The weather has hit the high nineties in my part of the world, complete with dense humidity and hot skies. It is steamy and hot, and we just spent a weekend with friends at their lake house. The house has a huge, high-ceilinged screened porch with two swinging daybeds suspended from its beams and ceiling fans rotating lazily above. I spent most of Saturday lounging on one of those porch swings, reading and looking out over the lakeshore where my teenagers alternately baked themselves in the sun and dipped into the water. And boy, was I in the mood for Un Jardin Sur le Nil! I spritzed myself with it liberally throughout the day and just basked in its green mango and lotus flowers. This fragrance truly blossoms in summer heat and humidity.
Citrus-based fragrances are not usually high on my list but perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena is a magician with grapefruit. The opening of Un Jardin Sur le Nil is my favorite part of the fragrance — a gust of grapefruit and green mango that I find very refreshing and alluring. The entire impression is very green, which likely comes from notes like bulrushes, tomato leaf and carrot, with that wonderful fruity-but-not-sweet opening. It is a different green than most “green florals”, though light floral notes emerge as the citrus dries down.
The story of Un Jardin Sur le Nil and its creation has been masterfully told by Chandler Burr, first in this story in The New Yorker and then in longer book form, in The Perfect Scent.
After experiencing Un Jardin Sur le Nil on such a steamy, hot, humid day, I am appreciating its charms anew. In such an environment, it wafts off the skin in gentle waves of fresh coolness, as if one is about to sip the most delicious, refreshing drink in a green oasis. After the green mangoes and watercolor floral notes, the sycamore and incense notes at the base lightly suggest exactly the kind of setting in which I found myself this weekend: a wooden porch looking over a body of water, a humid breeze, a daybed heaped with pillows, ceiling fans turning gently above. In other words, there is a suggestion — just a soupcon, really — of this kind of room at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt, where the Hermes team stayed during part of their exploratory journey:
Others have described and reviewed Un Jardin Sur le Nil in much more expert terms than I, and I encourage you to read The Perfect Scent, as it opens a window into the arcane world of perfumery in both Paris and New York. If you want to try the fragrance itself, I suggest that you try it on a hot summer day, when it truly comes into its own.