One Thousand Scents

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Daily Grind: Hermes Poivre Samarcande

I haven't posted anything in two weeks now, not because I'm lazy (or not just because I'm lazy), but because I've been trying to write about Poivre Samarcande, another in the Hermessences line, and it just keeps eluding me.

Like Rose Ikebana, Poivre Samarcande, created by Jean-Claude Ellena, is light and transparent, but where the former is a rather gauzy floral tied to a brittle grapefruit-rhubarb accord, the latter is composed mostly of pepper and wood. If you were forced to assign genders to them, of course you'd consider the first feminine and the second masculine, but they go beyond that; Ellena seems to be trying to create a little perfumery universe in which scents transcend ideas such as gender and simply exist for themselves. One of the rules of this universe is that a scent isn't going to be big and complex, but is going to feature one or two elements with a few others wrapped around to better showcase them. (I am a little surprised that Ambre Narguilè is in the same line as these two, because compared to them, it is much bigger and more complex; still not a towering composition with fifty or sixty elements, but far more multifaceted.)

The real trouble with Poivre Samarcande is that it's not just simple, or minimal: it doesn't seem to be complete. It's like a doodle rather than a painting, a few random notes tinkled on a piano rather than a fugue. It reads as part of a scent rather than a scent on its own. Rose Ikebana made me think of layering, probably because it wasn't interesting enough to stand on its own, and this one has the same effect.

I've been wearing Poivre Samarcande a lot in the last couple of weeks, and honestly enjoying it for all its limitations: it lasts longer than I'd expect from something so simple, and the big gust of black pepper is bracing. But I can get that from Demeter for a fraction of the price. Again, for $200, I just can't see how this is worth it. I would want a lot more for that kind of money; something nonesuch, something wonderful and magical. Poivre Samarcande, whatever else it might be, isn't that.

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