Hermes Eau d’Hermes ~ fragrance review

Eau d'Hermès

I first encountered Eau d'Hermès at a huge perfume emporium in Tijuana, Mexico, when I was very young. I sniffed Eau d'Hermès and recoiled, thinking: “It smells filthy!” Over a decade later, on a whim, and at a steep discount, I up and bought a bottle of Eau d'Hermès. I hadn’t smelled it since Tijuana, and this time I loved it. Perhaps age (and feverish buying and sampling of fragrances for years and years) had altered my opinions of ‘difficult’ perfumes and helped me appreciate the “underside” of fragrances: the musks, the indoles, the rude spices.

Legend has it that perfumer Edmond Roudnitska aimed to capture the scent of an Hermès handbag, its insides, with Eau d'Hermès. Right now, I’m retiring my own “handbag” — a big black leather thing that I’ve had for at least fifteen years. My bag used to be handsome, “fit” and trim; now its zippers are failing, it’s more gray than black, and it’s “flabby” after years of being stuffed with my stuff. I call it my Blood (it’s been to the hospital with me many times), Sweat (so many trips to hot places) and Tears (lots of losses occur in fifteen years) Bag.

Though it’s old, my bag smells pretty good. I've used it to transport more perfume samples and perfume bottles than I can remember. Candy plays a part in my bag’s scent: there’s chewing gum, chocolate bars, and Choward’s Violet mints tucked into an inside compartment. My bag still has a faint leather scent because I’ve moisturized that bag as much as I have my own skin (and that’s a lot). I’ve kept food out of my bag…except for an occasional orange or tangerine. SO: if you could shove your face inside my bag you’d smell: spices and flowers, citrus, candy, leather, and hints of scent from cosmetics I use – like my honey lip balm and lavender-tea tree-eucalyptus hand sanitizer.

OK…I’ll admit it. My bag has a “tough”/rough-around-the-seams vibe too; how could it not after 15 years of almost-daily use? My bag’s held onto residual (rather “piquant”) background aromas — from old books, money (paper and coins), pencils, and even handkerchiefs I’ve used to wipe my face and then threw into the bag until I got home….or till I “found” them weeks later…my bag is big). I’ve held that bag in my hands,  used it as a pillow, hugged it on crowded subways; it has absorbed my DNA and smells like me.

And Eau d'Hermès smells a bit like my bag: for one thing, it does not conjure the scent of a NEW bag. Eau d'Hermès opens with strong bergamot and cinnamon-cardamom (do NOT think “sweet, candy cinnamon”…think cinnamon sawdust). Lots of Eau d'Hermès wearers (and haters) note the presence of dusty cumin in the perfume; I agree there’s a cumin-like aroma percolating, but this “dirty” note reminds me more of pungent, arse-kicking cedar-civet than pure cumin. In mid-development, Eau d'Hermès introduces a quiet, but intense, jasmine. As the jasmine begins to shine under all those spices, Eau d'Hermès comes alive for me; it gives me, I’ll admit without so much as a blush, a thrill. The heart notes also provide the leather accord in Eau d'Hermès — a soupçon of birch, bold cedar, musk, a wonderful woody vanilla-tonka combo, and (what smells like) “salty” skin (human skin, not calf skin). The addition of the “human” element (almost 'acrid') to Eau d'Hermès’ leather is an ingenious, and audacious, touch, whether inspired by a real person and purse or by Roudnitska’s imagination.

I’ve compared the perfume from an old bottle of Eau d'Hermès to brand new juice; the current version is “smoother” for sure, but the spirit of Eau d'Hermès remains the same. Though it has a powerful character, Eau d'Hermès is not a strong perfume; it turns silky in the dry-down and stays close to the body (I usually reapply it once during the days I wear it). Tip: I love wearing a drop of narcissus oil with Eau d'Hermès; they complement each other. Eau d'Hermès is available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette for $120.

