There are several Hermes Merveilles perfumes on the market, including a new(ish) version/flanker whatever you want to call it. Tonight I'm talking about the original Eau de Merveilles EDT from 2004. I have and love all three concentrations (Elixir des Merveilles EDP and Parfum de Merveilles) for different reasons. Eau is the least gourmand of the three- there's no chocolate there and the orange is bitter, mineralized and inedible- very much like the way the same note works in Terre d'Hermes. Surprisingly, Eau des Merveilles was composed by Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer, not a Jean-Claude Ellena (unlike the other Merveilles or Terre). It certainly smells like a sibling not only to Terre but also to Ellena's Voyage d'Hermès.
But don't let the whole roster of Merveilles and Merveilles-like perfumes fool you. Eau has a very distinct personality. It smells like a perfect, not too hot summer day spent on a clean and remote beach. You lie there in the sun, your fingers spread to enhance the sensation of the grainy, shiny yellow-white sand. You play with it a little, soaking up the heat, paying attention to the way the tiny particles settle as you pour them across your body. There's some stickiness involved, from the juice of the orange you peeled and ate a bit messily. The orange dripped a little, making more sand stick to your hand , but you don't really mind. . The scent mingles naturally with the salty breeze coming from the ocean. It's cool and warm at the same time, making you hyper-aware of every nuance- including the old tattered leather of the bag you placed under your head. There are white round and smooth pebbles scattered by. You pick one up and put in your bag. A souvenir from a perfect day. Every time you hold it in your palm you feel some of that hypnotizing warmth and recall the way the air smelled.
Eau de Merveilles is quite strong- maybe not the 24+ hours of Terre d'Hermes, but two careful sprays keep me scented from morning to night, even (or especially, I'm never quite certain) on hot days when it's quite volatile. Eau de Merveilles blooms and spreads in the heat, but the salty air (supposedly there's some real ambergris in there, from an old batch kept in the Hermes vaults or something) keeps it from being too heavy. The stickiness is all in my mind.
Notes: lemon, orange, pink pepper, ambergris, violet, cedar, oakmoss, fir.
Hermès Eau des Merveilles ($95, 1.6oz) is available from Hermes boutiques, Sephora, many department stores and hermes.com. A quick online search would reveal much lower prices from reliable online retailers.
Photo by Frank Horvat, 1987 for Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazine.