Hermann at my side seemed to me a shadow.
Fantastic (albeit lengthy) name for a greener than green scent.
Blackcurrant buds, black pepper, galbanum, calypsone, geosmin, frankincense, pepper wood, petalia, rose absolute, patchouli, ambroxan.
Hermann A Mes Cotes Me Paraissait Une Ombre (which shall henceforth be known in this review as Hermann) takes its inspiration from the Victor Hugo poem “What Two Horsemen Were Thinking In The Forest” and on their website, Etat Libre d’Orange pose the rather interesting question “Who goes beside you into the forest on the darkest night?” and it is surely this fragrance that they intend as the answer.
Hermann opens with deep, dark greenery. It’s a verdant forest we have wandered into; leathery leaves and pine needles brushing your face as if you have just emerged into Narnia. The sky is obscured, instead you are hemmed in by greens and browns on all sides. You can smell the sap of the plants as they break beneath your feet, the loam, the mud. It’s so fresh, so utterly realistic and natural smelling that you will be forgiven for losing yourself in the woods.
Hermann is relatively linear as fragrances go, but there is something really haunting about the composition which we have found hard to shift. Whilst at Esxence this year, we happened to pick it up from the wide range of bottles on the Etat Libre d’Orange stand, and whilst some of the others were lovely, it is Hermann that has managed to lodge itself in the brain and refuses to be budged.
Once the scent has had chance to settle on skin it feels like it starts to grow roots and insinuate itself around you. There’s a cucumber-like greenness, in equal parts bitter and sweet, and this lurking freshness that feels as if the forest has just had the dousing of a rain shower moments before. Right at the back of an inhalation there’s something that smells a little like mint which gives the illusion of clear, cool air. It’s autumn in the world that Hermann inhabits, the nights are drawing in and there is a chill about them.
Once the fragrance was fully established, we were able to discern a peppery tone and the most wonderful, loamy earthiness which again smells thoroughly realistic. If you close your eyes and inhale you can start to feel the mud moving slightly under the leather of your boots, you can practically hear the rain dripping from leaves and boughs and you can smell the mossy, woody greenery all about you. This fragrance is the scent equivalent of the colour palette of dense woodland.
There’s an interesting sweetness that plays about in the fragrance at times, especially further along into the wear. It calls to mind fresh plant growth. This works beautifully alongside a delicate wet pebbles nuance that is observable when you really sit and study the scent. There’s even the idea of some leathery boots thrown in for good measure. It is easy to imagine that you are sat by a stream in the deepest, darkest woodland, hearing the water babbling its own secrets.
Despite the forestry tones, this isn’t a threatening scent. This doesn’t feel like the sort of forest where witches and wolves and things that go bump in the night will scrobble you. Instead it feels very natural, restorative, and calming but under all that is this haunting quality that is beguiling and addictive. It could be the rose absolute play here, but it is hard to say if this comes from one note alone or a combination. Either way it adds just a little piquancy to the scentscape to stop it being too trite. Or maybe this is Etat referencing the pull that nature holds over all of us, and urging us to get back to it?
Etat Libre d’Orange are masters of the illusory art of fragrance, and in Hermann they have managed to conjure a forest very convincingly. Wear this when you need to escape from the urban commute and return to your roots.
The other stuff
Hermann is a very strange fragrance which some days feels as if it sticks around forever and others feels like it is gone in a flash. On average the longevity is moderate, sticking about for 4-5 hours or so.
Projection of this scent was also moderate. We felt that it went to under handshake distance, but further than hugging distance.
Hermann sat more towards the stereotypically masculine end of the spectrum, but as always wear whatever you like whoever you are.
We felt that if you liked Herman you may also enjoy PG 9.1 Komorebi or Eiderantler from January Scent Project.
Etat Libre d’Orange are an eccentric and provocative brand. They make scents which always feel left-of-the-middle if not downright transgressive. They’re interesting, avant guard and out there. Constantly surprising, but not always easy to wear, these are fragrances for the bold and the bonkers.
Hermann is available from Bloom Perfumery London, where it is priced at £120 for 100ml EdP or £85 for 50ml. Bloom very kindly gave us a no-strings-attached sample of this scent.
The fragrance is also available from the Etat Libre d’Orange web boutique.