A Guide To Vintage Parfum d’Hermès — Part II: EDTs, Parfum & Dating Bottles

Today, we’ll continue to explore vintage Parfum d’Hermes, looking at its scent over the 1980s and 1990s. I managed to make the comparative analysis much shorter than I had anticipated, so I’ve included the technical bottle, packaging, and dating analysis here, thereby avoiding the need for an additional Part III. Let’s get straight to it.

Vintage Parfum d’Hermes, 1980s and 1990s EDTs. Note how the scarf has a small Parfum d’Hermes bottle on the upper right side, in-between two of my bottles. Photo: my own.

THE STANDARD 1980s EDT:

Parfum d’Hermes, 1986 EDT with standard yellow colour. Photo: my own.

Last time, in Part I, we looked at the super-concentrated, brown, 1980s bottles of EDT which had lost some of their top notes and their bite, in addition to having a greater emphasis on the oriental side of the fragrance. It may deviate from some of the scent standards but it, like all bottles of Parfum d’Hermes throughout the years, shared several common characteristics, even if the degree was different. One of those genetic traits is a strong, persistent bergamot note that runs from the start of the fragrance through its middle and, in some cases, lasts almost until its drydown. Another is the aldehydic opening layered with greenness.

“Bubbles” by “Chozi” on Deviant ART. (Direct website link embedded within.)

My 1986 EDT bottle takes both these elements and presents them in Parfum d’Hermes’ more typical scent bouquet. The fragrance opens with loads of bergamot that smells raw, aromatic, sharp, and bracing, as if you’d just run your nail through the rind and been splattered with its bitter oil. It’s accompanied by howling aldehydes that are cool, crisp, clean, and intensely aerated. When combined together, they create a nose-tickling fizziness much like champagne. Unlike the warmer, more rounded 1985 bottle, this bouquet has a less obvious presence oakmoss in its opening 10-15 minutes; its earthy, mineralized greenness is overshadowed by reams of cool, oily, green-black galbanum. In addition, there is initially just the softest suggestion of hyacinths and only a quiet pinch of earthy soil from the patchouli. The cumulative effect is a scent that is crisper, sharper, thinner, colder, fizzier, and more refreshing than the 1985 version. Thanks to the stronger, more prominent galbanum note, this one goes beyond Parfum d’Hermes’ usual Chamade-style opening and reminds me a little of Bandit.

One of the things which is most apparent with the standard Parfum d’Hermes is the fluidity of its scent. This is a fragrance whose stages are not so clearly defined and distinct as the 1985 bottle. The full range of its notes appears sooner, and they flow, often one into the other, marking the “stages” by the degree of their prominence more than by anything else. In that sense, it’s a very prismatic scent. Like a crystal chandelier hit by refracting, moving light, certain notes gleam and radiate more brightly at one point over another, but they’re all there, awaiting their turn.

Photo: Alexia Sinclair, “Rococo” Collection. Source: alexiasinclair.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

In that way, Parfum d’Hermes does change quickly, but it’s a question of degree. After 15 minutes, the hyacinths grow stronger, and their dewy, liquidy, fresh floralcy is backed by wisps of stony, slightly rooty iris. Even so, the floral notes remain largely overshadowed by the galbanum, oakmoss, aldehydes, and bergamot until the jasmine arrives, roughly 20 minutes in. It is sweet but less purple-hued, less syrupy, and less indolic than the 1985 bottle.

The rose which trails it is perhaps the greatest difference, though. While it still smells like a natural rose in a garden, it is not grandiose or multifaceted in an awe-inspiring way. It’s a lovely but rather diaphanous damascena rose which evokes not a Ta’if on steroids but a green and white rose bud just about to unfurl. Its sweetness is natural-smelling and lightly honeyed, rather than thickly jammy or beefy, but it’s also less sour.

Photo, “The Stars Of Spring Will Carry You Home” by the brilliant Kirsty Mitchell from her “Wonderland” book. (Direct link to Kirsty Mitchell Photography embedded within.)

