CE­LES­TIAL GAR­DEN

A lush new fragrance takes a com­plex ap­proach to sim­plic­ity.

Elle (Canada) - - Beauty - BY CLARA YOUNG

as the sun climbs higher in the sky each day and lingers a few min­utes longer in the evening, thoughts nat­u­rally turn to ro­mance and, for some, hor­ti­cul­ture. Her­mès has long catered to its el­e­gant spade-and-trowel clien­tele with the Jardin group of fra­grances, each com­posed by its in-house per­fumer Jean-Claude El­lena. So far, El­lena has led us on an ol­fac­tory walk­ing tour of rooftop gar­dens (Un Jardin sur le Toit) as well as gar­dens in the Mediter­ranean (Un Jardin en Méditer­ranée), in mon­soon ter­ri­tory (Un Jardin Après la Mous­son) and on the Nile (Un Jardin sur le Nil). His lat­est per­fumed pere­gri­na­tion, Un Jardin de Mon­sieur Li, takes us to the Far East, where he has sum­moned up the veg­e­tal spir­its cul­ti­vated by a fic­tive “Mon­sieur Li.”

Mon­sieur Li’s gar­den is a tra­di­tional Taoist one in which none of the paths are straight and ev­ery­thing—trees, wa­ter­falls, lily pads, stones—has a spirit. The per­fume smells like wind in the wil­lows or like a high-fly­ing aerial act in an ar­bo­real canopy. El­lena’s com­po­si­tion brings to­gether a resinous sap, the fruity kumquat and the dis­tinc­tive waft of damp stones. “It’s a hard odour, a lit­tle like steel, that one gets from min­eral mol­e­cules,” ex­plained El­lena at the launch, which took place in a folly of a pagoda in Paris’ oth­er­wise busi­nesslike 8th ar­rondisse­ment. “It re­minds me of ce­ment.”

The jas­mine in Le Jardin de Mon­sieur Li is the star in­gre­di­ent, and, fit­tingly, it is al­most ce­les­tial. “My pal­ette is more re­strained now,” said El­lena. “I can do jas­mine with three mol­e­cules to ob­tain an ‘eau de jas­mine’ that flows, that doesn’t have the heav­i­ness jas­mine usu­ally does.” His sim­plic­ity is rev­e­la­tory. Per­fumery mol­e­cules have mul­ti­plied in num­ber and lev­els of so­phis­ti­ca­tion, but El­lena fo­cuses on the essen­tials, cre­at­ing a note from only a few in­gre­di­ents. “The gar­den is a mi­cro­cosm of how you see the world,” he said. “As the Chi­nese say, ‘You begin your life when you begin your gar­den.’”

Her­mès Le Jardin de Mon­sieur Li Eau de Toi­lette Spray ($155 for 100 mL). For de­tails, see Shop­ping Guide.

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