Hermes Caleche Fleurs de Mediterranee

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,

  • Carin says:

    OK, I’m late to this thread and no one will read this, but I had to share. Last Friday, I was running through Bloomingdales en route to the hosiery balcony (I wanted a pair of Wolford seamed stockings). All the SAs are shoving sample strips into my hand; that’s fine. But one SA, part of a big Diesel promotion, shoved a strip in my hand and then insisted that I let her spray me. Now, I wouldn’t have let her spritz me with that drek under any circumstance, but I nicely explained that I was wearing my favorite perfume and didn’t want anything else on me. What is it, she asked. Tabac Blond, I replied. She asked to sniff my arm, did so, and then replied “Diesel smells *exactly* like that!” Um, no.

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Must chime in with 2 recent SA episodes: 1) Was in Macy’s getting something else and cruised by the fragrances. SA: “You want samples!? Go to Nordstrom’s” I did and was given additional samples beyond what I asked for. Hooray Episode 2) Same town, Different Nordstrom’s. Chatting with elderly Afr-Am gent at fragrance counter and we can’t decide. SA shows up and tells Afr-Am gent flat out that there are no samples to be had. Sorry. I linger after he leaves and, you know where this is going,I eventually get offered samples. No thanks. I didn’t give him shit about it but perhaps I should go back…disgusting.

    • March says:

      Wow …. that really bums me out. I’m always exhorting people to go take advantage of the Nordstrom sample thing to keep the dream alive. (Sephora’s good about samples too). Freaks like me carry our own vials and they never have a problem with that.

      I’d be inclined to discuss what happened with the mgmt at Nordstrom. Maybe what you saw has some other interpretation, but given how well-known they are for samples it’s hard to reach a different conclusion. Bringing it up in a non-confrontational, this-is-what-I-saw way might be useful. Nordies here is one of the few places I bother checking in with mgmt — for praise as much as complaints.

  • Divalano says:

    I know I’m terribly late posting today but had to share an SA story.

    I had a friend in town last week & took my 1st foray up to Takashimaya. Sales help there is low key but Very, Very Helpful. Constantly. Think low key, not not in your face but right there at your elbow. A lot. Well … I just wanted to browse. On my own. Thankyouverymuch. Even though the Santa Maria Novella rep was quite sure I might like something in the line besides Vaniglia even after I said that no, I really really did not.

    Finally I decided I’d not seen anything that excited me & didn’t want to start sniffing blind so I asked if they had anything nice with wood or leather notes. And was led back to the SMN lady who now INSISTED I would like that one that is supposed to be a vintage car. It smells like rubber to me, no I did not, & I had to jerk my arm away as she aimed the bottle on me simpering about how well, maybe it won’t smell like rubber ON you.

    Indeed. Bendel’s was MUCH better.

    • March says:

      Ahahahaaa! You didn’t like Nostalgia?!?!:-“:-? Okay, I feel your pain. I like it a lot, but I can see that rubbery love is not for everyone. It’s funny what people’s personal experiences are. I sort of like Tak — your description is perfect, but that low-key hovering actually doesn’t bother me, then they’re there when I want them.

      On the other hand, we had a brutal experience at Bendel — seriously, they were like piranhas or starving dogs or something. Like those flesh-eating zombies. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But several other people have commented on how great, friendly and helpful their service is!

      Have you tried Miller et Bertaux Spiritus/Land? They have that at Tak (although now you’ll never go back!) and it smells delish in the woods dept. You know, they might have it at Bendel too:-?

      • Divalano says:

        I will go back to Tak. They had an irresistable stuffed cat that’d be perfect for my little niece. And it is down the block from Bendel’s. And Bendel’s had the Memoire Liquide Jasmin Tea. I will sniff as advised at Tak when stuffed cat buying next week or so.

        SA at Bendel’s was this wonderful, genteel older gay man. He was quite helpful & polite, ascot & all. He sprayed some Nuit de Noel on himself to help convince me it wasn’t a sugary spicey Xmas nightmare. I will sniff it on me when I go back (I was fairly drenched in ML Jasmin Tea #604 by then.) He helped us w/ the ML scent bar just enough & then went away just enough. My friend ended up buying the Amber #300. Then we went downstairs where the girl at the headband counter said my #604 was giving her goosebumps :”>

        • March says:

          I love a man in an ascot! And if they’re really helpful (like Tom at Bergdorf — all the big frag buyers have their favorites) they end up getting a lot more business, which is why the b!tch approach has always baffled me a bit.

          I like Danielle at Tak, I wonder if she’s still there? Elegant older French woman, works in makeup/fragrance, very opinionated, which would bother me except she was right. That’s not my typical SA relationship, but I thought she was a pleasure.

