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November 18, 2010

Hermes Amazone Fragrance Review : Vintage, Modern and More


Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

A dyed in the wool fragrance connoisseur is often apt to look down upon fruity floral fragrances, much like an aficionado of Albert Camus might spurn the work of Danielle Steele. After all, this fragrance family is one of the most popular among the large commercial launches, and its motifs can feel overplayed and tiresome. Yet, just like one should not judge a book by its cover, appraising fragrances by their notes is misleading. A strong fruity accord woven into a floral composition can result in Jelly Belly Fruit Salad or Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse, depending on what the creator intends. A fragrance I like to bring up as an example of an utterly sophisticated and elegant fruity floral is Hermès Amazone.

Green, petally, mossy, with a lush dose of black currant, the original formula by Amazone was signed by Jean-Claude Ellena in 1973. Blackcurrant bud is ordinarily intensely green, with a fruity nuance, but in Amazone it is used in such a way as to enhance the ripe berry impression of the top note. When contrasted with the watery green floral heart and the mossy-woody drydown, it makes for a vivid composition. The youthful, vivacious spirit of Amazone is charming; she is like a debutante at a ball, poised, polished, yet full of energy and ready to leap into a dance. Although similar in style to Givenchy III and Givenchy Le De, the original Amazone strikes me as more luminous and modern.

In 1989, Amazone was taken in a new direction by Maurice Maurin, a perfumer who might be known to niche fragrance lovers as the creator of the lovely and sadly discontinued L’Artisan Vanilia. Maurin amplified Amazone’s fruity note with a richer citrus accord and added more milky, lactonic notes to the heart of the fragrance. The adjustments made it richer, sweeter, yet when balanced with a warm ambery-woody drydown they are quite successful. Even if the fragrance has lost its breezy, green quality, it has gained a pleasant depth and complexity.

In recent years, the fragrance has been further altered, becoming greener, airier, lighter, albeit still retaining a warm amber note in its drydown. It is nevertheless very elegant and classical, suiting the aesthetic of Hermès. To be sure, those who remember Amazone in her opalescent mossy splendor will mourn the loss of those notes, but I personally like it in all iterations. It is a fruity floral that gives a new meaning to this term.

The original 1973 version of Hermès Amazone (pictured below) was marketed with the following notes: bergamot, black currant, geranium, hyacinth, lily of the valley, iris, rose, jasmine, cedar, oakmoss, vetiver, amber. The later reformulation is listed as having bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, black currant buds, jonquil, narcissus, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, peach, strawberry, raspberry, iris, cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, labdanum, musk. The most recent list I have includes narcissus, daffodil, rose, jasmine, iris, tuberose, cassis, peach, mandarin, grapefruit, raspberry, cedarwood, sandalwood and vetiver. The fragrance used to be available in the extrait de parfum, but now it is sold only as the Eau de Toilette (the first photo).




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