It’s new and from Hermes so already the hint is there that this will be ‘plus elegant, plus classy’. Though designer-perfumer Christine Nagel joined in 2014 (a brilliant contemporary appointment to this classic house), the indomitable grey fox and taste-maker of all that is Hermes fragrance, Jean-Claude Ellena’s handwriting is strong in this devastating new release. And I do mean devastating. This is a one-whiff-on-the-right-man-and-it’ll-have-you-on-your-knees fragrance. Though flagged as appealing to men & women, this has all the hallmarks of maleness. Of distinction. Of gravitas and greatness. Like Monsieur Ellena himself.
It’s theme of creation is the ‘flanerie’, one of those beautiful French words that doesn’t translate so well into English. Directly, ‘aimless idle behaviour’ but the true sentiment of a ‘flaneur’ is of a laid-back other-worldy stroller, taking the time to enjoy the moment. Literally, smell the roses, in an unrushed, unhurried reverie.
Le Jardin de Monsieur Li carries on that fine Hermes tradition of the Perfumes-Jardins (such as Un Jardin sur le Nil and Un Jardin Mediterranee) that is inspired by a type of sensory geography and relate to an Hermes annual theme. Everything at Hermes is considered. Masterful. Unrushed. Like this release. The Colognes Hermes aim to capture a moment in time, a stroll in that reverie, a mood of the moment. Le Jardin de Monsieur Li does this. It captures a carefree evocation. An elegant gentleman’s light, fresh, open, Spring stroll in his own personal pleasure garden. Less idler. More considered time-out. Why chase them when you can let them come to you? The opportunities, the dreams, the women, the pleasures and the power.
Before we even get to this superior scent, its first call to attention is the delicately shaded, muted off-lime hint in its packaging. This is then mirrored in the imperial yellow, graduated shade, tactile bottle with its curves that sit well in a man’s hand. Like any temptress should. This speaks volumes of power. Masterfully weighted, commanding, charismatic and instantly yet discreetly recognisable.
Le Jardin de Monsier Li is a masterclass in control. Ellena, an admirer of all that’s Oriental, travelled to China to immerse himself in the Oriental philosophy of gardens and the soul’s balance and reflection. An earthly paradise in miniature that’s revisited each day, to observe a fresh perspective. A new glimpse of awareness, of understanding. There is no greater power than to know oneself. Le Jardin de Monsieur Li allows the wearer to be master of his own realm. To relay a ripple of understanding. An undulating curl of his character’s considered weight and impact.
“I remember the scent of the pools, of the jasmine, the wet stones, the plum trees, the kumquats and the giant bamboo. It was all there, even the carp in their pond, taking the time to live to a hundred. The Sichuan pepper bushes were as thorny as roses and the leaves gave off a lemony scent. All that remained was to compose this new garden, one which contained all the others.” Jean-Claude Ellena.
Gentlemanly, elegant, refined and tasteful, Le Jardin de Monsieur Li’s opening burst of fresh jasmine and squashy kumquats greets the senses like a spray of intense, sharp deliciousness. There’s a splash of mint in there, too, to add to the watery jasmine. To add just enough coolness and bite like the most devastating of men. Le Jardin de Monsieur Li grabs your attention and holds your gaze. Steelily and intently. Then, just as you think you’ve figured him out, he changes the game plan. Becomes a hint of that former self and dives deeper. Goes underground and becomes something entirely different. The dry down is a balmy woody complexity that’s entirely sensual and holistic. The aura is more than the sum of the parts. Like Monsieur Ellena intended, there’s a vague hint of wet stones, of wet earthiness, of the balance of Yin & Yang. Of nature being controlled and subdued yet held in perfect balance.
This is allegedly the last release in the Jardins series. A pity indeed. But a beautiful fitting end to what’s purportedly the last fragrance from the genius that is Ellena. It’s wistfulness combined with its control and taste is a glorious end to both the Jardins series and to Ellena. Oh my, how we will miss him.
Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li is available in 50ml and 100 ml Eau de Toilette.