One of my Christmas gifts was a bottle of Hermes’ latest “Jardin” fragrance, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. It was created by Hermes’ house perfumer, Christine Nagel, following in the footsteps of Jean-Claude Ellena. M. Ellena famously created the series starting with Un Jardin En Mediterranee in 2003, followed by Un Jardin Sur le Nil in 2005, subject of Chandler Burr’s book The Perfect Scent. (That book started me and many others on our trip down the perfume rabbit-hole!). I own and love all the Jardin fragrances, my favorite being Un Jardin Apres la Mousson.
This latest one was given to me as a souvenir of our first visit to Venice last summer, and a lovely souvenir it is, especially as we stayed in a serviced apartment with its own private garden on an adjoining canal, in a small restored palazzo. “La Lagune” does not refer to just any lagoon; it means, specifically, the Venetian Lagoon, which is the bay of the Adriatic Sea that surrounds the island city of Venice. One of the highlights of our trip was a journey across the Venetian Lagoon in a beautiful old-fashioned water taxi, the kind that remind me of old American “lakers”:
The excursion was arranged by our concierge, to visit a glassmaking factory in Murano; the water taxi met us at the tiny canal-side private dock of the palazzo, reached by opening the massive, ancient water gate doors of its columned cellar, which felt magical even before we had stepped into the boat and zipped through the canals into the open lagoon, with its spectacular views of Venice. Un Jardin Sur la Lagune was created by Ms. Nagel to capture the essence of a “secret garden” in Venice, the Giardino Eden, or “Garden of Eden“, that was created over a hundred years ago on the Venetian island of Giudecca by an Englishman named Frederic Eden.
Christine Nagel and the Giardino Eden; photos by Jenny Lin for Town & Country.
I’m not sure why, but this Jardin fragrance has drawn a lot of criticism online, in spite of several very positive reviews by knowledgeable and experienced fragrance bloggers (e.g., Victoria of “Bois de Jasmin“, who gave it four stars, and Thomas of “The Candy Perfume Boy“). On the other hand, it was not an immediate love for me, so maybe it just takes time to appreciate. I tried it in various stores and on my skin several times before I decided I really do like it very much and wanted a full bottle.
What is it like? It opens with a soft, citrusy, floral chord, a combination of pittosporum and magnolia. Magnolia blossoms smell lemony as well as being white florals, and apparently pittosporum blossoms smell to Ms. Nagel like a combination of orange flower and jasmine. Thomas at “The Candy Perfume Boy” nails it: the overall impression is one of honeysuckle, not magnolia. Right after the opening, madonna lilies join in, together with a saltwater or sea spray scent that is distinctive. I think that is the note that seems to give some people difficulty with the fragrance, especially if they dislike marine or aquatic fragrances; I love it. There is also a note that is not much discussed online; it is samphire, and I had to look it up. Aha! Samphire is a plant that grows near coastlines, including in Italy, along the Adriatic coast, where it is called “paccasassi” and is used in regional cuisine to add a salty, briny flavor to local dishes:
This makes perfect sense to me in reference to Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. I do smell a vegetal, briny note, reminiscent of seaweed but not as strong as seaweed. I think it must be the samphire, also called “saltwort” or “sea fennel”, and I like it very much. It is a unique accord, as far as I can tell, and a very clever one.
As it dries down, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune takes on a more woody and musky feel. This too makes sense, as Ms. Nagel has described how she was fascinated by the roots of the trees in the garden, which had pushed their way through the soil’s surface and formed webs of roots lying on the ground; they look like fishermen’s ropey nets, set aside in a rare moment of respite. (Southern magnolia trees, Magnolia grandiflora, do this even when not planted in an island garden). The wood and musk notes make this a more unisex fragrance, and I think many men would smell wonderful wearing it. It is light and subtle, as are all the Jardin fragrances, but it has excellent staying power.
The description of the launch party in Venice in “Town and Country” magazine (also mentioned in Vogue) is to die for: “A Secret Garden in Venice is the Ultimate Inspiration for Hermes’ New Fragrance.” What I would give to have attended that! But I feel very fortunate to have finally seen “La Serenissima”, especially before the record-breaking recent flood, and I hope to return some day, wearing Un Jardin Sur la Lagune.
Have you tried this, or any of the other Jardin series of fragrances? What did you think? Do you love any of that series, or do they leave you indifferent?