I still haven't made up my mind about the original, 2012 edp of Jour D'Hermès. Those of you who saw my post on it may remember that several readers who'd tried it found it bloodless and were perplexed by its green, near-vegetal note, which they variously read as lychee, shoe polish or overpowering tomato stem. Personally, I was left unsatisfied by its lack of precise legibility: its attempt to be an abstraction of all florals, as opposed to a bouquet of recognisable flower notes, seemed to create a vacuum at the heart of the composition. That said, I couldn't write it off completely. There was an elusive, intriguing quality somewhere around its edges which drew me back every now and then, curious to solve the mystery. Now, with the release of the new Absolu version, Jean-Claude Ellena offers what is essentially the same story, but by presenting it from a slightly different angle, he's made it more comprehensible and easier to enjoy.
The differences between the two incarnations are by no means major. Both of them are luminous florals determined not to allow the hue of a single petal to dominate any of the others. Sweet peas, freesias, roses, jasmine and gardenias are all somewhere in the mix, intent on blurring the boundaries between themselves, so that they create a mirage-like uber-bouquet. They both feature that disconcerting green note: it hovers somewhere between herby salad dressing, grass and leaf sap, seemingly always on the verge of turning the flowers' smile into a leer. However, if the Absolu is friendlier - and I'd assert that it is - that's probably because Ellena has taken the fruit note of the first version and made it rounder, fleshier and more prominent. The effect is most pronounced at the scent's opening, where the floral aspects are juxtaposed with an edible, jammy, peach + apricot facet (a riposte to those who say fruity florals are beyond the pale?) which in turn serves to bring out the sweet citrus components. The original Jour was fairly sweet anyway, but here, in Absolu, the sugar is thicker.
This serves to make this new olfactory expression of a single day more pleasurable, but also more static. If the Jour D'Hermès edp is the story of a gentle progression from one hour to the next, then the Absolu is a pause for reflection and an opportunity to stop and lick the confiture off the teaspoon. Maybe you can't have both happiness and dynamism at the same time. But then perhaps you shouldn't even try. Some days are for movement; others are for stillness. Jour D'Hermès Absolu is a commendable celebration of the latter.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Hermès in 2014.]