Hermès – Un Jardin en Mediterranée

Hermès – Un Jardin en Mediterranée


No summer reveries of fig fragrances would be complete without the beauty of Jean-Claude Ellena’s 2003 Un Jardin en Mediterranée. While I would be loathe to try and select a favorite fig scent (or a favorite fragrance for that matter), Un Jardin en Mediterranée takes me the closest to a Mediterranean summer fantasy.

Un Jardin combines all the elements of my olfactory vacation in a bottle: the salty warmth of the sea air, the sparkling bite of citrus, the earthy green tang of figs and the subtle magic of a stroll through a grove of trees warmed by a day full of sunshine.


Un Jardin en Mediterranée is fairly linear. The citrus opening has just a touch of sweetness, a hint of the juicy fig to come.  While one might expect all of this fruit to be cloying for a summer-themed fragrance, the overall effect is very light, true to Ellena’s style. All throughout, woods and light musk lend a subtle twilight quality to the fragrance which keep it subdued and elegant.

Un Jardin en Mediterranée wears close to the skin, lending a sense of intimacy to its character. It is light and fairly uncomplicated, making it a perfect companion for the carefree days of summer. I can almost feel the warm summer breeze blowing through my hair…

Fruity Woods

Notes: Citrus Notes, Orange Blossom, White Floral Notes, Fig, Woods, Musk.


Diptyque – Philosykos

Diptyque – Philosykos


I love the Diptyque line for its ability to marry earthy, natural scents with a refined minimalist elegance. Most of the house’s fragrances work equally well on a man or a woman, and Philsykos is no exception.

Rather than creating an uber-fruity, over the top syrupy fig, Diptyque seems to draw its inspiration from the tree as a whole. From the earthy bark and woody stems, right to the green and slightly dusty fruit. Like other Diptyque fragrances it possesses a fairly realistic green note, reminiscent of wet blades of grass and takes me back to childhood summers spent outdoors.

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The drydown has Olivia Giacobetti written all over it, from the soft veiled layers of fig with coconut, with a gentle hint of sweetness which is never overpowering, even on the most humid of days. While Philosykos is a wonderful summertime scent, it works equally well in the winter months, a reminder of things to come. While I adore the extra sharp bite of the EdT, the EdP concentration is quite lovely, though perhaps a bit rounder than the original – think Sauvignon Blanc versus Chardonnay.

It’s astounding to think that this 1996 release is nearly twenty years old, but perhaps this timeless quality is what makes Diptyque fragrances so successful. Ironically, the Diptyque collection just showed up at my local Nordstrom’s, finally making this house available to a wider audience.


Notes: Fig Leaf, Fig, Coconut, Green Notes, Cedar, Woody Notes, Fig Tree.



Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris


By now you have surely come to the conclusion that perfume is one of my guilty pleasures. The way other people reach for a cocktail when they get home to unwind, I grab a bottle of a different kind and apply liberally to melt away the stresses of my day. I am sure all perfumistas have some fragrance in their wardrobe that is a guiltier pleasure than they would like to admit to. For me, it’s Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris.

While the Aqua Allegoria line started out as an exercise in minimalism, somewhere along the way (i.e. after the departure of Mathilde Laurent), the entire project went haywire, resulting in odd and sometimes abrasive compositions. With a few exceptions, such as this here, many of the fragrances had a light, delicate character that made them good introductory Guerlains.

Not so with Figue Iris. The first time I smelled it, I was slightly horrifed, as I was expecting a light green fig enhanced by magical iris dust. What I got instead was a dense, surreal impression of the inner pulp of a fig: juicy, ripe, heavy and pungent which segued into a very lush (and slightly plastic) iris, with a hint of violet deepened by a rich vanilla. No subtlety, no light romance, just FIG and IRIS in mile high pink letters.

A f ew months went by and I was sorting samples and came across it again, and applied it absent-mindedly. This time I liked it, almost in spite of myself. I admitted my bizarre newfound affection to a fellow collector who was slightly horrified as well, but we agreed that it was no worse than any other fruity floral on the market. I finished my sample and found myself longing for this plush, plastic fig.  Before I knew it, the search was on to try and track down a bottle because this 2008 release had long been discontinued.

While I cannot help but wish Guerlain would have served this up as a traditional perfume and invested the resources to make it more complex, when it comes down to it, it smells really good. While it lacks the sophistication of say a Diptyque or Hermes fig, ironically, this is one of the fragrances that I get the most compliments on when I wear it, which is on rare occasions given that I had to track my bottle down halfway around the world from a seller in Spain who had one to spare.

Fruity Floral

Notes: Citrus, Violet, Iris, Fig, Milky Notes, Wood Notes, Vanilla, Vetiver.


Summer Inspiration

Summer Inspiration

figandbalsamicjam2One of my favorite parts of summer is seeing what delicious fruit pops up at the market. While in most parts of the US, one can purchase a variety of fruits year round, it is quite different than eating fruit at the peak of its season.

One of my favorite summertime treats is fresh figs. While I content myself with the dried variety year-round, nothing compares to the fleshy, succulent goodness of a fresh fig.

As you may well imagine, my love of figs extends to fig-scented products and of course, perfumes. Over the next week I will be posting reviews of fragrances built around a fig note. Are there any fig fragrances you love?







