Mirror of the water, Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li

Hermes seems to be one of those brands that is widely liked by perfume community out there. Robin at NST loves them, so did Birgit from Olfactoria’s Travels. Sure that perfumery isn’t their original field of work but they’ve been fragrance market insiders for so long now (since 1951) that you just can’t say they’re not a perfume house – especially that they have their own in-house perfumer. If you have been following my journey through Chemist in the Bottle and maybe other websites you will know that I tried to love Hermes fragrances but after many failures I’ve given up on this house, I stopped to follow what’s new for them so I don’t get too excited about perfume that probably wouldn’t work for me or that I couldn’t even sample. Then this happened…

…In late February I was on a business trip to Paris in order to visit IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) headquarters to introduce me and my colleagues to the new fragrance collections that were designed for the company that I work for. The purpose of this meeting was also to have a little round-up of more interesting launches from 2015. We samples mostly mainstream novelties but there were also a few niche positions. And there was Le Jardin de Monsieur Li by Hermes. Even though it was a busy and tiring day (I did 4 flights in 16 hours!) as I was on my way to Poland this perfume just didn’t want to leave my head. I smelled a Hermes fragrance… and I liked it!

monsieur-li

Haunted by thoughts about it I decided to give it a few tries. And guess what!? Not much time later (read – as soon as I got a discount coupon) I decided to buy a 50 ml bottle of Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. How does it smell to me? Initially it’s green, but not green green in your face but a subtle, sheer green aroma has invited me. A little bit like a cut grass but quickly evolving towards more Asian ideology, especially the bamboo plants. It has a specific dewiness that is refreshing and slightly citrusy. There’s also something aromatic about it and I suspect this will be a mint doing.

Mind you – there is no standard mint in this Hermes. You won’t find a smell of toothpasteor mouth spray here. Mint is much more watery. Yes, watery is a good word as I usually find a word aquatic to be more negatively charged. Le Jardin de Monsieur Li undergoes minimal changes over the day. As hours go by it becomes more fruity and citrusy with a kumquat accord. Tart at the beginning and more sweet after some time. Jasmine introduces an ethereal floral veil to this composition and I somehow find it very calming, relaxing. There is also a clean-like effect to it. At times I could almost mistake it for neroli. I suppose it’s because the scent of flowers and fruits is almost unified.

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If Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li were a painting, it could look for example like this art piece above. The painting would be made in watercolor, so that all different shades used in it had a very light, almost transparent color. Green hue of grass and leaves on the trees would gradually melt into a tender blue of peaceful pond. Delicate pink and beige will represent jasmine blossom in this Chinese garden. The more bright pink shrub in the middle could be a kumquat. A dreamy landsape.

Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena said – “I remembered the smell of ponds, the smell of jasmine, the smell of wet stones, of plum trees, kumquats and giant bamboos. It was all there, and in the ponds there were even carp steadily working towards their hundredth birthday.” You can smell all this in Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. It’s his memory, his vision… and you can smell it. This eau de parfum has a really low sillage but surprises me with a rather nice longevity as it usually manages to survive through my day at work. Maybe Hermes is not completely lost for me yet?

[note] picture 1 – from Hermes website, picture 2 – from loveyourspace.blogspot.com

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Her sin, Gabriella Chieffo Maisia

In the continuously growing world of niche perfumery I happened to meet various people and brands of this industry as I was attending Esxence and Pitti. People with sparks in their eyes and brands that had something captivating about them. I discovered perfumes that spoke to me, often both in the way they smelled and the way they were telling a story. Maison Gabriella Chieffo is one of such brands for me. It was the beautifully decorated stand at the fair that attracted me but if it wasn’t for the great perfumes, I wouldn’t be bothered by waiting to see what their next move will be.

maisia

In March I met with Gabriella again and she had a new perfume to present. The new fragrance marks the start of a new collection and has an interesting imagery that stands behind the scent. Maisia (pronounced as my-siya) is telling us a story of wise woman of unearthly beauty who is accused of being a witch (because of her charm and intellect) and burnt at the stake. Maisia is also her name.

Composition of Gabriella Chieffo Maisia opens right away with a prominent aroma of fig leaf. It emanates with green aroma molecules that float up, quickly filling the space with this specific scent. I find this note to be extremely positive and optimistic. Moreover it brings this beautiful image to my head. As I smell it I envision a Mediterranean plantation drenched in the sunlight and as I walk along one of the alleys I have grapes growing on one side and figs on the other side. It’s a dream.

Not much time later the fig leaf note becomes even more warm and sunny, it also starts to effuse a characteristic sappy and milky fragrance. Then a fruit of the fig tree joins the composition. It continues the verdant opening yet at the same time it adds a bit of a purple color to this perfume. The smell of the pulp is juicy and fruity, with combination that entwine milky, green, fruity and fresh elements. Maisia surely has a Mediterranean start. I don’t mind at all!

maisia-woman

Later on it becomes more and more refreshing. As soon as lemon and bergamot join the composition you can notice how sparkling and refreshing this perfume is. Even though both of these notes are not overly powerful, it’s possible to extract the smell of aromatic citrus rinds, as well as the smell of the juicy part. It’s a happy part of Maisia and fig leaf and fig are still central players in this Gabriella Chieffo creation. Even though I’m not a fig fan, I find it very appealing.

As the composition gradually evolves on my skin, things start to get a bit more serious in here. At first a narcissus accord makes an entrance. It brings fresh floral aroma blended with some milky facets. Then there is a broom accord which unfortunately I don’t know how it smells. After around hour 3 or 4, Maisia is no longer a sassy perfume. It gains more weight the very moment guaiac wood joins the composition. It smells woody indeed but in a more wild, rugged way. It has some intensity and brings more depth to the blend. A hint of sandalwood enhances the substantive feeling of Maisia by Gabriella Chieffo. It also softens the edges slightly.

maisia-box

The climax moment of this perfume happens when the accord of ash becomes noticeable. Since it’s ash, it does smell a little bit smoky but my perception of this note is more mineral and salt-like categories. This particular note was used in Maisia to evoke the fate of a main character from the inspiration story. If she’s burnt at stake, ashes will be the only thing to remain from her body. I also find here some musk that is slightly dirty, there is also black amber that brings the resinous and earthy touch that was probably meant to evoke burning wood – it’s smoky, mineral (even slightly reminiscent of marine salt). The balsamic smell is the final element, the insecurity.

Gabriella Chieffo (who has recently graduated from a perfume school) and perfumer Luca Maffei joined their forces once again to create a non-obvious perfume that actually has something different to offer, both in terms of the scent and its inspiration. They created a fragrance that is Italian by heart and tells a story from a happy beginning to a saddening ending. I was once again captivated by Gabriella art work. The fragrance is available in eau de parfum concentration, in 100 ml bottles – cube shape and with stone cap. It’s longevity is a very good 8-10 hours and sillage is moderate.

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