To be precise, this Etat Libre d’Orange fragrance isn’t just called Hermann. It’s Hermann à mes côtés me paraissait une ombre, a line from a poem by Victor Hugo. Translated, that means “by my side, Hermann seemed to me like a shadow.” Here, we’ll stick simply to Hermann.1
“Perfume as shadow” is a beautiful way to describe the feel of a dark, cool, sheer fragrance. To me, Hermann fills the bill. It also leans masculine and is almost infuriatingly persistent. Perfumer Quentin Bisch developed Hermann. Its notes include blackcurrant buds, black pepper, galbanum, calypsone, geosmin, frankincense, pepperwood, petalia, rose, patchouli and ambroxan.
Hermann kicks off as tart and green and piney as I imagine the forest to be through which Victor Hugo’s protagonist rode. Imagine the new, pale green tips of a fir’s branches, almost citrusy, and you get the idea. This green veil loosens to reveal rose sweetened by amber. Most people won’t think of Hermann a rose perfume, though. The rose is more like the peg that anchors the rest of the fragrance. Underlying this is a large helping of sheer incense.
Hermann isn’t as viscous as my description makes it sound. Lots of incense-inflected fragrances have a textural depth that is almost three-dimensional. You feel like you can touch them. Think of Tauer Perfumes L’Air du désert marocain, for example. You can almost take a bite out of that one and chew.
By contrast, Hermann is cold and sheer, like an Eau de Cologne. Its forest-like feel hints at the freshness of lavender, and — at least in its opening hour — its tartness makes it bracing. The rose and amber at its center soften its edges a bit, but this is no cream puff of a perfume.
Where Hermann is not like Eau de Cologne is in its skin-stickiness. I put a dab of Hermann — seriously, at most a milliliter — on both wrists yesterday before breakfast. I wore it to work, where I washed a week’s worth of coffee cups; put on land lotion; walked home in the pouring rain, no gloves; and took a bath. When I went to bed, I still smelled tangy incense on my wrists.
Although Hermann has a lot of presence, I can imagine men who don’t generally go in for fragrance liking it. They might see it as “clean” and “not perfumey,” although I think it has more interest than that. Besides being a gateway scent, it would also make a good everyday, put-it-on-and-forget-it scent for someone who likes green, traditionally masculine fragrances.
Etat Libre d’Orange Hermann à mes côtés me paraissait une ombre Eau de Parfum is $85 for 50 ml and $149 for 100 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Etat Libre d’Orange under perfume houses.
1. Which would be a really cute name for a dachshund. Someday we should do a post on pets named after perfume.