Elixir des Marveilles is a stunning swirl of spiced orange, resins, balsams and incense, infused with a creamy caramel sweetness and a haunting animalic amber undertone.
As the scent's complex top notes subside and the fragrance warms on the skin, it becomes ever more intoxicating, becoming more sultry, even salty and savory. The dry down is a comforting, warm dry woods.
I notice that professional perfume critics, have some tendency to beat up on and even ridicule, a little, Elixir des Merveilles, a perfume I love so much that, should I somehow lose my collection, it should be one of the first perfumes I would replace. Luca Turin suggests that it is prim bourgeois chypre in disguise, and our own Claire V compares it to Kim Kardashian's physical disproportions (must we body shame? Even if our comments aim at the shameless?). I think it is one of the most appealing perfumes in the modern canon, a classic that stands alongside its ancestor, Eau des Merveilles, and perhaps it is so easy to like that its obvious desire to please is too much for some people's tastes. But this review is not a speculation, as to why some people might dislike it. I hope I can explain why I do, and also why other people do, and why someone who has not smelled it should have it on their test list, at least, before fall comes, as it shines in autism like few other perfumes.
I also notice, with more that a bit of irony, that many people seem put off by Elixir des Merveilles' lush character, as these are often the same people who complain about JC Ellena's minimalist tendencies. Ellena has not always been the watercolorist perfumer who limits himself to a total palette of something like 30 ingredients, with which to create his entire ouvre. His early efforts, Eau de Campagne and Van Cleef and Arpels' First, are, if anything, maximalist creations stuffed with accords within accords within accords, the nes plus ultras of their respective genres, as the former is the greenest of all the greens, a Mediterranean garden complete with tomato plants, and the latter the grandest of amber-civetesque jasmine florals, a grand ballroom chandelier of endless crystals lit with tiers candles.
Ellena did not, exactly, return to this style of perfumery with Elixir, as its construction is much more legible, in part, likely, as it is made of neatly trimmed captive molecules with few if any sloppy natural edges. Yet, it has an incandescent warmth, as lit from within, as well as a cheerful and brusque afternoon freshness. It has a sweet orange zest accord, full of the sunshine that citrus somehow captures are no other tree fruits can, the scent of which feels like sunbeams streaking through a window, a wonderful opening that would make a great perfume in itself, as it lasts for hours without wearing its welcome out.
Being a chypre, Elixir also has purring mid-toned resins, the necessary cantilevers that separate a chypre's citrus ceiling from its dense and slow-evaporating base ingredients. I do not smell much if at all earthy labdanum, but I do pick up benzoin. However, most of the resin seems to come from the scent of orange zest, which somehow makes itself felt within the orange accord. Somehow Ellena got a little bit of the bitterness of the inside of the orange's peel into this accord. It is such wizardry, that I am willing to squash my usual martinet tendencies, regarding perfume categories. This is a modern chypre, made after IFRA took away our oakmoss, and it uses the base ingredient that most perfumers turned to in the mid/late 00s as they tried to rescue the genre. And besides, it somehow has the quality of mineral saline, something I smell in oakmoss, and also refers to the original Eau des Merveilles, one of the best olfactory meditations on salt ever created.
So, Ellena uses patchouli, and it is such an excellent patchouli accord that it covers all the bases of this versatile material, from its icy aromatic menthol to its spicy red hot cinnamon to its opulent yet dehydrated cocoa dust. It is rich, complex, and delectable, and combined with the equally complicated orange ingredients, the perfume comes together to reference some of the heights of confectionary art–dark chocolate with orange zest, and those thin strawlike orange candy sticks coated in chocolate that used to be served at high-end restaurants in my childhood. The combination is classic, a marvelous referent, to the Christmas tradition of chocolate oranges and expensive imported chocolate bars sprinkled with Sel de Mer or Maldon salt. Ellena, then Hermes' gnomic minimalist mandarin, found the humor within a notoriously humorless genre of perfume, and created a gourmand as distinctive as any I have ever smelled.