As for my dear old bag? I won’t be throwing it away, but will store it ‘respectfully’ in the closet next to my bed, its body filled with meaningful items to make it feel useful; I might even spray an old handkerchief with Eau d'Hermès and tuck it inside, too.


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38 Comments

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  1. Dzingnut says:

    Thank you for another great review Kevin – I’ve been interested in this fragrance for awhile, but have never had a chance to sniff it. How would you compare it to Muscs Koublai Khan in terms of “difficulty”? I’ve grown to like MKK, although I still only wear it in the house!

    • Kevin says:

      Dzing: I’d say they’re about equal these days (and thank you!)

  2. datura5750 says:

    I love this scent, thanks for the great review!

    • Kevin says:

      Datura: you’re welcome…it’s been on my review list forever

  3. Sniffing Around says:

    What a great post! I appreciate your reflection on how the things we use everyday–like your great bag, or a favourite pair of gloves, or a treasured scarf–become infused with the scents of our lives. Thank you for a great day-brightener!

    • Kevin says:

      Sniffing around: thanks, glad you liked it

  4. austenfan says:

    Wonderful review. Have never smelled, and I should. I have a lot of fragrances by Roudnitska that I love. ( Diorella, Thérèse )

    • austenfan says:

      I meant to say, have never smelled this. Sorry.

      • Kevin says:

        Austenfan: not many non-Hermes shops stock it so it is hard to sample

  5. mals86 says:

    Lovely review. I hadn’t in the least been interested in this one before, but now I am.

    Do you have a favorite source for narcissus oil? I’ve found it once or twice online but hadn’ t bought any yet.

    • Kevin says:

      Mals: I believe mine came from La Via del Profumo but I’ll check wheni get home

      • Kevin says:

        Mals: it was from Amphora Aromatics in the U.K. It comes UNdiluted which means you must dilute it before daring to put it on skin or it may “burn.” La Via del Profumo makes a great narcissus too…in a 50 ml. spray that’s great for layering. All narcissus (poeticus) oils are expensive, but a little goes a long way. Lots of places that sell “narcissus absolute” say it’s distilled from the “bulbs” or “leaves”…I’d say run from those companies! One wants a distillation of FLOWERS.

  6. Jared says:

    Do you know of any shops in the Seattle area that stock this? This has been on my list of to-try scents for a long time.

    • Kevin says:

      Jared: give the Hermes a call over in Bellevue … At the Bravern

      • Jared says:

        Good call. I don’t get over to Bellevue enough and I think outside of Christmas shopping, it totally slips my mind. Thanks!

  7. Merlin says:

    Ok, so I get it: you don’t have a signature fragrance but you DO have a signature bag;)

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin: yes, I do! (Or did)

      • Merlin says:

        And so the long search begins, Le Sigh!

  8. Ericgmd says:

    Kevin,
    What an outstanding review of one of my most loved, yet most challenging fragrances. My prayers are being answered gradually and I just have to learn to be patient and keep reading NST all these years.
    First you reviewed Bel Ami by Hermes following my suggestion and I applauded you. Then you reviewed LUI by Rochas at my request and you were so right on that I had an out-of-body experience while reading it.
    And now Eau d’hermes. Sp thank you thank you!
    If you would like to read my own review of Eau d’Hermes along with my experience with Hermes fragrances since my early childhood, I do have a very teeny weeny start up blog, I’d be happy to send you the link to it by email.
    (Warning it still needs lots of fertilizer and time…or simply for me to decide to write more than one review)
    I would never post the link on NST without your or Robin’s permission despite the fact that it’s very a propos (and so tempting) for me to do it following your excellent review of Eau d’Hermes today.
    Thanks,
    ERIC

    • Kevin says:

      Eric: indeed I remember your long-term association with Eau d’Hermes (and its bottles!) And, yes, please send me the link.

