Hermes Caleche Soie de Parfum fragrance review

Hermes Caleche perfume

Calèche was released by Hermès in 1961, and for many years it was their best-selling women’s fragrance. It was created by nose Guy Robert, and includes bergamot, mandarin, orange blossom, aldehydes, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, gardenia, iris, ylang-ylang, oakmoss, sandalwood, cedar, and vetiver.

In 1992, Hermès released Calèche Soie de Parfum, a reformulated version that they hoped would appeal to a younger, more modern consumer. According to Women’s Wear Daily (3/27/1992), they "heightened and brightened" the floral notes, and cut back on the powdery wood notes. That is the scent I am reviewing today. I have never tried the original parfum, and I have no idea if it has been reformulated as well. If you know, please comment!

The Soie de Parfum starts slightly harsh, as aldehydic fragrances sometimes do. Within a few minutes the harshness fades, and the bergamot and orange blossom make a brief appearance. After that, it smells like a soapy aldehydic floral. It is very soft, and no one particular note stands out, it just smells like floral soap — albeit, very expensive floral soap, the sort of soap that under normal circumstances, I probably could not afford.

As it dries down, the soapiness fades a bit, and the iris and sandalwood intensify, giving it a smooth, silky, almost-powder finish. It is classified as a floral woody chypre, but if that scares you, fear not: the earthy and mossy notes that typically announce a chypre are extremely subdued, even in the dry down. It smells elegant and sophisticated in a very quiet way, without hitting anyone over the head about it. Despite the reformulation, it has an old-fashioned feel, but unlike some of the classic aldehydic florals, it doesn't feel out of place for casual wear, and it is not in the least heavy or overpowering.

The Soie de Parfum is sometimes listed online as Eau de Parfum. Calèche is also available in Eau de Toilette, Parfum, and in a full range of body products. It is available at Hermès boutiques, major department stores and many of the online discounters.

Tomorrow: Calèche Eau Delicate.

Note: image via Images de Parfums.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember loving Calèche when I tried it, and always wondered what this so-called Soie de Parfum was, whether it was just another concentration or whether it was another scent entirely. Hmm, now I think I'm not so interested. Thanks for the review, R!

  2. Anonymous says:

    T, it is another concentration, close to EdP…but also reformulated. But I really do wonder if they left the parfum & EdT alone…wouldn't be surprised if they have all been altered since 1961. Everything else has!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great review, R! I am curious about the difference between this and other concentrations. I remember trying Caleche from about 10 years ago and thinking that it was remarkably different–with more iris and a touch of cool aldehydes. It was not soapy either. Will make sure to try other concentrations.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Caleche soapy? I wore this constantly in the early 90's and loved it. I have not tried this new formulation. I think the original is perfect just the way it is. :)


  5. Anonymous says:

    V, I am constantly surprised by the differences in how people describe perfume. I have been told by several people that they don't find the Soie de Parfum at all soapy, and have to wonder if it is my nose, or just a difference in how we use the term “soapy”. It smells exactly like a very expensive hand soap to me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi R! See my answer to V above. I am going to have to try the parfum & EdT and see if it they are soapy to me too. It might just be a difference in how we perceive “soapy”.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There's so many of the Hermes I've yet to try – and I always forget about Caleche. Thanks R, I think I really need to look into this house more than I have :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    When asked my favorite house, I rarely answer Hermes, but I don't know why because in fact they do make many of my favorite fragrances. I think they are under-rated, apparently even by me!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I love how you describe it: “It smells elegant and sophisticated in a very quiet way, without hitting anyone over the head about it. ” You just described my ideal perfume :-) Must sample Caleche now.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey R! Great review as always. I wore this when I was younger and my husband called me an old lady when I wore it back then- sad because I still love it and now I am almost an old lady. It is a comforting yet elegant perfume and the soie de parfum is a fab concentration and it lasted on me for a long time. I need to dig up one of my remaining bottles at the back of my collection – somewhere….


