Considered by many as one of the world’s greatest 20th century perfumers, Edmond Roudnitska like his many peers, were at the height of their creativity before my entry into this world. Thus, I am posthumously discovering their work and the importance of their contribution to modern perfumery. Edmond Roudnitska’s most renowned work began in the late 1940s when he began consulting on projects with Christian Dior. In 1949 Roudnitska created Diorama, a fruity chypre that continued the evolution of the mid century chypre style into the 1970s. In 1951, following a meeting with Emile Hermes, Edmond Roudnitska brought to life an exceptional “Eau” that would bare the luxury saddle-maker’s name. There is a sense of sobriety that comes with a brand like Hermes. For his creation Edmond Roudnitska drew from a personal memory, the scent of a Hermes bag interior with notes of delicate leather, citrus, fruit and spices. Following the perfume’s launch, crystal flacons could be purchased from Hermes boutiques that were personalized with an engraved message. The Hermes perfume bottle was developed over half a century finding inspiration in the lines and the shape of the lanterns used on traditional horse carriages. The house’s many symbols, the orange skyto box and the ex-libris Hermes family monogram surround the weighed crystal bottle. For more than 60 years Eau d’Hermes has symbolized the house’s approach to luxury and elegance.
In 1993 Hermes launched an annual series of 500 crystal bottles designed for connoisseurs and collectors. These beautiful hand engraved 120ml bottles are decorated with a coloured leather ribbon and engravings which change annually, complementing the theme of the year.
Eau d’Hermes Limited Edition Annual Themes:
1994: The Sun
2000: First Steps in the New Century
2001: Looking for the Beauty of the Earth
2001 marked the 50th birthday of the fragrance and the house’s dedication to continuing to honour this special scent. These crystal bottles are rumoured to still be available via request from the brand’s Parisian Maison although they will not be marked with the engravings mentioned above. Instead, the crystal flacon is discreetly marked with the Hermes ex-libris and the perfume’s title. Previously 200ml splash bottles of this unisex scent were sold. To my knowledge, only 100ml eau de toilette sprays are now being produced with a clear cap differentiating it from the older copper cap version.
Hermes describes Roudnitska’s eau as “a citrus spicy floral fragrance…infinitely rich in sensations”. Further to this they describe the development of the scent in seven precise accords.
– Freshness of citrus fruits- bergamot, lemon and petitgrain
– Sparkling aromatic herbs- sage and lavender
– Bold spices- coriander, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon
– Subtle flowery notes- jasmine, geranium
– Gentle amber harmony- vanilla, tonka bean, labdanum
– Intensity of woody notes- sandalwood, cedar, mosses
– Tenacity of the leather accord- birch, cumin
Eau d’Hermes begins with crisp clean citrus notes. Shortly after they begin to fizz and bubble in a very Roudnitska style, seen in his many creations for Dior. From this vantage point you receive the first window view of resins and spice. Labdanum, moss and spice feel like parts of a chypre puzzle that were deliberately left incomplete. The perfume’s infamous carnal note, the scent of human skin gradually builds as part of the leather theme. Although Hermes does not mention it, perfume critic Luca Turin attributes the perfume’s carnality to civet, an ingredient derived from the secretive glands of the Civet cat. Eau d’Hermes is a deceptively complex scent. What starts as a classic citrus scent begins to peel away revealing multiple contradictions. It is clean, yet it is dirty. It feels bourgeois, yet it is carnal and raw. It is a gentleman’s scent, yet there is an underlying tension, like that of an unbroken horse. What appears straightforward at one angle, from another seems rather complex.
Luca Turin suggests middle aged men steer clear of Eau d’Hermes “unless they habitually wear striped shirts with a contrasting white collar”- Perfumes The Guide. Turin’s comical view is a valid one. I suggest those who wore Eau d’Hermes in its salad days try something new. Perhaps the fabulous Poivre Samarcande, a new era in Hermes perfumery? For perfume fans like myself who avoided all mental associations with this scent due to their birth date, Eau d’Hermes signifies a momentous discovery, an archaeological find. And thanks to Hermes who have preserved it, they continue to make it available to younger perfume enthusiasts. Like Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsieur, this is a scent that requires some care when wearing. I enjoy wearing it on days when I am feeling nostalgic. Nostalgic for what? I am not sure. I simply enjoy the idea of traveling back in time through perfume. I recommend reserving this for special occasions instead of everyday use.
Christian Dior Diorella, Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur, Hermes Equipage, Hermes Poivre Samarcande, Frederic Malle Cologne Bigarade, Cartier Declaration.
Perfumer: Edmond Roudnitska (Art et Parfum)
Bottle designer: Annie Beaumel and Pierre Daverne, adapted by Pierre Dinand
Release date: 1987 (1951)
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Dry Woods