Galop d’Hermès is a new leather-rose parfum and marks the first, full, solo release by Christine Nagel as Jean-Claude Ellena‘s successor and as Hermès’ in-house nose. The fragrance hews closely to the Ellena/Hermes aesthetic, and isn’t an abandonment of tradition or a new direction. Depending on how you feel about the brand’s style, that will either be a good thing or a disappointment.
Galop d’Hermès (hereinafter just called “Galop” for convenience) is part of Hermes’ regular line of fragrances, not its Hermessence Collection. Unlike many of those scents, it’s not an eau de toilette but a pure parfum or extrait. It comes in a 50 ml bottle that is shaped like a glass riding stirrup, edged all around in silver and with a thin leather strap that comes in different colours. There is also a simple, unadorned 125 ml glass refill bottle.
On the Hermes website, Christine Nagel talks about her inspiration for the fragrance and its two main notes:
‘At Hermès, I discovered all the femininity of leather. I composed Galop d’Hermès like a painting with two main colours…two raw materials that are emblematic to Hermès and to perfumery: leather and rose.’ – Christine Nagel
In a recent interview with Elle magazine, Ms. Nagel elaborated on the type of leather used and the way that she structured the fragrance. I’ve taken the liberty to quote the relevant snippets:
Specifically, she focused on the scent of Doblis leather, a buttery soft hide used in horse-y pursuits and chose to bottle it in a copy of a vessel that recalls a stirrup and was given to attendees of the New York City shop opening in 1930. […]
‘The craftsmen always speak about this leather, that it has one side that is flesh and the other side that is rose. When I found this leather, I had this association that I want to find a counterpart for this leather and that would be the rose. What I want is that there will be a balance between the two, which is hard because usually leather overpowers anything else. So it was a lot of technical work to achieve the balance where they are both equal—the rose and the leather.’
According to most accounts, the complete note list for Galop is:
Rose, Leather, Saffron, and Quince.
In its very first moments, Galop opens with a pale, dewy, pink rose drizzled with quince. The latter initially smells like a simple watery fruitiness but, within seconds, it takes on the tannic, bitter, vaguely meaty, and slightly acidic muskiness that is the odor of its skin. The saffron appears at the same time, but it’s more translucent in aroma, a few specks of red, fiery spiciness that flutter about like tiny fireflies. The fundamental focus of Galop’s earliest moments is that pale, almost translucent rose which is soon joined by an underpinning of the so-called “Doblis” leather. It’s minimally smoky but mostly clean, plush, and quietly floral like expensive, pristine, new suede mixed with equally expensive calfskin leather.
Galop changes quickly. Less than 10 minutes into its development, the rose turns dark, losing its dewiness and paleness. The leather-suede accord fuses with it, giving it greater body and weight. The bitter, musky quince skin and the spicy saffron grow significantly stronger at the same time, a shimmering cloud that swirls around the central leather-rose duet.
The whole thing is simultaneously weightless but, by Hermes’ standards, potent, especially up close. On an olfactory basis, however, I think nothing in Galop represents a change from the style established by Jean-Claude Ellena. If there is a greater heft or richness to the scent, I think it’s solely because Galop is a pure parfum while all the Hermessence fragrances are mere eau de toilettes, two concentration levels down. Even so, to me, Galop still feels quite light, particularly in its first hour. While that subsequently changes a little and Galop gains some additional richness in the hours that follow, it still doesn’t feel like a pure parfum by the standards of some other houses. It may not be the translucent, heavily anemic, and wishy-washy watercolours of Jean-Claude Ellena’s eau de toilettes, but I think Galop is still several galaxies removed from the intense, opulent, heavy, rich oil paintings of Xerjoff, Roja Dove, Slumberhouse, some SHL 777s, or even a few Lutens.
In essence, Galop nods to the leather in Hermes’ Cuir d’Ange eau de toilette, but goes its own way by emphasizing a spicy, unsweetened rose-centric bouquet that has a fruity opening, then a leathery, dry, and smoky middle phase and finish. All of it follows the Ellena aesthetic, except it is presented in what Hermes views as “parfum” intensity. I appreciate the greater strength and that it’s not an eau de toilette (even if this “parfum” feels like an EDP by my personal standards), but it doesn’t rock my world on an olfactory basis. Putting aside the simplicity and the boring minimalism, I personally prefer Cuir d’Ange which I find more elegant, interesting, and appealing. In fairness, though, I’m neither a rose lover nor an Ellena/Hermes admirer, and those two things clearly constitute the target audience here, in my opinion: someone who wants a spicy, smoky, dry, lightly fruited, and leathery rose alternative to Hermes’ two existing leather scents, Cuir d’Ange and Kelly Caleche.