  11. Anonymous says:

    M, will look foward to seeing your opinion on Perfume-Smellin' Things!

  12. Anonymous says:

    N, my husband has learned that calling something “old lady” brings on more trouble than it is worth, LOL! It is not my favorite comment, since I am also closing in on old lady status myself ;-)

  13. Anonymous says:

    Had to laugh. Today I made a mistake and wore Ormonde WOMAN instead of Ormonde MAN (from the samples pack). Hey, it was 6 a.m., lights were low, eye glasses were in the bedroom. The first thing someone said as I entered the office: “What's that old lady smell?” HORROR! T'was me! Later in the day I admitted it. Apparently, there are old man equivalents too R: whenever I wear Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet (a favorite), a certain someone says I smell like a “sophisticated old gentleman.” “Sophisticated”: FINE. “Gentleman”: FINE. But “Old”….like you, I get furious. HA!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hey K, LOL! But I'm still surprised that anyone would call Ormonde Woman an old lady scent! It smells so modern to me. How are the rest of the OJs working for you?

  15. Anonymous says:

    I JUST started with the OJs: I tried Isfahan yesterday and liked it alot (but it disappeared quickly). I only used half a vial so will try it again. It reminded me of Incense by Matthew Williamson. The Ormonde WOMAN was just the opposite; egads! it lasted all day and seemed to intensify as time went on…I could almost sense the swirls of perfume rising up from my body and lingerging in a fog about my person! HA! Today was Monday, I had a headache…NOT a good day to judge a new scent! K

  16. Anonymous says:

    You are not the first person to complain about Isfahan's lasting power, but I just don't understand it. It lasts forever on me.

    I hardly remember the MW Incense, actually, except that I liked it but didn't love it. Wish I could remember why, incense is usually one of my favorite notes.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Oh R ITA and he knows that it means trouble for him and I too hate that term but for him, it apparently really reminds him of a fragrance that his grandmother wore regularly. She must have been a chic lady.

  18. Anonymous says:

    LOL — yes, a very chic lady, and so her age is immaterial ;-)

  19. Anonymous says:

    I love Claeche and HIris. I love them because they are clean scents that never seem too strong. They just blend in with my skin. Hermes makes great body products and there really needs to be a body cream to go with Hiris.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Agree with all of that :-)

  21. Anonymous says:

    This review prompted another look(sniff?) at Caleche, a scent I remembered liking. So, at Christmas time while shopping at Neiman-Marcus In San Francisco my wife sprayed a little on her hand and said, “check this one. It's Caleche” We both liked it and I purchased it later for one of her Christmas gifts.

    As you described it is initially soapy and ,almost offensive, like liquid soap in an airport restroom. But wait! After about 30 minutes it comes into its own and that powdery dry-down comes forward. It is very tailored and versatile and could be worn day or night dressy or casual. Elegant but not prissy. Best of all quite feminine and sophisticated.

    She loves it too and wears it all the time as she often does with a new scent. Thanks for a well written review!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Glad Caleche has found another fan :-)

  23. Anonymous says:

    I was particularly intrigued by you 'soapiness' comment precisely because this is one perfume that NEVER goes 'soapy' on me! Almost every other perfume on the market gives off a very overpowering chemical soapiness on me after about 3 minutes. Sales staff members are always skeptical until they smell for themselves, and then they totally agree with me.

    I have used Caleche since it came out and love it. I usually spray a little onto a small piece of tissue and insert down each bra cup. This is because the paper holds the scent for days, whilst my skin loses it within the hour. (Except soapy ones; these I can't even scrub off -ugh!!!) It is our own skin chemical makeup that contributes to a perfume's final waft -which is why none of us smell the same when wearing one -and this must also be a headache for designers of!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Zannah-bt, it is very possible that it is soapy on me and not on you, but it is also possible that we simply mean different things by “soapy”. I'd never describe Caleche as having an “overpowering chemical soapiness” — it's soft & lovely :-)

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