After ten years as in-house ‘nose’ at Hermès, Jean-Claude Ellena is handing over the (no doubt Hermès-designed) reins to the Swiss-Italian perfumer Christine Nagel, and they’re celebrating the handover with two new additions to their Colognes range, one by Ellena and the other by Christine Nagel – her first perfume for the brand. Whether by chance or by intention, each perfume reflects the different personalities of their creator.
Jean-Claude Ellena’s Eau de Néroli Doré is a fittingly sumptuous sign-off from this most thoughtful of perfumers, using high concentrations of neroli oil – extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange tree. It’s as refined and elegant as the man himself, and like most of his fragrances it also contains an ingredient more often associated with food, in this case saffron, which (to my nose at least) seems to give the perfume an extra smoothness and sheen. Yet at the same it’s deliciously sensuous and seductive.
Christine Nagel’s Eau de Rhubarbe Eclarate, by contrast, is an exercise in sheer vivacity and ebullience, using the smell of freshly-cut rhubarb and extending its longevity with the soft, plush scent of modern synthetic musks. It’s fruity and sweet and instantly appealing, more emotional than intellectual, perhaps, but certainly great fun – a real pick-me-up at the beginning (or for that matter at the end) of the day. ‘I’ve always liked the duality of rhubarb,’ Nagel says. ‘It is a two-fold duality, both visual and olfactory. Its green colour metamorphoses into red. From acidic and crisp, its scent becomes smooth and velvety.’
As for his idea for Eau de Néroli Doré, Ellena explains that ‘When I started out as a perfumer I learned to distil raw materials, including orange blossom. When you enter the world of stills, you are also immersed in a scent, impregnated with it, you become it. To reproduce this sensation, where normally one uses very little neroli in fragrances, I used it abundantly.‘ So abundantly, in fact, that he says Hermès had to buy half of Morocco and Tunisia’s entire annual crop of neroli oil for the perfume. A fittingly luxurious gesture for the brand.