Voyage d'Hermès (Hermès)

O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.

--William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 3
There are places we go, and there are places we merely pass through to get there. The latter locations are not our destination, the home of our heart's desire. But oftentimes they (and not the goal) are the places we cannot forget. We leave them. They do not leave us.

I recall lonely snow fields illuminated by the full moon as seen from the back seat of my parents' car. I remember crossing over the north Georgia border in my beat-up VW Beetle to find sap dripping from the honey locust trees like heavenly manna. There was a Tennessee mountain gap I traversed with my best friend, and a mysterious quiet voice which whispered from the stones what I could not yet admit: our friendship was over. And there was the airplane window from which I spied the preposterous emerald-green wastewater pools of North Jersey, only then to be convinced that I was really, truly, finally home-- my wanderings ended at last.

A voyage implies long and questing passage over wide water or through deep, empty space-- perhaps knowing nothing of what we will find on the other side. Other, more targeted, less arduous types of movement bear short, snappy names: walk, hike, jaunt, jet, trip, tour. These we can accomplish with minimal preparation, sometimes even on foot. But a voyage requires a vessel-- an exoskeleton designed to enclose and protect. Without it,we cannot fly or float, but only fall... and fail.

Voyage d'Hermès' vessel is a strange apparatus, a bright silver stirrup designed to securely cradle the heel of a sturdy glass flacon, which is filled with the palest yellow-green elixir. Its scent is that of the unknown-- or so its creator intended. According to Robin at NowSmellThis, Jean-Claude Ellena wished Voyage d'Hermès to suggest abstract possibilities ("it is calling to me") rather than concrete realities ("it reminds me"). Even several years after its launch, Hermès continues to refer to Voyage in the vaguest of terms, calling it a "woody fresh amber scent" and demurely gazing upward when asked for a list of scent notes. (Even the bottle seems to tip its head quizzically at the thought.)

But isn't a guessing game always more fun than a direct answer? Various perfume reviewers have already taken up the challenge, detecting notes of lemon, citron, bergamot, grapefruit, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, ginger, artemisia, angelica, juniper berry, tea, wintergreen, sandalwood, cedar, amber, ambergris, white musk, and Iso E Super within this bottle. All are perfectly plausible, but when I first encountered this fragrance, Angelica archangelica leapt immediately to mind. Every part of this towering herb -- its roots, its seeds, its succulent hollow stalks -- exudes a complicated green scent, bittersweet and anisic. It lends Voyage d'Hermès a thrilling, expansive quality, suggesting miles and miles of glittering fallen snow and pure ice-blue sky in every direction. Such a scene can't help but summon hope to my heart. It IS calling to me, yes.

Now, I know what you're thinking. In frozen February, with one hell of a snowstorm raging towards the East Coast, isn't it insane to wear so arctic a scent? Wouldn't Voyage d'Hermès be better held in reserve until the return of sultry summer? I say no. I may be alone in this, but I'm loyal to the idea that this crisp, cold, lively fragrance is what I need to keep me moving. I feel awake wearing it, alert to everything that surrounds me. It takes my breath away and gives me back clarity in return. The air seems more crystalline; through it, I see promise shining in the distance.

Scent Elements: Hermès declines to say exactly, but does so with a mischievous wink. The result being so lovely, their dumb insolence is forgiven.