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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil: A River Runs Through It

By Donna

Most fragrance lovers and followers of perfume blogs have probably read the Chandler Burr piece about perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena's journey to Egypt in search of the elusive essence of the Nile river for a new fragrance in The New Yorker in 2005, followed up by the book The Perfect Scent, which chronicled the process of two very different fragrances for a year. Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermès has been out for more than four years now, and I have tried it many times, loved it, but never bought it. Why not? I believed everyone who said it had absolutely no lasting power. I did not want to spend that much money ($125 USD for 100 ml) for a fragrance that was little more than a light cologne. This refreshing unisex scent by the great “minimalist” Ellena seemed to be nothing more than a very pricey summer spritzer. The theme intrigued me of course, because what could be more romantic than gliding along the verdant banks of the Nile River, with breezes carrying the varied scents of riparian life filling the sails of a graceful felucca?

A fortuitous sample swap recently brought me a travel size spray of this fragrance, and even though it's nowhere near summer I have been wearing it regularly, and guess what? It has decent longevity after all, and even though it is only Eau de Toilette, it lasts better than some Eaux de Parfum I have worn. I guess my skin has an affinity for this stuff, since it lasts a good six hours or even more on me, which was a nice surprise, and I will certainly be replacing the travel bottle with a big one. I think I will be running out of it sooner rather than later.

Un Jardin Sur Le Nil is a fruity-floral fragrance, but don't let that definition stop you. It is not sugary or “plasticky” or syrupy, and most of all it is not boring. It is marketed as a unisex scent, as are the other “Jardins” in the line and it fits that definition perfectly. Its spare, taut structure and highly pitched exhilaration is a welcome change from the usual run of modern fruity-florals, most of which settle into smelling pretty much the same after the first fifteen minutes. This one keeps its unique character all the way through. Its zesty tang comes from the accords of green mango and grapefruit, softened but not really sweetened by lotus blossom, a damp and erotic floral, and even more interest is added by the use of a green note in the manner of river rushes and a base of sycamore and incense. If there were more fruity-floral scents like this, the genre would garner far more respect.

With most perfumes, the wearer knows little about how it was actually composed, but I was delighted to read yet again the story of how it came to be and how such ephemeral scents as the aroma of green mango on the tree that disappears within a minute once the fruit is picked can be recreated with alternative materials by a master perfumer and artist such as Jean-Claude Ellena. For it does not smell like a flask of laboratory chemicals; it smells like the juiciest, most deliciously tangy fruit you can imagine, the kind you long for on a hot, breathless dusty day when all you want is something to cool your parched throat. Its green aspect is not the sharp grassy bite of galbanum or other materials that are normally used in “green” perfumes, but the tender murmur of the streamside rushes, with just enough of a floral quality to evoke the slightly decadent (in the literal sense of decaying plant life) feeling of the timeless Nile. (Fear not, this is not a “marine” fragrance, and the watery feeling is quite realistic.)

The good news is that now that it's been out for a few years, and even though it is still sold at full price at finer department stores and perfume boutiques, it is also available at a number of online retailers for considerably less. I took a look around and found the 50 ml and 100 ml sizes and a generously sized 200 ml body lotion starting as low as about $40, ranging up to around $70 USD, at a number of discount outlets, so it really pays to do some comparison shopping. At those prices I know just what to do when summer does arrive.

Image credit: Egyptian felucca at sunset from

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Blogger Mals86 said...

So glad you're enjoying it. I found it very pleasant, juicy yet dry, and refreshing. Yet I found myself reaching instead for MH Fleur de Matin, or No 19, or my Becker-composed Ines de la Fressange. This summer, I think I'll be wearing those, plus my new bottle of Silences.

I like the ironed-white-cotton-shirt, relaxed, unisex quality of JslN.

9:26 AM EDT  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

Ah...this time you take me to a place I have not yet visited. Un Jardin Sur Le Nil.

Interesting how some "lighter" formulations have good lasting power, no? Among others, Mandragore is like that on me.