  • Tigs says:

    You know, the Maple Lychee wasn’t really that bad. But for $50, I wanted that Fig. Really, she was very nice and she’s almost freakishly good-looking in person, tall and expressive (not Botoxed to death, clearly) and exquistely dressed.

    • March says:

      For someone who’s avoiding sweet, Maple Lychee sounds like the Kiss of Death. Certainly for $50, you should get what you want — the fig.

  • Patty says:

    I know you can be polite but firm, but with fragrance SAs, you really have to be almost brutal and rude in saying no, you don’t want to sniff that new Givenchy Apple Marmalade or the Latest Escada Rockin Ripoff.

    Since I”m normally a courteous and polite person, though capable of all kinds of blunt, I just have to get firmly blunt and walk off in the opposite direction of whatever they are trying to sell me.

    That said, I missed this Caleche flanker before. I really need to take a sniff!

  • Tigs says:

    So, I get these bumps on my upper arms that I hate, and I’ve been wanting to try those Diana B. supposedly oil-free scrubs that have been so positively reviewed on MUA, NST, etc. I was in Holt Renfrew (our NM equivalent) during a crazy-busy sale/fashion show and I noticed they had three out of the four scrubs – they were only missing the Black Fig scrub I wanted to use before Ormonde Woman, of course. I came back two days later when things were calmer to demand of the tall, gorgeous lady who was demonstrating the products why there was no Black Fig. Recognizing me as a person who might know something about something, she introduced herself: it was Diana B.

    Lovely, lovely woman. Very pleasant and her products work wonderfully. BUT – I explained as she was scrubbing my hands that I was a perfume fanatic, that I wanted to use the product before a fave scent, and that I didn’t want anything sweet. She insisted I try the Maple Lychee. I repeated my fear of sweets and asked if the Maple Lychee would work better on the little bumps? She said all the scrubs work in largely the same way, but that I should buy the Maple Lychee. I looked at her in a cheerful, but uncomprehending way and she said: “The fragrance doesn’t matter at all.” Silly me, I figured that if they all work in largely the same way, the fragrance would be *the only thing that distinguishes them from each other*. Also, I thought that I had made clear that the fragrance was important to *me*. I often encounter this sort of thing, very friendly but clueless help.

    • Robin says:

      PBI: bumps on arms — do you mean keratosis pilaris? If so try Amlactin, if you haven’t already. Doesn’t get rid of them completely (nothing does, for me) but works better than anything else I’ve tried.

      • March says:

        PS To Tigs — seconding Robin’s suggestion. Diva uses Lac-Hydrin, which is I think more or less the same thing. Over the counter lotion. It’s made a huge difference.

        Also, I’m sorry but Maple Lychee is one of the most disgusting things I’ve read recently. How was it? Sounds like she was trying to make a sale in the absence of the one you wanted. And from her perspective, what’s the difference between fig and lychee?:-w;)

      • Tigs says:

        Thanks guys! I’ll have to try that – I’ve never found anything that didn’t contain oil or shea butter or something, which seemed to make the problem worse.

    • March says:

      That is funny. I think other people just don’t think about scent the way we do. It’s an awareness, like … what, too much light or something? I’m fundamentally indifferent to things like thread count, so we all have our weird obsessions.:-” In general I don’t use scented lotions because I want that neutral backdrop, and (I think unlike most fragrance nuts) I don’t use scented stuff in the house, I don’t like potpourri and candles and all that jazz.

  • Teri says:

    I, too, rarely set foot in a brick and mortar store for fragrance and makeup purchases unless there is a pithy GWP being dangled in front of my nose. God bless the internet!

    There are some purchases which I appreciate help with. Bras, for instance (sorry to all you male readers lol). I like them to be fitted properly because those suckers HURT after an hour or two if they don’t fit properly. But between the fragrance cards in magazines, my special friends who’ll pour me a drop of whatever they’ve recently purchased, and the wonderful sample programs so many of the online retailers offer, I can indulge in ‘guerilla shopping’ (run in the back door, go directly to the area from which I want to make a purchase, make said purchase, and dash right out the back door).

    I simply refuse to be spritzed. At 5’10” in stocking feet when I bare my teeth at some hapless SA, she usually backs down. 😉

    • March says:

      Oh, I want to be 5’10” in stocking feet!! It’s one of my long-running fantasies. I make up for those missing 6″ in sheer force of personality.:-”

      And when I WANT help it’s great to have it. Shoes. Even makeup if I’m looking for a particular thing like foundation. But I wish they worked across the lines/brands so they’d give you what they thought was best for you from ALL the lines, not just whoever they’re working for. That’s what I like about Sephora in theory, but their stuff is somewhat more limited and their staff is a lot less trained.

