Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Sur le Nil

Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Sur le Nil

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.

Bottle of Un Jardin Sur le Nil fragrance from Hermes, floating on a lotus leaf

Un Jardin Sur le Nil; photo from

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.

Book cover of The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr

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:

Porch of the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt, looking over the Nile River

The Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan, Egypt. Photo:

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.

Bottle of Hermes fragrance Un Jardin Sur le Nil against background watercolor of lotus flowers

Un Jardin Sur le Nil,


May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine

Thank goodness. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the new (and last) Hermessence by Jean-Claude Ellena, Muguet Porcelaine. I love his Jardin series very much; the transparency of his fragrances appeals to me although some other perfume lovers do not like it. And I truly love lily of the valley scents, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that Muguet Porcelaine would not disappoint. And it doesn’t.

Before I got my own sample, I read some comments that used words like “cucumber”, “melon”, “watermelon” and even “bubble gum”! No, no, no, I thought, surely Ellena would not play such a cruel joke on perfume lovers who look forward to his new works, or on the lovely lily of the valley flower that has so inspired great perfumers like Edmond Roudnitska, whom Ellena holds in high regard.

He did not. Continue reading

Fragrance Friday: Rosemary

Fragrance Friday: Rosemary

I grow rosemary. I love the small blue flowers, the grey-green evergreen foliage that resembles needles. But most of all, I love the scent of rosemary. Freshly picked and minced, rosemary adds fragrance and complexity to so many dishes. In ancient Greece, rosemary was thought to improve the mind and memory, a belief later supported by some modern studies of aromatherapy. It later came to signify remembrance: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” Ophelia, in Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5. Rosemary was also carried in a bride’s bouquet or worn in a bridal wreath as a sign of fidelity. All in all, an herb and fragrance with many meanings and nuances. Some lovely quotes about rosemary, and its uses, can be found at the blog The Herb Gardener. Even more detailed information about its varieties and culture is at Auntie Dogma’s Garden Spot.

Coincidentally, a fragrance that currently fascinates me also has rosemary among its notes: Diorissimo. I used to wear it many years ago, in the 1980s. Diorissimo is another scent that seems to send the perfume blogosphere into orbit — not because people hate it but because they mourn its reformulation. I loved it because of its strong lily-of-the-valley fragrance, another favorite scent and plant of mine. (I grew my own to carry in my bridal bouquet and for my husband’s boutonniere). I hadn’t realized Diorissimo also has notes of rosemary until I did a search for rosemary-inflected perfumes on Another surprise? It appears in Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Toit, which I am lucky enough to have received as a gift but haven’t tried yet! Can’t wait, as I have loved the other Jardin perfumes. Tomorrow, perhaps?

Rosemary may be having a cultural “moment.” The most recent catalogue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a gorgeous rosemary necklace with patinated metal “leaves” dangling from freshwater pearls. The jewelry maker is Michael Michaud, and his company makes a whole line of rosemary jewelry. I plan to enjoy this moment while it lasts! And maybe I’ll even try today’s Diorissimo.

Photo: Auntie Dogma’s Garden Spot.