In 2013 Hermes have added two new fragrances to its Cologne Collection, Eau de Mandarine Ambree and Eau de Narcisse Bleu. The French luxury house began exploring the theme with Eau d’Orange Verte in 1979. Francoise Caron was the perfumer responsible for its creation; a classical structure reinvented with modern cologne top notes, floral heart notes and a touch of patchouli and moss in the base. Whether intentional or not, Hermes’ Cologne Collection still lives by the ethos of reinvigorating the Eau de Cologne theme with an injection of novelties. Just as Francoise Caron paired her citrus notes of Eau de Cologne with pineapple and mango, Hermes’ latest Cologne has a rich infusion of tropical fruit. With Methyl Pamplemousse, Paradisamide and other advances in perfume chemistry, tropical fruit in perfume has never smelt so chic. Eau de Mandarine Ambree is a zesty fruit punch bathed in warm amber light, the antithesis of the cooling caress of Eau de Narcisse Bleu. For me this fragrance speaks more about olfactory colour than it is about linking the individual notes back to fruit and raw materials existing in nature. The experience of Eau de Mandarine Ambree is like being in the presence of an effulgent Olafur Eliasson light sculpture.
While some fragrances need time to diffuse on skin, Eau de Mandarine Ambree makes its presence felt immediately once it is atomized from the bottle. It bursts forward with sweet mandarins and tropical fruit that lend a bitter, pulpy edge to the citrus medley. Over the past decade, perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has shaped the olfactory identity of Hermes. Although the collection is diverse, a reoccurring theme is the exploration of exotic fruity/citrus accords. Bitter fruit first appeared in Rose Ikebana (2004) and later in Eau de Pamplemousse Rose (2009). Even Terre d’Hermes glows with a pulpy grapefruit hue and exotic fruit such as fig, mango and pear are all staples of the Hermes olfactory garden. Eau de Mandarine Ambree pushes the idea to the extreme and supporting this neon wall of fruit is a base of soft amber. This accord is a cousin of Ambre Narguile (2004) yet its gourmand personality is kept in constant check by the other notes, refusing the potential for Eau de Mandarine Ambree to become an oversweet tropical fruit desert.
Eau de Mandarine Ambree is about light and zest. Perfumers often use fruity notes to communicate youth and frivolity but at the cost of sacrificing sophistication. Like anything that bares the H logo, Eau de Mandarine Ambree is sophisticated whilst still having a playful side. Nutritionists say artificial colours and flavours make children hyperactive. Eau de Mandarine Ambree is the perfume equivalent and makes my nose do summersaults. A fragrance like this is a perfect choice for summer and provides a great pick-me-up when energy levels are down. It is hard not to feel a sense of happiness and wellbeing when I smell it.
Alternatives: Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, Diptyque Oyedo, Annick Goutal Les Nuits d’Hadrien
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena
Bottle Designer: Annie Beaumel, adapted by Hermes Studio
Release Date: 2013
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Citrus