Other differences are also apparent. This version of Parfum d’Hermes has an earthier, muskier undertone running through its opening, perhaps because its patchouli is present right up top, giving it a different sort of damp earth note to the original and one which is spicier when smelled up close. The cedar appears sooner and is more prominent here as well, adding a stronger woodsy underpinning to the oakmoss-galbanum chypre accord. More importantly, the fragrance develops differently. First, it not only turns woodier and muskier faster than the 1985 EDT, but also smokier, thanks to the myrrh rising up at the end of the first hour. The whispers of civet in the base also begin at that time. Second, and more importantly perhaps, the full complement of flowers appears a mere hour into the fragrance’s development. Some of them are initially merely the smallest whisper, like the orange blossom, while others are more prominent, like the buttery, spicy, velvety ylang-ylang.

Bois des Iles, original bottle & EDT version. Source: Fragrantica.

The standard version of Parfum d’Hermes shifts at the 90-minute mark. The rose and jasmine bloom fully, rounding out the scent, and significantly weakening the aldehydes. The galbanum retreats to the sidelines, but the oakmoss remains firm, its mineralized coolness given warmth by the growing amounts of patchouli, smoky myrrh, and toffee’d, balsamic ambered resins. Wisps of sandalwood begins to rise out of the base as well. The net effect is a deeper, richer, muskier, smokier, and more resinous bouquet. If you mashed-up the best parts of vintage Chamade‘s bouquet, vintage Ysatis, Chanel‘s opening floral-rose-iris-aldehydic signature accord, and slug of Chanel’s Bois des Iles, you’d have something that is roughly in the same ballpark as the heart of Parfum d’Hermes, circa 1986.

Vintage Lagerfeld Chloé ad, circa 1983. Source: Pinterest.

The part that I really love kicks in roughly 2.5 hours in when Parfum d’Hermes turns into a rich floriental-chypre leather. It’s a swirling kaleidoscope of: jammy-sour roses; indolic jasmine; musky orange blossom; custardy, spicy, velvety ylang; spicy patchouli; plush oakmoss; vetiver; myrrh resin; incense; sandalwood; spices; amber; and vanilla. It’s lightly splattered with aldehydic, brisk, fresh, and raw bergamot, then placed upon a leathery, resinous, smoky, musky base. The net effect reminds me of a smokier, richer, heavier version of vintage Chloé and vintage 24 Faubourg EDP. There are also faint echoes in there of Roja Dove‘s Haute Luxe and the vintage, rose-heavy version of 1960s L’Heure Bleue. While the first 90-minutes felt like a lighter, fresher, fractionally more youthful take on vintage chypres, this part is fully adult, a gorgeous sophisticated that is fully fused with sensuality and opulence. The Joan Crawford attitude of the hissing opening (“Don’t f**k with me fellas, this ain’t my first rodeo”) has segued into a warmer, more inviting, more oriental opulence.

The 1986 version of Parfum d’Hermes continues morphing and twisting into new combinations. Roughly 4.5 hours in, the fragrance basically turns into vintage Ysatis: indolic, musky jasmine and spicy ylang custard layered in-between oakmoss, vetiver, spicy patchouli, and vanilla. The veil of aldehydic bergamot remains overhead, while amber resins run through the base below.

Photo: Helmut Newton for Yves St. Laurent’s Smoking, 1975. Source: Pinterest

Then, 7.5 hours in, the fragrance suddenly turns into a rose-leather chypre-oriental combination that is identical to the one in the 1985 bottle. Its jammy-sour rose is seared and darkened with a panoply of vetiver, smoky myrrh, spicy patchouli, frankincense, sandalwood, and labdanum resin. Small dollops of sweet-spicy ylang custard dot its petals, but the overall effect is a very gothic, spiced, leathery rose enveloped in shadows. Just like the 1985 bottle, I’m reminded of the best parts of Guerlain‘s Encens Mythique and Rose Nacrée, mixed together, except this is muskier, richer, more complex, deeper, and sexier. It is what I’d expected Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady to be like, but the reformulated version I tried was far from it. Here, the mix of femininity and masculine, both tied up with Opium-style incense and spicy-resinous darkness reminds me very much of Yves Saint Laurent’s gender-fluid approach to both scent and fashion.

Source: Pinterest.

The rest of the 1986 fragrance’s development roughly parallels that of  the 1985 EDT. The bouquet eventually turns into a dark, satiny, velvety blend of rose, resins, patchouli, incense, and creamy vanilla, then into a wine-coloured haze of smoky, spicy, sweet-sour, resinous darkness.