Its orange is too bitter, and its patchouli too authentically dirty, that its edible qualities seem improbable, but they are undeniable. I understand why this perfume could make anyone smile,or even laugh, as oranges and chocolate are the stuff of which pure gustatory and olfactory happiness is made of. But I love wearing it, it acts as one of my most reliable antidepressants, and also a soothing and cozy bedtime companion, as well. It somehow never gets old, for me, and every occasion I wear it, I wonder why I don't wear it more often (and I do wear it often enough). It is the most exuberant of Hermes' perfume lineup–even more so than the wonderful ambers Ellena also made for the house–and one of the few that, despite the house's mission statement for only daytime perfumes, wears wonderfully for evening and even going out clubbing, inspiring the occasional nibble on the neck from my boyfriend.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that Elixir des Merveilles should be on any neophyte's test list for autumn. It has a beautiful balance of warm daytime freshness and cool evening richness, with a crisp textural quality that mimics the season's air, leaves, and fruit. Its happy orange bottle even resembles a pumpkin, so even its decorative qualities suit the season. I have been wearing this perfume since one of my favourite SAs obtained for me a sample a few months before its official launch, as she knows I have a weakness for patchouli Orientals, and an obsession with chypres. I feel like it is still a mystery, year after year, and it lifts my mood with the same consistency as our first cool evenings, the first day my scarves and sweaters are unpacked. It makes me senile, but I laugh with it, not at it. It is serious perfumery but not somber or dull-making.
Elixir des Merveilles performs excellently, no doubt due to whatever crispy musk materials Ellena uses to give it its glassy lamplike qualities, along with low-volatility patchouli in the base. Expect much more projection and longevity than most of Hermes' modern perfumes, and consider it for evening if you are going somewhere that you would like to smell attractive from a distance. I believe it is marketed to women, but we all wear citrus and patchouli, so unless you just hate sweater Oriental style compositions, you'll likely enjoy this. It adds variety to my usual autumnal Ambercentric lineup, and I wear it through the colder months and even sometimes in the warmer, as its citrus is sufficiently fresh. It is an extraordinary value on the Grey market, and I believe it is generally–at least by amateur perfume enthusiasts–justifiably considered a classic. I believe it deserves five stars, for its inventive timeless clever cross-genreation, and two spice-lacquered thumbs up. Really, go try it. eBay sellers always have adorable minis that come with cute little leather strings, should you wish to hang your little orange orb around a turtleneck sweater, or some seasonal decoration. And please try its mother perfume, Eau des Merveilles, if you haven't–another scent about which I will gush unashamedly, another evening soon.
One of Ellena's more stunning creations from his time at Hermès, Elixir des Merveilles remains the only Eau des Merveilles flanker to be truly worthy of the original.
Elixir is an intensified take on the original masterpiece, and if it owes a great deal to it, Elixir's brilliance shines forth in the way that it rebalances the original formula.
The orange in the original was translucent and ethereal. Here, it's candied, almost gourmand, but Ellena is quick to undercut the sweetness by amping up the marine ambergris base, creating a peculiar sweet-and-salty effect that is unique to Elixir.
Elixir des Merveilles, like it's bottle, is indeed golden and it doesn't want to be what you want to call it.
Despite the listed notes it's not a full gourmand, not an incense caravan, nor pure dry woods affair or a tropical amber flanker either. Neither animal, vegetable, or mineral and yet all three at once. Impressionistic, everything about it is "the suggestion of".
It instantly jolts one back to the original Eau des Merveilles, it's a clear member of their family, but it's different, more syrupy and a bit richer, just like the bottle's color.
There's the orange, more candied or boozy than fresh along with whiffs of "maybe" earthy dark chocolate (the moss, the various woods, a hint of cumin and resins) while the Merveilles' lines vague nautical theme, Aphrodite-like blossoms through a wave of sea-salt caramel, emphasis on the sea. It's not so much a true caramel, there is no burnt sugar, but the sum of varied components; additional resinous or vaguely balsamic amber or ambergris, clean musks and white flowers, and tonka mingling with lingering woods (cedar shavings) patchouli and a modern slightly barbershop "fresh" marine soap (sunscreen-esque) creating an impression of warm "skin".
At least that's what I thought on my first wearing. Ah, what a young nose. It didn't put me off too much, as I'm into that kinda stuff. But that was about two years ago, so it must have left an impression. Maybe I wasn't willing to walk around smelling like I'd just enjoyed a marathon lovemaking session. Love that smell, but not as a lingering, all-day presence.
