This was the second installment in Hermes’ Jardin series launching in 2005. For owners of the first edition, Un Jardin En Mediterranee, Jean Claude Ellena takes you on a journey away from the Mediterranean and chooses to set sail down the Nile river in search of scented gardens. Ellena and indeed all of the Hermes executives had carefully considered how to capture the scent of this mythical land. Egypt overflows with potential perfume stories; the scent of the local bazaars and spice markets. The Sahara and the ancient stories of its people. Ellena considered the flowers that grow in Egypt; heady jasmine buds, magnolias and a variety of acacia flowers with their frangipani-like scent. But it was decided that none of these threads would lead to the story they were trying to tell. Ellena finally found his muse while exploring the Nile by boat. The answer was green mango. A scent, author and perfume critic, Chandler Burr, describes as “shockingly beautiful”. Burr documented the entire process of creation in his book, The Perfect Scent. It is a book all perfume enthusiasts will enjoy reading, if you haven’t already. After his discovery on the Nile, Ellena returned to his hotel room and began formulating the scent while the olfactory image was still fresh in his mind. In his notepad he wrote down a rough formula of thirteen ingredients he knew could re-create the feelings and emotions he had experienced in the presence of the mango trees. On the plane back to Paris he began to edit his draft, mentally dissecting each ingredient, weighing its value in his composition and disregarding those ingredients that did not help him towards achievement of his vision. An aroma chemical importer once told me that the process of creating a successful perfume formula is perhaps the easiest step in the launch of a fragrance. It’s the work that follows, which is the most time consuming. Reading Chandler Burrs book you have a front row seat peering down into the marketing world of fragrance and all the processes that are part of a perfume launch. Long after Ellena finishes his composition the product then undergoes testing. The colour of the juice decided, as well as the packaging. Tests are performed to ensure the chemical stability of the juice is maintained after contact with the coloured glass that will house it. Endless boardroom meetings later the product is ready to go with no guarantee of success. But with Jean Claude Ellena as creator and the global luxury machine that is Hermes behind him, was there ever a question of failure?
Jean Claude Ellena has cleverly reconstructed the scent of mango without using any natural essence of mango (if one even exists). He relies instead on a natural bitter orange essence; similar to the bespoke oil he sourced for his creation, Cologne Bigarade by Frederic Malle. Mixed with a synthetic grapefruit (the natural oil is too unstable), other fruity synthetics and carrot seed oil (woody/iris) Ellena paints a story of green mango. The fragrance is given depth with the inclusion of a subtle incense note and transparent woods. The same that are used in Un Jardin Eau Mediterranee, purposely included to create a link between the two fragrances. This eau de toilette unfolds in a linear way not holding any surprises for the more patient wearer. It bares its soul within the first ten minutes and continues with good tenacity. The magic words here are fruit, citrus and summer. For me, Un Jardin sur le Nil is that postcard you hang above your office desk. It offers a mental escape during winter months or times when your next holiday seems months away.
If you think of this fragrance as a prêt-a-porter collection for Hermes, it would definitely be Cruise. Light and carefree it is for the energetic man that is confident in himself and does not need macrocyclic musks, woods and power fougeres to bolster his own ego. Although it is a perfect summer scent and feels like a coating of mango sorbet, it is also a nice weekend fragrance on winter days spent on the couch with a great book.
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena
Bottle designer: Annie Beaumel adapted by Hermes studio
Release date: 2005
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods