Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Aquatic Melon And The Disgusted Husband

There's a stage in the perfume obsession journey when one becomes acutely aware that behind every bottle there's an artist, the professional nose. It happens sometime after you get confident enough to say which notes and accords are more likely to please you than others (and you already know enough as to not make sweeping generalizations and allow exceptions for every rule), and your perfume identity begins to take a defined shape.

You start remembering more and more names of important noses and several of their creations. Suddenly, you learn to identify their "signatures" and can make a semi-learned observation about unique styles. You get excited for future releases from your favorite perfumers, but also develop an attitude about those whose work is most likely to leave you cold (or nauseous). And if you're me, you also get snarky.

It's not exactly a secret that there are a bunch of perfumers whom I'd like to take home with me. There's a shelf in my perfume cabinet that should be named the Christopher Sheldrake shrine. My love for Andy Tauer and Pierre Guillaume is well documented here, and I have a serious girl crush on Olivia Giacobetti.

At the same time, there are noses who tend to produce scents I consider Kryptonite.

I own one perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena: Elixir de Marveilles. I'm also quite fond of his creations for Frederic Malle, even if none of them is wearable on my skin, and of his Bois Farine. But it stops there. I can place most of his work on a scale between "why bother?" and "kill me, now". The first category includes all those transparent, watery scents that have no teeth or staying power and seem to thrive on a culture of perfume that desperately tries to smell like absolutely nothing (The Vert is a perfect example). Personally, it drives me nuts. Then there are the scents that upon contact with my skin turn sour and sickly, like Kelly Caleche, Cartier Declaration and the Malles. But the biggest offenders are the one I perceive as vile just from sniffing the bottle and get homicidal every time I dare try them on. Hermes Jardin Sur Le Nil is the stuff of nightmares (and, yes, I know it's one of the most beloved scents across blogs and message boards). Rumba (Balenciaga) has tried to kill me on more than one occasion, and I hope to live the rest of my life without the Van Cleef & Arpels.

This was my way of admitting that I'm not very objective when it comes to a Jean-Claude Ellena perfume. So when it was first announced that his newest release in the Hermes Jardin series was going to be an aquatic melon, you could have heard me making obnoxious and very unladylike gagging noises from here to Paris.

Still, I love perfume and I blog about it. The same curiosity that made me stick my nose and finger into a bottle of Secretion Magnifique led me to give my wrist a hefty spray of Jardin Apres La Mousson and hope for the best. However, I needed an unbiased nose to make the call.

Enter a long-suffering, unsuspecting husband. Since he shares my views on all things aquatic and melonic and is also aware of my anti-Ellena views, I didn't tell him what it was when I smiled sweetly and stuck my contaminated wrist under his nose. I wish I could take a picture of that moment. The look on his face was priceless.

Then he said, "Please don't make me smell this thing again. Ever ".

This thing sells like hot cakes. Make of it what you want.

Image: Pepino Melon And Hyacinth Beans by Jeanie Chadwick.


  1. Hah. You share my lack of love. Your husband's words were pretty much my own (I think I swore a little.)

    One of the very, very few samples I actually threw in the trash rather than risk ever smelling again.

  2. Ha!

    I do love his L'Eau D'Hiver, but that's about it. Les Jardins Apres les Melones Mortelles however is a different story. That sh!t made me want to leave town...

  3. does it really?! i'm shocked. i mean, the SAs who have to hawk it don't even like it (saks/nm). i second your husband's opinion of this.

    - minette

  4. March- I'm with you on throwing it away. It was the second vilest thing I tried on skin recently (the other one was that Smile atrocity).

  5. Tom- Funny how those of us who hate this drek become nearly violent just thinking of it...

  6. Minette- Last month in Paris I saw people buying it at several of the stores I visited. I just couldn't believe how determinded they all seemed about this . And it doesn't even strike me as a very French thing.

  7. You really hate it that much? I'm kind of 'meh' about it. I probably wouldn't wear it, but I wouldn't care if I had to commute with someone who did.

    OTOH, on the train this morning I sat next to a guy wearing an atrocious cologne, one I recall from the 90's but can't for the life of me remember the name of. I'm now determined to track it down, so I have a name for the abomination! (It smells harsh and sharp and a lot like anti-fungal foot powder.)

  8. I share your lack of amazement about all things Ellena, and that was even before I knew what a professional nose was. Now I simply try to stay as far away as possible from his creations; none of those I've tried I really hated but they just seemed the antithesis of perfume to me.
    For the oppposite reason there are some Lutens I HATE (Arabie, Datura Noir), but those I LOVE will stay in my heart forever.

  9. Tania- I think I hate all perfumes with a melon note. My skin was not meant deal with them.

    Now I'm curious about the anti-fungal cologne. Let me know if you discover what it was.

  10. Edwardian- I think you and I might be scent twins. Both Datura Noir and Arabie managed to traumatize me. But most other Serge scents are big loves.

  11. I know this post is 2 years old, but due to your mention today of Le Jardin Apres La Mousson I had to look it up. If you don't mind my asking, why do you hate it so much? I had a small bottle I had swapped for, and liked it very much until...I wore it on a day that I got food poisoning, car sick, and a terrible headach all at once. How much La jardin apres la mousson had to do with my car sickness and headache (we were on a long road trip) I don't know, but it contributed something. After that, I knew I couldn't wear it again and swapped it away. The thing is: I never found the perfume itself offensive, and in fact (you'll love this one, Gaia) it was the first high end perfume I smelled, and the first thing that convinced me perfume could be art. Let me explain: I grew up thinking I hated perfume because all I had ever smelled was my mom's Red Door, Tresor, or clinique happy (gag) which she sprayed to much of, and it always made me feel sick. thus, I never wore perfume myself (and in small town Louisiana, there wasn't too much option to ever smell anything else- we didn't even have a Macys let alone somewhere that sells really niche perfumes!) When I was 22 and traveling back from an internship in India, I noticed an advert for Le Jardin Apres la mousson in the airplaine magazine. I was intrigued because it linked my 2 interests - French, which was my minor (and biggest love) in college, and India (I had just come back from monsoon season in India). When I reached my layover (I don't remember where, London or Paris or Amsterdam), I saw Le Jardin Aprea la Mousson in the duty free store. I smelled it and was amazed - it really DID smell like fresh rain in the garden! I've always loved the smell just ater it rained, so I fell in love - mostly with the concept - how could someone reacreate that in a bottle?! (you see I'd never smelled anything other than my mom's perfumes before). For a few years, I sampled it every time I found it (which was usually only in airports as I didn't live in a city that had access to Hermes perfumes). I generally liked it very much. Then, about a year ago, I started really getting interested in niche perfumes, and found many other loves,so LJALM got pushed to the back shelf, but still had a soft spot in my heart for it...unti it contributed to making me sick. What notes btw do you think made me sick?? Anyway, so that is my LJALM story!

  12. Hi Gaia! I decided to comment, because I really like Un Jardin sur le Nil. The only minus in my opinion - it is not lasting enough, but it's a Summer scent for me anyway. Usually I'm also not the melon-loving type and I don't feel the melon to be so prominent here. I thought the main ingredient was this "white lotus" thing they mention on the package..? I'm not really into ingredients of perfumes, so excuse me if I just said something odd.


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