While somewhat softer and quieter than the super-concentrated 1985 EDT bottle, this version of Parfum d’Hermes had good projection, good sillage, and excellent longevity. With the same amount, two sprays, the fragrance opened with about 4-5 inches of projection and a scent trail that extended 6-7 inches. Roughly 4.5 hours in, the numbers dropped: the projection was about 1.5 inches, the sillage about 4. It took about 8 hours for Parfum d’Hermes to turn into a skin scent, although it remained easy to detect up close until the 11th hour. The fragrance almost always lasts 15 to 16 hours on me, which is fantastic for a mere eau de toilette.

THE 1990s EAU DE TOILETTES:

1994 Parfum d’Hermes, in a 50 ml atomizer spray. Photo: my own.

I have three bottles of Parfum d’Hermes from the 1990s. One is from 1992 and the other from 1994, a full ten years after the fragrance was launched. Brands typically reformulated their fragrances 5+ years after the release for cost-cutting reasons, so I tested that bottle to see if the formula had changed by 1994 and, if so, by how much. It was difficult to tell because the bottle had gone “off” in its citrus top note. This is only the 3rd of roughly 50-some vintage bottles (from a variety of brands, not just Hermes) that I’ve purchased on eBay to have turned. (Coincidentally, all the turned bottles were sold without a cap and have an exposed aerosol hole, so maybe that was the cause of the erosion.) With all the turned bottles, the most noticeable thing was the citrus note smelled excessively bitter and funky and, in the case of one Opium bottle, almost rancid. However, the “off” quality typically never lasts more than 30 minutes, perhaps 40 at the very most.

In terms of the 1994 scent, I didn’t perceive a vast difference in aroma when taken as a whole, so if the formula had changed by 1994, it wasn’t immediately noticeable. Then again, the fact that the bottle has had 23 years to age and concentrate would help mask any possible formula dilution. What I did notice was that the turned citrus resulted in a heightened degree of bitterness and citric oiliness in the first 30-minutes. Even more obvious about this one was how strong, immediate, and prominent the jasmine was, and how greatly its syrupy, indolic richness was buoyed by waves of rich patchouli. The hyacinths were even weaker; the galbanum wasn’t as great as it should be; and the aldehydes were softer. Again, it’s difficult to determine how much of this is due to evaporation of top notes and concentration of base notes over a long period of time, but I think the original Parfum d’Hermes formula was largely intact or the same in 1994.

1998 bottle, 100 ml atomizer. Photo: my own.

The 1998 EDT bottle that I have, however, is quite different and I suspect that Hermes diluted the scent in addition to changing some of the formula towards the end of the decade. (This one hasn’t turned, by the way, perhaps because it always had its cap.)

This bottle of Parfum d’Hermes opens just like the standard 1986 one with a soft cloud of aldehydes doused with bitter, raw bergamot. Dry, mineralized oakmoss and bitter galbanum follow suit, then a light sprinkling of hyacinth petals. Each of them is lighter and weaker than the quantities in the 1986 version. What’s most striking is that, right from the start, there are thin streaks of ylang ylang, powdery iris, jasmine, and vanilla rippling around the background. For the most part, though, the focus of the bouquet is on the bergamot and oakmoss, shot through with aldehydes and a pinch of hyacinth. The aldehydes are tame and mild in comparison to the 1985 evaporated bottle, let alone the hissing 1986 one. There is little earthiness and even less bite. Something about the scent skews more pastel in its visuals to me as well.

Lara Hotz Photography for Hooray Magazine. Source: burnettsboards.com

Like its siblings, the 1998 EDT changes frequently, but it’s in rather different ways. Roughly 30 minutes in, the musky, leathery resins stir in the base, smelling of smoky myrrh laced with some labdanum. At the end of the first hour and start of the second, the rose appears, and the iris grows stronger. The net effect feels very much like a richer take on the standard Chanel signature: a mix of clean, aldehydic citrus, aldehydic rose, and fluffy, cool iris, all encased within hefty amounts of jasmine, ylang ylang, and spicy patchouli, then nestled amidst galbanum-oakmoss greenness, cedar, vanilla, and a touch of vetiver. The jasmine and ylang are the main flowers; the rose is a pale, wan, pink thing; and the fragrance is not only a sweeter bouquet in comparison to the earlier version but also faintly powdery and more vanillic.

