My relationship with Hermes is full of up and downs. I really wanted to like their fragrances and after many attempts I found two that I truly enjoy wearing. Their exclusive line – Hermessence, is a different story. Until now I didn’t find a single one that would speak to me. They were too pale and watered down on my skin, but that’s the style Hermes has been known for years. But things are starting to look brighter for me with an introduction of a new collection from their new in-house perfumer, Christine Nagel. A new era for this house might also mean finding new love there.
Agar Ébène quickly accomodates on my skin, opening with a balsamic fir note. The depth it creates the very moment it hits your nostrills is unimaginable. It goes down to the very roots of a tree. Dark green needles, murky branches and a solid trunk – all this surrounds you with warm sensuality and attention to details. I feel transported to a coniferous forest in winter time but it feels incredibly warm and nostalgic there. Aromatic and green elements blend together, becoming less detailed & more blurry after a while. At the same time the temperature of the fragrance rises even more.
Something spicy is slowly developing in the background of Agar Ébène but it’s difficult to say what it is. It’s like a hint of black pepper but not really. Nutmeg? I’m not sure. There’s a gentle dryness hiding underneath and the perfume unfolds like a piece of origami you’re trying to undo. The longer it stays on the skin the more substance crystallizes around it. Of course it’s a Hermessence style of substantivity, light & sheer – to me Agar Ébène is black but transparent, if that makes any sense. When woody accord of agar wood is revealed it slightly overwhelms the rest, in a good way!
Agar wood in Hermès Agar Ébène is a source of darkness and mysterious vibe crawling around the wearer. The dryness that was just a small hint before, now becomes full-fledged & with a lot of accent put on it. There’s something austere about it. The wood is rough and rugged which suits me well and probably because of this feeling I consider Agar Ébène as slightly more masculine than unisex. According to an interview for Le Figaro no actual oud was used in creation of this Hermessence. Other woody notes and agar wood (uninfected oud wood) were used to mimic it.
This oud-like accord is really complex. A bit of fir is still adding some freshness to the composition but moreover there’s a nicely crafted woody concoction enveloped by warm and resinous veil that feels like a cashmere jumper. It’s definitely elegant and stylish. Jean-Claude Ellena, former in-house perfumer at Hermes once said that oud is not a note befitting the brand. Apparently Christine Nagel who took over from Ellena has a different point of view than her predecessor. As she explained that with Agar Ébène she wanted to make an oud perfume without falling into this trend. It works!
Nagel was inspired by her trips to Egypt, Dubai, Oman and Bahrain and wanted to reinvent oriental fragrance ingredients of Middle East in a Hermes way. For her first venture into Hermessence line she created a collection of 5 scents. To me Agar Ébène is a bewitching potion. It’s carnal and full of refinement at the same time. It offers a smart way to sneak some sex appeal into your perfume wardrobe. I think I’d like to add it to my collection, this could be my belated birthday gift to self. It’s an eau de toilette, has little sillage but good longevity. Available in 200, 100 or 15 ml (in coffret of four).