Hermèssence Epice Marine is for those who want to be repulsed and fascinated by their perfumes at the same time. The marriage of aquatic notes and cumin can be as nightmarish as they come, depending on how you feel about either (or both). Yest, there's something about the way Epice Marine sits on the skin and interacts with it that makes me unable to detach my nose from my wrist, even as I observe, almost from afar, that my stomach is flipping.
The "epice" in Epice Marine is straight up cumin. Supposedly there's also cardamom, cinnamon, and even sesame, but I smell none of that. The cumin burns through everything else. It's not a dense cumin, and I don't smell the Arab spice market of Serge Lutens, but it is cumin: warm and pungent-- up to a point. The first twist in Jean-Claude Ellena's vision is that the cumin becomes cumin water, and makes me think of a cumin shower gel, sort of like Declaration (Cartier), another Ellena creation.
The watery element is, indeed, marine. Unfortunately, I don't smell the actual ocean as much as every aquatic men's cologne from the 1990s and 2000s. I didn't like them then, and I don't like them now, even in an overpriced Hermès Hermèssence bottle.I smell with interest as the waves of cool water are being drown with even cooler water: frozen vodka on ice, with a slice of lemon. I don't like this either, but it is a fascinating transformation, and it does wash away most of the cumin, leaving it as a mildly spiced sort-of vetiver.
Do I want to wear it and smell like Epice Marine? Not particularly. I don't even want to be around someone else who wears it if he or she smells the way I do. But I enjoy the ride and the thought behind it. That has to be something, right?
Notes: cumin, hazelnut, sesame, cinnamon, cardamom, bergamot, sea notes, whiskey, vetiver and oakmoss.
Hermès- Epice Marine Hermèssence ($245.00 100 ml EDT) is available from Hermes boutiques and hermes.com.