In one test, when I applied only a light quantity of scent, things were even more different still. The impression of a pastel, fluffy, powdery floral bouquet infused with vanilla was so great and the oakmoss-chypre accord and the darker, myrrh-driven oriental notes so weak that the scent briefly evoked Chamade layered with a bit of the 1990s version of vintage L’Heure Bleue EDT. LHB is not a normal or typical association for Parfum d’Hermes, particularly for its opening stage, but I think it signifies the significantly softer, more powdery, fluffy, pastel-coloured and floral-driven aspect of the late-1990s Hermes bouquet.

The 1998 version of Parfum d’Hermes turns sweeter and more vanillic as it develops. Roughly 1.75 hours in, the rose and iris disappear from sight and the scent’s focus shifts to even more to the custardy ylang and syrupy jasmine. They are coated with silky, smooth vanilla, then sandwiched between spicy patchouli and soft, light amounts of oakmossy greenness shot through with dry, cedar-ish woods. A light, minimal froth of aldehydes and lemony citrus lies on top while small curlicues of smoky myrrh and dark resins begin to slowly creep upwards from the base. For the most part, though, the vast majority of the bouquet is a creamy, vanillic, yellow-hued florals infused with moderate-to-minimal amounts of citrus freshness, spiciness, greenness, woodiness, and ambered warmth. Sandalwood joins the party at the end of the 3rd hour, trailed by a soft, quietly smoky note from the myrrh, but the fundamental nature of the bouquet remains the same.

1985 vintage Shalimar parfum. Photo: my own.

Everything is fluid, an ebbing and flowing of note nuances and degrees more than a wholesale change in scent. Thus, roughly 3.75 hours in, Parfum d’Hermes grows significantly sweeter and warmer as the benzoin and vanilla explode. The flowers dissolve at the same time into a hazy jasmine-ish, ylang-ish white-gold blur, infused with bergamot citrus, patchouli spiciness, and sweet, tonka-ish powder. Everything flows into each other, including the woods and resins which were once in the base but now on center stage. The myrrh’s smoke does not feel either leathery or like incense. Instead, it imbued the vanilla with a Shalimar-style smokiness, although this one is slightly boozier than the vanilla in Shalimar, perhaps because of the heightened degree of patchouli.

Painting: ARTbyKristen Etsy shop. (Direct website link embedded within.)

That said, by the time Parfum d’Hermes ends the 4th hour and rolls into the 5th, the fragrance feels very much like a Shalimar cousin due to the way its florals are layered with hefty amounts of smoky vanilla and bright bergamot. There are differences, however. Parfum d’Hermes adds velvety, custardy ylang to its jasmine and also has a much more pronounced amount of almost boozy patchouli. There is no smoky leather like the original Shalimar, although there is the sandalwood of mid-1980s Shalimar as well as its caramel-scented benzoin and its minimal touch of smoky myrrh. As a whole, it’s not the most complex or original bouquet, but it’s classic. I find it to be delectable, cozy, and snuggly, and I also like its creamy texture.

Source: abm-enterprises.net

When I applied a smaller quantity of fragrance, the fragrance was different again. With only the lightest application, the myrrh’s smoky aspect was even more minimal, the benzoin not as sweet or prominent, and pastel-hued scent continued to waft some roses and iris in its middle stage. The way the florals blended with the silky vanilla and sandalwood in a way that felt a little like the middle/late stages of vintage 1990s Egoiste EDT, albeit an Egoiste infused with more jasmine-ish and ylang-ish notes as well. I like vintage Egoiste, but I personally prefer the more Shalimar-esque stylings of the bouquet that appears with a bigger scent application.

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Regardless of quantity, however, the 1998 Parfum d’Hermes always ends the same way. Its drydown is primarily benzoin amber and smoky vanilla, laced with patchouli to give it a quiet spiciness and a sliver of creamy sandalwood. The fragrance has a creamy, velvety texture, no doubt from the sandalwood, ylang, and vanilla. In its final hours, all that’s left is an ambered, vanillic sweetness.

