Voyage d'Hermès is the latest from perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena at Hermès. Reportedly he wanted the unisex fragrance to say "It's calling to me" rather than "It reminds me"; that is, Voyage d'Hermès — unlike the Jardin series — is not intended to evoke any particular place or time. Hermès is calling Voyage a fresh musky woods, but so far as I know they have not released a list of notes — presumably in keeping with the intention that "this perfume would not smell of a kind of wood, a flower, a particular raw material, but of the unknown in all its glory".1
In the event, Voyage d'Hermès does not remind me of any specific place, but it does remind me of other Jean-Claude Ellena fragrances, so much so that it's tempting to see it as a voyage through his career, with nods to the heritage of Hermès along the way. The opening is green-ish citrus, rather dry and very tart — think of the grapefruit + lime peel citrus in the opening of Un Jardin Sur le Nil (minus the mango) or Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. In Voyage, the citrus sparkles over a generous dose of black pepper, and possibly some ginger as well, and I'm probably dreaming but I would swear that for a moment or two, there's a flash of green tea (Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert). Whatever might be in there, the early stages are lively.
As things calm, Voyage gets woodier and murkier, and we get a brief but strong blast of cardamom that recalls Cartier Déclaration, a scent that if I'm not mistaken was meant as an homage to Edmond Roudnitska's Eau d'Hermès. That goes on its way, and we're left with a light woody musk, still vegetal-green, with pale florals. It recalls water without any of the melon notes of Un Jardin après la Mousson, and there is perhaps a light touch of the mineral base of Terre d'Hermès (the first time I tried it, I was sure, later, I was less sure, but at any rate, Voyage is a fresher, less masculine fragrance).
It is, as advertised, perfectly unisex: anyone could wear it. It isn't my absolute favorite of what Jean-Claude Ellena has done at Hermès so far, but I loved it at first sniff and went right on loving it over the course of subsequent tries. I think fans of his work will be pleased. My guess is that non-fans will not be converted.
For myself, Hermès is not the sort of luxury brand I have any natural affinity for — expensive handbags and silk scarves not being the sorts of things I hanker after — but now, some 6 years after the fact, it seems both brilliant and unlikely that they took on Jean-Claude Ellena as the house nose, and then let him do his thing. There is nothing weird or outré about Voyage d'Hermès, but nor does it smell like the sort of generic dreck we get from so many so-called luxury houses. More than that, there is now a coherence (and dignity) to the Hermès fragrance line as a whole that is utterly lacking from brands that might be thought to have a longer and more precious heritage to protect.
Ok, that was my little side rant. The bottle (designed by Philippe Mouquet, an in-house designer at Hermès) looks brilliant but I have not seen it in person, if you have, please comment!
Hermès Voyage d'Hermès is available in 35 and 100 ml refillable Eau de Toilette spray and in 125 ml refills. It can be found now at Hermès boutiques, and is expected to go into wider distribution in April.
1. All quotes in first paragraph are via the press release.