I said when I reviewed Épice Marine that a new fragrance in the upscale Hermessence range from French house Hermès always makes me happy, even when I don't love the juice. Part of the reason is that they rarely bore me, and another factor is that the relatively easy availability of the 15 ml bottles means I can get some if I want it.1 So the news of the latest (and the 12th in the series), Cuir d'Ange, was welcome, although I find now that every new fragrance from Hermès brings with it a little twinge of anxiety: will it be the last from house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena? (Please, Mr. Ellena, don't retire just yet.)
I tend to divide the Hermessences into three categories: the few I don't care about at all (sorry, Paprika Brasil), the few that I need in 100 ml (Osmanthe Yunnan!), and the rest, which I generally need in 15 ml (Vanille Galante, for instance). Sometimes I'm wrong, of course; I think I'm now on my third 15 ml bottle of Vetiver Tonka and my second of Rose Ikebana, and I'm heading fast towards another bottle of Brin de Réglisse. Cuir d'Ange, for now, is going in the 15 ml category — I'd like to own some but I'm not at all sure I'd run through 100 ml. Of course, the likelihood at this point of my running through 100 ml of anything is pretty slim.
So Cuir d'Ange was inspired by the delicate leathers in the Hermès workshops, and as I said in the fragrance announcement, you may remember that Ellena styled the soft leather notes used for Kelly Calèche as "cuir d'ange" — angel leather, after a phrase from Jean Giono's novel Jean le Bleu. But the first thing I thought of on smelling Cuir d'Ange was not Kelly Calèche, but another, much older Jean-Claude Ellena fragrance, Frédéric Malle L'Eau d'Hiver — Cuir d'Ange could be its leather flanker or somesuch.
The opening is bright zesty citrus, already peeking towards the leather at the base. It's not, for those of you who are serious leather fiends, your standard perfume leather with its rough edge of birch tar, that said, it does smell leathery, or perhaps in perfume-speak, something closer to suede. So a soft leather, yes, but more direct and focused than the leather in Kelly Calèche, and a leather gently perfumed with the cloudy-grey, velvety flowers of L'Eau d'Hiver: iris, hawthorn, heliotrope. (They're using a lovely creamy tan on the bottle caps, see below, but the juice reminds me of the pale "flax blue" of the Hermès briefcase shown above.) It's musky and lightly sweet, and a touch powdery. If you can imagine a leather comfort scent, this would be it.
Cuir d'Ange, like many of the Hermessences, is not a powerhouse in terms of sillage or lasting power.
Verdict: Cuir d'Ange is lovely and I suspect it will be a big hit with fans of the Hermessence series, men and women. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin noted that it "doesn’t smell like a perfume but rather like a second skin", and that's apt; it made me think of what the softest leather jacket might smell like in the morning, with the remains of last night's powdery floral perfume lingering on the lapel. It's going right on my buy list.
The quick poll: what note or raw material do you wish would join the Hermessence series next? I'm still waiting for jasmine.
Hermès Cuir d'Ange is available in 15,1 100 (€185) or 200 (€299) ml Eau de Toilette. A leather sheath for the 100 ml bottle is sold separately.
I am not sure when Cuir d'Ange will launch in the US, but it is already available on several Hermès websites (I did not do an exhaustive search, but found it on the sites for France, Spain, Canada).
1. The 15 ml bottles are sold in "discovery sets", 4 bottles per set. So you can't buy them separately, but it's not all that hard to find people to split sets, and single bottles turn up on eBay from time to time.