One of the main drawbacks of my Love At First Scent videos is hinted at in their name: they’re all about first impression. I often try to point out during the broadcasts that all perfumes must be allowed to take us on the entirety of their journey at least once before we make firm judgements about them. But of course, the very nature of modern perfumery means that a scent’s initial personality tends to remain largely unchanged during the course of its development: what you get at the start is usually a strong indicator of what you’re left with at the end. However, there are several contemporary fragrances that alter with the passage of time, revealing unexpected facets as they go along, in the manner of compositions from yesteryear. And two recent examples happened to be featured in the same Love At First Scent video: Chanel’s new Exclusif, 1957, and Christine Nagel’s first foray into Hermès’ ‘garden’ series, Un Jardin Sur La Lagune.
The former is, to my mind, less interesting than the Hermès, at least as far as ‘the slow reveal’ is concerned, and I mention it today mainly for the sake of fairness and completeness. As it approaches its drydown, it displays a stronger-than-expected vetivert note next to its musk-laden honey and florals. But it remains a bloodless piece of work, as meaningful as a compliment from someone who certainly has a way with words, but whose opinion you don’t value one bit.
La Lagune is a rather different affair. Its opening of marine lily notes suggests it’s going to do little more than hover above the translucent, upper reaches of the Venetian garden which reportedly inspired Christine Nagel. And while it’s in that territory, you can’t help but read it as a touch simplistic. But as it develops, it appears to travel downwards, easing closer and closer to the ground, until the lily and white floral notes (shades of Le Jardin De Monsieur Li) become more enveloping and - together with the woods in the base - turn into a protective veil. From staring up into the sky, you’re invited to lie down on the earth and absorb the totality of the space around you, feeling all its elements make contact with your skin. Yes, the amber-wood materials in the drydown have probably been overused (Nagel seems to have a penchant for them) but at least they perform a clear function conceptually, and they’re part of a whole that quietly requests to be experienced from start to finish. Love at first scent is all well and good, but there’s no substitute for a long-term commitment.
[Reviews based on samples provided by Hermès and Chanel in 2019.]
PS In apparent contradiction to what I've just written about my live videos, I'm planning (hoping?) to mark the fact that Love At First Scent has reached its 30th episode, by broadcasting a short instalment every day for a week, probably starting next week. Stay tuned to my social media channels for more details.