  9. amarie121 says:

    I think that your bag sounds even more interesting than the perfume! I, too, know that smell of years of mints, makeup, money… The “3 Ms” that mingle with leather and perfume my purses. It’s the scent of the history of our adventures!

    • Kevin says:

      Amarie
      : I should have included a photo of my bag in the post…but time ‘got away’ from me.

  10. perfumebottles says:

    Thanks for a wonderful review of one of my perennial faves. I LOVE Eau d’Hermes. I think it smells elegant yet intimate; fresh yet very human. Would love to smell it on more men and women.

    • Kevin says:

      Perfume bottles: me too!

  11. hollyc says:

    So happy to see a much overlooked beauty from Hermes. On me, it opens brightly with citrus and transitions quickly to cinnamon (very non gourmand though) and loads of cumin, then flowers and then repeat over many hours. I loved it enough to buy a backup bottle and that’s sayin’ somethin’. As far as MKK goes, I find it neither sophisticated nor challenging, at least on me. Mainly I get insipid musk and a nanosecond of a well used saddle from someone who has little acquaintance with soap (my favorite part actually) but it is so fleeting as to be almost nonexistent. Give me Eau d’Hermes any day! Thanks for shining a light on this beauty Kevin. Thank God it hasn’t been scrapped!

    • Kevin says:

      HollyC: I’m assuming it must sell well everywhere but the U.S….I know they sell a $400! bottle! HA! (for those who POUR it on)

  12. mikeperez23 says:

    It’s crazy, I don’t know WHY I don’t own a bottle of this. I tore through a decant of it, years ago, very quickly.

    More recently, this really fun strip club I went to had a bottle of Eau de Hermes in the bathroom (with the bathroom attendant who sells gum, cigarettes, etc…Seriously! The first time I saw it I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s a splash bottle (the ‘new’ juice) and I splashed some on – so now of course I have this olfactory association. Eau de Hermes = Strippers! Nonetheless, I want a bottle. Thanks for letting me know that you’ve compared both vintage and new and you find the new very enjoyable. Good news!

    • Kevin says:

      Mike: hahahaha! Of ALL scents I never would have guessed that one would be used in a strip joint bathroom. Wish you had asked the attendant who brought it in!

  13. Ajda says:

    I never smelled Eau d’Hermes, but I loved reading about your bag!

    • Kevin says:

      Ajda: do give Eau d’Hermes a sniff if you get the chance…several friends this week wanted to smell it after my review and they all enjoyed it.

  14. donanicola says:

    Lovely lovely lovely review, thanks Kevin. This was one of my first “perfumista” purchases after I was alerted to its existence by Roja Dove who was rearranging some Carons in his room at the top of Harrods when I first visited and was happy to chat. I hardly ever wear it as my skin tends to amplify cumin and I feel a little self conscious in it but it is exquisite. Somebody (don’t know who) described it as smelling like Robert Mitchum’s jockstrap in Grace Kelly’s bag (or something similar).

    • Kevin says:

      Dona: ha! Never heard that one before…but from what I’ve read about Grace she probably transported a few jockstraps in her day

  15. cressetma says:

    I enjoyed the review but am completely desperate to know what is going to replace your retiring bag? Does it have a successor? Selected after long and detailed consideration, or snatched on after a coup de foudre?

    Will put the Eau d’Hermes on the try list too….

    • Kevin says:

      Cressetma: the exhausting search is ongoing

  16. guerlainguy says:

    great review Kevin! I slowly came to love EdH and wore it mostly as a Winter-warm-me-up, but now I love the sexiness of it on a hot and humid August afternoon. Yummy stuff!

    • Kevin says:

      GuerlainGuy: agree…I wear it all year

  17. basia says:

    Thanks for a great review. Wish I could make a bag last 15 years . What a great history it had–perfume AND candy AND books, the loves of my life!

    • Kevin says:

      Basia: it was a tough bag, that’s for sure! Will I find another one as well made?

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