Guerlain – L’Heure de Nuit

Guerlain – L’Heure de Nuit

guerlain l'heure de nuit perfume exclusive

Released in 2012, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the monumental L’Heure Bleue, L’Heure de Nuit is Thierry Wasser’s homage to the classic. The fragrance is striking, a deep blue-hued juice in a classic bee bottle, and yet it seems an odd choice of presentation for such a  prestigious house.

While I applaud the effort on the part of houses like Guerlain to introduce their classics to a younger audience, once you have mastered perfection, it is difficult to match. In fact, any fragrance so sublime as L’Heure Bleue is sure to make anything, let alone a modern flanker, pale in comparison. Had I never smelled L’Heure Bleue, I may have fallen in love with L’Heure de Nuit immediately, but given the circumstances, it is difficult not to make comparisons.

L’Heure de Nuit starts off smelling distinctly like L’Heure Bleue, the gorgeous, luminous orange blossom unfolding into a anisic, almond confection that is pure heaven on earth. But much like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy loses some of its strength when played apart from the rest of the Ninth Symphony, L’Heure de Nuit feels slightly trite without the heft of the original. Absent is the rich powdery veil and the lush oriental base. In its stead, L’Heure de Nuit gets a dose of clean musk, making it feel lighter, cleaner and more modern than its refined older sister. If L’Heure Bleue is an impressionist painting, deep with densely applied colors, L’Heure de Nuit is a starter pack of magic markers: colorful and bright, but light and transient.

While the fragrance is lovely, it lacks the depth which gives vintage Guerlains their classic tenor. The fragrance has good longevity and sillage but again, lighter than the original. While I am thrilled that one of the most beautiful fragrances of all time has not been forgotten, I would prefer to have the original reincarnated in its true form, though as one can tell from the abominable quality of the current version of L’Heure Bleue, the IFRA has made that impossible.

Classic Reinterpreted

Notes: Bergamot, Orange Blossom, Iris, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Rose, Musk, Sandalwood


Hermès – Iris Ukiyoé

Hermès – Iris Ukiyoé

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Irises – Katsushika Hokusai

Jean-Claude Ellena is without a doubt the reigning champion of diaphanous florals. In this, the 9th fragrance from the exclusive Hermessence line, he draws his inspiration from the watery minimalism of Japanese Ukiyoé prints to create an aquatic floral which seems to hover just out of focus, suspended in the air.

The biggest surprise about Iris Ukiyoé is that it smells nothing like the carrot-like, orris root fragrances which many of us are so fond of, like this, this and this. Instead, Ellena focuses on the scent of the iris flower itself, with all of its vegetal lightness. In fact, after the orange blossom opening disipates, Iris Ukiyoé smells more like a true-to-life rendering of Muguet à la Guerlain.


Being a lover of iris’s rooty goodness, I must admit to feeling a sense of slight disappointment at the fragrance’s development, especially given the price tag of the Hermessence line. After repeated testing however the beauty of the fragrance revealed itself, layer by gossamer layer. Now a hint of rose, next a green note reminiscent of cucumbers and green tea, and finally the soft floral veil that Ellena is so adept at.

While the fragrance possesses a sylphlike character, it does possess a subtle tenacity which I find intriguing. Just when I am ready to criticize the fragrance for vanishing, a closer look reveals her clinging to me, beckoning me to a closer inspection.


Notes: Mandarin, Orange Blossom, Iris, Green Shoots, Green Watery Notes.

Hierbas de Ibiza – Agua de Colonia Fresca

Hierbas de Ibiza – Agua de Colonia Fresca


While I am lucky enough to have cobbled together a nice collection of perfumes and samples over the years, I am truly fortunate to have friends that are eager to share their fragrances with me, allowing me to experience scents I may not have otherwise had access to. Some of these are avid collectors, and some have only a few bottles in their repetoire, but the generosity and enthusiasm of each and every one of them is part of what makes the exploration of fragrances so enjoyable.

One such friend introduced me to Agua de Colonia Fresca by Hierbas de Ibiza, a family-operated perfumer that has been creating Mediterranean-inspired scents since 1965. While the group started out small, creating fragrances on a fairly intimate scale, the success of their products has ultimately landed them in prestigious retailers such as Barney’s.

The groups’ self-professed star creation is Agua de Colonia Fresca Hierbas de Ibiza. While the official notes have a dizzying list of citrus, floral and savory notes, the fragrance is fairly straight-forward in execution, consistent with the house’s motto of “simplicity and spontaneity”. Hierbas de Ibiza starts out super sharp and citrusy, with a slight herbal bitterness reminiscent of lemon pith. The fragrance quickly sweetens into a sorbet-like lemon confection but retains its bright, sharp character.  During the drydown, some of the green savory notes make a brief appearance, with rosemary and thyme being dominant.

Then, in what feels like an abrupt about-face, Hierbas de Ibiza largely changes its character in the drydown, transforming into a soft, warm and slightly musky vanilla veil. Given the fragrance’s playful opening and associations with the Mediterranean, I feared it might veer into the suntan-lotion category, but Hierbas de Ibiza’s vanilla is warm rather than sweet. Upon first application, the sillage is bold and viviacious. About an hour or so after the vanilla first makes its appearance, the fragrance is barely detectable, which is my main disappointment with Hierbas de Ibiza. That and the fact that I am not currently in Ibiza wearing sandals, a sundress and a deep suntan while I reapply it.

Notes: orange, lemon, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary, thyme, sage, verbena, geranium, jasmine, orange blossom, cinnamon, and vanilla