Notes: cumin, hazelnut, sesame, cinnamon, cardamom, bergamot, sea notes, whiskey, vetiver, and oakmoss.
The Hermessence line is the Hermès equivalent of Les Exclusifs from Chanel and the Christian Dior Privée line. (Which I believe is now being called La Collection Couturier Parfumer Christian Dior. Really succinct and abbreviated!) It seems that the most exclusive luxury houses feel the need to produce ever more exclusive fragrances. I really enjoy a few of Chanel’s Exclusifs. Epice Marine is my first foray into the Hermessence line. I’m glad I started with this one because it’s really interesting and surprisingly wearable for a fragrance containing a hefty dose of cumin.
Epice Marine was launched in 2013 and was composed by the Hermès in-house perfumer at the time, Jean-Claude Ellena. This is a classic Ellena composition in that it’s rendered in his typical sheer, transparent style. It’s best to go in knowing this, and not setting your expectations for a powerhouse that lasts on the skin for 12+ hours. Ellena composed this one in collaboration with a Breton chef, Olivier Roellinger. You can see or smell the influence, since Epice Marine has a salty sea air tinge to it as well as a very unique gourmand aspect. The cumin is strong right off the bat. In terms of épice or spice, I sense the cinnamon, and a touch of whiskey. This composition is definitely influenced by food, but it’s not foodie in a typical boozy/vanilla/chocolate way.
More than any specific kind of food, Epice Marine gives off the impression of a restaurant. This is a restaurant along the coastline with an outdoor terrace. But it’s not a pristine oceanfront view in the south of France. This is a northern Breton beach. The sea still offers a beautiful view, but the water is cold and forbidding. This is not a seaside for sunbathing. The whiskey note here is slightly smokey. Combined with the cinnamon it adds some warmth, or as much warmth as you’re likely to get from this scent. Epice Marine is otherwise firmly on the cool spice side of things. The cumin here is not sweaty. It’s green, and a little bit fizzy. It adds some liveliness. It’s the buzz of the diners chatting out on the terrace.
As the dry down comes on, Epice Marine takes on a baking bread type of smell. I have only encountered this type of note in Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant before. It’s subtle but it’s a doughy bread smell. I’m not sure where the bread note is coming from but it helps flesh out the whole restaurant impression. And I appreciate that this composition is almost a savory/salty gourmand rather than sweet, which is very unusual. It’s also not your typical calone marine/aquatic scent either.
It’s worth saying that Hermès offers sets where you can choose four of the Hermessence fragrances in a 15 ml travel spray. (You can choose to do four of the same one if you’re really attached to one in particular.) This is what I may end up doing once I try a few more of the Hermessence line. The price point for a full bottle is an Hermès price point, let’s be honest. But Epice Marine is worth it. For a fragrance that is so unusual, it’s also highly wearable. More than that, I love the restaurant dinner scene it evokes. It’s both inviting and a little bit strange. Simply put, it’s haunting.