Epice Marine by Hermès

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.


The Hermessence line is available exclusively from Hermès boutiques and the Hermès website. I purchased a small decant from Surrender to Chance.

The image is from Hermès and the info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel

Notes: bergamot, Sicilian lemon, neroli, magnolia, musk, iris, and jasmine.

I’m continuing off of my previous post about spring-themed scents, and Cristalle Eau Verte is absolutely one of my favorites for spring. The original Cristalle was composed by Henri Robert and released in 1974 (and I will do a separate write-up of that fragrance because it deserves its own post.) Cristalle Eau Verte was released much more recently in 2009 and was of course composed by Jacques Polge. Eau Verte is definitely updated and modern. It’s an accessible kind of scent profile and it’s effortless to wear.

Cristalle is famous for its sparkling champagne-like citrus top notes. Eau Verte also opens with a sparkling sensation, but you can tell right off the bat that this has definitely been composed for a modern audience. The bergamot has that clean green aspect to it, and the lemon note is very pronounced. It’s a fresh and lively opening. It’s the kind of scent I like spritzing on just after a shower. It’s just that refreshing.

Luckily Cristalle Eau Verte is more complex than a typical body mist that you might apply post-shower. The florals come in and really carry this fragrance in a sophisticated way. I’m a sucker for magnolia, so I love getting to the mid-stage of Eau Verte. Magnolia is often creamy on my skin, and even peachy-fruity. The magnolia here is slightly different in that it’s creamy but, combined with the neroli note, it takes on a shimmering light sensation. It radiates off the skin, almost singing in a way. On a sunny day, I feel like you can almost see the shimmering effect of the magnolia and neroli on the skin. That’s one reason it’s perfect for spring.

The base continues the white floral theme with jasmine bringing a more full-bodied presence. There is also plenty of white musk, which is not my personal favorite base note, but it works for this composition. A tonka or sandalwood note would have been too heavy. I get 5 hours of wear time here, so it’s a pretty typical EdT.

Overall, is Cristalle Eau Verte the most essential or pivotal Chanel fragrance? Of course not. But it’s an excellent flanker. It works as its own fragrance and doesn’t diminish the original Cristalle. It’s sophisticated and more complex than many “fresh” spring/summer scents these days. It makes me smile when I wear it and, sometimes, that’s all you need.


I own a full bottle of Cristalle Eau Verte, which I purchased from Nordstrom.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Photo taken by me.


Spring Irises

I’m not a huge floral fragrance person, but even I can’t help myself for spring. (Miranda Priestly voice: “Florals for spring? Groundbreaking.”) This spring I’ve been drawn to iris in particular. Iris is fascinating in perfumery because it has so many different facets. It can be powdery and almost makeup-y. It can be dry, earthy, and crackling. It can be all these things, and a pretty, wearable floral to boot. Here are a couple of iris scents I’ve been trying:

Iris Prima by Penhaligon’s

Penhaligon’s refers to this scent as “the regal Prima Ballerina.” The perfumer, Alberto Morillas, worked with the English National Ballet to capture the elegance and glamour that go into a ballet production. Surely plenty of blood, sweat, and tears go into these productions as well, but Iris Prima is firmly on the elegant side of things.

Iris Prima opens with iris right away, along with a gorgeous shimmering bergamot note. The bergamot here is what really drew me into this fragrance. It’s not sharp or biting like bergamot can sometimes be, but it adds just enough zest to lift the composition. It’s definitely a stage lights coming on type of feeling. I was expecting the iris here to lean very powdery for a backstage makeup vibe. It’s still on the dry side, but I find this iris much more classic floral than makeup. There is a hint of jasmine too, which amplifies the floral bouquet.

I initially found the vanilla in the dry down to be too overwhelming. I usually love vanilla in almost any form, but it seemed to throw the composition out of balance. Now that I’ve worn Iris Prima multiple times, I really sense the leather in the dry down. The iris seamlessly blends into the dry leather note here, and maybe that’s why I missed it at first. I also think this is one fragrance that benefits from being worn in warmer weather. The heat brings the nuances more to life here. I really enjoy wearing this one.

Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

Feu Secret is a dry, woody, smoky iris, and a much more moody and contemplative composition. Orris root is the star of the show here, which means that this is less of a pretty iris right off the bat. It’s dry and earthy with a lot of depth, and there is a cedar wood note that blends in beautifully well. I love cedar, and I actually wish my skin would pick up more of the cedar note here.

