Skip to main content

Poivre Samarcande – Turn up the heat – December 18, 2016

Wikipedia image - Registan Square after sunset - Samarkand, Uzbekhistan - by Ekrem Canli, Aug. 5, 2012

Omigod, it’s cold out there. Turn up the heat!

That’s a constant refrain in our family. Long narrow and high, our old house has the most inefficient heating system known to man, which is forced-air heating. Even after expensive renovations, expensive new windows and doors weather-stripped and caulked to the extreme, as well as an expensive new furnace, we can never find the ideal temperature. There are fights over the thermostat because the males are always too hot, and the females are always too cold. It’s an on-going battle of the sexes.

There’s one thing we all agree on though, and that is what constitutes a really good fragrance. We believe that a really good fragrance not only must smell absolutely great, but also must hit the emotional sweet spot. It must trigger the Ahhh factor, releasing memories, stirring feelings of warmth and well-being to reach olfactory nirvana. It’s not often that a single fragrance will do that for both men AND women, but it can happen.

Poivre Samarcande is a perfect example. It is one of the original four fragrances in the Hermessence Collection by Jean –Claude Ellena which was launched in 2005. Ellena’s minimalist signature style is obvious in all the Hermessence fragrances, which he says are not “big stories” like complex fragrances can be, but rather he thinks of them as little haiku, or simple olfactory poems. (W Magazine, o9/01/2004). Poivre Samarcande is his poem about pepper. Black pepper. Hot, and spicy, and dry.

Ellena’s creative inspiration was simple:

“A massive, beautiful oak tree once grew in front of my house, blocking our view of the Mediterranean. Eventually, it grew ill and was felled. The peppery, musky, slightly smoky scent of the cut wood etched itself in my memory. The soul of the old oak, mixed with pepper, lives on in this fragrance. The name Samarcande is an homage to the city through which spice caravans once passed on their way from East to West.”

Jean-Claude Ellena, Hermes website

Poivre Samarcande lists notes of pepper, chili pepper, oak, cedar, Chinese moss, and musk, and it opens with a rush of black pepper! And chile! At first it’s harsh, like dry burning spices that bite the nose and catch at the back of the throat, but almost instantly the accord sweetens and softens, the heat and spice mixing with woodsy notes with floral undertones. It’s the yin and yang, the male/female effect! The sensation is expansive warmth and transparency, which floats throughout the dry-down as the cut-wood notes become even more mellow and an earthy-musky note develops.  

Rather than linear, Poivre Samarcande is circular, the notes all present from the top, swirling around, floating in and out, rising and falling, and this is part of its subtle charm. But at its core, its heart, is the warm oaky note from the fallen tree, exactly as Ellena describes it:  peppery, musky, slightly smoky – it’s the soul of the old oak. That dry warmth is deliciously aromatic, a subtly sensual scent that smells soft and expensive, and utterly fascinating. Is it male, is it female, does it matter?  

Just wear Poivre Samarcande, then wait for the comments. I can hear it now: “WHAT are you wearing??!!”

Poivre Samarcande is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.