One simply cannot find two perfumes from completely different houses and in totally different price ranges, that would smell almost like they shared the same juice poured into their bottles. A situation like that happened to me recently when I got a sample of Hermes Ambre Narguile in a swap and a sample of Helium [2He] from Nu_Be arrived at my doorstep. Imagine how confused I was when I wore Hermes the other day and Nu_Be the day after and smelled almost the same fragrance!
I’ll start with the Hermes and with a statement that I tested it after I’ve practically given up on the brand’s offerings, not believing I might find one I will enjoy from the start to the end. Ambre Narguile, an exclusive Hermessence collection scent from 2004 makes we want to give Hermes this one last chance. The perfume opens with a lush smell of sweet honey. It’s aroma is quite prominent, at the same time being smooth and shiny. After a couple of minutes I start to smell the sparkling spiciness of cinnamon that evokes a feeling of freshly baked apple pie. After 30 minutes Ambre Narguile unveils the beautiful rum accord. The alcohol is imperceptible to me but I definitely get the sugary aroma of sugar cane used in rum flavoring. So far the composition well incorporates the chords of sweet and spicy. As the time passes this Hermessence becomes sweeter again when molecules of caramel and benzoin start to evaporate from the skin surface. The combination is exquisite. It introduces an ethereal balmy sensation to this perfume. Vanilla has a significant role too! At the 1st hour mark this fragrance becomes a little bit heavier on resinous notes. Tonka bean along with coumarin bring a really warm and cuddly feeling to Ambre Narguile. Labdanum adds some smokiness, a really light one. Sesame on the other hand introduces a slightly oily texture. Musk base is really airy and fluffy like a bunny’s tail. I couldn’t smell much of an orchid. Hermes Ambre Narguile smells great. It’s the 1st Hermes perfume I truly like but in just 5 hours the perfume becomes much more pale, watercolor and it disappears. We all know Jean-Claude Ellena’s subtle style of creating. Some love it, some don’t. I prefer a perfume that I can still smell after 5 hours or more. For such volatile beauty the price is a little bit too much.
Moving on to Nu_Be Helium [2He]. This is more recent perfume release as it was introduced in 2012. The inspiration for this scent was Helium, the 2nd element in Periodic Table of the Elements, the first noble gas. At first it welcomes me with a wonderful cinnamon accord that is warm and spicy at the same time. It has that typical slightly prickly, fizzy quality that you can taste when you have some cinnamon on your tongue. In less that 15 minutes Helium becomes balmy, in smooth and creamy meaning of the word. Benzoin accord is definitely stronger than in Ambre Narguile. At the 45 minutes mark comes the first thing that differentiates these two fragrances. Helium has the tobacco accord that brings the bright and airy smokiness to the blend, at the same time staying close to the sweet side thanks to styrax and probably some honey too! The Nu_Be offering also has a darker side created with the use of guaiac wood. It feels substantial but absolutely not rough or hurting. In addition to that a rose accord polishes its surface, wrapping it all around. Later on the woody phase dissipates allowing tobacco to take control for one more time. Now it develops slightly herbal quality – [2He] contains clary sage and also there’s some leafy patchouli that is nicely blended into the herbal vibe I get. Helium develops slower than a Hermes fragrance, all the facets are revealed in bigger intervals of time. After 6 hours the perfume still goes bold and slowly begins to calm down and its edges are getting blurry. What I smell now is lovely iris accord blended with a woody kind of vetiver. The combination is exquisite, slightly powdery, slightly woody, floral and earthy too. Much like my dearest D600 from Carner Barcelona. It doesn’t disappear faster than after 8-10 hours.
The final word: Both Hermes Ambre Narguile and Nu_Be Helium [2He] are super lovable scents. They share so many aspects that only side by side test reveals nuances that cause these two creations to differ. On my skin Nu_Be Helium is better. It’s much stronger, substantial and enveloping. Not only it is more intensive but also lasts much longer. When Ambre Narguile flies away from my skin after 5 hours, Nu_Be Helium is in like 70% of development and still has at least 3 hours to go before dying. Someone could accuse that the Italian brand (Nu_Be) copied the Hermessence formula from 8 years later. I cannot agree. They feel much alike, not identical.
So, if you like Ambre Narguile and you keep complaining that it’s too close to your skin, it’s too fleeting and airy I highly suggest giving a try to Helium from Nu_Be offer. You might be surprised how familiar and cozy it feels, at the same amplifying the notes that Jean-Claude Ellena did in his famous, almost transparent style. The price will surprise you too. Hermes is $240, Nu_Be is $160. As the last word allow me to say that Helium [2He] was created by perfumer Sylvie Fischer.
