Merveilles study in smoke and tea
L’Ombre des Merveilles is the first Hermès launch in u 2020. and second perfume in the Merveilles line created by Hermès in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. My longstanding loyalty to the Hermès Merveilles line is a result of the love for the accord created in the first Eau des Merveilles in 2004 by Nathalie Fitzhauer and Ralf Schweiger. In the case of flankering a la Merveilles, I do not mind, indeed: I see each new interpretation of the original salty – warm accord as a kind of stylistic exercise on the same characteristic accord in the heart of the line.
I greeted L’Ombre des Merveilles with curious caution, building expectations around the color (“Is it really blue? And how much does this blue have to do with last year’s L’Eau des Merveilles Bleue, which I just liked?”), around the “shadow” marked in the name of the perfume (“Does the shadow in the mane really suggests deeper and darker scent?“), and around some of my previous experiences of the perfumer’s works (“Will the nice opening and interesting heart – like the salty-mineral one Nagel introduced in Bleau – again land on a quite thin woody amber drydown?”).
In short: color – yes! Shadow – yes! The tricky one – no!
Hermes is traditionally not generous when it comes to displaying fragrant notes. Officially, in this perfume the Merveilles accord is surrounded by only three: black tea on the top, smoke in the middle, and tonka beans at the bottom of the composition. However, the first whiffs show that much more is happening in L’Ombre des Merveilles.
Although citrusy, the opening is slightly sweeter than I expected. The citrus fruity-sweet opening is certainly less energizing and fresh than the opening of the original Eau and Bleue and I would rather associate the overall impression with candied orange from Elixir or the fruity-sweet citrus layer from the opening of L’Ambre than with the Eau-variants of Merveilles line. But this was a matter of personal projections and expectations.
The opening of L’Ombre unambiguously announces that it belongs to the more compact part of the line and all similarity to Elixir and Ambre ends there. In further development L’Ombre shows its uniqueness: As Elixir rounds and moves towards full, almost gourmand sweet-salty warm heart and L’Ambre subtly subdues as it reachers the salty amber heat – L’Ombre changes direction becomes darker and colder, without losing its curves, depth, and radiance.
The impression of cooling and darkening is an effect of gentle, airy, and fresh smoke that frames both the salty heart and the warm base. I associate Eau des Merveilles and the Bleau with the open spaces and ambiental, marine freshness, L’Ambre with a warm lived-in skin-intimacy and Elixir with rich, enveloping and festive warmth, L’Ombre evoked something new: There is something chambery, transparent and shady, but also freshly soothing. I could imagine myself lying in a semi-darkened spa room on warm pebbles still preserving the scent of the sea, surrounded by mild and coldish, somewhat freshly sharp smoke and the scent.
L’Ombre des Merveilles maintains interesting chiaroscuro multidimensionality to the very bottom of the composition. The warm/cold and light/dark elements vivaciously intertwine reminding me of L’Eau’s serene ambiance and warm freshness, of Bleue’s cold mineral smoothness, and of the warmth and the roundness in Elixir and L’Ambre. Skin-close, along with a smooth and soft tonka, I felt a slightly musky undertone, which adds even rounder feel to the warm base. Even in the deepest drydown the warm and somewhat static softness of tonka is dynamically contrasted with smoky freshness.
I wore L’Ombre des Merveilles through a series of spring fresh mornings, but also trough quite warm afternoons. In an attempt to break up the rich composition into as many simple factors as possible – be it notes or associations – after all day weare I kept comming back to the multidimensionality of presenting “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue “. Yes, that’s right, but being familliar isn’t a fault – this is rather a default defined by Merveilles cahracteristic DNA, and Mrs. Nagel twisted it, turned it round and round again and tweeked it in a unique way.
With her second member of the multi-author and unique Hermès line, Christine Nagel beautifully retained, consolidated, and reinterpreted all the best elements of Merveilles group identity. With L’Ombre des Merveilles – tea, smoke and tonka style exercise – she created a new, really good warmer – but not heavy. smoky – but not thick, cool and soft, sweet and salty unisex perfume.
The review is based on the bottle owned by a colleague, a perfume friend. Opinions are my own.