Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

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.

Hermes Un Jardin series

Un Jardin fragrances, by Hermes; image from http://www.hermes.com.

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”:

Wooden water taxi in Venice lagoon landscape

Venice water taxi; image from http://www.bookvenicewatertaxi.com

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.

Photo collage of Venetian island garden and Hermes perfumer Christine Nagel

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?

Bottle of Hermes fragrance Un Jardin Sur La Lagune in Venetian landscape

Un Jardin Sur la Lagune; image from http://www.hermes.com

Scent Sample Sunday: The Merchant of Venice

Scent Sample Sunday: The Merchant of Venice

I’m ba-a-a-a-ck! I’ve been in and out a lot this summer so haven’t posted as regularly here as I normally do, but summer is officially over in this part of the world. Just the leisure, not the weather! It still hits 90 degrees F daily; the humidity is, if not oppressive, onerous; and the sun is still so strong that lavish applications of sunscreen are still required for palefaces like me. But yes, summer is over. My oldest child has finished her theater apprenticeship and will move into her first independent apartment by the end of this week. My second child moves back into her campus apartment to start her senior year of college. And my “baby”, the young man who is taller than any of us, starts his senior year of high school this week. Orientation for new students at the university where I work begins tomorrow, and we have a new Dean I’ve only met in passing. So it’s the start of a big year for us, and yes — summer is over.

My university job is in administration, so I do work in my office all summer, unlike my faculty colleagues, but I’ve been able to go with my husband on two lovely trips he took for work, one to London in May, and the other, more recently, to Italy. After his work there, we took an extra week of actual holiday for him and visited Florence and Venice, neither of which we had seen before. It will take several posts to describe all the perfume-related activities I did in Florence, so I’ll start off with Venice, where I was a bit more restrained! Venice, however, was also where I was able to visit the perfume exhibit at the Palazzo Mocenigo.

Entrance hall of Palazzo Mocenigo, perfume museum in Venice, Italy

Palazzo Mocenigo entrance hall; image from http://www.veneziaautentica.com

 

This is a relatively new “itinerary” at the museum, and it is well worth visiting. The Palazzo Mocenigo itself is very interesting as an example of a Venice palazzo (short video tour here), and right now it also contains three temporary exhibits, one of which is part of the Venice Biennale: “Brigitte Niedermair: Me and Fashion.”  (For more information about Ms. Niedermair, there is a great article in Wallpaper).

The other two, smaller exhibits are related to perfume: one, “Leonardo: Genius and Beauty,” is described thus:

A little-known aspect of Leonardo da Vinci will come to light in this exhibition organised to mark the fifth centenary of his death: his work as a cosmetologist and perfumer, dedicated to the creation of fragrances and cosmetics. A reconstruction of the lively network of exchanges between the major Renaissance courts enables us to learn of the experiments and recipes for cosmetics that Leonardo shared with the most important female figures of the day. Also on show will be pioneering recipes for depilatory ointments, creams made from snail slime and hair dyes. Leonardo even influenced hairstyles: “Da Vinci knots” are found in many paintings in which hairstyles are embellished with jewels, nets and perfumed fabrics. At the court of Ludovico il Moro in Milan, Leonardo organised parties, designed clothes and costumes, as well as inventing fabrics, jewels and perfumes. The exhibition will highlight the link between Milan and Venice: two cities where the use of perfume was widespread and hairdressers commonly sold cosmetics and perfumes. A specific role in the service of the court was dedicated to a “magister of perfumes”, who procured for the ladies little phials of mixtures for bleaching the hair, a very popular fashion in Venice.

Leonardo: Genius and Beauty.

The other temporary exhibit related to perfume is “Carnet de Voyage: Illustrated Perfume.” It is sponsored by the fragrance line “The Merchant of Venice”, and it is a series of illustrated poems relating back to several of the line’s perfumes, imagining the voyages of an actual Venetian merchant seeking out rare substances to bring back to Venice for the creation of perfumes. Yes, it’s a bit of an infomercial, but a charming one, and I appreciate the support the company is giving to this small museum.

The main, and permanent, perfume exhibition at the palazzo is contained in several rooms upstairs. There is also a perfume laboratory on the ground floor, where one can take a perfume workshop.  The museum’s website includes a detailed description of the perfume exhibit.

I enjoyed all of it, but especially the room devoted to raw ingredients, many of which were beautifully displayed in glass containers on a huge table where one could actually smell them.

Another highlight was a 19th century Venetian perfumer’s organ, a beautiful piece of antique furniture in its own right, apart from its functional interest.

So of course — what does one need as a souvenir of this visit? Why, a fragrance from The Merchant of Venice, of course! On our day trip to the island of Murano, home of the famous glassblowers, we had lunch on a canal directly opposite The Merchant of Venice store. Sadly, it was closed and not due to open until after we planned to return to the city, but it’s a beautiful store with many of its striking Murano glass bottles displayed in its window.

Luckily for me, one of my favorite online fragrance discounters just happened to have some of the same bottles, in tester format, on sale, so when we returned home, I ordered Flower Fusion. It is part of the “Murano Collection” and comes in a really pretty glass bottle swirled with streamers of blue within the clear glass. Top notes are listed on the brand’s website as jasmine, freesia, and ylang-ylang; heart notes are vanilla, patchouli, and labdanum; base notes are damask rose, violet petals, and ginger. Fragrantica lists most of the same notes, but in a different order: top notes are said to be lemon, violet, and ginger; middle notes rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, freesia; base notes labdanum, patchouli, vanilla.

I definitely smell freesia as a strong top note, and since that is a lemony floral smell, I think that’s the source of the lemon note listed on Fragrantica. I do perceive that the jasmine and ylang-ylang follow close on its heels, and then the vanilla makes itself known in the middle stage. I would say that the rose and ginger are part of the middle stage, to my nose, with a hint of violet. The labdanum is also perceptible during the middle stage. This middle phase is very appealing if you like floral scents but don’t want something heavy. I can’t say that it smells quite like anything else I’ve tried recently. As it continues to dry down, the rose, vanilla, labdanum and ginger notes persist, and they combine beautifully. The patchouli emerges, but it does not dominate; it adds a green herbal note to the composition.

I like Flower Fusion very much, and it is perfect to wear on a balmy summer evening. The warmth and humidity suit it, although it might be a bit much at the height of the day, when something like Un Jardin Sur le Nil would probably be my preferred choice. The vanilla lends it a pleasant sweetness without turning it into a gourmand. It lasts well on my skin, perceptible even after several hours, and it would probably last longer if I sprayed more (I tend to spray pretty lightly).

Bottle of Merchant of Venice fragrance Flower Fusion with Murano glass earrings and Massimo Ravinale scarf based on Leonardo da Vinci

Flower Fusion with Murano glass earrings and “Leonardo” scarf by Massimo Ravinale.

Have you visited Venice? The Palazzo Mocenigo? Have you tried any of The Merchant of Venice fragrances? If so, what did you think? Or, have you been able to do any “perfume tourism” of your own this summer?