Friday, 15 April 2016

Persolaise Review: Eau De Rhubarbe Écarlate (Christine Nagel) & Eau De Néroli Doré (Jean-Claude Ellena) from Hermès (2016)

Today's review takes the form of a conversation between the outgoing, in-house perfumer at Hermès, Jean-Claude Ellena, and his replacement, Christine Nagel. It is entirely fictional. Probably.


Christine Nagel sweeps into Jean-Claude Ellena's study. She finds him sitting in front of a 50 inch plasma screen, playing a video game.

Christine: I've just had Head Office in my ear, dahling. They want two new colognes.

Jean-Claude: [looking up from his X-Box controller] Colognes? Two of 'em?? Oh, for cryin' out loud! We got plenty of colognes in the collection!

Christine: This is exactly what I told them, sweetie, but they weren't listening. They want two new ones.

Jean-Claude: But there ain't no point in making new colognes. Everyone's just gonna keep wearing the lime one, no matter what we make.

Christine: This is also exactly what I told them. But they want one from me and one from you, and they are totally refusing to budge. [she places a cigarette into a long holder and lights it]

Jean-Claude: Well, I don't need to do another cologne. I've done plenty. I've made one of the best ones of all time. The bitter orange one. Who was that for again?

Christine: Malle?

Jean-Claude: Yeah, that Freddie kid. That was an incredible piece of work, you know what I'm sayin'? Absolutely incredible. And I did the mandarine for Hermès. And the narcissus. And the fresh version of Terre. And the Jardins are kinda like colognes. I ain't gotta prove that I can do 'em. So I ain't gonna make another one.

Christine: But dahling, you know as well as I do that we won't know any peace until we give them what they want.

Jean-Claude: Oh, for cryin' out loud. [flings the controller away] Fine. I got an idea for you: good cop, bad cop. You're good cop.

Christine: I don't follow you, sweetie.

Jean-Claude: You give them what they're expecting. Something easy to like. Happy. Cute. You get me?

Christine: So what will you give them?

Jean-Claude: Death!

Christine: What ever do you mean, sweetheart?

Jean-Claude: Simple. I'll be bad cop. So I'm gonna give 'em death!

Christine: [takes a long puff of her cigarette] Right.

Jean-Claude: So, come on, what's gonna go into your smiling cologne?

Christine: Well, I suppose it would be interesting to work around a vegetable note, rather than a floral.

Jean-Claude: Vegetable? What, like broccoli?

Christine: No, I wasn't thinking broccoli.

Jean-Claude: Zucchini?

Christine: No, dahling. Something tart. Something sharp and sappy.

Jean-Claude: Like what?

Christine: I'm thinking... rhubarb.

Jean-Claude: [after a pause] Yeah, that could work. Add some incense for clarity.

Christine: Yes, and a strong herbal facet, to make sure the whole thing retains its edge. But I'd also include some florals - maybe sweet pea - for a feminine touch.

Jean-Claude: Oh yeah, that's good. That's good. That's what they'll want for the first perfume from Chrissie.

Christine: And then I could bring it all to a close with a soapy drydown, something clean and uncomplicated. 

Jean-Claude: I like it. But you gotta be careful. Bertie did a pretty good rhubarb note for the boys at Aedes. It was awesome.

Christine: Oh, but this will be much simpler, sweetie, much less demanding, much sunnier.

Jean-Claude: And what'll you call it?

Christine: How about... Rhubarbe Écarlate?

Jean-Claude: That works. It kinda sounds like a milky coffee for the drive to work, but I like it.

Christine: And what form will your contribution take, dahling?

Jean-Claude: Death!

Christine: Yes, you've said that already. I was wondering if you might care to elaborate.

Jean-Claude: Well, I've already proved that I can do a classic cologne.

Christine: Yes, you've said that too.

Jean-Claude: So I'm gonna do a cologne where the top notes aren't important. No fizz. No sparks of citrus. No pizzazz. It'll all be about the heart notes.

Christine: And they will be...?

Jean-Claude: Indole. A whole slug of indole. I'll tie them around a simple neroli, but that'll just be an excuse to drown the whole thing in indole. It's gonna be moth ball central, you know what I'm sayin'. Dry. With a texture like paper. And with about as much light as the inside of a coffin.

Christine: Charming.

Jean-Claude: I don't want it to be charming! I want it to be interesting. I want it to make people think: 'Is this from the same guy who made that amazing cologne for that Freddie kid?' I want it to make people realise that the distance between them and their own coffin might be as thin as a satin lining.

Christine: So, I take it you're expecting it to sell in its hundreds.

Jean-Claude: Like I care about that any more! It's my swan song, Chrissie! My final act. I'll be damned if I'm gonna go for the obvious choices.

Christine: Well, yes, I'll give you that. The Cologne Of Death certainly isn't what one would call obvious.

Jean-Claude: It's gonna be one of my last statements for this brand. They started their perfumes with Eau D'Hermès: skanky, dirty, but still kinda civilised. So now I'll finish with my own version of it: kinda dangerous, but light enough to count as a cologne. [he reaches for the controller]

Christine: J-C... may I ask you something, dahling?

Jean-Claude: [pressing various buttons] Shoot.

Christine: Is this really... the last thing you're going to make for Hermès?

Jean-Claude: [chuckling loudly] Don't waste my time with dumb questions, baby. I got another level of this game to complete.

[Review based on samples of eau de cologne provided by Hermès in 2016]



  1. Ha ha, you should write it into a play: "Death of Smellsman".

  2. It seems you had a lot more fun with this post than Jean Claude and Christine while creating the scents. It's great Persolaise! ...and being a great admirer of JC Ellena, I'm dying to try the Cologne of Death ;-)

    1. Thanks, Neva. You know, if ever have a chance to interview JCE again, I'd love to ask him about this Neroli. I'm fascinated to learn what led to its creation. It's a very un-cologne-like cologne.

  3. Love this review! It makes me want to watch the Cohen brother's classic 'Miller's Crossing' :)

    1. Kenyon, it's confession time for me. I love loads of Cohen movies, but I've never seen Miller's Crossing! I must watch it soon.


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