Transitioning from retail work to an office environment has been fun times for my fragrance wardrobe. It's given me the confidence to break out my more challenging scents, as in retail the wrong note could entirely put off a customer and ruin your whole day. In an office, no one cares unless it's loud and in your face.
So with high hopes, and some leftover apprehension, I wore Hermes Elixir des Merveilles. It's a scent of surprising contradictions. Breezy, sticky. Sweet, salty. Soapy, dirty. Feels more like an aura than an afterglow. Comforting in a way I didn't expect, based on previous wearings.
Recently I've noticed that amber takes on this dusty playdough vibe when I smell it. I get that here, combined with a sticky, caramel orange. Sounds like it would be heavy, but it's light enough. Works for me. I dig it.
I think I finally get this - and when I was offered a 30 ml in a swap, I decided to spring for it. It is by far the most bizarre of this entire "line" of scents (at what point does a flanker begin its own line?), and that is what made me come back - if this were labeled under Josh Lobb's Slumberhouse label, I believe it would have more approval - I mean, it is really weird...and wearable sometimes...but then it gets weird again. I like it like that.
Anyway, if you've always wished Josh would make an amber for the masses (he made "A", but that was not for the masses), and wondered what weird stuff you could do to amber, this is it...until Josh decides he wants to expand on "A" (hint hint).
A very strong, sticky, pure, resinous amber with an animalistic side. It smells like my redhead's skin when I've been under the sun, only stronger, with an orange peel touch.
So so so great. Full bottle worthy. I feel it's masculine. Unisex for sure.
I've smelled quite a few beachy scents over the years, and I own several that I think are really exceptional, but nothing quite smells like the sun, sand, and sea to me than Elixir des Merveilles. That impression was overwhelming the first time I smelled it, and it's stuck in my nose to this day.
That's not to say there are any of the usual suntan lotion suspects in this–mostly it's a conflation of foody and woody notes interwoven top to bottom with orange peel. But instead of smelling heavy and weird to me, what I smell each and every time I spritz this is a tremendously good-natured outdoorsy scent evocative of salt-tinged, sun-baked summer days at the beach. While I don't reach for it often day-to-day, it's the first bottle I toss in my bag when I go on vacation.
God, Elixir des Merveilles is such a weird perfume. The first time I tried it, I remember thinking this right here is why people hate perfume. It was overly rich, sweet, muddy, with all the elements jumbled together in that overdone blur that defines Rich Bitch perfumes to me. The second time I tried it, I thought I should learn how to read labels better because I'd been aiming for the Ambre bottle.
Third time round, something clicked for me and I began to like it. Now I have odd, sudden cravings for it. I think it's because I was finally able to figure out its structure. There are two sides to Elixir des Merveilles the syrupy orange peels dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt on one side, and on the other, a massively butch clutch of resins and moss. It's basically a super-gourmand grafted onto a super hairy-balled aftershave.
Both sides are as oversized as clown shoes. The oranges dipped in caramel and chocolate are sweet to the point of being grotesque. One minute you think it's gorgeous, the next you think, Christ, this stuff is absolutely gross. The sprinkling of what feels like celery salt over the treacly mass is probably one step too far. I swing between feeling repulsed to wanting more. The countermanding element is rather chypre-like: a brusque, musky cedar, smoky balsams and resins, moss. It's really quite dry, bitter, and smoky.
The exaggerated forms of the two parts give the perfume a cartoonish Jessica Rabbit shape. It's like watching an overloaded plane trying to take off or Kim Kardashian walk across the road in a tight skirt. You half fear it's going to topple over any minute. But somehow the whole thing seems to hang together and work quite well. It's a great winter gourmand, and the oranges and resins make me think of Christmas and oddly, Theorema.
Just don't put this on if you're not in the right mood for it, because it sticks like glue and seems to grow grander by the minute. At times, I find it enveloping and rich just right for a cold winter's day. But at other times, it begins to wear me down. When my hand glides over the small bottle of it that I bought, I have to think twice before putting it on.
