Tag Archives: Jean Claude Ellena

Jour d’Hermes: Waiter, There’s Something in My Perfume!

 

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Whilst in my local House of Fraser today with dear friend Lisa Wordbird, she persuaded me to try a perfume she liked.  NB This is very easy to do and not difficult at all. I was proffering a naked wrist before the Sales Assistant got the lid off.

The scent in question was Jour D’Hermes and I obligingly glued my nose to my wrist, snorting away happily like a little perfume piggy. “Rhubarb!” I announced, offering Lisa my wrist (before she could agree. Poor Lisa!). She agreed, yes Rhubarb indeed.

Later, I arrived home and checked the notes on Fragrantica.  There’s no Rhubarb in this!  Waiter, there is Rhubarb in my perfume, but it doesn’t say so on the menu!

lemonaday.com
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Is this a complaint?  No, because Jean Claude Ellena was at the helm of this one and rather than Rhubarb Crumble, it is a beautiful watercolour of a stick of rhubarb fresh from a summer garden.

Here are the Top notes: (see if you can spot the rhubarb) Grapefruit, Lemon, Watery notes. Middle notes: Gardenia, Sweet Pea, Green notes and White flowers. Base notes: Musk and Woods.

Any Rhubarb?  No.  But maybe, as has happened before, the combination of the notes used causes a  sort of by product note in the juxtaposition. Sometimes two notes get it on and have a baby that smells like a third note, if I am making myself clear.

In any case, this is a very pleasant, rhubarby perfume , light as a watercolour painting, and with a faint hint of Kelly Caleche workings in the base, only greener.  It is really rather good, but it does illustrate a good point:  always try on skin.

Hermes Elixir Des Merveilles by Jean Claude Ellena

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I spend so much time in the kitchen that it has put me right off Gourmand scents.  I don’t want to smell like I’ve been baking, because I usually have.  However there is one man who could persuade me to wear a gourmand and that is Jean Claude Ellena, creator of both Hermes Ambre Narguile (reviewed earlier in this blog), and today’s scent Elixir Des Merveilles for Hermes.

If you told me I would be both wearing and enjoying a scent that added up to Oranges and Caramel, I wouldn’t have believed it, but I am.

When JC Ellena is on board, he is never heavy handed. Elixir Des Merveilles is all sorts of gorgeous.  It has citrus (Oranges) but isn’t a Citrus.  It has Resins and Patchouli but isn’t just an Oriental. It has Caramel and Vanilla but isn’t just a Gourmand.

 Elixir Des Merveilles opens with buttery Oranges. Whilst the notes of the Orange are clear, the citrus does not dominate, but is made creamy by the addition of warm Vanilla Sugar (I know, I’m starting to think Nigella Lawson made this, not Jean Claude).

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This top note is brisk and sparkly, but the Patchouli slowly and subtly gets bigger until the middle and base is a kind of mouthwatering Woody symphony.  The Caramel note is definitely noticeable, but serves to enhance rather than dominate, like a great backing singer. The warmth of the gourmand notes seems to make this smoother and rounded, like polished wood. The base itself has lost almost all of the Orange, and ends with a warm Oriental finish. Lasting power is excellent: the base note just goes on and on.

In an Overcast March that can’t seem to make up its mind, this warm beauty is like a hug. It covers all bases but it never sells out.  Caramel and Oranges? Jean Claude not only makes it work but makes you wonder why it isn’t done more often. I wonder what his cooking is like?

Hermes: Un Jardin En Mediterranee by Jean Claude Ellena.

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 Some fragrance is so good that if you did not know the name of it and  a stranger walked by wearing it, you would follow the stranger home until they surrendered the name of the beautiful aura that surrounds them.

I would follow a stranger home like a stray dog for  Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee.  How nice, that just a week after I wrote my Dear John letter to Iris that I should meet and fall in love with Fig within a day. Fickle? Oh yes. Like a widow on the make at a wake.

I love fig. I’ve never tried it before it (I know, shocking), but now I want to try EVERYTHING fig.

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Un Jardin opens with a quick and dirty boozy waft, almost like Rum and Raisin. Then when that burns off, you are left with a citrussy green aroma that is as pretty as the scent of a passion fruit, yet without any sickliness. In fact passion fruit is the nearest thing I could think of to describe fig. The perfumed aroma of a passion fruit, just opened, is a masterpiece of nature.  It is aromatic and natural and well, it smells like perfume. And so it is with fig. Both green and milky at the same time, this reminds me both of fresh dates and clean, leafy notes simultaneously.

