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!


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.


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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15 thoughts on “Mirror of the water, Hermes Le Jardin de Monsieur Li

  1. jillie says:

    Serendipity: finding something good when not looking for it!

    What a lovely discovery Lucas. I admit I haven’t tried any current perfumes by Hermes, although in the old days I wore Amazone and Rouge (when it was called Parfum d’Hermes). I felt that the new lines would be too delicate for me, but you have painted such a pretty picture of this that I think I would like it, especially as you make the distinction between watery and aquatic – I really can’t bear aquatic.

    Your job sounds very important – no wonder you are so busy!

    • lucasai says:

      That’s so very true. I noticed that this happens to me often with clothes shopping. If I go to the shopping galery having a specific “target” in my mind I’m less likely to come back home with something new to wear. Going on a stroll around shops just for fun usually works better for me and I manage to find something nice then.
      Ellena style is very sheer, pale. I’ll be happy to send you a bit of Le Jardin de Monsieur Li so that you can try it.
      Don’t know if my job is important, it certainly is responsible and time/energy consuming.

  2. shellyw says:

    I have tried several of JCE scents and I think watercolor is a good comparison.

  3. Holly says:

    This one didn’t work for me. I understood it, and think that it’s well-crafted but on my skin I got a disturbing canned lychee nut note. Canned lychee nuts used to be automatically given to diners at Chinese restaurants here in the states after a meal and they’re pretty weird. Have you ever eaten them?

    I’m glad you’ve found something from Hermes that you enjoy! 🙂

    • lucasai says:

      I see Holly, but I don’t mind at all. Our tastes should be different – it’s more funny that way.
      I have never tried or even heard about canned lychee nuts. I have only had 2 fresh lychee fruit in my life and I wasn’t a fan of those.

  4. Cornelia Blimber says:

    I love Calèche, even in the current version, and Voyage d’Hermès. The creations by JC Ellena are too subtle for me. As soon as I am in De Bijenkorf (Amsterdam) again, I will try nevertheless Le Jardin de M. Li; your review made me curious!

    • lucasai says:

      Nice. Voyage d’Hermes was the one I find ok, but it’s incredibly short lasting on me. Hope you’ll like this Hermes. And happy trip to Amsterdam

  5. rickyrebarco says:

    I liked this Hermes as well. It’s light and refreshing. Reminds me of bamboo growing around a pond full of water lilies. I am a huge fan of Jean-Claude Ellena’s creations. Watercolor certainly describes some of his creations for Hermes, particularly this one and Iris Ukiyoe in the Hermessence line. If you haven’t tried the Iris Ukiyoe or Ukoiye I highly recommend it. It’s like a perfumed haiku ode to irises, again with a watery element, but in a good way. Minimalist elegance, that is the essence of JCE’s vision. I also love Le Jardin de Nil by Hermes, a refreshing garden with mango trees full of green mangoes.

  6. Hi Lucas. I’m glad you’ve found your Hermes. I struggle a little with the perfumes too. This one was not for me but I quite like the cologne line – want to try the new ones properly. Have only had a quick sniff at the perfume store.

  7. Undina says:

    To describe how little I’m interested in Hermes perfumes, I should mention that I’ve got that sample probably more than 6 months ago… I have to try this perfume now! And I’m glad you liked it. I have several Hermess perfumes that I kind of like but none of them would have made it to my desert island (it’s a different story if I were to pack my vSO’s bags for the same destination – but I plan to tell this story soon).

  8. […] peaceful stroll around beautiful zen garden arranged by Monsieur Li managed to restore my faith in Hermes fragrances. When I already thought the brand really has […]

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