The 1998 Parfum d’Hermes had lower projection, sillage, and longevity numbers than its prior versions. With two sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opened with about 2.5 inches of projection and roughly 5-6 inches of sillage. At the end of the 3rd hour and start of the 4th, the projection was an inch, while the scent trail extended about 3-4 inches. The fragrance typically turns into a skin scent on me at the end of 6 hours, and lasts just short of 12 hours. The numbers are still excellent as compared to the vast majority of modern EDTs, even to a lot of eau de parfums out there, but there is no denying that the 1998 EDT does not have the 80s-style intensity, heft, reach, and might of the original.

1980s vs. 1990s EDTs & PARFUM D’HERMES GENERALLY:

1985 vintage Parfum d’Hermes EDT, 100 ml size. Photo: my own.

I love all the versions of vintage Parfum d’Hermes, and I think each has parts or stages which are really wonderful, but there is no doubt in my mind that the reduced, super-concentrated 1985 bottle which I described in Part I is the most magnificent when taken as a whole, from start to finish. “Magnificent” is, in fact, the very word that my father used when I brought it over for my parents to sniff — and I have never once heard him use that word to describe any scent before, not even my mother’s treasured 1930s bottle of Shalimar or the vintage L’Origan that he loves passionately. Nor have I ever seen him have such an awed and dreamy expression on his face when smelling a fragrance as he did with that 1985 bottle. He just closed his eyes and when he opened them and gave me back the bottle, he looked a little dazed.

True, it is a utterly majestic and exceptional smelling fragrance in its super-charged form, but I think all the 1980s and early 1990s versions are head-turners and I have never understood why Parfum d’Hermes has been so consistently overlooked by the vintage fragrance community. I hear raves for so many vintage chypres, chypre-orientals, floral leathers, and florientals, including many from companies which are less known than Hermes or which have completely disappeared over the years. But until I mentioned Parfum d’Hermes in my 24 Faubourg review and posted Part I of this series, I had never heard a single word about the fragrance — not ONE — ever, from anyone, not even from vintage collectors. Posts in online perfume groups and communities show vintage lovers of both genders talking about, buying, and continuing to wear old chypres or chypre-orientals, as well as every possible formula or version of Guerlain. Vintage in never out of fashion, and people actively seek that style, richness, and complexity in modern fragrances. Men and women alike adore the early, original Roja Doves for their opulent, vintage sensibilities, just as they do Bogue’s releases or those from Areej Le Doré, and men never once think those chypre-orientals are too feminine.

So why is there so little talk about vintage Parfum d’Hermes, especially as it’s not hard to find or painfully expensive? While there are a handful of reviews for it out there, I’ve noticed that hardly anyone who comments seems to have heard of the scent, let alone tried it. Even for those who actually wore it and loved it once upon a time, it’s as though the fragrance has dissolved into the mists of distant memory, forgotten in a way that other vintage loves have not. I think it’s such a shame, and one of my goals in writing this series is to change that situation and to shine a light on a forgotten masterpiece.

THE VINTAGE EXTRAIT:

One big fan of Parfum d’Hermes is Neil of The Black Narcissus who wrote a lovely review for the vintage extrait version. (See, the fragrance is not only for women and, in its original form, is quite unisex.) I think his words describe the super-concentrated 1985 EDT as much as they describe the parfum, so I’ll quote a portion here, then let you read the full review on your own later:

Vintage Chamade parfum and eau de toilette. Photo: my own.

Now this is what I call a perfume. [… It’s] classic, assured, and beautifully balanced with floral notes of Bulgarian rose, hyacinth and jasmine immersed in a theatrical shimmer of myrrh and amber-infused aldehydes, spices and musk-tinged cedarwood – a Chamade-like semi-oriental that dries down eventually to a very ‘forbidden’, resinous, animalic finish. More so even than Rouge, which smelled familiar to me when it came out yet shocking with its uncontemporary, almost rudely human end notes, this final accord is sensual, perturbing, but a fittingly bodied conclusion to such a fully realized beauty as this. From the green, relucent burst of aldehydic hyacinths, to the powdered, elegant, skin-caressing conclusion, Parfum d’Hermès is a work of art – the flawless creation of perfumer Akiko Kamei [….] Like an obsessed artist lost in a hall of mirrors, she seems to have been compelled to try and recreate, or even improve upon, Guerlain’s monumental classic [Chamade] by strengthening it, embolstering that perfume’s innate vulnerability by enwrapping it in the finest red satins and silks, by corsetting her up with help from the fierce petites mains from her atelier, by taking her from her private, self-absorbed chambers to the extroversion of the opera house.