I've tried for years now to fall in love with Elixir des Merveilles. At first, I just found it confusing and gross. Then, with time, after learning to appreciate dark mossy green chypres, it started making sense to me (it's essentially a 70's-style green chypre galbanum and moss bomb with grassy patchouli and weird chocolate, topped with a very modern sweet citrus), but I still just don't really like it. The citrus feels out of place, like an attempt at modernization that falls a bit flat, while the chocolate actually comes across as weirdly animalic and the moss smells like the heat-sweats I get in bed when I've got a fever. I don't have the heart to give it a full-on thumbs down rating, just because I've spent so much time with it, so I'll give it credit for at least being unique and bump it up to a nuetral...
The principal of redundancy is the principal affliction of modern life.
The fact that there isn't any critique of the consumer society in perfumery world it is just because conformity and repetition cannot be missed in the blatant reiteration of perfumes. Business is the only reason for creating perfumes and the impersonal nature of the media and bloggers too saturated consumer culture! The world of smells has no arms! We can not defend ourselves from our ignorance since we call it culture.
There are three perfumes around a stupid idea:
L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Extreme (2005)
Elixir des Merveilles (2006)
Gucci by Gucci pour Homme (2008)
In the first fragrance the stupid idea must be very stupid to please many people, in the second one the stupid idea takes on a more classic wave becoming more elegant and a little less moulin rouge. In the third scent the stupid idea is even more stupid than the first one.
The first one is pour home, the second is a perfume for women and Gucci is a fragrance for men.
This proves that stupidity is unisex as scents should be. The meaning and value of these perfumes are determined by our chickenization!
"My life is very monotonous," the fox said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."
The Little Prince: Chapter 21
Sweet orange treat!
Wonderful sweet perfume, highest quality with exquisite bottle. The packaging is to die for. This is my first perfume from Hermes and I was happily surprised with this unique smell. I tried this under an enormous heat while at summer holidays and the perfume never turned bitter while the aroma followed me all day long. I am sure Hermes has a lot of fans with such creations. The smell is like orange peals covered in sugar and dipped in brandy. Super perfume indeed !!!!!
This tangerine scented fragrance really holds it's own. It has a slight vanilla note which balances it out from having that orange peel vibe. The woodiness helps simmer it down a notch. Without the wood note, this one would probably be a disaster. Overall, it's an ok fragrance but not one that I will be rushing to purchase again.
Subtle yet provocative spicy citrusIf you love DandG Light Blue but you are looking for something that lasts longer or you are looking to make a statement without saying a word, this Elixir is just for you! It speaks for you as you enter a room. As strong as the citrus/tangerine notes are, other tones stepping forward almost equally strong is that of a freshly chopped tree infused with a hint of cinnamon and oriental spice. I love a powerful scent that doesn't leave the aftertaste of soap and powder like some strong chypres tend to do. Powerful musky scents also shoo's me off. But with this scent my first impression was tantalizing!! Comparable to that moment you crack the sugar coating of citrus-infused créme brulée with the anticipation of mildly sweet, heavenly indulgence. It has that woody aroma on the border of toasted hazelnut. The initial high citrus note tones down within the first couple hours (perhaps longer) into carmelized tangerine at which point the oaky, almost leathery pepper tones become more noticable, however, magically I think, the complex citrus lingers throughout the entire day. I highly recommend this EDP to everyone in their late 20's through late 30's to try this out if you are bored with light musky florals and clouds of soapy, sneeze-enducing EDP's. This is an attention-drawing elixir (without the 'slap in the face'), so if you're shy, rather not try?Pros: Strong but not overpowering, lasts long, good for any occasionCons: None comes to mind!"
When Luca Turin damned Elixir des Merveilles with faint praise (3 stars and a revue en bref: "bon chic, bon genre,") I assumed it would fade into oblivion once the industry moved on to the next trend.
Revisiting this Jean Claude Ellena creation a decade on, I can't help but think that Turin was being uncharitable in his assessment. This is a remarkably good and unusual fragrance!
First, it must be said that Ellena has toiled for years in this territory--working with weightless, novel citruses supported by atmospheric synthetic bases (Terre d'Hermes, Eau D'Orange Vert, Eau de Pamplemousse Rose, Hermes Garden series, and even the old In Love Again and Sisley Eau de Campagne). So if there was a "bon chic" effect at the time Ellena released Elixir des Merveilles, he certainly earned it!
