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Monday, June 18, 2007

Perfume Review: Hermes Kelly Caleche

On Thursday, Kelly Caleche, the latest release from Hermes, will be unveiled for an exclusive preview at the new Hermès boutique on Wall Street. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, the scent pays homage to the famous Kelly bag and Calèche, one of the first fragrances released by the house. You know how excited I was when I first heard about the upcoming launch of Kelly Caleche. Floral-leather is my kind of thing, Hermes is the house I adore and Ellena is the perfumer I highly respect. Kelly Caleche is not what I hoped, but neither it is what I feared. It is what in the rational corner of my excitable mind I expected it to be, an elegant, tolerably youthful, understated scent with tasteful hints rather than barbarically generous doses of leather.

The beginning playfully slapped me on the nose with an unexpected note of grapefruit. Before I could collect my wits and protest (I am not friendly with grapefruit), the citrusy explosion dissipated into a floral accord of commendable complexity. Kelly Caleche is full of nuances, all of them very subtle. The flowers are done in transparent soft hues and they mesh into a delicate harmony, in which it seems almost impossible to distinguish separate notes ...until suddenly a cold, rooty iris peaks through the pastel mist only to disappear just as quickly ...then a softly-powdery, vaguely gourmand, green and yellow mimosa comes forth and almost immediately goes away ...a sweet, sparkly rose pops up once in a while and hides again ...and thus on and on playing games, teasing me. The one note that spends most of its time in hiding is leather. During the first two-thirds of the scent's development, there is not even a hint of the note, and nothing in the gentle and whimsical floral blend seems to herald its arrival. Eventually leather tip-toes in and inconspicuously positions its well-mannered self behind the gauzy flowers. In accordance with the general feel of toned down elegance of the composition, the leather note speaks in a quiet, soft voice, and one has to strain to hear it. The note makes me think not of an expensive leather bag but rather of a trace of smell that the handle of such a bag would leave on one's skin. Kelly Caleche's is a tantalizingly subtle leather that I cannot help but wish was a little stronger.

The Kelly Caleche ad with the young modern amazon decisively striding along carrying a whip would make us believe there will be audaciousness and gutsiness in the fragrance, but I found the reality of the scent to be less daring. This is a refined, restrained, ladylike perfume, certainly youthful, simply because of its surprising, smiling playfulness, but not so young and overly girly as to render it unappealing to anyone over the age of 20-25. Kelly Caleche is the kind of fragrance that seems to be as easily wearable and universally appealing as possible without being too bland. If I were allowed to rename the scent, I would call it Miss Hermes, as it fullfils all the requirements - classic structure, elegance, tiny bit of flirtiness- for being placed as the house's offering to its somewhat younger clientele.

After premiering at the Wall St. store, Kelly Calèche will become available in Hermès’ boutique network in August, and in September it will be launched for global selective distribution.

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Blogger tmp00 said...

I kind of thought this was going to be the case..

But I suppose that any leather at all these day is a good thing.

11:09 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you wished for, M - some kind of Bandit doused with sexy, ripe flowers (iris, bad-tempered rose, maybe even a hint of tuberose?). I can well imagine Kelly Caleche being a very understated, elegant, tasteful perfume for a young woman who earns her livings but knows how to spend an afternoon well, too ;). I must admit it appeals to me and I can't wait to test it. judging by the age interval you mentioned, I'm exactly the target public you are talking about lol. two more questions: (the first one being somehow inevitable for me): 1. how's the sillage and lasting power? and 2. does it resemble the original Caleche at all?
I like your name suggestion, "Miss Hermes". "Miss Hermes Kelly Caleche" it is then :D.

2:57 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Well... No one would expect a whiplash flower fest from the distinguished Mr. Ellena, but this doesn't sound like I'll rupture a tendon getting to Hermès come August. My two other "Miss" perfumes (Balmain and Dior) sound more like Miss Stern and Miss Spike Heels than like well brought up ladies, and Miss Hermès would probably cower in fear.

3:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Juvy Santos said...

I wonder, not having smelled it yet--would we be as kind to it if we didn't know it was an Ellena?

I know that it shouldn't, but when I test it, I *know* I'll give it more thought because it's a JCE...

at some point, gotta get over and get it at Patty's...

6:12 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Sigh. Well, I will certainly test it, but I'm guessing (fearing? anticipating?) it's money saved.