This is a grown up’s perfume- I’d be surprised ( and delighted) if I smelled this on anyone under 25. There are similarities between this and Kelly Caleche, also by Jean Claude Ellena, in that there is a green “polished leather” note surrounded by petals that is common to both.

It has curious notes which make a refreshing change from the usual: Pistachio and Oleander, and Red Cedar and Cypress. Yet if I had to describe this without looking at notes, I would have said that this is Kelly Caleche with a punchy, rich middle, like drops of amber that melt on the tongue.

unjardinThis is the kind of fragrant moment that stops me in my tracks. From a casual “can I try this?” to a glazed eye robotic “I Must Buy. I Must Buy”, Un Jardin en Mediterranee had me entranced.  For a perfume blogger, I don’t have many full sized bottles. Only a few have caused me to fall in love quickly and have given me the Must Have feeling: Eau de Cartier, Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, and Balmain Jolie Madame are good examples. Un Jardin is now another.

Jean Claude Ellena has mixed it seamlessly, with his trademark watercolour style, making the aroma a perfect dream of a light summer fig through smoked glass.

Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee  is Sheer Heaven. Nose glued to wrist. I feel sorry for whatever I review next since it will have a lot to live up to.

PS My seven year old son adores this and calls it awesome. He’s got taste, like his mother.

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Une Fleur de Cassie: Editions de Parfums Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle

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 I have tried several Frederic Malle fragrances. Whilst no two are quite the same, I do notice similarities between them.  I often think “Hmm, that smells like a Frederic Malle”, only to find that it was.

 I rather liked Une Fleur de Cassie, but didn’t love L’Eau D’Hiver (which I reviewed back in January), discovered a hearty dislike for my nemesis Iris Poudre,   and was left slightly underwhelmed by Musc Ravageur. I have been told however, that I might just love  Bigarade, and since Jean Claude Ellena is at the helm of that one, they might be right.

Une Fleur de Cassie is a lot of perfumes all at once.  Not a Green, not quite a Floral, not a Citrus, not a Chypre, not an Oriental.  It begins smelling a little of musty blackcurrants and Roses and Chalk. It then beds down into a creamy dust, framed with Dried Rose petals, background Jasmine, and yellow, summery Mimosa. The Sandalwood adds a bit of sandy bite. As it settled in, the mustiness became more dominant, and it began to smell like the back of a dark wardrobe and sadly  went a bit cardboard like on my skin. There is a dusty quality, like a stuffiness or lack of air,  that I also found in Iris Poudre.

After around five hours, just before it died away completely, I was left with a very aged smelling milky Musk, with peppery dried Pot Pourri. I’m glad I didn’t buy a bottle blind. This smells much prettier on my Mum, who happens to be around today.  On her, there is a definite hint of Violet Leaf and the Musk really suits her.

Dominique Ropion is a prolific Nose, having created some true greats. It is fair to say that the landscape of modern perfume would be very different without him. In his repertoire, you will find Thierry Mugler Alien,  Givenchy Amarige, Lancome La Vie est Belle, Sisley Soir de Lune, Givenchy Ysatis,  Calvin Klein Euphoria, Caron Aimez-Moi, Cacharel Amor Amor, My Queen by Alexander McQueen,  several for Burberry, several for Escada, Dior Pure Poison,  and several fragrances for Frederic Malle, including the much lauded Portrait of a Lady, to name but a few.

Ropion is both talented and versatile, with no two Ropion fragrances smelling the same.  He can do big Box Office hits, but gives great niche.  Whilst Une Fleur de Cassie isn’t my cup of Monkey Picked Oolong, I’d like to think I can recognise a good perfume when I smell one, and this is definitely good.  Not on me sadly, but on my Mum it’s terrific.  Mum, I think you should splash out.

Hermes Kelly Caleche EDT by Jean Claude Ellena: Stand Back and Admire

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It has often been said that the scents of the great Jean Claude Ellena are like watercolours. The ingredients are blended with such masterful grace that you cannot see where one begins and another ends. Indeed it seems almost pointless to analyse his fragrances note by note, since the final symphony is the masterpiece, rather than each orchestral unit.