Methinks I'll have to find a tester before summer gets too close.

9:26 AM EDT  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

I love this one, too, and when I discovered it I had that weird "perfume guilt" that I sometimes get when I fall for something that isn't my usual kinda thang. (Which is silly, I know.) But it is so bright and refreshing and sparkling, it's hard to resist.

9:55 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Mals86, I am definitely enjoying it! :-)

Juicy yet dry, that's perfect.

6:05 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

ScentSelf, it's one of those fragrances that you can wear no matter how hot it gets and it will cool you right down!

6:06 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

StyleSpy, I sometimes wonder why I like the scents I do - who knew I would fall in love with an ambery beast like Rochas Absolu! I was predisposed to like Un Jardin Sur Le Nil because it IS my usual suspect - but it turned out to be even better than I thought it would be.

6:09 PM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

It really does pay off if one can take a few years to fall in love with a scent (providing it's not d/ced, of course!) and then be able to get it at the discounters. Your review makes this sound irresistible to me right now - it may finally be my time to fall for this scent. Thanks! :-)

8:18 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Now you make me want to try this! Whaaahhhh!

11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Elle, I hope you do, it's perfect for the kind of weather you have!

11:20 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, you can get it for so little now, it's the new free! :-)

11:21 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see this beautiful and unique perfume getting some love, it's my summer favorite (along with Herba Fresca).

7:11 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is sacriligeous, but I find there's something acrid and totally unwearable in all Jean Claude Ellena's creations for Hermes. I bought full bottles of Kelly Caleche and Un Jardin en Mediterranee and was disappointed that this highly-synthetic smelling, acrid note lingers in both, and had to give them away. Has anyone else found this?

Un Jardin Apres La Mousson is one of the worst things I've ever smelt since becoming a sniffer.

I'm consequently afraid to even contemplate buying Un Jardin Sur Le Nil.

(I think Eau d'Hiver and Osmanthus are beautiful). - Emma

9:26 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this scent wearable, intriguing, and sophisticated - and now you've made me want to try it again! While I thank you for this, my checkbook likely will not...

1:46 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Emma, I get that on MY skin with some of his stuff -- but my hubby wears them (even the ones characteristically thought of as "feminine") gorgeously without any trace of it. On me, I think it's some kind of chemical reaction... either to my skin or some other product I use. I can bury my nose in his neck all day when he wears them.

I loved this one, but sadly, NOT on me. Beautiful review: spot-on.

2:46 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Marla, it's going to be one of my summer faves now too!

11:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Emma, I am sorry to hear that! I even like the Mousson myself, though not as much as this one. And I have yet to smell Osmanthe Yunnan - it's on my list of must try scents!

11:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Anonymous, just don't pay full price! :-)

11:59 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Ducks, thank you! Now all I need is someone to wear the things I can't... I wonder if I can talk anyone into the husband/tester role. For research only, of course. :-D

12:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Kristal said...

... what can I say ? the "Un Jardin " saga from Hermes is ,to me, the most horrible line of perfums ever sniffed... They smell old, like a communist beauty parlour full of cheap hair lotions and questionable colognes... Sorry to the people who love it but in no way could this be described as refreshing and sparkling- Le Jardins are acid, smell of old sweated dirt... I am sure the Nile smells like this, half rotten half dirty water in an extreme heat, it is just that I do not want to smell like this :) If I want something summery, crisp and fresh ,with great lasting power for an eau de toillette, then I preffer 1881 by Cerutti or 211 by Carolina Herrera.

11:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

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10:48 AM EDT  
Blogger Cat Fish said...

It is really lasting on my skin, too, don't undersatnd why some say it's fleeting. And the warmer the weather gets the more the refreshing, even "thirst-quenching" qualities come out. In winter it has the ability to evoke this summery feeling, too. If i ever go on my Nile ship tour one day, this will be the perfume to accompany me. Until then i wear it proudly wherever i am ;-)

7:55 AM EDT  

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