Let’s have a disclosure at the very beginning: I have a soft spot for Hermès. I loved Ellena’s Hermès, I love some earlier Hermès perfumes, love some of the alterations to Hermès concept Christine Nagel has done so far. I’m trying to keep an open mind to every change, and when the Hermès is in question, I’m curious to find out where the changes lead.
The rose in Eau Poivrée shed a different light to tuberose in Twilly and led me to think about the idea and the concept behind both perfumes.
Among many reasons why I have a soft spot for Hermès, one is a diversity of ideas or concepts behind the collections:
Behind Jardins line is the idea of garden or “nature with human intervention”. This frame is supported with existing toponym and material motif of “water”. Jardins line is Jean-Claude Ellena’s baby and though Christine Nagel followed the family concept, with Un Jardin Sur la Lagune (the review in Croatian is here) she made a twist from “the spirit of the garden” to “materiality of the garden” and added to the family quite a different, more full-bodied member.
Behind Merveilles line is a different concept: it is based on exploration and interpretation of unique perfume accord, the line’s DNA. Unlike in Jardins, the interpretations surpassed perfume profiles and groups: there is a woody Merveille, oriental-fougere, floral one, gourmand, aquatic… The pillar with very distinctive salty-ambery DNA was created by Nathalie Fiesthauer and Ralf Schweiger, Jean-Claude Ellena elaborated and expanded the concept, and Nagel with her Bleue followed the path of exploration and further interpretation.
Though there is a possibility that Eau Poivrée would be to Twilly a flanker-pair as is, among others, Rose Amazone to Amazone, Kelly Caleche to Kaleche, Equipage Geranium to Equipage or, more recently, Terre d’Hermès Vetyver to Terre d’Hermès, I found myself preoccupied with thinking that Eau Poivrée represents disclosure of a concept that might end up with more than one flanker.
Eau Poivrée disclosed what could not be seen based on original Twilly alone:
There is instantly recognizable Twilly-profile, which surpasses the sum of the notes in individual perfume creations.
More to it: the Twilly-profile manages to ignore all the keynotes on which each of the two perfumes is built, and nevertheless remain recognizable.
No matter the colour/pattern, or the notes, the idea/concept/identity can not be missed.
It is tailored.
The idea behind the name of the perfume – Twilly, the scarf – is also the idea behind the concept:
Both “Twillies” are more about the way they are cut to a specific shape and dimensions, than about their notes, or colours, patterns, texture.
Done with speculation, back to Eau Poivrée, and “Twillies”:
Without actually smelling it, Eau Poivrée could not seem more different from the original:
Eau Poivrée is built around a rose and Twilly around tuberose.
Here is a pepper, there is ginger.
Here is patchouli, there is sandalwood, apparently.
Different flower, different spice, different woody backbone, one would expect very different perfume.
Well, it is, but it is not.
Eau Poivrée is an example of how smart substitution of all the key players in the perfume structure (spicy opening, flowery heart, woody base)can create a different perfume character, while the olfactory identity remains untouched, thus forming a concept.
As the original, Eau Poivrée opens with freshly spicy: the zingy spiciness which in Twilly comes from ginger is here replaced with peppery spiciness joined with some citrussy elements.
The citrusy ting goes away quickly, but the spiciness remains. To my nose peppery spiciness smells unlike any specific pepper.
Twilly-twisted pepper smells like red, black and green pepper berries mixed together: it tickles a little, but it is at the same time freshly aromatic, roundly sweetish and a tiny bit woody.
There is also some fruity undertone at the beginning of the drydown, tempting to redirect the perfume into the fruity territory, but as in the original Twilly the suggestion is misleading and the perfume never really enters the territory of common fruity stereotype.
Comparing to the original, the overall effect of this spicy opening is less sparkling and cheerful, but on the other hands, it represents a proper introduction to the perfume which left me the impression of more serious and calm character.
The twist with the rose struck me the most:
I got the impression of a rose which is cut at the peak of its full-bloomed beauty and then dried out.
The shape of the bloom is preserved, but it somehow smells detached from the natural liveness.
The significant presence of rosy powderiness prevented me to think about the rose in Eau Poivrée as a young, fresh, breathing rose. I got the impression of a rose detached from time, or some sort of ever-young rose, detached from its body but referring to it.
What Nagel has done to the rose in Eau Poivrée corresponds to what she has done to the tuberose in Twilly:
The flower in the heart of both creations seems twisted from the very part of its nature/olfactive profile we connect with seduction.
Although the tuberose in the original Twilly is very playful, its carnal or indolic facets are cut out.
The rose in Eau Poivrée is tailored to form the shape of bloomed flower and create plushness of petals, but the seductive voluminosity and liveness of petals is cut out.
In “Twilly-concept” the flowery seduction is softly but thoroughly tailored to fit the specific dimensions.
To become “Twilly”.
Beeing subtly but resolutely twisted to behave, the flowers in the heart of both perfumes are deprived of every youthful possibility to “misbehave”.
Tuberose kept the sparkle.
Rose did not.
Because of this intervention, Eau Poivrée feels calmer, a bit more mature and definitely more serious.
Woody drydown is dominated by patchouli. There is also some undefined woodiness, possibly a woody-amber, greatly appreciated by Christine Nagel.
Comparing Eau Poivrée to Twilly, the base is a bit muskier.
This is thoroughly disinfected and cleaned patchouli – a perfect patchouli groom for properly raised rose bride. The marriage came as no surprise: a good rose is expected to marry clean patchouly, and the white musk is a traditional must – a veil.
Of course, the story about roses, patchouli and musks could be less fitting, but clearly not in Twilly-concept.
The rose in Eau Poivrée is everything but daring.
This is Hermès.
Hermès is always smartly traditional, and sometimes this balance between traditional and modern is exquisite, elegant and casual.
But not in Eau Poivrée.
I softly regret that innocent and charming playfulness marked in the tuberose-themed Twilly vanished, or that it was not replaced with some other sort of liveness. While original Twilly charmingly managed to get the balance between the casual and classic, it seems to me that Eau Poivrée got stuck in a limbo in between.
Based on presentations of charming and sparkling, free-spirited but decent tuberose-girl Twilly, and a bit calmer and more mature rose in Eau Poivrée, I can’t help but think that there is plenty of flowers left to be subtly tailored to represent the same. But, I am not among those who know if there is some new member to be placed in the Twilly-concept.
However, both Twillies fully and coherently work within Hermès palette: Nagel’s take on flowers has undoubtedly resulted in nicely done perfumes.
I appreciate both – the concept and the execution.
As for idea behind them, I can not help but wonder: is this the expression of young, self-conscious, playfull or daring individuality?
Well… the question is merely rhetorical.