Strange as it may sound, I have no memory of ever trying the extrait. I may well have done so while in one of Hermes’ boutiques, but I don’t remember it. I never bothered with the extrait for my own use because the EDT was so powerful and forceful, because the extrait was very expensive for its tiny sizes, and because I went through such vast amounts of Parfum d’Hermes as a young teenager and sprayed with such abandon (hey, it was the ’80s!) that the larger EDT bottles were more practical. Now, the extrait bottles are even more expensive, but Neil’s lovely description does give me pause. For those of you who may feel equally tempted, I’ll include the extrait in my bottle analysis below.

HOW TO RECOGNIZE & DATE VINTAGE PARFUM D’HERMES — BATCH CODES, BOTTLES & BOXES:

In many ways, Hermes has made it really simple to date Parfum d’Hermes by virtue of the fact that the fragrance was pulled in 1999, re-interpreted, and re-launched in 2000 as Rouge Hermes. Even so, after reading about some of the scent differences between the bottles, perhaps you’d prefer one decade over another. To that end, Raiders of The Lost Scent comes to the rescue, once again, with its Hermes guide. It explains that, until 1999, Hermes’ batch codes began with a letter of the alphabet. So, for Parfum d’Hermes, the relevant letters would be G through X, with the exception of the letters O, Q, Y, & Z which were not used:

G—1984
H—1985
I—1986
J—1987
K—1988
L—1989
M—1990
N—1991    (letter O not used)
P—1992     (letter Q probably not used)
R—1993
S—1994
T—1995
U—1996
V—1997
W—1998
X—1999     (letters Y, Z not used)

The Raiders’ guide points out one very critical bit of information for bottles released before the early 1990s: they may not have an apparent batch code. As the guide explains, Hermes sometimes painted on its batch codes, and that paint could vanish or fade away over time. The guide points out that other codes may appear to have missing letters.

Two of my bottles reflect the issues of vanishing codes or painted codes, respectively. The code for my 1985 bottle doesn’t appear to the naked eye and is not painted on but looks imprinted, except that it is so faint that it took me a lot of work with the camera, angles, and enlargement to get even a trace of it to appear to show you. If you look closely, you can see 4 imprints and the rough outline of an “H”:

1985 Parfum d’Hermes. You can just about make out 4 imprints, starting with “H.” Photo: my own.

In contrast, the code on my 1986 bottle is apparent to the naked eye and in yellow paint, although its colour bleeds into that of the liquid in the photo:

Not all the codes are 4 digits. Some are five, like this 1992 atomizer of mine:

1992 Parfum d’Hermes. Photo: my own.

In terms of the bottle appearance, the EDT splashes always had “HERMÈS Paris” written in gold letters across its upper-front, right below the cap, while the atomizer bottles had a sort of gold saddle in which those word were cut:

The extrait bottles also had a gold metal saddle around the neck, but some came in a “bijou” refillable case that had the gold metal running completely around the bottle:

In terms of boxes, I remember clearly that all the EDTs I bought in the 1980s had Hermes’ red ribbons on their boxes. They looked exactly like this:

Photo by eBay seller, “Bumblebees5.” (Photo cropped by me on the sides.)

Photo: eBay seller, “koureos.”

Short ingredients list on a 1980s ribboned EDT box. Photo: eBay seller, “bumblebees5.” (Photo cropped by me to highlight the information.)