Galop doesn’t change in any significant or dramatic way on my skin except in the strength, nuances, and prominence of its various notes. Roughly 30 minutes in, the fragrance turns spicier, stronger, heavier, and darker. Over the next few hours, the spotlight is on the duo of the rose and leather, waltzing on center stage with the rose always taking the lead. Fruitiness, spiciness, and a touch of smokiness swirl all around them. At the end of the second hour, the quince’s tannic, sour, musky fruitiness retreats to the background, leaving only a streak of bitterness in its stead. The saffron’s spiciness remains long into the drydown. Over time, the leather slowly loses its suede-like quality, turning drier, smokier, and more synthetic in feel. Roughly 3 hours into Galop’s development, it becomes the dominant partner, but only when I smell my arm up close. From afar, though, the spicy rose still dominates the bouquet on the scent trail. It’s dark, smoky, and leathery, but the balance of notes continues to fall towards the rose side on my skin more than the leather one.
By the start of the 5th hour, Galop is centered almost entirely on a rose that is infused with spiciness, bitterness, muskiness, and a strong smokiness. The latter is the last solid, concrete, and clear remnant of the leather, but there is no actual leather wafting from my skin, per se. There are only heavy waves of smokiness layered within the rose itself, turning it black and dry. Everything else feels more like an abstraction.
It’s interesting, but things go a little south midway during the 7th hour. The rose takes on a sour, intensely acrid, and somewhat chemical aroma. Deep down, under the sourness, there is an underlying whiff of something that, once in a blue moon, is almost like ammonia as well. When I say “chemical,” I’m not talking about mere synthetics (although they are definitely at play) but something in the aroma of the rose itself. It’s… off… but in a way that I can’t quite pinpoint or explain. I can’t pinpoint the source, either, whether it’s from the rose or a by-product of the leather. On Fragrantica, as you’ll see later, one person described the rose as smelling of insecticide, a second called the leather “urinous,” a third referenced ISO E Super, and a fourth called the leather highly synthetic, but it’s none of those things on my skin, per se. Not precisely or exactly. It’s more like a rose-scented, chemical, smoky acridness imbued with immense sourness and with an elusive, passing whisper of ammonia deep, deep down.
From this point forth, Galop really doesn’t change at all. It is a dry, synthetic, slightly bitter, slightly sour, slightly musky, and intensely smoky, blackened rose. A brittle, very masculine rose as well, devoid of even a modicum of sweetness or plushness. In its final hours, all that was left was a smoky dryness and darkness with a faint vestige of rose lingering underneath.
Galop had good longevity, moderate projection, and initially strong projection that took a while to turn soft. Using several wide smears equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opened with 2-3 inches of projection that rapidly grew to about 4-5 inches. The sillage was about 6-7 inches, a little under half an arm’s length and, to my surprise, stayed at that level for quite a while. At the end of the 3rd hour and the start of the 4th, Galop projected between 1 and 1.5 inches, while its sillage was roughly 3-4 inches. It took 6.25 hours for Galop to turn into a skin scent, but it was easy to detect up close without major effort until the 8th hour. In total, the fragrance lasted just shy of 11.75 hours.
On Fragrantica, reviews for Galop are mixed, but the comments generally tend towards the negative side. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent reason as why some people are not enamoured with the scent. One person describes it as “a deep rose and calf skin leather accord, with some spices thrown in. It’s nice but I envision it being worn by a mature, professional woman.” Others didn’t experience enough rose or, if it appeared, found it too sheer and light. One person wrote that the leather “stinks,” another said that Galop felt and behaved more like an EDT than a parfum. For “genny17,” Galop was too “dry, harsh, and masculine,” had the scent of “cheap fake leather stuff,” and lacked “an ounce of femininity.” For “Shalimaraddict,” the issue was a “urine” aroma to the leather. Several people wrote that they preferred Cuir d’Ange, while several others had issues with Galop’s price.
Below are snippets of different opinions just to give you an idea of where people fall on either the scent itself, how it compares to other Hermes leathers, or their thoughts about the direction represented by Christine Nagel:
- totally different from what I expected as a Hermes fan. Nothing spectacular, nothing innovative or at least distinct. The rose/leather/quince is one of my beloved triangle but i swear I detect no quince an no (quality) leather in it., smells way fruity on me and the saffron is terrible chemical. Linear, predictable, not lasting as it should a Hermes be. Even the bottle is a Mauboussin wannabe… Disappointed.
- I hope this is not a sign of things to come with Hermes. It is not that it is horrible but it has some issues. It is supposed to be a pure perfume but behaves on me more like an edt. When I saw the name Galop I was expecting deep oily leather. I sprayed it on my arm and the biggest thing I get is thin sharp lemon or quince. I smell a sheer veil of leather that disappears after thirty minutes. I smell no rose, no sweet, and it is not warm spicy. It lasts a while but I was not excited. I will pass on this.
