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Fragrance Review: Voyage d’Hermes Parfum, the Amazing Hat Trick

Is Voyage d’Hermes Parfum a grand expedition or a trip to nowhere? Barrister and Mann weighs in.

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Whew! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Big doings at B&M have kept me away from the blog, but I’m back! And I have a wonderful perfume on the docket.

Modern mainstream fragrance is not really the place in which you expect to find surprises. It’s fairly formulaic, chemically “fresh,” and usually pretty damn boring. But, every so often, there’s a surprise waiting in the wings, a sparkling flash of cleverness that’s wholly unexpected. That’s Voyage d’Hermes Parfum.

To be clear, there are two versions of the fragrance: the Eau de Toilette and the Parfum. It largely bucks the common trend of two separate scents with the same name, divided by different fragrance notes in addition to concentration, and the two versions of Voyage d’Hermes are actually quite similar (with a few minor variations).

Designed by Hermes house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, Voyage d’Hermes Parfum is a departure from Hermes’ usual fare. It’s spicy and rich, and its official note list belies the excellence of its structure:

The composition provides lemon, cardamom and spices in top notes. The heart hides hedione, floral notes with accentuated rose, green notes and tea notes, with a strong trail of musk combined with blond wood and warm amber.

I haven’t the foggiest idea what “blond wood” is (edit: a reader has informed me that “blond wood” actually refers to the synthetic musk Cashmeran. I don’t recall Cashmeran smelling that way, but I suppose I shall have to revisit it now), but the rest of the note list is pretty standard for a modern masculine. Yet it’s a testament to Jean-Claude Ellena’s skill that the scent is not boring or derivative, and Voyage d’Hermes Parfum continues to impress many hours into its development.

A photo of blond wood grain. Blond wood is one of the listed notes in Voyage d'Hermes Parfum
This is the first image result when you Google “blond wood.” I definitely expected worse.
What does Voyage d’Hermes Parfum smell like?

It’s more original than you think. Voyage d’Hermes Parfum comes out swinging with a big ol’ tart lemon note, complimented by spicy, woody cardamom by the cartload. The lemon keeps the cardamom from being overwhelmingly spicy or woody, while the cardamom keeps the lemon from being disgustingly sweet. It rounds out with a pleasantly spicy, peppery character, reminiscent of pink pepper but richer. Really quite lovely.

Little touches of ozone and amber (probably Amber X-Treme or some similar molecule) underpin the opening, but aren’t shrill, screechy, or obnoxious. Instead, the slight chemical dryness of such ingredients helps to accentuate the woody characteristics of the spices.

As the fragrance’s development progresses, the lemon and most of the cardamom eventually give way to a remarkably realistic and rich tea note, one of Ellena’s signatures. It pulls off quite a trick: when I originally smelled Voyage d’Hermes, I was caught completely off-guard by the sudden change, and it remains a delight after several wearings.

After some hours of slightly spiced tea, Voyage d’Hermes Parfum fades into a warm, pleasant musk (which smells very much to me like Exaltolide). It stubbornly clings to the skin for the rest of the day, and remains one of the longest-lived designer perfumes I’ve smelled. Unlike some of its louder brethren, the fragrance never becomes harsh or unpleasant, instead maintaining an elegant, pitch-perfect balance for its entire life.

How well does it project and how long does it last?

I get roughly 10 hours out of an application of Voyage d’Hermes Parfum, which is quite respectable. Projection is just about right: strong enough that people can smell the fragrance in your wake, but not so strong that they can smell you approaching. It fits the modern standard, but exudes everyday elegance.

When you should and shouldn’t wear it

Voyage d’Hermes Parfum is versatile and easygoing, but lacks a little bit of the polish necessary for, say, a black tie event or board meeting. However, it fits most everything else extremely well. I could see the fragrance working beautifully at networking events, in customer service or retail jobs, at parties, or even in rougher, tougher settings like machine shops. It’s well done and unpretentious, which is just what you want for an everyday scent.

Where to buy it

You can pick up a bottle at Sephora, and the folks there are usually quite happy to provide you with a sample so you can wear it for a few times before you buy. They offer it for $106 for 1.2 oz, so it’s definitely not cheap, but you can also pick it up from FragranceNet (with whom I have no affiliation) for about $60 or so. It might be a bit tough to find at a department store like Macy’s or Nordstrom, but you may be able to find it at a higher end place like Neiman Marcus.

Final verdict

Voyage d’Hermes Parfum is elegant and modern without being pretentious or loud. It’s fairly different from most of the screechy aquatics out there, and uncommon enough that you’ll definitely make an impression wearing it. That said, if you attend a lot of formal functions or executive meetings, Voyage d’Hermes Parfum might smell a little out of place. Still beautiful, though.

Picture of a bottle of Voyage d'Hermes Parfum standing on its end.
I really want to know how they got it to stand on its end like that.
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