On eBay, there are quite a few boxes of vintage Parfum d’Hermes EDT without any ribbons on them. Given what I recall buying in the 1980s as well as the fact that the original Parfum d’Hermes advert emphasized the ribbons, I wouldn’t be surprised if the no-ribbon boxes came from the 1990s. However, I can’t see any batch codes to know that for certain. Nevertheless, compare the vintage Hermes ad and the beribboned boxes up above with some of the following EDT boxes currently on eBay:

1984 or 1985 Parfum d’Hermes ad with text that reads “It will take you in its ribbons.” Source: hprints.com

I haven’t quite figured out what is going on with the extrait boxes, either. Some lack the ribbons but, because I can’t see any batch codes on the bottles, I don’t know if that is a later 1990s thing. Judging by the light colour of the parfum juice shown in some old eBay listings and many current Etsy ones, I would guess some of the bottles are newer, but that doesn’t hold true for one parfum from Etsy seller “MyScent” whose painted batch code is clearly from the 1980s and whose box has no ribbons on it:

At the end of the day, the batch code is the controlling, critical factor. If your eBay or Etsy seller does not show the code in the photos, ask. Some non-ribboned boxes may end being from the 1980s, particularly if they are the pure parfum. That said, I think it’s pretty much guaranteed, though, that all the 1980s EDT bottles will have ribbons on them.

PRICING & eBAY/ETSY LINKS:

Prices for Parfum d’Hermes really vary, but patience can result in some bargains. I’ve bought one full bottle of the EDT in a 50 ml splash size for as little as $25 with shipping, I kid you not. I bought another for $50. I scored with my cognac-brown bottle, full and in a 100 ml size, for a mere $39.99 ($48 when shipping was added in). I can’t recall the prices of the other bottles, but I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $50 for Parfum d’Hermes. However, none of those have been in sealed boxes, and the price for those is significantly higher, often between $150 and $250. There is yet another price scale for the huge bottles that occasionally pop up in 200 ml or 400 ml sizes. Those can be even more, like the 6.5 oz and 13.5 oz cognac-coloured bottles that I’m currently lusting over, ranging from $250 to $800, depending on size.

But remember, I’ve bought a full 50 ml bottle for as little as $25 and have never paid more than $50, so Parfum d’Hermes can be extremely affordable at times. I think it’s worth every penny even at the higher prices, given its layers, opulence, complexity, heft, power, longevity, and sillage, You can’t get this sort of scent from a modern release unless you bought Roja Dove, Areej Le Doré, Bogue, or SP Attars — and none of those are ever $200, let alone $50 or less, for 50 or 100 mls of juice.

In terms of gender, I think the 1980s bottles are unisex and would suit men and women alike who love classical vintage chypres but also floral-leathers and big, bold chypre-florientals. Even if you don’t particular enjoy aldehydes or bergamot, you may still enjoy Parfum d’Hermes. Look at me, I never been able to stand aldehydic, citrusy, or rose-heavy compositions, but I’ve always loved this one. If you’re a man who loves a ton of oakmoss, if you like an incense-y, withered, gothic rose, enjoy fragrances that layer rich florals with more unisex or masculine darkness, and if you love the vintage Guerlain style, then this one should be up your alley so long as you stick to the original formula, the brown super-concentrated version, or the extrait. I think the late 1990s version with its pale juice is purely feminine, though, and it is not something that I’d recommend to most men, not unless they really liked the Chanel style or wanted a more delicate, demure, lighter, more vanillic, sweeter, and more floral-driven scent.

Here are some search/buying links to help you in your search for a good vintage bottle from the decade that best suits your particular style and tastes: eBay US; eBay North America (ergo, including Canada); eBay worldwide; eBay UK; and Etsy. eBay has quite a few European sellers offering Parfum d’Hermes, but so does Etsy. Their prices are in line with those on eBay, though they are occasionally a little bit higher. However, more Etsy sellers ship overseas or to places like the UK than their US eBay counterparts, so I think it’s worth checking the site from time to time.

If I’ve tempted a few of you, I’ll be so glad. Poor Parfum d’Hermes deserves some new admirers and to rise out of obscurity. It’s an unsung showstopper and, to quote Neil of The Black Narcissus, a “work of art.” Happy hunting!

7 thoughts on “A Guide To Vintage Parfum d’Hermès — Part II: EDTs, Parfum & Dating Bottles

  1. Pingback: A Guide To Vintage Parfum d'Hermès - Part I: An Enduring Love - Kafkaesque

  2. Thank you, thank you, dear K! You have conjured for me memories of the time I wore this all those years ago – on one occasion I was helping backstage at my local drama group and cast and crew loved to snuggle up for a sniff. I’m positive my Parfum d’Hermes brought happiness to the dressing-room and calmed first night nerves! My box had the ribbons design, and I would have bought it in 1987. And to think I bought it only because I wanted a change from Caleche ….

