Floral, if designed for women, mostly as a creamier, storified version of that intoxicating petal scent we associate with a garden in spring. And citrussy, perhaps most of all. Lemon and orange, clementine and lime, sometimes the slightly more elusive bergamot.
They open the fragrance with a cheerful tang, signalling there’s nothing to worry about, this is indeed a new and slightly different melody set to the same old beat. Occasionally they hang around a little longer than desirable, just to make us see what it would be like to die and come back as a toilet freshener, but more often than not they know it’s safer to disappear quickly.
And then there are fragrances that decide to treat their citrus cheerleader differently. They make it linger through a clever ploy, taking its individual characteristics and playing them up via other notes. That is precisely what’s happening with Hermès’ Elixir des Merveilles (2006), a creation of the brand’s in-house perfumer and an icon of olfactory minimalism, Jean-Claude Ellena.
What is it exactly that makes Elixir des Merveilles so unique? The trick is in the specific way its orange top note is made to last. This is a gourmand scent with a smokiness to it, a delicacy that plays around with different kinds of sweetness, both edible and not. Thus, the sticky sweet quality of fruit is handed over to caramel, while the woodier sweetness of the orange peel and seeds is carried on by Siam resin, Peru balsam, and patchouli. Bound together by a subtle thread of incense, the resulting effect will charm you with unassuming sophistication.
But wait - how can something this resinous and smokey still be considered a summer scent? Well, for one thing, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. As we often remind our customers, dividing fragrances into categories based on season or the gender they were designed for is very restrictive and ultimately doesn’t serve any real purpose outside of marketing. It creates the false assumption that there are things you “should” wear and like, simply because you’re meant to. Nothing can be further from the truth. You are the only one who can decide what suits you, you know yourself best and you can feel absolutely free to shop in whatever section you find yourself drawn to.
The reason why we call Elixir des Merveilles a summer scent has more to do with the substance, so to speak. There’s something in this fragrance that just goes well with the natural scent of clean skin. Something that develops and sings in the presence of a human pulse, something that binds with a hint of fresh perspiration on your arm in the summer heat, and becomes irresistible. Instead of betraying its artificial beauty, it brings forward your own.
Elixir des Merveilles might be a little less on the minimalist side than Ellena’s perfumes for Hermes generally tend to be, but that certainly doesn’t make it in any sense overcomplicated. It won’t confuse you or distract you. Unlike the Eau des Merveilles which came out two years earlier in 2004, it leaves out the sharper notes of vetiver and pink pepper in favour of the resins. That is why despite the central theme of citrus, everything about this fragrance feels round and warm.
Some people consider it more of a masculine, others feel it’s a gorgeous perfume for women, which only goes to show that our brains have much more to do with our perception of a scent than our noses. This Elixir of Miracles doesn’t need to be gendered. Wear it with a strappy dress or a henley shirt, it loses nothing of its magic.Although, if we can recommend one thing: make Elixir des Merveilles your go-to fragrance for hot summer evenings. When the sun has set and you don’t have to worry about putting perfume directly on your bare skin anymore, this one will be simply perfect to spray on your neck or right under your collar bones, so that it can blend with your natural pheromones and slowly evaporate over the course of the night.