My esteemed fellow blogger The Perfumed Dandy has likened JC Ellena scents to seurat.baignadePointillism rather than watercolours and this metaphor makes a great deal of sense. Once upon a time I stood very close to Seurat’s stunning “Bathing at Asnière”, and close up, trying to analyse his skill was indeed pointless, if you’ll pardon the pun. Close up it was a blurred mess of greys and pastels: blob over blob, making no sense at all. It was only as I stood back and looked from the back of the room that you can see how skilful the artist is.

And that my dear readers, is how I see Hermes Kelly Caleche. It’s the overall picture, not the individual notes. Yes there are lots of ingredients, including Violet, Rose and Mimosa, all of which can be clearly detected, but it is impossible to talk about Kelly Caleche without mentioning the gentle use of Leather. Could Leather ever be so delicate when done with floral notes? In this case yes. Despite Leather being largely considered a heavyweight, or associated with strong notes such as Tobacco or Spice, here it is surrounded by watery flower petals, as delicate as butterfly wings.

The lasting impression that Kelly Caleche gives me is of a shop that sells nothing but very Imageexpensive leather riding boots. If you need to look at the price tag, you can’t afford it. The leather is highly polished and glossy, no Cuir de Russie horsiness here. Behind the coiffed assistant (who is always French in my scenario), there is a vase of Mimosa and Roses.  Someone is eating a Parma Violet (probably me).  The leather fills the room and joins the flowers in one gorgeous glorious fragrance.

And that is what Kelly Caleche says to me. Stand back and admire.

Hermes Hermessences Paprika Brasil: Another Perfect Symphony from Jean Claude Ellena

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 At first I read the label on this elegant 5ml sample as “Paprika Basil” and thought, “Do I really want smell like a Chicken Thigh?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only was it “Paprika Brasil (put your glasses on woman!), but it was made by Jean Claude Ellena, and is up to his usual high standard. He also makes one of my favourite fragrances : the beautiful ever changing First By Van Cleef and Arpels ( see my earlier review).

I would never, ever have considered Paprika as an ingredient in perfume but he makes it work so beautifully that I can’t believe it’s not done more often. There is Iris at first, but a pleasant, sweet variety, rather than the earthy rooty horror that I sometimes encounter. I also thought I could smell Violets, but I am partly mistaken. It’s actually Mignonette:  a “very sweet-smelling and pleasant Mediterranean flower with violet-like and fruity nuances” (Fragrantica)

The Paprika itself does not make itself known immediately, it emerges as a crisp line of spice surrounding the blooming pretty Violet and Iris. Imagine a sparkling clear pool of Violets with a crisp red edging. There are Cloves too, and Green notes and Woods.  When the violets have left only a sweet trail in their mist, I am left with  spiky, peppery scent of beautiful Rosewood.  It’s bold and clever, but the balance is just right, as always with JC.

Luca Turin however, damns it with faint praise in Perfumes The GuideThe pepper-peppers accord works fine, but it does not sustain interest and ends up smelling like the capsicum off note in cheap Graves wine”.

LT gives it two stars.  I’d give it four. But that’s just me.

Hermès Ambre Narguilé: Beguiled by Narguilé

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I love Amber. I’ll even buy cheap Amber scents. I love that slightly gingery incense note it has. Less Chypre than an Oriental, a good Amber can add spice to a Winter scent and warm it up whilst not being overpowering.

The Amber to end all Ambers is Hermès Ambre Narguilé.  Once this was created in 2004 by our old friend Jean-Claude Ellena, I don’t know why other perfume houses didn’t just give up and say “what’s the point? They’ve won”.  However if we are talking fiscally, I’m rather glad other Amber scents are available as the price tag is currently £150 for 100ml. Let me know if you can find it more cheaply.  However, it must be said that scent of this calibre goes a long way and one squirt of Ambre Narguilé lasted around six hours on me, and you don’t need much. In case you are wondering, I borrowed my sample and I am aware of how fortunate I am to have a generous  friend with a perfume collection that makes me want to steal and rob, even though I am a nice girl really.

It’s worth quoting the creator of Ambre Narguilé himself here, from the Hermès website:

Amber, the Western expression of Eastern fragrances, has a warm, enveloping, almost carnal smell. I wanted to imbue this idea of amber with the memory of the East I love where tobacco – blended with the smells of fruit, honey and spices – is smoked in narguilés, or water pipes, and where swirls of smoke diffuse a sweet sense of intoxication. 

