Here´s a more or less verbatim exchange I had with an SA at Neiman Marcus on Saturday as I approached the fragrance area during one of their chaotic sales.
SA: “Hello, would you like to try the new Cartier Delices?” (sprays strip, smiles, waves it at me).
Me: “No, thanks, I´ve already smelled it. I´m actually here to try the new Hermes Caleche Mediterranean one.”
SA: (smile dims slightly) “I´ll be happy to show it to you, but you need to try the Cartier first.”
Me: (fangs slightly bared) “No, I don´t need to try it.” (turning to adjacent SA) “Can you show me the new Caleche, or do I have to find it myself?”
It´s probably clear from that exchange why they hate me, and they aren´t even the CIA-trained mind-f*ck sadists who work at the other local NM. If you´re a perfume nut, it´s probably equally clear why I hate them. I´ve smelled the “new” Cartier umpteen times since its release, and I don´t need to smell it again, not on a trip when I´m saving my nose for the new Caleche, the original (for comparison purposes), and to try yet again to get the new Prada Iris to cling to my skin for longer than it takes me to get back to the parking garage, so I can justify its purchase.
Seriously, what is the deal? I try to be nice to the fragrance SAs, if for no other reason than (blog snarking aside) I try to be nice to everyone who´s working, most of whom are doing their jobs far better than I ever would. I am friendly and chatty, and compared to a lot of the D.C. retail divas, I am extremely low-maintenance. But I can´t think of any other retail area where I would walk in, ask to be shown a particular product, and meet the kind of nutty resistance I get in the fragrance department. Can you imagine a similar scenario happening in another department? (“Okay, I´ll show you the red Louboutin pumps, but first you need to try on these Ferragamos!”)
I´ve read various things about various iterations of Caleche (I think there are five, and the 1961 original was reformulated relatively recently). I personally like Delicate. The recent Kelly with its leather deficit was something of a disappointment, being rather similar to Rose Ikebana to me.
Hermes Caleche Fleurs de Mediterranee turns out not to be new; it´s a 2003 LE created by Patty´s homeslice Jean-Claude Ellena, according to Basenotes, so I´m going to assume it´s one of those fragrances they trot out periodically. The excuse this time is a 100th anniversary deal at NM, along with some stunning reissued Hermes scarf patterns. The NM gal told me fig and Mediterranean spices, but Osmoz lists a completely different set of notes: violet leaf, jasmine, Turkish rose, mimosa, heliotrope and beeswax for the 2003 release, which frankly sounds a lot heavier and sweeter than what I´m smelling, but I guess any/all of that could be correct in the modern perfume world. At least nothing´s “iced” or “fresh” or “frosted.” If any of you can shed some light, please do.
The original Caleche EDT is one of the few Hermes scents that doesn´t work well on me; it starts off with a fusty note and drifts promptly into a pickled chypre, and the only nice thing I can say at that point is that it´s relatively light. My guess is the EDP is richer, but no tester was available. Eventually it dries down into a soft, spicy skin scent, and while I like it then, I don´t love it. I´ve heard other people describe it as soapy, which makes a certain amount of sense even if that´s not precisely what I get.
Fleurs de Mediterranee starts off with a bigger bang – a grassy/hay note and a pulpy, unsweetened fruit (fig?). It has some herbal notes, and it stands closer to Hermes´ Jardin scents (Sur le Nil and Mediterranee) than the original Caleche, although it´s less lush than Sur le Nil (which I happen to love) and less green than Un Jardin en Mediterranee. In the middle there´s a stretch where the herbs get pungent enough they take on an almost leathery tone. There is something peppery about the base, and overall it´s unisex. (Note for you heliotrope haters: if it´s in there, I can´t smell it.) It has one foot firmly in the classic camp; it smells like the luxury-house product it is. The other foot strays into an interesting niche corner, juxtaposing the arid florals with a creamy, woody base. It has a light touch, lighter than the Jardins, but feels more complex to me than most of the Hermessences. While it wears like a summer fragrance, its dry heat is a welcome, interesting twist for fall.
Image: spring flowers on Cyprus, home.clara.net