  • Robin says:

    Only tried it very quickly on a card, and thought it was pretty but not much more. Sounds like I need to go back and try it on. But I love the original Caleche, so will be prejudiced against the flanker, probably!

    The Cartier ladies at my local NM are persistent, but they’re all Cartier employees, not NM employees. Actually, that is another one of my big beefs about dept store fragrance shopping: half the time, you’re not even dealing with a store employee but with someone from a distributor, but you don’t know that unless you ask or unless you buy something and discover they can’t ring it up for you.

    • March says:

      Aha!! They were both pushing the Cartier so hard! And I didn’t recognize either of them … I’m always worried they recognize me though.:”>

      It doesn’t seem very Caleche-y to me, and after all I like Delicate, so what do I know? I suppose it’s the thrill of smelling anything that doesn’t smell like sugared lychee./:)

      • Robin says:

        Well, actually I adore Eau Delicate, and it isn’t Caleche-y in the least. So don’t know why I’m snubbing my nose at FeM. BTW, here is what W mag said about the notes back in ’03:

        Caleche Fleurs de Mediterranee has taken the classic light floral and added notes from the region, including Egyptian jasmine, Turkish damask rose and Moroccan mimosa.

        • March says:

          I think you and I share an appreciation for some of those lightweight skin scents. Those notes still seem more sweetly floral than what i was smelling; please do let me know what you think if you re-try it.

  • Judith says:

    You know, I find all SAs in Beauty/Fragrance (with rare exceptions) to be like that. Cosmetics SAs are just as bad–if not worse. I mean, they don’t spray you, but. . . I went into Barney’s yesterday to buy a lipstick, and the SA insisted on putting all this skincare stuff on me–much of which I already use (you mean you can’t TELL?!):(( I guess the theory is that much of this stuff is bought on impulse, and that you can be talked into it, whereas that is unlikely to work for the Ferragamos. . . . And, frankly, I have to say that I HAVE often been convinced that I NEED such-and-such a skincare or makeup item to make me (finally) look young and lovely! Of course, it doesn’t work with fragrance for us, but maybe it does for others. . .

    Meanwhile, I was also in NM to buy DH a robe-and I was so concerned with avoiding the SAs on the Beauty floor that I forgot to smell the Hermes. Must do it next time–although your description doesn’t make me run there :)–and that’s great, b/c right now I am trying NOT to love any new ‘fumes!

    • March says:

      And that sums up rather nicely why I spend so little time shopping for cosmetics. Their hard sell is just too much for me. I generally show up when there’s a great gift (like a train case at Lancome) and suffer through it. It’s easier fending off the skincare stuff because I have rosacea and a very particular regimen from my doctor, so I Just Say No. Eye makeup is the stuff I get carried away with.8-|

  • Dusan says:

    If CFdM is anything like Sur le Nil, then yum, it must be lovely. I haven’t tried any of the Caleches but recently I scored a sample of the olden Parfum d’Hermes, a warm powdery floral (to my nose mostly earthy iris). I didn’t check if it’s still in production?
    My beef about our SAs is they can be pretty snubby and behave as if they are forced to work there. I’m used to the ignorance (thankfully, there are exceptions) and I don’t much mind it, but it wouldn’t kill them to be nice once in a while.
    PS Flipping through the August archives, I saw you’d reviewed Wet and liked it! I’ve got more to spare so – you want? 🙂

    • Dusan says:

      I forgot to ask – did you get to retest the Infusion d’Iris?

    • March says:

      Dushion — someone else deserves the Wet more than I do. It is a cool scent, but not something I’ll be reaching for. Save it for a swap.

      And I did try the Prada again and it’s just not there enough on me. The lotion is quite nice, though. My ephemeral iris spot is filled by 28 La Pausa /:) so far.

  • Louise says:

    Fleurs de Mediterranee sounds like my cuppa.

    But March-those darn SAs-Neiman’s is by far the worst in the area-but ignorant and pushy-and unfortunately carries a much wider range of fragrances than any other dept. store. I usually walk in with a bitch-on-a-mission air (natural to me?-you judge) and they back off.

    Don’t you long for the days of Nordstrom’s old perfume counter? Gail is still there, and still wrapped around your slim finger, but the ‘fumes are so scant and poorly selected. Word is that many years ago, they would actually custom blend different fragrances for customers. Nowadays, that would be Hiris plus Angel. Sorry if I upset your tummy.