I actually find Feu Secret more powdery than Iris Prima, which I did not expect! The orris root develops from a crackling dryness to a subtle kind of powder, and finally, to a suede-like smoothness as the composition reaches the dry down. Feu Secret lasts for hours (I easily get 8 hours here) so it takes some time to reach the dry down. And I personally wouldn’t wear this one in extremely hot weather. I’d love to try this in winter though, just to see how dry and earthy it can get. Feu Secret is another intriguing release from Bruno Fazzolari and it’s definitely worth at least testing out.


I ordered samples of Iris Prima and Feu Secret from Luckyscent. I ordered the samples at different times, but realized that I liked rotating these two in particular. Hence this iris-themed post!

Picture taken by me.

Quick Hits: Matière Noire by Louis Vuitton

Just a quick write-up today. I haven’t had much to say about the (still rather new) Louis Vuitton collection of fragrances. I’ve tried a few at my local Louis Vuitton boutique when I’ve had the time. Nothing was catching my attention or working with my skin chemistry, until this one!

Matière Noire is a fruity/rose/patchouli. I wasn’t overly interested in this one until I realized there’s another note worth paying attention to here: incense. I first catch a sniff of it in the opening, which comes across as a slightly smoked blackberry jam. It’s a weird and interesting sensation. The incense then appears again, weaving its way through the floral heart notes, and making way for a slightly smokey oud and patchouli base.

Incense usually comes across as very subtle and quiet on my skin, so I don’t often think of it as a major player for me. It’s nicely noticeable here, but it always stays in balance with the rest of the composition. It makes for a clever addition to this fragrance and adds some real interest.

My only complaint is that I wish we could have a leather note here in the base as well. It would work so well with the incense. I’ll just have to try layering this one with a leather-centric fragrance!


I received a sample of Matière Noire in person from the SAs at my local Louis Vuitton boutique. The photo above is taken by me.

Now Sampling: February 2017

Like most perfumistas, I collect fragrance samples. (I have a spreadsheet to keep track of all of them.) It would be impossible to write about every single one. And, let’s be honest, not every single scent merits an entire write-up either. But, I did a Luckyscent haul at the beginning of the year and I’d like to do a short bit about a few scents that were interesting. Hopefully, I’ll do these posts periodically throughout the year to keep track of what I’m currently testing.

Blackpepper by Comme des Garçons

I’m in a black pepper mood, what with Poivre Electrique from Atelier Cologne and now this from CdG. Luckily they are two very different takes on the same theme, and this one is perfect for the dreary winter weather we’ve been having lately. Blackpepper is a warm and rich take on a cool spice, with heavy doses of patchouli and cedar. For such deep notes, it wears very close to the skin. I really enjoy it, but this is not a huge one for sillage or longevity.

Intense Café by Montale

I will try almost anything that relates to coffee or has coffee/cafe in the name. Similar to Café Rose from Tom Ford, Intense Café is a gourmand rose scent to me. The coffee note here is mixed with vanilla, and is more like a rich vanilla latte from Starbucks than the bitter coffee note I’m looking for. Intense Café is very pretty, and very long-lasting, too. But my search for my ideal coffee fragrance continues.

Gold Leaves by Regime des Fleurs

Sometimes there just has to be a scrubber in the mix. The description and the notes for Gold Leaves sound gorgeous, including: iris, oakmoss, and cardamom essential oil — sounds interesting! On my skin, it’s a strange lily note and absolutely nothing else. It’s a scratchy, eye-watering, allergy-inducing, chemical lily. I’m sure Gold Leaves works better with other people’s skin chemistry. It’s just not for me.

Vetiver de Java by Il Profumo

This is the kind of masculine scent I love and wear for myself. The vetiver is very green, mixed with a strong cedar note. However, on my skin, this isn’t a deep smoky woody scent. It leans more green/soapy in that traditional English after-shave type of scent (all that’s missing here is the lavender note). It strikes the perfect balance for me between clean and woody, and this is going to be my transition scent as we head into spring weather.


As stated, I purchased all of these samples from Luckyscent.

Photo taken by me.

