A Guide To Vintage Parfum d’Hermès — Part I: An Enduring Love

Photo: the fantastic fashion photographer, Kristian Schuller. (Direct link to his full website is embedded within.)

A shape-shifting chameleon, a night rider traversing through a verdant chypre valley to lay claim to a rubied rose atop a pile of oriental treasure, and an unabashedly 1980s-style “take no prisoners” floriental-chypre hybrid, Parfum d’Hermes is many things but always, in my opinion, an under-appreciated classic masterpiece in its earliest formulations.

Age is key. Depending on the year of the bottle you try, it might exude such a naturalistic, heady, and complex 3D rose that it feels as though bucketfuls of beefy Ta’if flowers had been drenched with rich Nombre Noir-style damascones — a rose so grandiose, riveting, and naturalistic that it brings a rose hater like myself to my knees with awe. Then again, with another bottle, it might simply be a green-red damascena rose wafting a crisp, cool hauteur. In both versions, though, it gradually turns gothic and dusky, withered with frankincense and myrrh before being sheathed in a masculine gauntlet of smoke and leathered resins. Well, that is unless you have a bottle from the end of the 1990s, in which case things go in yet another direction still….

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Hermès 24 Faubourg — Part II: Modern EDP & How To Recognize The Vintage

24 Faubourg is a different creature in its modern formulation. It’s far from being a “bad” perfume when considered in a vacuum; it’s nice, enjoyable, even pretty at times. But it’s hardly the original. Jean-Claude Ellena has imposed his own preferences and aesthetic upon the baroque powerhouse through changes which fit his own olfactory world view, a goal which has the simultaneous benefit of complying with restrictive EU standards and  sharply reducing Hermes’ costs of production through dilution and the use of synthetics. The end result is a composition which would have been a good 1990s flanker to what I described in Part I: a purely feminine and impressionistic white floral with a sunny but abstract orientalism and no real chypre backbone. I would have named it “24 Faubourg: Solaire Oriental — Eau de Parfum Légère” — and then I would have bought another bottle of the original 1990s formula.

That is exactly what I shall recommend after a scent description of the modern EDP in the second part of this article. The third part will have technical bottle/dating information to show you what to look for if you’re interesting in buying a vintage bottle. But first, we should begin by discussing the timeline of IFRA/EU regulations and 24 Faubourg’s  possible reformulation dates.

Left: my 1990s EDT & EDP bottles. Right: photo of the modern EDT version on the Saks Fifth Avenue website.

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Hermès 24 Faubourg — Part I: The Glorious Vintages (EDT/EDP)

When I was in my 20s, one of my signature fragrances was Hermès‘ 24 Faubourg, an opulent chypre-oriental powerhouse created by the legendary Maurice Roucel. It was centered on luminous, creamy, heady florals which Monsieur Roucel sheathed, first, in multifaceted mossy chypre greenness laced with peach, then in oriental clouds of golden amber layered with real sandalwood, creamy vanilla, spicy resins, and a sliver of leatheriness. The fragrance feels like the more feminine, white floral cousin of Hermes‘ 1984 floral-leather-chypre, Parfum d’Hermes (reformulated and renamed in 2000 as Hermes’ Rouge) and Puredistance M (directly modeled on Hermes‘ 1986 vintage Bel Ami) during their middle chypre-oriental stages. The eau de parfum version even has a phase which is like a white floral twist on the 1930s-1970s version of vintage Mitsouko extrait. On top of that, vintage 24 Faubourg also inhabits the same world of rich chypre-florals as Givenchy‘s famous 1984 Ysatis, although the Hermes scent has a greater oriental underpinning and I would argue that it is much grander. Its richness, heaviness, and ornate complexity not only result in a very baroque regalness, but also somehow manage to ooze money and wealth in the most tasteful, elegant way imaginable. That may be why 24 Faubourg became the signature scent of the most glamorous princess of her era.

24 Faubourg vintage 1990s EDT left and center, 24 Faubourg vintage 1990s EDP on the right. Photo: my own.

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Hermès Galop d’Hermès

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'Hermes, ad. Source: Fragrantica

Galop d’Hermes, ad. Source: Fragrantica

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