[note] I was supplied with a sample of Nu_Be Helium by Perfumeria Ambrozja.
Ha, volatile beauty! I find Hermès to often be imperceptible beauty to me. Great to read this side-by-side review.
Jordan, it’s because Ellena does everything in ethereal concentration.
I’m afraid that in few more years his perfumes for Hermes won’t be possible to smell by regular people, only dogs will detect the perfume…
Comment of the Week Lucas! Hilarious. I liked Ellen’s books especially the contemplative one. I like his aesthetic but I have yet to appreciate the ‘fumes. The new one Épice Marine sounds interesting but I have not tried it yet. I remember when I went shopping to buy one of the Jardin series. I tried them all but left the shop with Spice Bomb! My first girlfriend wore First and I wish he would do something as amazing as that.
Thanks! It was intended to make you laugh. I appreciate him as a perfumer but his creations totally don’t speak to me. I also have not tried Epice Marine and I’m not keen on trying it. Not to mention that the nearest Hermes boutique is in Berlin
It is a fact that more perfumes than ever seem to have no lasting power. This is particularly annoying when they are the expensive ones! I almost wish we could reverse the trend and revive the powerhouses from the 80s, but I suspect that, in this increasingly fragrance-phobic world, it’s never going to happen. It’s weird though when you contrast this with the fashion for making laundry detergents and softeners stronger than ever! Why do people want their clothes to reek of cheap musks and yet not want to wear a beautiful perfume on their skin?
I think I am crabby again. But I did enjoy your review, Lucas, and I am interested in the Helium, which I had not heard of before. That’s why it is lovely to read your blog and discover new perfumes!
You know, the resources of natural ingredients are dropping lower so their prices rocket to the cosmic levels. You know roses don’t grow in Grasse so well as they used to in the past? Plus because of all these detergents that you mentioned people develop more allergies. Most think that using intensive laundry detergents they will kill bacteria etc but they forget that at the same time they’re exposed to higher doses of chemical substances, that’s how contact allergy is developed.
And when more people are allergic, more of them react on ingredients in perfumes.
I have no idea why people chose chemical musk over perfume.
You’re absolutely right and there’s no need to say sorry. Thank you, glad you liked the review. I hope you’ll be able to try Helium. It wins in terms of longevity and sillage.
Thank you for making me feel not so bad tempered!
It’s not really about being bad tempered.
You’re aware of how perfumes used to smell in the past and you know how they smell now. It just makes you realize that a Golden Age of Perfumery is over, and it’s probably never coming back in the same way as it was in the past.
There’s a saying “all this will pass”, meaning everything changes, good or bad, and nothing lasts forever. And especially not perfume! But I am glad that I did have the opportunity to wear some of the greats. Thanks, again, Lucas for being kind!
I would know the true face of perfume if I was born 20 years earlier. But I was born in 1990 when most scents were already changed
An illuminating compare and contrast session. I seem to be hearing good things about Nu_Be at the moment and yours is another voice to add to the chorus.
Interesting that you find so many Hermes fragrances fleeting, I find that Jardin Med and Jour in particular are rather long lasting, not to mention some of the older pre-JCE works.
It will be interesting to see how the new reworkings of classics turn out on this, and many other, fronts.
The Perfumed Dandy
I’m glad you liked the comparing aspect of a review. To me Nu_Be is a really solid brand that is worth exploring. I still need to check out their latest releases of Sulphur and Mercury.
Skin chemistry has lots of secrets, on me none of Hermeses last long.
[…] Some recent comments on Ellena are at Chemist in the Bottle. […]
I see, dear Lucas, you’ve encountered your first case of deja vu 🙂 It happens to me from time to time though, similar to your case, usually it’s not like one of two is a bargain 😉
I haven’t tried any of Nu_Be’sperfumes but if I come across them I’ll run the comparison.
Yes, it’s my first deja vu that I’m aware of 😉
I’m sure you’d enjoy the Nu_Be line
Great reviews of these two perfumes. I’m pretty sure I have a sample of the Hermes Ambre Narguile somewhere and if I can’t find it, I’ll pop into the Hermes store (or actually, there is an Hermes counter at Saks that seems to have the entire range…even the Hermessence which is usually exclusive to the boutiques). As to the Nu_Be line and Helium in particular, I may have to go to Bendel’s or Barneys and I’m not even sure they carry the line.
Thanks dear! Good you have it and even if you don’t you can sample in store. That’s some positive thing of working in NYC. If you can’t find Nu_be Helium I can buy you a sample and send it
[…] Chemist in the Bottle […]