When someone tells you they are retiring it usually means a slow winding down prior to their leaving. I guess it must be different in perfumery. Jean-Claude Ellena announced he would be eventually retiring, date unknown, as the in-house perfumer at Hermes in December of 2013. At the same time Christine Nagel was brought in to work with him and eventually take over. M. Ellena has been one of the singular artistic perfumers of the last few years. He would easily be one of the names in the debate over “greatest living perfumer”. As his tenure at Hermes draws to a close it feels like he wanted the opportunity to give a fresh take on some of the original Hermes releases. This starts with Bel Ami Vetiver in 2013 followed by Rose Amazone last year. For 2015 Equipage Geranium is the newest addition.
The original Equipage was released in 1970 by perfumer Guy Robert. It was a leather fragrance to pay homage to the Hermes saddles. In that original version there was birch tar and oakmoss galore creating a real feel of the tack room at a stable with all the leather hung up and oiled. Equipage would be re-formulated in 1992 by Jean-Louis Sieuzac who lacking the ability to use either the oakmoss or birch tar in the quantities M. Robert did, allowed some of the other notes to come to the foreground as the heart notes of carnation and pine follow a citrus opening. As was done for both Bel Ami and Amazone it feels like these recent versions are an attempt to update these classics for the 2010’s. I wonder if M. Ellena wants to make sure these are always relevant. Equipage Geranium is less about the tack room and more about the leather reading chair in the library next to a vase of geraniums.
Equipage Geranium opens with a citrus flourish which is close in intensity to the 1992 Equipage reformulation. To make sure I don’t go too far down that path M. Ellena adds a sprig of mint to bring the geranium into focus. Geranium is a note I often refer to as “green rose”. For many people they would recognize geranium as just rose; as geranium is what passes for rose in almost every mass commercial product. In Equipage Geranium M. Ellena brings the geranium into hyper focus. When I want to introduce someone to geranium from now on this is the perfume I am going to use. The mint is the framing which first draws my attention to the greener subtleties under the floralcy. Some actual rose is used to deepen that floralcy. Once the focal point is assembled now the very light leather accord forms a platform for the geranium to rest upon. A swirl of gentle spices interacts to keep the geranium slightly spicy as well as fresher. After a while a sturdy sandalwood provides the final addition to Equipage Geranium.
Equipage Geranium has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
On the days I wore Equipage Geranium to work my younger co-workers asked me enthusiastically what I was wearing. I have shared my sample generously with them and I know it is on a couple of wish lists for the upcoming holidays. I brought in some 1970 Equipage and they all said that was too strong. This is the real innovation M. Ellena is achieving, intended or not, as these reworkings are attracting a different generation of perfume lovers. For those older perfume lovers, like me, the update makes it different enough, and good enough, that I want a bottle to stand next to my 1970 and 1992 bottle of Equipage.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hermes.