    Like you, I can’t understand why it wasn’t popular; certainly people loved to smell it on me yet it didn’t prompt anyone to rush out and buy themselves a bottle like some of my other fragrances did. Was it too complicated for them to wear, but good to smell on another, just as is breathing in incense or diffused aromatherapy oils? Your father demonstrates just how wonderful the experience of smelling it can be.

    Once again, I am now feeling sad at its loss but I am hoping to find a bottle on the net soon. In the meantime, thank you so much for your brilliant pieces and the very useful guides! I am looking forward to reading more of your reports on “vintage” perfumes.

    Love to you and his esteemed hairiness.

    • If there is ONE person who I hope looks for and buys a bottle, it’s you, darling. I really, *really* hope you find an affordable one on eBay UK. xoxo

  3. I’m enjoying your vintage series so much. I enjoy reading about whatever you’d like to discuss-the weather, current affairs-I wish that you generous people who write so eloquently about perfume realize how much joy you bring to your readers. It’s such an impossibly generous thing for you to do. I’m really touched by your descriptions of your younger self. Your young self seems like an amazing person 🙂

    The descriptions of Parfum D’Hermes makes me want to try it. There is something special about the vintage fragrances. The bottles, the controlled distribution of it, so that the experience of buying it was part of the joy. No wonder it was a luxury. And no wonder it wasn’t to be splashed on with abandon-the lasting power can be intense.

    I’m glad you’r still writing. I hope the hairy German lives forever. A man I work with has the same breed of dog. He adored her. She lived a good long life but he had to part with her early this summer. He’s a big strong tough guy, but that loss nearly killed him. She ate with him everyday-so bacon and eggs for breakfast, and bologna for supper 🙂 He thinks the German Shepherds are the best breed ever.

    Hoping for good things for you and your family as we come to the last month of 2017, and I look forward to reading what you have to write in the coming years.

    Very best regards, from someone who is tryingcnot to buy Shalimar at tomorrow’s tax free Guerlain event, when all I can think about is your Shalimar review from earlier this year,

    Carole

  4. I am delighted to report I hunted down a bottle of this lovely stuff due entirely to your amazing review and evocative story. I was in high school and college during the 80’s, and swooned my way through bottles of Opium, Obsession, and Poison. My ex-husband brought back a bottle of Ysatis from Paris. The saleswoman told him it was new and that I would love it. I did! It was my signature scent for years, and even now, I remember the scent and crave its decadence. So how could I resist going to eBay after stumbling on your article?

    My bottle of Perfum d’Hermes arrived today. The box had been previously sealed in its cellophane, only being opened by the seller to demonstrate the contents. The cap was tight and the bottle completely full of honey colored liquid. The package insert describing in French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish the various forms of fragrance available (body cream, bath oil, soap, deodorant, powder) is crisp and white as if printed yesterday. The gray-painted date stamp on the bottle starts with “M.” Interestingly, the pristine outer box is be-ribboned, and has the same date stamp on the bottom flap, in white. So there’s another data point for you. Ribbons on the box are documented into 1990.

    I’ve spritzed and am currently enjoying my first journey through this fragrance. So happy to have found your blog!

    • First, welcome to the blog, Ohio Belle. Second, I’m beyond delighted to hear that you were tempted enough to buy a bottle. How is the fragrance on you in terms of scent and what it develops into? I hope you’re still enjoying it.

      PS — I hope you look up my vintage 24 Faubourg series because, given your tastes and the fragrances you’ve said you’ve loved in the past, the early version of that one might suit you very much indeed.

  5. Greetings, Kafkaesque!

    Yes, I read your 24 Faubourg discussions with much interest. Your writings are definitely enabling mechanisms of the first class, LOL! Now I want to seek that one out, too. With the similar notes and composistion, I’m sure I’d love it. Because….

    I LOVE PdH! Love it intensely. I went to bed in a cloud of creaminess, thinking I wanted to spray it EVERYWHERE. Now, about 12 hours after spraying, a faint trace still lingers on my wrists. I missed the actual dry down (darn that need to sleep!), so I’m looking forward to wearing it to work today to see what happens.

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