait de parfum were issued in 50ml/1.7oz and they make infrequent and extravagant appearences on Ebay. Samples, however, are available at The Perfumed Court.

Painting Alphonse De Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1838-1913) Driving his Mail-Coach in Nice, 1881 courtesy of allposters. Pic of bottle from Osmoz.


  1. Anonymous10:42

    Helg, i have never sniffed Doblis but read a lot about it during my current 'recherches' reg. Hermès. The mere mention of Diorling in this relation, which i had the chance to get a sample of is mouthwatering.
    Do you know if the above presented was the original bottle? I am asking because it is the same as Calèche comes in pure perfume form, nowadays. Back in the day the Calèche bottle was slightly different (slimmer, a colden cap etc).
    Guy Robert is a genius in my eyes. My newly found and already beloved Calèche and the french to the bone Madame Rochas are masterpieces as well as the legendary Dioressence is.
    Have a good weekend,

  2. Dear N,

    I think you would like it: it's very, very smooth. I am enchanted you found Diorling to your taste :-)

    The bottle in the pic is the one in which Doblis got re-issued some years ago. I will mail you with a pic of the old 1955 one too.
    Yes, they both (Caleche and Doblis) reflect the latern design, therefore they are similar (if you click on the links on the article you will see for yourself).

    Guy Robert has created masterpieces, true, although I can't bring myself to think of the current Dioressence which really doesn't bear relation to his vision (which is a funny little anecdote: washing his ambergris-smared hands in the lab with some miss Dior knock-off soap...)

    Have a great day and lovely weekend! :-)

  3. Anonymous12:10

    A year or so ago when I was playing catch up with my newly born perfume obsession I read BdJ's review of Doblis and read of Patty at the Posse's love for it. So I ordered a sample which broke in the post. I still have the broken vial which to be truthful does not anymore hold any trace of scent but it reminds me of the scent of the package when it arrived. Sheer heaven. I love Caleche (have some vintage parfum),and Diorling but there is a smoothness to Doblis which is unsurpassed. That Guy Robert eh? Another genius! Thanks for stirring the fantasy, E!

  4. When I first smelled this, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, I DID.

    Reminded me of Mitsouko, but better [ this, coming from me...] !
    If I had the dosh, it'd be mine, in a wink.

  5. Dear Nicola,

    you're very welcome. Hope it was pleasurable to read and not too sceptical and wrapped up in the vagaries of status vs. beauty vs. necessity etc :-)

    It's a shame that that vial broke, I can sympathise (sometimes it happens to all of us!)
    I prefer Doblis to Caleche to be truthful; it has more vibrancy, more warmth, good taste with an undercurrent of a little animal.
    I can't bring myself to choose between it and Diorling... They're both exceptional.

  6. Dear I,

    it is indeed a slice of heaven, you're right. It deserves the prices it asks for, unlike many other things on the market.

    I don't think about it in relation to Mitsouko, myself, mainly because I am emotionally invested in the latter; Doblis doesn't have the same connotations to me.
    But they're both on a level with Titans.

  7. Anonymous16:09

    I have never sampled Doblis, but your description and research makes me want to. Thank you for that (or on second thought, oy!)


  8. Your review inspired me to pull out my precious decant and wear Doblis. I was overcome with "suede-ness" and had to wash it off. Re-reading your posting, I see that Doblis is extrait. *light bulb turns on* Next time I will dab on sparingly and see if I like it better.

  9. Oh dear Iris: I made you waste precious drops then. Sorry about that!
    I find it is very smooth and therefore very wearable. And unlike Daim Blond (which will follow later on) it has less sweetness which is cool by me.

  10. Abigail,

    I do recommend you seek it out. Even if you don't like it, you can send it my way and we can work something out :-)


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