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segunda-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2015

Etat Libre d'Orange Hermann... Nice and Easy

by: Miguel Matos

Who goes beside you into the forest on the darkest night ? In Victor Hugo’s poem, À quoi songeaient les deux cavaliers dans la forêt, (What Two Horsemen Were Thinking in the Forest), the narrator says 'by my side, Hermann seemed to me like a shadow.'” - Etat Libre d'Orange
Whenever Tina Turner sings the classic "Proud Mary", she always starts by saying she never does anything just nice and easy, because she likes it nice and rough. That's the way I got used to seeing Etat Libre d'Orange. The French house, known for its unusual and temperamental perfumes with iconoclast tendency, has launched in the last years commonly accepted perfumes of a non-challenging character like CologneTrue Lust Rayon Violet de Ses Yeux and Remarkable People. These editions, although perfectly balanced compositions and solid perfumes per se, were something disappointing to the hardcore fans of the brand, for not being outrageous and polarizingly interesting like almost all fragrances in the previous history of the line. In their effort to become more commercially successful, I feel the brand has betrayed its followers with the latest releases. Maybe Etienne de Swardt wants to sell the brand to a multinational company like Estée Lauder, Puig or similar. After all, this is a trend to which cult names like Frederic Malle, Le Labo and L'Artisan Parfumeur have succumbed recently.
During the latest edition of Pitti Fragranze, Etienne and Thomas from ELDO showed me what was to become the next edition. They told me that this one should invert the process and return to the core values of the house. Maybe the more commercial strategy didn't work out as planned. Anyway, I was happy to hear that, given the forgettable character of Remarkable People and the redundant nice scents of Cologne and True Lust. So I smelled, secretly, the prototype of what was to be the next perfume for Etat Libre d'Orange. And I honestly liked it. Given the context of perfume overload, I was able to detect a nice leathery base and a powerful warm heart. It seemed animalic and sexy, going back to the bravery of the main editions. But I had to wait a couple of months for it to be finally completed and released. Now I have one bottle in my hands and I can tell you what the final veredict is, regarding my honest opinion.
Well, I like it. Sincerely. And I will wear it for sure. But I am not astounded as I was expecting to be. First of all, if you are expecting me to delve on the concept of the fragrance, you may get frustrated, since I don't really see the concept reflected in the fragrance itself, apart from a twilight facet I will tell you about in a minute. If you want to know more about the concept and all the literary inspiration of Hermann a Mes Cotes Me Paraissait Une Ombre, just follow the link to the perfume page in the official website and read the poem. I prefer to tell you about my impressions of the juice and skip marketing. Let's just say that the starting point is a literary work by Victor Hugo and the concept is the following:
We all have shadows, even at night in the dark forest. You may call yours by another name : your invisible friend. Your conscience, your soul, maybe even your complementary ego. Your shadow could have a name, like Hermann. Or your shadow could be your perfume. This is your companion. You can argue with your companion, you can challenge your companion, you can test the boundaries of your own attitudes. You can debate the finer points of existence. But you cannot lose this companion, not ever. This is your alternative self. As you move through life and contemplate its meaning, you ask unanswerable questions. When you’re overwhelmed with uncertainties, look to your shadow. Maybe you’ll get a response. Maybe not. But at least you’ll have an interesting conversation.” - Etat Libre d'Orange
Even though this idea doesn't tell much about the perfume, the impression I got from this excerpt is not the same I get from smelling Hermann. Except for the dark character hidden underneath the lights. For those of you who are expecting an aggressively obscure fragrance full of dark meadows and challenging surprises, be prepared to be deceived. This is a rather classic masculine scent, in the same spirit as, say, Aramis Tuscany (but fresher) or Azzaro Pour Homme, with a modern twist. Well, there is some modernity in going back, if we think about it and given the dullness of modern mainstream perfumery. But in the niche realm, we expect something more. We can say that this has the DNA of ELDO when we recognize traces of Je Suis un Homme, again a modern interpretation of a classic style. We can also see a chypre quality in the same line of The Afternoon of a Faun. But Hermann is not a mix of former accords like in True Lust. It has its own personality. And it is a bright one.
Above all, I have to stress that this seems to me a flawless composition. I can't point out any bad choices, any unbalanced accords. It is perfect. Almost too perfect in fact. I like a tainted scent, a perfume with flaws that are used as personality traces. This is just perfectly done. And that's what I was not expecting. I think that this is not 100% the prototype I had smelled in Pitti. Castoreum is gone, leather is toned down, green, watery and fresh elements are more prominent. And dark it is not. For sure.
Hermann starts in a clearly masculine vibe, crossing fougère and chypre with green and aquatic accents. This bright opening is masterfully orchestrated and it creates a dialogue with the shadows in the base. There is a warm woody scent under the lights. And that's where I think I can recognize the concept of shadows present in the box. But these shadows are not dark, they are transparent. Here I recognize the choice for the color of the bottle: A grey, tinted glass like a transparent coat that represents the base of this perfume. Hermann never goes really dark. It just becomes crepuscular. All the greens and woods become more intense in the twilight, but the air is clean and clear. There is again a contrast of peppery tones and bright frankincense with some warmth (not heat) given by patchouli. Galbanum seems to play an important role to compose the overall vegetal sensation. All of this is wrapped up in the aquatic mist of calypsone molecule. I would say this is a walk in the forest at the end of the day, near a lake and stepping on the mossy wood trunks left on the ground. It may actually feel wonderful in the springtime, but it has touble blooming in the cold of winter we are experiencing now in Europe (cold for me is anything under 12ºC). By the way, Hermann can be airy and subtle, but it lasts preety long on the skin. And yes, you can spray away at will. It's office friendly.
Maybe Hermann will delight all the lovers of fresh classic male perfumes and this time it can also be an example of quality and commercial appeal, but I was expecting something more interesting. It may be complex in composition, but it is simple in comprehension. Sleek, solid and clean. But is it art?
Hermann A Mes Cotes Me Paraissait Une Ombre
Main Notes: calypsone, géosmine, frankincense, pepperwood, petalia, rose absolute, patchouli, ambroxan
Bottle and packaging  images by Miguel Matos

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