- Lightweight rose with a leather base. It’s in the same vein with Kelly Caleche, both being rose/leather centered scents. Not that they smell similar but the style definitely shares some DNA. [¶] The leather in Galop is very close to that in Cuir d’Ange. I don’t understand the pricing. It costs even more than the Hermessence line. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
One of the most detailed reviews comes from “henri345que,” and it’s worth sharing as a warning because, on his skin, the rose had the insecticide or bug spray aroma that I referenced earlier. He begins by first expressing a disappointment with the fragrance’s execution and synthetics, before going on to the details of his scent experience. Parts of it resembled my own. Here are the relevant sections:
This is one of those weird cases where everything seems to be in place and yet something does not fit. The concept and name are typically Hermès, the perfumer words fit the aroma and rose and leather are indeed the protagonists of the perfume. Still there is something odd about the execution. something in the bad sense of the word chemical / synthetic that appear at certain times to spoil the rose scent on the skin.
Galop opens unexpectedly for a floral leather with a very clear fruity aroma. It is not a juicy, sweet or common fruit, it is an acid accord that explores the most sour side of passionfruit and that few brands would dare to offer in a composition. It lasts a reasonable time on the skin, mixing with the scent of roses and saffron, which is most noticeable in the projection of perfume than in the skin. The leather accord in the creation is a more abstract view where osmanthus is used to give a greasy and oily touch of leather along perhaps with cashmeran and other musks and a lightly resin aspect, creating more a leather texture than a scent of leather itself on skin.
What spoils Galop, however, is an aspect of roses that should not stand out but that seems to linger on the skin and brings you so much to the world of insecticides and insect repellents. It is a nuance of citronella that sounds plastic, artificial and spiky inside the fragrance, something surprising to me considering a perfumer so experienced and usually assertive in her creations. The passion fruit print is a big risk and a moment of estrangement in Galop,but the appearance of insecticide aspect of roses becomes a bit too much for me. On the viewpoint of concentration Galop also leaves to be desired, not having the wealth and luxury that you would expect from a pure parfum, especially a feminine one.
On the other side of the aisle, there is a moderately positive review from “Antonpan” who found Galop to be “a leathery lighter version of Lancome Magnifique that was discontinued some years ago.” He described Galop as “airy, leathery and spicy. Not sweet absolutely. I do smell leather of Cuir d’Ange, fresh spiceness and roses of Lancome Magnifique and ISO e super mixed together. Mature and beautiful, if you like leather.” [Emphasis to names added by me.]
One of the few raves for Galop comes from “Originaldeftom.” He absolutely loved the scent, although he notes that there are more affordable options that involve the same series of notes and he admits he’s somewhat influenced by his equestrian background. His review is long, so here are some relevant snippets:
WOW! […] I can say it is rather unique, intriguing and so compelling with its semi-customisable packaging [….][¶] I swear I immediately picked up the “Si” Armani signature (that fruity chypre theme) that is unmistakably Christine Nagel’s signature. [¶] Here, instead of that infamous cassis note, she chose that semi-exotic quince accord: Genius!
Mind you, if I was mean, I’d say, save yourself a few bucks and buy Penhaligon’s “Vaara” instead, with a more complex Quince story (and of that a really great one), but I must admit the notes between that suede, rose, saffron, et al are very well balanced and juxtaposed.
Truly a remarkable modern, different, pungent, exciting new effort for Hermes, whose juices I previously found rather bland, watery and somewhat insipid.
Verdict: Fantastic 9 and only because it is missing for me the horse dung/ barn note that I would expect from a truly equestrian perfume. [¶] Good sillage and for Hermes standards rather long-lasting. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
What you should take from all these comments is that you should probably test Galop first as opposed to launching into a wholesale blind buy. If you dislike the Ellena style, I don’t think Galop will be sufficiently different in aesthetic to sway you, not unless you’re crazy about dry, smoky, leathery florals as an absolute rule. If you are an ardent Ellena fan, there is no guarantee that you’ll adore Galop, particularly if you’re a woman who prefers her leather to be clean, mild, soft, light, feminine and/or sweet. You may prefer Cuir d’Ange or Kelly Caleche instead. Galop might work better for male Hermes fans who like spicy, fruity, dry, and smoky floral leathers without sweetness or powderiness. On the other hand, the leather may not be profound enough and may be too much of an abstraction. For those of either gender, if you’re looking for a unisex, lightly powdered, smoky rose leather that has both dryness and gourmandise (praline caramel), then you may want to consider Guerlain‘s Habit Rouge Dress Code as an alternative. Finally, if you have a deep sensitivity to synthetics, you should definitely test Galop first. The drydown gave me a sore throat, and I think there is definitely some ISO E-related materials in the base.
For me, Galop is a pass, but I look forward to seeing what Christine Nagel does next and I will continue to hope (no doubt in vain) that she eventually forges her own path, devoid of her predecessor’s influences and aesthetic.