Jean-Claude Ellena

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JCE says it better than I can, but here is my personal interpretation: The amount of vanilla used today in just about every scent that has emerged in the last twelve months has almost put me off ever liking it in a fragrance. In addition, I don’t like gourmands, or anything that smells remotely edible on my skin. Famous last words.

 However Ambre Narguilé is like smelling Christmas Cake and Cinnabuns from the next room with a dot of Cognac under each nostril. The vanilla is heady and thick, like liquor, and not cheap and sweet as it so often can be. There is honey in here, but only enough to soften it and not to overpower. It is a dark, raisin like smell that has enough Amber to stop you smelling too cakey.  It’s rich, enveloping, warm, aromatic and wonderful.

It’s not widely available, it’s not cheap, but frankly my dear, I think it’s worth a fight.

First by Van Cleef and Arpels: Soapy and Glorious

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First by Van Cleef and Arpels was Jean-Claude Ellena’s first fragrance creation, and what a début it was! A classic green aldehyde that, like all good fragrances, changes as you wear it, revealing different layers as your skin warms and cools.

I first tried this in my local House of Fraser, just having  a squirt on my arm in passing. I didn’t like it much, but it had such good reviews, and contained Green notes, (which are my favourite), that I thought I’d give it a second chance.  I’m so glad I did.

I got my hands on a 5ml bottle (from a set bought in Argos would you believe?),  certainly enough to wear generously for two or three days. Its strong stuff and my beautiful little mini bottle didn’t have a spray, so I applied it straight to my skin. What a difference.

Forgive me if I say it reminds me of Palmolive soap, because it does. Then again, many detergents and fabric softeners use aldehydes in similar fashion to many fragrance houses. You may often find that a fragrance reminds you of Dove or Lenor, and neither is any bad thing in my view.

Once First was on, I immediately sensed acetone, like nail polish, just for a second or two (I often find this with older scents but it may just be me), then the aldehyde soared, then the green notes kicked in, then light florals (definitely a whisper of Tuberose and Hyacinth) and then it changes and grows and develops over time. When you’re hot, it smells softer, but when out in the snow, it is sharper and greener, although the aldehyde tones it down into an oakmossy green rather than a fresh green. It’s a scent that kept my interest, and I respected it even more for talking me round after a disastrous First date in House of Fraser (excuse the pun).

I was shocked at how reasonably priced it is. I was expecting to pay upwards of sixty quid for a small bottle, but it’s currently less than £30 for 60ml .  I am getting my credit card out as soon as I finish this (I’m serious, I want a big bottle). Naturally, it has been reformulated since 1976, but I like it enough in its present form not to become a vintage purist in this case.

 

L’Eau D’Hiver by Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle- Winter Wonderland

Picture 308 L’Eau D’Hiver was created by the legendary Jean Claude Ellena for Frederic Malle. It’s kind of a response to Après L’Ondée. Imagine Jean-Claude and Guerlain having some kind of sniff off in a dark car park after hours. Who wins? Well, I’d say Jean Claude struts off with the trophy in this battle of the heliotropes, but leaves Guerlain with only a slight graze to its pride.

Luca Turin rates Après L’Ondée as one of the twenty best perfumes ever made. That’s quite a compliment when you think there are over 17,000 perfumes listed on Fragrantica alone, and the site by no means covers every scent ever made. It seems only appropriate to review the two scents consecutively since they are both heavyweight heliotropes, and this ingredient is getting harder to find and use today. Somehow, Jean-Claude Ellena managed it, but then Jean-Claude has clout.

So what’s the verdict on Eau d’Hiver? Well it’s primarily heliotrope, but where it differs from the cold shouldered Après L’Ondée is that JCE added a touch of musk, and am I imagining it? MINT.  It’s an unusual mixture that makes me think of frost and snow and silvery frozen raindrops on a cobweb. The mint keeps it sharp, but the musk softens it at the same time.

It wasn’t love at first sniff though, it was more “Mmm, that’s interesting” followed by  “rather nice, but I wouldn’t buy a large bottle” and after a while, I kind of needed to open a window. It’s like longing for a cosy log fire on an icy day, but then getting too cosy and wanting a blast of fresh air again.

The jury’s out, but it’s much friendlier than Après L’Ondée and her haughty froideur.