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June 01, 2006

Hermes Equipage : Fragrance Review


Fougère and chypre are the fragrance families that share some similarities in their classical interpretations, the main of which is the reliance on the fresh top notes and the somber richness of patchouli and oakmoss in the base, which result in a surprising juxtaposition of sensations. While both possess quintessentially masculine notes, the fougères tend to be more common in men’s fragrances. Indeed, masculine perfumery includes plenty run of the mill fougères (usually copies of highly successful Cool Water by Davidoff), which are so ubiquitous that one can hardly be excited by them. Yet, the best of this category present such a fascinating olfactory journey that they must be tried just for that experience. Such is Equipage, created by Guy Robert and Jean-Louis Sieuzac in 1970 for Hermès. The list of fragrances attributed to these perfumers reads like a compilation of perfume legends: Robert created Hermès Calèche, Christian Dior Dioressence, Madame Rochas; and Christian Dior Dune, Fahrenheit, Yves Saint Laurent Opium were composed by Sieuzac. Not surprisingly, Equipage is another gem. …

Equipage has a multifaceted top accord spilling in cascades of sweet spices accented by the slightly medicinal pungency of herbs. The dominant note of clove gently merges into the floral softness of carnation, slowly leading one into the chilled cavern of vetiver and oakmoss. The duskiness of the base set against the radiance of spices conjures a vision of sunshine refracted through the opaque glass of old churches--its glow is dimmed, and yet it is enough to illuminate the outlines of the kneeling figures painted in burnished gold.

Equipage has a slightly conservative air, restrained and elegant like most classical Hermès fragrances, even the more controversial Bel Ami. The lush note of carnation blossoming in its heart adds a floral touch that prevents the composition from attaining an overly virile presence. It is a great fragrance providing such an excellent example of Robert and Sieuzac’s talent that I would consider it a loss for myself, if I were to relegate it solely to the masculine domain. Certainly, on a man who loves classically elegant and formal fragrances, it would be perfect.

Equipage was relaunched in 1992, and while the formula has not been changed dramatically, it seems slightly softer than my older version. As I compare them side by side, I notice more vetiver and oakmoss in the 1980s edition, while the recent one I have obtained is mellower. In whatever guise, Equipage remains a composition to admire. In the excellent array of Hermès masculines, it is the embodiment of elegance and complex beauty of classical fougères.

Equipage features notes of marjoram, clary sage, tarragon, carnation, lily of the valley, cinnamon, pine needles, hyssop, liatris, patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, amber, coumarin, and tonka bean. It is sold at the Hermès boutiques and other retailers carrying the line, such Neiman Marcus.

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