Alluring Ellenas: Ambre Narguile, Rose Ikebana, and Vanille Galante

hippieJean Claude Ellena is a man who knows how to play with the public’s expectations.  He must have realized that most people who think of Hermes were going to associate any limited availability perfume line of theirs with insane levels of luxury.   Maintaining this luxury is a pretty difficult assignment since Hermes is a global brand that, at least in theory, should sell as well in Beijing as in Paris, and the expectations of consumers in those parts of the world differ.

Hermes must have brought Ellena on because his work is subtle and minimalist, but not really as lifeless as those two adjectives might lead you to expect.  I had not smelled most of the Hermessences and some of them, such as Paprika Brazil, I can barely smell at all.  Others, though, have a robust presence that makes you sit up and take notice. 

Of the series I’ve enjoyed Ambre Narguile precisely because of its zesty flirtation with bad taste.  I think you might smell this little number in L.A. where the hippie traditions of Laurel Canyon live on, unhampered by the world’s transition to the twenty first century.  Here is an amber that is really a whole lot of tobacco wafting inside, with all the fruity honeyed notes associated with that weed You could easily bake it into a brownie!

Narguile has a pleasantly counter-cultural aspect to it that I really enjoy, and find surprising in a Hermes.  But wait, wasn’t this the brand that made a handbag for Jane Birkin because before she ran around with a basket instead of a purse? Well, she didn’t bother with a lot of accessories, bar Serge Gainsbourg, but I think we can safely assume that haute hippies are OK with Hermes.

Vetiver Tonka was another favorite of mine from this line, partially because it too had staying power on skin and a good olfactory story to tell, in a darker vein. This forest green vetiver is a pleasure to wear, even though it may seem a bit too dry and dark for some women.  I liked it anyway, and thought it would easily fit into a vetiver centric wardrobe by being the winter vetiver, something that is often hard to find outside of Serge Luten’s Vetiver Oriental.

Vanille Galante was the lily floral of the lot, and had little to do with vanilla.  Galante has a soft green tint.  This is another perfume that is pale celadon in color, like some of the most beautiful Chinese ceramics.  Of all the florals in the Hermessence series, this might be the most feminine one and is a portrait of a lily in bloom.  Rose Ikebana is a little too robustly fruity for me. The finish is some material that I have smelled before in too many places. Fruity roses have been in vogue for some time now, and Rose Ikebana definitely belongs to that pink fingered tribe.

The really remarkable part of the Hermessences is how wearable they are. They are even easier to wear than some of the mainstream releases.  Jean Claude may be dividing his duties with Christine Nagel these days, but he does not seem to have lost the common touch, and that touch has a lingering aura of headbands and VW vans.




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7 thoughts on “Alluring Ellenas: Ambre Narguile, Rose Ikebana, and Vanille Galante

  1. After days of wearing heavier scents (despite the weather that still doesn’t want to behave according to the season) today I suddenly craved Rose Ikebana – the perfume that I love one to two times a year and can’t figure out what I saw in it the rest of the time. But today it was very pleasant and not as fleeting as I remembered it from the previoustime.

    I agree that most perfumes in the line are very wearable (Vetiver Tonka is my favorite, I think) but most of the time I’m not compelled to wear them: they are too absent.

  2. Rose Ikebana is a pretty little rose and maybe one for folks who don’t normally go in for roses. I can’t remember if you like roses much or not? Vetiver Tonka seems to be a favorite for many people and it’s easy to smell why. VT is gorgeous.

    Too bad you are having such odd weather out west. Drought doesn’t seem like it ought to be a wintertime phenomenon 😉

    1. We’re getting wild fires. In January (!!!). 🙁

      I love many “stronger” roses, e.g. Lyric and PoaL, though not all since some of them go really soapy on my skin. But somehow Rose Ikebana works from time to time (so I’ll “see” it again probably in 5-6 months 😉 ).

  3. Brush fires in Jan sounds like Australia more than CA, and how awful. Hope you’re nowhere near any.

    Oh and if you like Poal, then try Black Rosette (if you haven’t already, I know you get to sniff a lot!) That is a very opinionated rose but the end is extremely beautiful, and it’s a natural perfume. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Minuit too-great stuff.

    1. Luckily, those fires are hours away but it’s still very bad and I hope we’ll get at least a little rain this season.

      I haven’t tried anything from that brand yet: at this price point I need to read A LOT of positive reviews to even start thinking about buying samples. But I’ll make a mental mark of the name and sniff this one if I get a chance.

  4. I am very partial to Vanille Galante, which is probably my favourite of the line, and I agree that it is very little about the vanilla. More of a quirky saline lily or something! I also like Santal Massoia and Osmanthe Yunnan. The Iris one with the funny name was a huge disappointment, though – not worthy of the premium positioning.

    And most of all, I wish I had thought of ‘alluring Ellenas’ 😉 😉

  5. I wish I could SMELL Osmanthe Yunnan. Have tried and tried and am now convinced that am anosmic to most of the formula. So disappointing to a girl 🙂

    Can smell why so many people like Vetiver Tonka and Vanille Galante though, and indeed, wish I’d run into VG before my ill omened purchase of UN Lys.

    Do you find there are perfume houses you just can’t keep in your collection? I do!

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