The olfactory tale of Hermès’ Eau des Merveilles journey began in 2004, when perfumers Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer jointly created the first “water of wonders” — a dreamy scent, luminous and feminine at the same time. It was the first chapter in the enchanted world of perfumery for the French luxury house; an indulgence of fantasy, poetry and child-like innocence. Since then, a whole constellation of fragrances has been created, with the scent storytelling stretching from mischievous woody sensuality (Élixir des Merveilles), across carnal ochre notes (L’Ambre des Merveilles), to the sweet-briny freshness of the ocean (Eau des Merveilles Bleue). The newest star in its universe? L’Ombre des Merveilles, which was created by in-house perfumer Christine Nagel as an exploration of the harmony and contrast between light and shadow. How do you capture the scent of a feeling? How do you bottle what can only be seen? A discussion of the mysterious scent is certainly due, and Nagel shares her creative process in writing yet another chapter of the Eau des Merveilles story.
Do share with us the journey through the years with every new scent for the Eau des Merveilles line. What was the thought process behind each one?
It all started with the first Eau des Merveilles, created in 2004 by Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer, which will always have a special place in my heart. I always thought its formula was radiant, and its accords surprising. They managed to achieve femininity without using a single flower. Since then, a whole constellation has been
created. In 2006, Jean-Claude Ellena created Élixir des Merveilles, joyfully intensifying his magic by enveloping us in the gourmet delicacy of candied orange. Next came the L’Ambre des Merveilles in 2012, which enhanced the collection’s unique and characteristic amber-woody theme with the mystery and sensuality of patchouli and amber. The constellation expanded in 2017 with Eau des Merveilles Bleue, charting a new territory of wonder between sea and sky. A woody-mineral fragrance swept through by ocean spray and warmed through by the rounded, comforting scent of patchouli. A childhood memory, a moment of universal enchantment. With its feet on the ground and head in the clouds, this incredibly feminine and luminous collection unveils a simple and poetic wonder, one that is unique to Hermès.
What was the inspiration behind wanting to capture the scent of light and shade in L’Ombre des Merveilles?
There is no light without shadow, and no shadow without light. This notion of chiaroscuro; shadow and light, always offers us moments of wonder that’s conducive to imagination. Both are reflections of human complexity, especially in our current times. They modulate our existence but are in harmony with each other, creating a whole. Just as in a figurative way, chiaroscuro suggests relief, as the shadows of wonders reveal new light. This is the other facet of the initial architecture behind the luminous Eau des Merveille, and it’s this contrast that inspired me to create the new scent.
Guide us through the notes used. How do they relate to your concept?
I chose to work with new materials, a bit like using charcoals, to chisel and add shade to the original formula. The tonka bean, as black as night, brings sensuality and depth. Light, airy whiffs of incense underscore citrus fruits. Rather than expressing the materials themselves, I wanted to seek out their lightness, their scented swirls, their smoke so light it metamorphoses at the slightest breath of air — the trace of the ingredient than the substance. I also sought out the smoky facets of black tea, binding it with delicate incense; authorising a kind of melting and blending together. It’s the true backbone of L’Ombre des Merveilles; the woody aroma of kohl reveals other luminous notes.
What do you envision when you spritz the fragrance on?
I wanted to provide a moment of grace, like a veil of soft, fine and enveloping cashmere with a faint aroma of incense.
How does the L’Ombre des Merveilles fit in with the rest of the Eau des Merveilles range?
Like a new star! All these creations have points in common. The structure has not changed; I simply worked it a different way. There is an analogy in the work of a diamond cutter who has multiple ways of cutting a stone — into pear, baguette, or heart shapes, for example. That’s how I worked the original formula.
What’s next for Hermès fragrances?
More wonders… that goes without saying.