    • Louise says:

      Oh, Tom, I have decided to not worry anymore about all my typos and messed up syntax. This, as I dash off to deliver speech therapy services to America’s young…

    • March says:

      Well, I almost stuck you up there in my story. Every time we go to that NM I’m expecting them to whip out the waterboard and electrodes. But at least in that venue it’s almost comical — how far over the line will they go? I remember I told you I used to take the Cheese’s mom shopping out there because that’s the nicer one, and she was clearly loaded and ready to $pend! And they were every bit as rude to her… so I know it’s not personal.

      The one over here though, please. There was one nice lady but she left. The rest are just irritating. Gail gets my business whenever possible.

      Okay, off to erase the thought of Hiris blended with Angel from my mind.

      PS I’m not sure this Caleche would be detectable on your skin.:-?

    • Nancy says:

      I know where you can sniff the Hermes. 😉 If you’re into role playing, I can insist you first run the gauntlet while I wave bottles of Dior at you.

      • March says:

        Heh heh. I’ve stopped writing “and you can smell it on The Perfumed Court in here because that’s true 95% of the time and I feel funny about bringing it up over and over.

  • Gail S says:

    Oh! Two magic word combinations! Jean-Claude Ellena and grassy/hay notes! Must find some of this to sniff :d

    Most of our local dept store SA’s are pretty intimidatable. Silly though. I went in a few months back vaguely wanting to sniff the newest YSL Paris limited edition and this girl trotted over to the Paris Hilton area!

    • March says:

      That is HILARIOUS about Paris. I suppose that’s the only Paris on their radar, though.

      And this Caleche strikes me as something you’d like very much. My apologies: in all the drama I forgot to ask how much the silly thing was!

    • Camille says:

      I’m with you on that magic combo of JCE and hay. 🙂

      So far the appeal of both Sur le Nil and UJeM has eluded me, but maybe this one will be the ticket. Kinda hope so–I’m feeling a little out of the “cool group” since neither of the others works for me.

      I hate heading to the frag dept, only b/c the poor SAs try so hard and there’s so little I haven’t already sniffed/purchased/rejected.

      Brave March, enduring the event for our sake! Thanks for the review.

      • March says:

        I think reviews of Sur le Nil are surprisingly mixed, if I’m remembering Basenotes correctly. Some people think it smells awful, which I don’t get. I can see thinking “meh” but not 8-x

  • Lee says:

    It sounds interesting. I like both Jardins – did own them, but gave them away for some reason or other…

    As for SAs – I think here in the UK we benefit from politesse on this front – even if the SAs are on commission, a focused look seems to stop them in their tracks, poor things. But it’s another reason why I’m not that keen on shopping.

    • March says:

      I found your SAs to be extremely polite, even in places like Jenners in Edinburgh where they didn’t know the product well, which I’ll forgive if they’ll just be nice to me.

      But I thought this was a relatively new development and Brits used to complain about service?

  • tmp00 says:

    swear to god I have to buy a new computer or learn to type better.

    My screen resolution lets waaaaaay too many typos disappear into
    the nether world of the right side of this box. One minute I am
    coherent and the next I am off the beam.

    Just waiting for Leopard to drop. Here I sit.

    • March says:

      Hey, my favorite is when I misspell the name of the fragrance I’m reviewing, adding to my overall professional gloss.

      PPS That customer you described? Is why I never worked retail.:-” One of our family hilarity topics is What Mom and Dad Would Be Like if They Worked in a Restaurant. General rules also apply to department stores.:d

  • tmp00 says:

    I loathe and despise SA’s who try to steer me towards something that I do not want, nut I thin that I have trained Barneys and Neimans to the point where they know that I want what I want and I don’t want to be steered off course. Of course, (hate to write it) being a guy helps in this, as I think we are seen as being focused.

    Good for you for braving the Beauty Event! I went Saturday when the store opened to pay penance to the Erno Laszlo SA who loaded me up with samples and mailed a box (apparently they have discontinued the iconic plastic soap box) and waited to get a samp of Jo Malone for a friend in front of a customer who when I worked in retail I would have killed: the try everything but nothign is quite right kind.Everyhing was off in this sniffy, negative everything is bad way that I hate. I wanted to kill her on GP. There, I have proved I am not nice.

    • March says:

      T — going in there during an event — ugh. Women with their ugly little pocket dogs (there — proving I’m less nice than you) and I hate the crowds.

      I am assuming they were getting some kickback from Cartier, as aggressively as they kept coming back to it. And don’t mind the typos — it’s early (or late!) and as we discussed a week or two ago, they’re remarkably esay to raed past!

      PS I was cross after I left because I forgot to look at the scarves, necessitating another trip over there.