A Visit to Hermes


Girlfriend lost her scarf.


First off, thanks everyone for your tips on wardrobe last week! I dug out my scarves, sorted my jewelry, culled my wardrobe options (button-down shirts, I never liked you anyway), and organized what was left. I also went prowling for simple, decently-constructed “office” tee shirts. Talbots was disappointing — they’re trying to get a little more creative in their styling, decades after the fact. If I wanted creative styling I wouldn’t be at Talbots, would I? FWIW I will pass on a surprising source – the “basics” corner at H&M has some nice, simple, conservative “dress” tees of varying neck styles/sleeve lengths. I don’t know how well they will hold up, but at 2/$10 I’m willing to find out. My only advice is to try on every shirt (even the same style) before you buy, because their sizing’s inconsistent.

Anyhow – I’m now working in downtown Washington DC. Other than coming down to the museums, special events, etc., it’s been years since I spent any quality time in the central business district. DC’s had something of an urban revival after hard times; in addition to the farmer’s market and plenty of eateries and food trucks, I was surprised to discover Hermes, Kate Spade and similar stores clustered together just a couple of blocks away.

The Hermes boutique is of course a haven of understated luxe, with be-jeweled and be-scarved ladies standing by to offer assistance. I’m not exactly projecting a clear status message with my pleather commuting tote (on the one hand) and pearls (on the other hand) but they were friendly enough.

Is there an Hermes equivalent to Guerlainade? I’m beginning to wonder. Wandering their aisles alongside office workers on lunch hour (as opposed to ladies who lunch) I was struck by how appropriate the Hermes fragrances are, in general. The Hermessences were lined up and lit from beneath, ready to soldier forth into suitable daytime deployment in neighboring law firms, consultancies and non-governmental orgs. On another display pillar, the Jours are clustered together prominently. A third area features the Jardins. The older scents like Hiris are set back on less prominent shelving. I think it’s a safe bet to say that, in general, I could have sprayed on three or five of those featured scents on my lunch hour, and not killed anyone back at the office.

Which is a good thing, because that’s pretty much what I did. I did a multi-day romp through some old favorites and then focused on the Jours (regular, absolu “with more apricot,” and gardenia).

Jour d’Hermes came out in 2012, although I didn’t sample it until recently.  It’s got that misty-watercolor-memories Jean-Claude Ellena thing going on, and it’s a little stronger (but not that much stronger) than the collective Hermessences.  It’s a citrusy-musky white floral (if there are notes listed anywhere, I can’t find them) but it’s Hermes and thus the white floral element is less fleshy and more abstract. Jour d’Hermes has that chilly elan of some of the older Hermes frags. It’s pretty enough; I’d even say it’s office-appropriate if you don’t drench yourself right before you head into the building.

The Jour d’Hermes Gardenia I had high hopes for (I love gardenia).  It’s the newest one, and the SA says it’s been very popular.  From Fragrantica: “Jour d’Hermes Gardenia is described as a bouquet of gardenias that convey scents of tuberose, rose and jasmine.”  Doesn’t that sound delightful?  I’m sad to say despite my best attempts it reads to me as less white-flower and more … brown-sugar-hairspray?  HUGE failure to connect with this one.  The nicest thing I can say is it doesn’t stick around long on my skin, either.

However, the Jour d’Hermes Absolu is delicious. Tt seems like almost an entirely different scent.  (Via Fragrantica: gardenia, sambac jasmine, apricot flower.) There’s an abundance of grapefruit-marmalade tartness at the opening; as that fades the white flowers are more prominent, although it still reads as “white flowers” and not anything specific, and certainly nothing dirty.  But it’s the drydown that gets me; a spicy, honeyed musk, such a lovely counterbalance to the earlier tartness. It’s the only one of the three that has a glowing warmth instead of cool angles; there’s a hint of sweaty ol’ Merveilles in there too, so check it out if you liked the original Merveilles.

My only quibble is the bottle, which (while lovely) is so large and blocky that I had to sorta-hold it with one hand and spray with the other, which always makes me feel a bit silly.

I know I’m a bit behind — did you try any of these?  How do you feel about Jean-Claude Ellena’s creations for Hermes?  If Hermes was handing out a free bottle of perfume tomorrow to you, the lucky customer, which one would you choose?

image from the website jourdehermes.com which, frankly, is kind of a riot — there’s a soundtrack you can download, random thought-burps, and arty photogs of nekkid wimmin, because art.

  • Kismet429 says:

    My favorite Hermes scents are Un Jardin Sur le Toit and Gentian Blanche. Toit has a lovely, sheer freshness that is sweet without being too too. GB is a dry, mineral scent that is perfect when you want something light and brisk. I don’t know of anything else quite like it. Have a few Hermes scarves courtesy of the Bay, and I always feel like the real deal when I wear them. I think of them as body armor in challenging situations.