6:47 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I'm afraid I'm not going to be as kind about a potential alternate name. I could easily see it being called Paris Caleche. If you'd told me it was her new scent, I'd have found that to be entirely believable. On my skin the leather is remarkably successful in its game of hide and seek. The *faintest* trace of leather appears at the end, but that's all. Maybe the model in the ad is decked out in so much leather as a way of letting us know that that's really what we need to do to get a leather vibe when we wear it - if we would at all, because on me even the floral part was a total yawn. Yes, I know I'm being bitter. It's just that I'd had such high hopes for this scent. Sob!!

7:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree. I am thankful even for a hint.

7:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That is EXACTLY what I want...Bandit and Fracas in one scent :-)
1.Sillage of KC is...none, lasting power mediocre and stays very close to the skin. 2. Nope, it doesn't :-)

7:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Compared to those two naughty Misses, KC is so, so, so tame. She is a little quaker girl, next to them.

7:57 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think it's not so much being kinder, at least for me, in this case, as something like: "This is Ellena. Ellena's scents are great, everyone knows that. Therefore, perhaps I just don't understand the greatness of this scent" :-)

7:59 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am almost 100% sure that it is money saved for you...unless it opens up on your skin in a different and more oomphalicious way. :-)

8:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank goodness I did not get any "Paris" from it. It's so very tasteful on me, so well-mannered, for a lack of a better word...Paris couldn't dream to be like that :-)

You are so right that in order to get a good amount of leather from KC, one has to wear it with an all-leather outfit :-)

8:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An elegant and understated composition sounds nice, but it doesn't sound like something I particularly need at this moment. As you mentioned, the scent and the ad do not seem to go together at all.

8:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

It's like the ad is for something else entirely. Oh well.

8:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

See, really pretty, isn't it? :)

I find it really easy to wear, like the Un Jardin series is, and I like it as much, so that's a good thing, but a leather covered bouquet, it is not.

I still think it will be a huge hit because it's got all the earmarks of a beautiful perfume that sells well in the top notes, but has beauty and complexity to satisfy those more disciminrating. I'm trying to think of it as a good gateway perfume for young perfumistas in the making.

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger poodlegirl said...

I had such high hopes for this one, but it sounds as if I'm in for a disappointment. I was secretly wishing that it would be an EDT version of Doblis. Is it close at all? ::sigh::

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The top note(s) scared me :-) Well, it's certainly better than any other new (non-exclusive) release out there. Which may or may not be a damning sort of praise. :-P

9:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Nope, not really, no. But I also feel compelled to note here that I am probably one person in the whole perfume-loving universe who sniffed (and re-sniffed, and re-re-sniffed, and...) Doblis and was not impressed. *crawls under the rock*

9:24 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I should clarify - not tacky and tasteless like the whining, imprisoned one, but just boring like her scents. For March's challenge I actually tried one of her scents last week and I have to admit it wasn't horrible at all - just extremely boring. And for me, KC was remarkable only in being so utterly unremarkable. Yes, it's tasteful, but just such a yawn on my skin.

9:54 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Well .... I'm getting the whole "damning with faint praise" vibe here. I'm thinking: no. Won't be anxiously awaiting its appearance. Elegant and understated I guess just aren't my thing. Maybe they're getting younger gals interested in the fuddy-duddy line?

But it least it doesn't have heliotrope and anise in it! (Colombina runs away screaming) ;-)

I do love that ad, though.

10:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds lovely and unexciting.

10:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh then I completely agree! :-)

10:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You are evil. :-) Shhh, we don't say words like that on PST. *Sprays the blog with Messe de Minuit to get rid of phantom smells of h*l*o*r*p* and a*i*e.*

10:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

"Lovely and unexciting" sums up the scent perfectly.

10:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Your review kind've reminds me of what Ralph Style does on me, for awhile it has a gorgeous suede note on me, but then the damn florals take over in a very high-pitched way.

10:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The flowers here are not high-pitched or heady, or anything like that. They quiet, lovely and pleasant. It is just that the leather is even quieter.

10:26 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...


Can't remember if you loved Terre d'Hermes. Is it as good as Terre d'Hermes?

I was going to order this one unsniffed, now I'm not so sure.

12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I loved Terre d'Hermes. This one is...I don't somehow was too quiet or something for me. On the one hand I want to say, do not order unsniffed, on the other I actually also think that it might be something you'd like...

12:02 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patty read my mind. I tried KC last night and thought, "nice starter scent for a budding perfumista." I enjoyed the clean citrusy top notes, with the just the faintest hints of smoke and leather. Symphonic masterpiece? No. It's more like pleasant background music.

