Design

Notes on A Scent: A Tumble in the Grass with Hermès

Our resident nose in the know checks out the Parisian stalwart’s newest olfactory toy, H24.

Maxwell Williams

H24 © Christopher Anderson – Magnum photos – 3
H24 © Christopher Anderson.

H24, the new scent from Hermès, conjures the image of a well-groomed man strolling through the fields of Central Park to his Midtown office—and the still amazing anomaly of this vast green space existing in the middle of some of the densely built land in the world. It is an intimate, pared-back fragrance filled with contrast and dynamism. 

Even the packaging is a surprise: the heftiness of the bottle notwithstanding, on the shelf H24 could be mistaken for a perfume from another brand. It doesn’t look like an Hermès bottle, which are usually square—even in the case of the 2017 hit Twilly, which had a little hat as a cap. H24 instead comes in a stately parallelogram, marked only with its name stenciled on the face. It’s minimal and sporty, but Hermèsian-ly so: with jibs and bows and sidecars in Monaco.

Hermès h24

Which is to say, it’s definitely meant to be a masculine scent. Perhaps it’s a perfume for men who really want a smell but don’t want to smell. 

Yet, for such a smooth experience, it is also a distinctive one. A matte metallic green crawls out of the bottle like a scarab beetle. That, then, gives way to a kind of vegetal sage note that lingers on you.  

The balance of metallic herbaceous gives H24 a “freshie” vibe, something to put a little pep in your step and make you feel clean and soapy, and it stays that way for a bit. The dynamism is easygoing though: after a while, the result is some sweet woodiness, abstract and ever-so-vaguely incense-y, impressing with an hours-long performance. 

Hermès h24

H24 © Christopher Anderson

Why does that metallic green stay so long? The nose behind H24, Christine Nagel, who has created some of Hermès’s most memorable fragrances including Twilly, as well as non-Hermès classics like Miss Dior Cherie and Narciso Rodriguez for Her, heavily doses the fragrance with sclarene. This molecule, which she derives from clary sage, is also the building block for Ambroxan, the molecule known to mimic the smell of ambergris, a waxy substance produced by sperm whales prized in the 19th century for its use in soaps and candles. Alone, sclarene is a rarely used molecule in perfumery, making this fragrance as singular as it is subtle.

It’s tempting to just sit and let it drift over you, as if you parked yourself in a grassy spot to marvel at the Midtown high-rises and the ornate hotels peeking into view. It’s going to be a long, gentle afternoon.