    Try Banana Republic for good basics in their Timeless Tees collection.

  • Dina C. says:

    I love the Jour d’Hermes Absolu and have used up a couple samples already. Time for a bottle. ???? Other Hermes I love include L’Ambre de Merveilles, Cuir d’Ange, Hiris, and Jardin sur le Nil. I’ve tried Iris Ukiyoe, but it’s too aquatic for my taste. There are still many I need to try. Glad to know that you’ve got good scent sources near work!

  • tiffanie says:

    Great story! Your adventure at Hermes made me breathe deep and imagine all that leather and perfume. Mmmm. I am in love with Vanille Galante. Someday I’ll find a place for a bottle, but for now I keep draining samples and decants and going back for more.

    I’ve enjoyed trying several of the Jours, Hermessences, and Merveilles, and I like them or (even love them!) more often than not. So I do hope there is a Hermes-ness which runs through their other fragrances. So many left to try, hopefully many more to love.

  • odonata9 says:

    I am a fan of lighter scents, so many Hermes scents work well for me. I have bottles of Eau de Merveilles & Jardin en Med. Even thought I haven’t tried it yet, I would ask for a bottle of the new Jardin, based on reviews. I suppose I should just get over the the Hermes store and try it! I was so intimidated by the Hermes reputation that I waited forever to go into the store. However, everything is more laid back here in San Diego, so I shouldn’t have worried. I’ve only been in a few times, but the SA’s were incredibly generous with the samples. I went right when Voyage came out and asked for a sample – they didn’t have any, but gave me an adorable mini! And I didn’t even buy anything! They give the nicest huge samples of the Hermessences as well, so those have kept me happy for aw while without purchasing any – I just put them in an atomizer!

    • March says:

      Mr. Li? It was LOVELY. My favorite after the original. And Voyage is a great scent. It’s nice to hear these generous SA stories.

  • Caroline says:

    Found the original Jour initially pretty, but the drydown to be screechy and unpleasantly tenacious. In spite of that, I’m tempted to try the Absolu. Another good brand of work tees is Three Dots. Bloomingdale’s site doesn’t carry much, but my local branch has a good selection, and I pay a visit whenever they have one of those storewide 20-25% off promos. You do have to try on, as some are quite fitted and others more relaxed.

    • Rina says:

      Yes! Three Dots has great tees! I see them at the Rack too. Also, Michael Stars but only on deep sale (also Rack).

    • Caroline says:

      and the Tee-Zone site has 20% off all weekend with code JULY4TH. They have some Three Dots, Michael Stars, Splendid, etc.

  • Katrin says:

    Thank you for the enjoyable post! I couldn’t agree more with you: I haven’t tried all of the Hermes’s perfumes, but yes, they are so appropriate and the house has become my favourite among the department store offerings just for the same reason. It seems they cannot go wrong. However, the Jour d’Hermes Gardenia is horrid, and again I agree with you and those who find the Absolu the most beautiful of the three. My favourites are the Merveilles flankers, and if I could wish for one, it would have to be Elixir, would love to spray that with abandon.

    • March says:

      You too with the Gardenia?!?! I wondered if my nose was broken. My perception is clearly not what they were going for. I love Merveilles. Particularly in the summer. I am behind on the flankers now (are there 15??) Which ones do you like best?

  • Gwenyth says:

    I adore the distinctive élan of the Hermès universe — however, I don’t own anything but some of their perfumes. I have been a fan of Calèche for a very long time, and it is true love for Ambre Narguile and Vetiver Tonka. Recently I had the opportunity to sniff and subsequently purchase a bottle of Jour d’Hermes. It has been in frequent rotation lately. There is something about its sheer elegance which has seemed “just right” as a go anywhere, wear anytime perfume. Jour d’Hermes has a gorgeous understated sophistication which seems close to perfect.

    I live nowhere near a place which sells anything Hermès, but I made a phone call to the Hermès boutique in Las Vegas to ask if I could buy a sample of Cuir d’Ange. The SA was very friendly, helpful and cheerfully offered to send me a couple of samples at no charge. Yippee! The Cuir d’Ange is very nice, indeed. 🙂

    The Jour d’Hermes Absolu is now definitely going on my list, too.

    Thanks, March, for the excellent-as-always post. It’s good to “see” you here.

    • Rina says:

      Vegas is so funny! It was the BEST SA’s anywhere! Hermes, Tom Ford, LV, etc. are all awful anywhere else but in Vegas, it’s a whole different world…

    • March says:

      It’s lovely to be here! Do try the Absolu if you get a chance. Nice to know about the SAs in Las Vegas. It’s a good way to make a sale.

