This years May day celebrations welcome Hermès’s new fragrance, an ode to the Lily of the Valley, ‘Muguet Porcelaine’, as a new member of the Hermessence fragrance family.
Considered a lucky charm, the French greet one another with a simple sprig or small bunch of the Lily of the Valley. A tradition passed down from King Charles IX who presented the ladies of his court with these flowers, every year on May 1. Lily of the Valley has been named the ‘mute flower’ by perfume experts, its fragrance evading all attempts to capture. Jean-Claude Ellena, the nose of Hermès, has challenged scent in this way for the first time.
The fragrance is fresh and light, a true representation of the spring months. Muguet Porcelaine is the thirteenth fragrance in the Hermessence collection, as if created by the air of spring, the clear, simplicity of the bottle is brought to life by a vibrant green.
The difficulty of producing a viable lily of the valley note becomes all the more significant in light of the fact that Ellena chose to make it the focus of his final effort. And this, in turn, adds poignancy to the perfume’s inclusion in the Hermessence collection, which has, from its beginning, been Ellena’s exclusive playground for technical and artistic exploration. Hermès Muguet Porcelaine comes to us as the final gift in a career that has marked countless enviable achievements. But it’s also the conclusive Hermès composition from an admirer and student of Edmond Roudniska, who created not only the very first scent for Hermès (the sweaty-chested Eau D’Hermès from 1951) but also what is widely considered to be the most heart-breaking lily of the valley perfume of all time, Christian Dior’s Diorissimo (1956). You can see how all these layers and connections tie themselves up in increasingly heavy knots.
I wanted to snatch the fragrance of these flowers from the dawn sky, together with that of the foliage that envelopes them. And then in a cerebral way, I worked on the coolness of the aura, the delicacy of its opalescence and the ethereal nature of its existence.
As an attempt to create a 21st century lily of the valley, Muguet Porcelaine is brave, beautiful and not entirely successful. Presumably in an effort to create an unisex fragrance and to work his way around today’s anti-allergen restrictions, Ellena has decided to create his lily with the help of a melon-like lychee note. This serves to make the muguet not, as the perfume’s name would suggest, more fragile, but more aqueous and perhaps even more insistent. It can’t be denied that the fruity aspect is incongruous, but even while it disappoints with its lack of realism, it impresses with its sheer chutzpah. You can almost picture Ellena in his lab, trying to formulate an epilogue to an illustrious career, cursing the regulations, refusing to be defeated. That determination, the bloody, minded pursuit of a hopeless cause, is what lends the scent much of its beauty. Give it a try!
Hermessence Muguet Porcelaine Eau de Toilette for women and men is available now.