But Elixir des Merveilles is much, much more than a trendy throwaway. It accomplishes some things that are notable in the history of perfumery:
1) The sticky orange note is one that Ellena has mastered, but it is in other fragrances all too fleeting. Here, he manages to sustain it from beginning to end. When was the last time you smelled an orange (or any citrus) for 8 hours? More to the point, when was the last time you *wanted* to?
2) The transition into the base is, well, a "wonder." The orange note remains, but is slowly enveloped in a kind of sensual musk that smells like the naked body of a beautiful woman. This is a scent for afternoon love-making if ever there was one! Leave the curtains open, refrain from alcohol or any substance that will dull your senses, and wallow wakefully in her beauty.
3) The overall density of the composition is unusual in that it is simultaneously "thick" and "weightless." There is nothing cloying or suffocating about Elixir des Merveilles, but it manages to envelop the wearer in a plush cloud for hours upon hours. I kept expecting it to turn sickly sweet and ambaric, but it remained perfectly balanced from start to finish. Of course, this is Ellena's signature, but it is impressively done here, even by his lofty standards.
4) Finally, it is just "pretty." I mean that as a high compliment. Not all modern fragrances can claim this.
The main traits of this particular fragrance are in my opinion the orangy sheer facet, an almost gourmand and creamy (finally soapy) combination of caramel and vanilla providing a candied effect over the main orangy vibe, than a shadowy patchouli/dark chocolate/oakmoss chord and finally a sort of almost aromatic/ ("starry") aftertaste elicited by a subtle combination of barely mentholated resins, ambergris and dry woodsy incense. The outcome is a weird but highly sophisticated sparkling elixir, a sort of shadowy chic dark/woodsy orange with a spark of fruity-aromatic sophistication, a touch of seasoned and smokey exoticism and a dense woody/yummy foundation. A worthy feminine avant-garde potion.
Elixir des Merveilles is in my opinion a good fragrance where we have a creamy orange smell giving a sweet comforting scent, but it is unbalanced compared to Eau des Merveilles which in my opinion have much more versatility than this one. Anyway, a good fragrance leaned more towards the feminine side but does not stand a chance when compared to Eau.
For me this starts off with a nice citrus peel smell but dry, not juicy, perhaps a bit bitter. Something is modifying the citrus opening and I can't tell if it is something woody like cedar, oak, incense or something else. In the middle stages I get the cedar, resin, orange, amber and patchouli, all working together in a complex harmony. No one scent really comes to the front and yet they all work together so well...a symphony. As it dries down it feels more feminine to me, but the cedar makes it more masculine. I am a man and I will wear this. Below, somebody said it as well as could be stated, "sophisticated and refined". Wish I had said that! Another Jean-Claude Ellena masterpiece.
And here I am a day later and I can still smell this in my wrist. That says quality.
Oh, the bottle is drop dead gorgeous too.
Revision: I have used my tester up and find this to be a nearly perfect scent for me. I love how this smells on me, even after dancing in the club for four hours. Finishes well and never went away. Not as powerful as my dancing partner's scent (Le Male) but it held it's own all evening. Love the woody/cedary ending, still with just a hint of orange and incense. Beautiful and masculine enough for a man yet sweet enough for a woman. More men should wear this...NO, WAIT! It's mine, you can't have it!
Revision 2: I can't live without this. I bought it today.
I was so unsure of this fragrance, I tiptoed around it. First I smelled the bottle a few times, then sprayed it on tissue, finally spraying it on my wrist. I've never had a fragrance compliment my chemistry so well. Bitter orange, dark chocolate, dry woods, I never would have dreamed they would smell so beautiful on my skin... I was worried it would be too sweet, and on me it's not sweet at all. My only complaint would be that after reading so many reviews that claim this is a strong scent, and not a scent for everyone, I honestly wish it had a little more punch to it...
This started out as a bright blast of sweet orange, but it was a natural orange peel kind of scent, not chemical-y at all. As the day went on the orange was smoothed out with vanilla, and the sandalwood and cedar started to come out. It's a very warm, dense perfume that lasts all day. The woods make it more of a unisex fragrance- men or women could easily wear this.
I was walking out in the cold the day I tried this fragrance, and as I huddled into my scarf the perfume was very comforting! Definitely good for cold weather.