  • Tatiana says:

    The only Jour I’ve managed to smell and own is the original. I guess I’m a bit behind as well. If Hermes were handing out a free bottle, I’d want the extrait of 24, Faubourg. Just because I have the EdT and the EdP and it makes me feel consistently happy and beautiful when I wear it.

  • Alison says:

    One word: Caleche. The original. Loved it at 15, love it at 55. Also used some Hermes saddles on my horse back in the day. Don’t know if they even make saddles anymore but when I was competing they were the holy grail of equestrian tack!

    • Alison says:

      Oh and BTW for the DC locals – the Hermes store at Tysons Corner is closed! Maybe the new one in downtown DC pushed it out.

      • March says:

        Huh. I have not been to Tysons in FOREVER. Also nearby the Hermes downtown: Tumi, Carolina Herrera, I’m forgetting somebody … Armani? And a Momofuku is opening. I think I’m accidentally near the new Luxe Central.

      • March says:

        Also that location was TERRIBLE in Tysons. But it’s an interesting move downtown.

  • greennote2 says:

    I’d pretty happily take 7 or 8 of the Hermessences (which is a pretty amazing hit rate). Not Ambre Narguile, Iris Ukiyoé or Vetiver Tonka. Never smelt Vanille Galante. Full bottle would be a toss up between Paprika Brasil and Poivre Samarcande, with maybe Paprika Brasil nosing in front. All the others have a place in my heart, just not quite such an exulted place. I enjoyed both the Jours as well, March. It’s so good to see you back.

    • March says:

      I *think* my fave is Osmanthe Yunnan, although it’s hard to pick just one, isn’t it? I casually gave myself a spray the last couple of visits to Hermes and thought, why do I not own this?

  • Hamamelis says:

    I am a big fan of H&M tee’s too, especially the organic cotton ones…and it leaves some money to be spent on Hermes scarves or other goodies 😉
    I was on holiday in hot Spain, and really liked Kelly Caleche which I smelled there in a shop. I did not buy it, as it is rarely as hot where I live, and I do own a fair amount of Hermes’s scents already. But to answer your question, I could choose one for free it might be Kelly Caleche…or Cuir d’Ange…or Epice Marine for my husband, his favourite scent.

  • Portia says:

    Jour d’Hermes was such a washout for me that I’ve ignored the rest of the line March. I do love the Hermessence range though and have most of them in the 15ml travel size. It’s a perfect size to have for planes and quick pick me ups.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      Hey doll! I need some of those travel size bottles, they’d be great to stash in my drawer at work. The office, for once, is not over air conditioned, and when I get back from lunch I’m craving a spritz of something.

  • KimB says:

    Glad you found some good T’s. Best thing about them? No ironing!!!!!

    Agree – the Absolu is the best and I love it. I got the smallest bottle (easier to hold), then bought the refill bottle in duty free.
    I actually like the bottle (design, feel and weight of it) but agree it is awkward to hold in the larger sizes.
    Haven’t tried the new gardenia version – will wait to sample it now before blind buying!

    • March says:

      Hey, no dry cleaning, either! In my organizing I found some summer silk sweaters, and those need a trip to the cleaner for sure. Glad to see the Absolu fans on here! I know Luca Turin liked it too. The Gardenia…. yeesh. It’s got plenty of fans on Fragrantica, though.

  • Robert H. says:

    Yup! The Absolu is amazing. The SA at the Hermes boutique in Seattle steered me right to it, basically stating “If you want THE ONE then the Absolu is THE ONE.” I whipped out my credit card in a flash and am so glad I did. The honeyed apricot-ish vibe is truly stellar!

    • March says:

      I’m actually considering buying some Absolu…. it wasn’t as ridiculous as I thought it would be! It’s certainly the one for me.

    • Rina says:

      Robert, my friend, I TOTALLY thought of you with this article! ??

  • Rina says:

    I’ve been an H Girl for a long time! Many scarves and 2 (minor) bags in my collection. It just is t fun anymore so I don’t collect as I once did. I do love Poivre Samarcande and Jour d’Hermes! I have the perfume and shower gel for JdH. Have a small sample of Absolut and would like to try the Gardenia but my H Boutique isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy so I avoid it. Thankfully, Sephora caries the Jour but not the Gardenia…

    • March says:

      Poivre is one of my favorites too! Lol the Hermes boutique is certainly not warm and fuzzy. I admit though that sometimes it’s nice to enter its hallowed halls and be surrounded by the luxurious smells of leather and scent.