Rousse by Serge Lutens

Notes: amber, Mandarin orange, cloves, resin, cinnamon, and cedar.

Rousse is a special one to me. It was initially released in 2007 and it is sadly now only available as part of the exclusive Serge Lutens bell jar line. I suppose it wasn’t a terribly big seller. On the one hand, I can understand why. But, on the other, I love Rousse. It’s the perfect type of warm spice you’d want to wear in the doldrums of January/February. And it’s my go-to for Valentine’s Day.

I was lucky enough to snag my 50 ml spray bottle shortly before it was announced that Rousse was moving to the bell jar line. You can see it has the old Serge Lutens Palais Royal logo, which I love. I still have a substantial amount left. The juice has definitely changed over the years but, like a fine wine, Rousse has aged well. The fiery hot cinnamon is still very present. It always reminds me of Red Hots and various Valentine’s Day candies.

Rousse was initially famous for a waxy lipstick note paired with the cinnamon. It’s much less waxy now. I find it has developed into a warm rich musk and something like orris butter. I can’t find any specific floral notes listed for Rousse. (Least of all on the Serge Lutens website. Uncle Serge is always cryptic.) I’m guessing there’s a touch of iris and some kind of white floral. Kafkaesque guesses that it’s magnolia, which makes sense to my nose. Whatever the floral note, it’s become much more prominent and creamy over time.

Overall I think Rousse has become a little bit more smooth with time. It still has a quirky edge to it though, so it’s not completely mellow. That cinnamon still crackles right off of the skin with heat and intensity. The supporting notes seem to have become more rich and creamy, as though Rousse has now grown into itself. If you happen to track Rousse down, it’s absolutely worth it. There are so many greats from Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens, but this one is a real gem.


Rousse is available directly from Serge Lutens in the 75 ml bell jar bottle.

Image taken by me. Info on notes from Fragrantica.

Galop d’Hermès


Notes: saffron, quince, osmanthus, rose, leather, and white musk.

Galop was released in 2016, and it marks Christine Nagel’s first pillar fragrance for Hermès after Jean-Claude Ellena’s departure. (She did create Eau de Rhubarbe Ecalarte while Ellena was still with Hermès.) I’ve been so interested to try this release but, as with most things Hermès and considering that it’s a parfum concentration, it’s rather pricey. I finally got a small decant for myself, and I’ve been testing it for the past few weeks.

On my skin, Galop actually opens right away with the leather note. There’s no leading up to it, the leather immediately takes center stage. This leather is definitely elegant, but it has a strength to it at this opening stage. I see people commenting on Fragrantica saying that this is a “masculine” leather and perhaps that’s what they mean. To me, it’s the leather of a saddlery here. You can clearly see the Hermès heritage but it’s not quite the refined leather of a Birkin. Not yet. This leather has a peppery bite to it, and just a tiny bit of a wild edge.

Of course this is Hermès, so Galop is going to be about sophistication above all. That opening leather note never turns too harsh, and the rose and the fruit notes quickly come into play to balance it out. I get a jammy vibe from the quince. It’s almost like a blackcurrant jam. It adds some texture to this composition without becoming foody or gourmand. The jammy fruit texture makes the rose comes across as both rich but also delicate by contrast.

In fact, Galop is all about contrast. The leather and the rose are both equally the stars of the show here. As I wear Galop, the rose and leather intertwine with one another, both coming across as strong and delicate in different moments. As mentioned, Galop is a parfum concentration. It has excellent sillage and projection during the first few hours of wear time before noticeably drying down to a skin scent. Some people may want a little more projection out of this one, but I don’t mind because the leather is beautiful in the skin scent stage. The dry down has a refined yet alluring sensuality to it that is both very Hermès and very Christine Nagel.

I love Galop d’Hermès and I’ve gone through my decant alarmingly quickly. I’m still not sure about a full-sized bottle. Again, Hermès is always an investment and, I have to admit, I find the stirrup bottle a bit gimmicky. But, if anything, Galop makes me more excited for future Hermès releases from Christine Nagel. She nailed it in this case.


Galop d’Hermès is available directly from Hermès and in person at boutiques and counters. It’s a parfum extrait concentration, and is available in the stirrup bottle and a refill bottle. I purchased my small decant from The Perfumed Court.

Image and the info on notes are both from Fragrantica.