4:41 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Pleasant background music is a great description, and, again, sort of a damning praise, no? :-)

4:48 PM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Oh dear. (late to this as just returned from holiday). Well, I was worried about the name and the colour and sounds like it lives up to both those aspects rather than JCE/Hermes does leather (which sounded divine!)Still I look forward to trying (August in the UK according to local Hermes boutique)and then spending my money on something autumn feeling like Rousse or Chergui or even the Nazgul.....

9:51 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Let us know what you think when you get to try it.
I vote for an autumnal purchase of Rousse :-)

10:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just tried this today. I didn't like it. And that's an understatement. However, that is just how it smells on my skin, it can be great for somebody else! After reading the (beautiful admittedly) description, I think I know why. I found it smokey and cold. I thought initially "oh interesting", but it never warmed or softened in any way. Just stayed smokey all the time. I think it's very mossy, reminds me a bit the original Miss Dior. There were flowers? Really, where? I only got the smoke... Anway, it's off my list, but as I said, for all the reasons it doesn't suit me, it may be perfect for somebody else. If you like really mossy perfumes, if you've liked Miss Dior (not the Cherie), then you'll probably like this one.

4:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Anonymous,
I found it cold too. And although I like some "cold" scents, this one...well, left me cold :-D

4:29 PM EDT  
Blogger opredeleno said...

Hi :)
I'll be the defender of KC today. The first time I sniffed this, I was like, what?! They call THIS leather? On my shelf you'll see the sixteenth bottle of Cabochard; also Bandit, Gucci pour Homme (the brown), YSL M7, Ricci-Club by Nina Ricci. To me, the words leather and cypress are sacred. The colors of dark-green and black overcome the pink and in that sense KC will be quite outstanding among the others ;)
So when I tried it, I thought, "God, that's weak!" In all possible senses. Not strong enough, not leather enough, not enough presence.
But then, two things happened that turned my mind. I went to a small jazz concert with 3 friends of mine (all men). I was with a leather jacket that smells really stronger than a usual leather jacket, and drowned in Cabochard. After 1,5 hour my friend dared asking me: "Hmmm all night I'm wondering, what do you smell of? Is that the jacket? Is it some errr perfume?!" But mostly he doubted that I smell of a perfume. So for the first time of my Cabochard love, I felt a bit embarrassed. Until now, I never cared if the rest of the world finds my Cabochard too bold. But to ask me... WHAT do you smell of (I WAS fresh clean) and IS that a perfume at all?! It didn't sound pleasant...

Some time ago, on the other hand, I had a romantic night with my BF. I was fresh clean and sprayed just a tiny bit of the Kelly tester vial on my skin. For 5 years and over 30 perfumes he never commented my perfume (except for Baiser du Dragon by Cartier, which was TOTALLY disliked :)) but then in the middle of our conversation he just hugged me and said "Anyway, I have no idea, but you smell so great" and that ended all the talking and we made love :)

So... the vial which I found too humble and shy for my understandings ended in a full 100 ml bottle. And the moral of the story (sorry for so wordy one) is that you don't need to be Bandit ALL the time. For these suitable moments, we already do have Bandit which I find to be a masterpiece. And Cabochard is my true all-time favourite and I wouldn't wish something else close to it cause I have IT. But I never had something like Kelly - it's my new love. It's a morning, day, lazy afternoon, and intimate night perfume - something that Bandit really ISN'T. Try taking the subway 7 am drowned in Bandit and you'll get lynched :) But Kelly seems to fit just perfectly in this timescale in between the moments suitable for the hardcore leather perfumes. I think she's wondefully classy and still very sexy. She smells more like perfumed skin and not like some flowers put fakely onto the skin. In that sense, she suits very well sexy clothes, but without spikes and hips and chains. Of all the clothes that the woman on the ad is wearing, I'd link Kelly not to the whip or boots, but to the blouse. Very sexy long back decoltee, nice colour, beautiful lines. A blouse you can wear in the afternoon to the cafe and look suitably great in. :)
Just take this one as a day perfume and it'll make a new sense. Even the woman in the ad is taking a morning walk. Maybe she's seeking some adventure even at this time... OR maybe she has saught one all night and now she's going home to her large bed with black sheets :) It's not a missy perfume, not at all!! It's just not meant to be a hardcore perfume and it's perfect for what it is - cause even Bandits have to get up in the morning and live in the daylight :)))

Psst, my skin really doesn't EVER bring up any flowers ;) I'm just so lucky!

Sorry for the long post, but this one really made it to my TOP 3 list and it managed to fascinate me as no other perfume created in the last 50 years has ;) Cause Bandit is 44, and Cabochard is 59...

5:19 AM EDT  

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