Friday, 13 June 2014

Persolaise Review: Dior Homme Eau For Men from Christian Dior (François Demachy), Déclaration L'Eau from Cartier (Mathilde Laurent) & Terre D'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche from Hermès (Jean-Claude Ellena)


I still haven't signed up to the policy which says that the arrival of warmer weather means we can wear only light scents. I always enjoy a spritz of sharp citrus on a chilly day (try Mugler's Cologne the next time there's a nip in the air) in the same way that I love covering myself with woods and resins when the sun comes out. But most brands continue to insist that summer is synonymous with 'fresh and breezy', especially when they're aiming new releases at the less adventurous half of the gender divide. Dior, Hermès and Cartier are no exception, as demonstrated by their latest masculines.

Dior Homme Eau For Men - put together by François Demachy - is just about as unconvincing and infuriating as its name. (Why mix French with English? Why shoehorn 'Homme' next to 'Men'?) When Olivier Polge's original Dior Homme edt hit the shelves in 2005, its heart of baked apple and iris sparked a mini-revolution in the composition of men's scents. Since then, its reputation has been rather sullied. The current edt - apparently tweaked by Demachy - is still a commendable piece of work, but the brand's tinkering with various flankers - the Sport version, the Cologne etc - has diminished the status of the original. Sadly, this new Eau For Men does not make amends. It gets off to a promising start: the familiar iris appears, albeit in a dryer, more transparent form. But then the chap that you thought would be a suave smoothie slips into the detergent aisle at Tesco and turns into Mr Generic Man, thanks to a garish citrus accord and a woody drydown which can be described only with the word 'dull'. Had Versace or Dolce & Gabbana released something like this, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. But Dior should know much, much better.

Cartier's Mathilde Laurent also had to look to the past when putting together her latest masculine for the jewellery house. Not unlike Demachy, she was obliged to follow in the wake of a monster hit - Jean-Claude Ellena's influential Déclaration from 1998 - but she had the benefit of prior practice. Four years ago, she put together a Cologne version of the scent and two years after that, she created Déclaration D'Un Soir, a musky rose which made the faintest of nods to Ellena's original. By many accounts, her latter effort turned out not be overly successful, which may explain why her latest take on the Déclaration range - simply dubbed L'Eau - plays it safe. The original's distinctive cardamom-on-musky-wood accord is completely intact, apart from the fact that it's been quietened down and injected with greater luminosity by a twist of lemon at the very top. I confess I can't see why anyone would choose this version over the original, but those who wish that Déclaration's sillage were even more subtle than it is would do well to spend some time with Monsieur L'Eau. He may not be a prize catch, but he makes good company.

All this talk of Ellena neatly brings us to the latest from Hermès. Surprise, surprise, it's a flanker too, but for one thing, it's made by the same person who put together the original incarnation, and for another, it marks the first instance in which the brand has decided to append a new chapter to the lucrative Terre D'Hermès story. As a result, it has attracted considerably more interest than most flankers might. And quite right too. Terre D'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche is precisely what its long-winded name suggests: the elegant, rooty vetivert of Terre - flinty, mineralic and salty - made more exuberant with an application of a classic Ellena 'grapefruit + bitter orange' accord. Imagine the man's own Cologne Bigarade for Frederic Malle placed over the original Terre and you'll get a sense of how much joy fizzes in Eau Très Fraîche. Maybe this is what Pharrell was wearing when he said he felt like a room without a roof...

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PS Whilst I'm making circular connections between past and present, I can't help mentioning Mathilde Laurent's Eau De Cartier - Zeste De Soleil. Although it made its global debut last year (was it Cartier's early hop onto the World Cup bandwagon?) it's only just been released in the UK, ready to feed into the fondest dreams of those hankering for a heatwave. Here's an interesting bit of trivia: the original Eau De Cartier (2001) was reportedly put together by Christine Nagel, who has, of course, joined the aforementioned Monsieur Ellena as co-nose at Hermès... which means Mathilde Laurent has had to revisit the work of not one, but two, perfumers on the payroll of the famous leather maker. Confused? Don't be: this is the sort of stuff scent geeks like me save up for fragrant pub quizzes. The rest of you have a life. But all that aside, Zeste De Soleil isn't an especially memorable addition to the Eau De Cartier range. The Soleil comes in the form of a grapefruit + yuzu accord, which is fine as an idea, but its execution is nowhere near as ebullient as it should be. For one thing, the citrus segment doesn't feel sufficiently natural, and for another, it doesn't rest easily alongside the woody, violet leaf heart (as retained from Nagel's composition). It's more than passable, but I reckon it'll simply raise a few smiles and go the way of some of the other Eau De Cartier flankers: onto the great pile marked 'Discontinued'. Now... I wonder which Cartier alumni Hermès will poach next?

[Reviews based on samples of eau de toilette provided by Christian Dior, Cartier and Hermès in 2014.]

Persolaise

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