Category Archives: perfume review

Gallant & Debonair, Hermès Agar Ébène

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).

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Memory of friendship, Mona di Orio Dõjima

As life goes on things around us change, people that surround us change and most importantly we change as well. Some changes are hard to live with, but in the end they make us stronger. When Mona di Orio passed away her business partner & friend Jeroen Oude Sogtoen didn’t give up. He didn’t let the legacy of Mona die, it lives on through the perfumes she made and there’s a bit of her soul in every fragrance composed by a different perfumer for this brand. Maybe I don’t have as close relationship with this maison de parfum but I keep in mind to try new things they are offering. One of the two perfumes launched in 2017 smells to me as a memory of an old friend or a diary page.

At first allow me to say that I am not much into fragrances with ‘edible’ notes. I can handle some vanilla, caramel or toffee but to me there’s a distinct difference between gourmand scent and actual foody scent. That’s why I was afraid to try Dõjima until the very end. Lucky me that this fear vanished with the first attempt to trying it on skin. It’s true that it opens with a prominent scent of rice but it doesn’t smell like a rice cooker (I experienced that in other perfume & it was bad). It smells much more like a rice pudding – slow boiled and with bunch of other ingredients to add more flavor.

Apart from the rice accord that feels gently warm on the skin & that has some hidden creaminess that will come forth later, Dõjima hides some spicy elements underneath a top layer. After 5 minutes this impression becomes stronger and at that point the presence of nutmeg is revealed. It combines dry, woody and spicy elements but it also feels fresh as if it was grated only a moment ago. The perfume feels soft and very round from the beginning but becomes even rounder after some time. It develops some familiar smoothness that gives a new dimention to this perfume creation.


Good news to us all – Dõjima has some iris that in my opinion brings a lot of difference. It’s very creamy, with buttery hints and little floral nuances. It blends well with rice accord. Now it really smells like a pudding. There’s some sweetness to it but not a lot. Nexr hour or two show how notes can rotate and entwine with each other as they form various facets. Afterwards there comes a time when this new Mona di Orio scent becomes more powdery. Blend of iris and rice powder is quite loose at first but gains substantivity when sandalwood joins the composition to make it creamier again.

Sandalwood in Dõjima is smooth and more lightweight but its not lacking density and character. There is a term for that and I think it suits here perfectly. It’s a woody pudding. I also catch some whiffs of vanilla although it’s not mentioned by the brand as an official note. As different elements twirl around there’s a brief moment of sunny, radiant amber emanating from this fragrance. As time passes Dõjima becomes more musky. It becomes enveloping like a soft & fluffy blanket. Musk tries to add more volume and fuzziness to it but ambrette makes it smaller and more elegant. In the end there’s a minimal touch of labdanum that feels like a silk veil of sensuality. Like a cherry on top.

Dõjima after my initial fear turned out to be a very positive surprise & I’m glad the turn of events allowed me to like it. It’s definitely a cozy, warm, enveloping fragrance that can do its magic when it’s colder so perhaps it’s more suited for autumn/winter time and not for coming spring. The fragrance was developed for Mona di Orio by Swedish perfumer Fredrik DalmanDõjima has a small projection but it lingers on the skin in a quiet manner for a greater part of the day. It’s concentrated at eau de parfum level and is available in 10 ml travel spray (singular or set of 3) and in 75 ml flacon.

[note] featured photophraphy (cropped) belongs to Roberto Greco. Check out his awesome work!

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