So apparently I’m a Jean-Claude Ellena fangirl now? I’m not really sure how this happened. One minute I was all “Yes, yes, Jean-Claude, you are the world’s most minimalist one-trick pony”, and the next thing you know I’m buying bottles of Bois Farine and Ambre Narguile and setting up eBay alerts for Jardin en Mediterranee and Kelly Caleche. I just read Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent, which chronicles the creation of JCE’s first perfume as Hermes’ in-house perfumer, and now I can’t help thinking of Jean-Claude as the cryptic French uncle I never had. Sorry if this is getting weird, Jean-Claude.
In The Perfect Scent, Uncle JC explains that he created L’Eau d’Hiver by “intellectually reconceptualizing the great Guerlain classic Après l’Ondée”. Après l’Ondée is my second-favorite Guerlain fragrance (the first, of course, is L’Heure Bleue), so I knew that I had to try L’Eau d’Hiver. L’Eau d’Hiver is blessedly faithful to its inspiration. From the very first spritz, the similarity between the two perfumes is immediately apparent. The gentle heliotrope, the touch of anise- Ellena has skillfully captured the silhouette of Après l’Ondée in his L’Eau d’Hiver. However, I actually find L’Eau d’Hiver to be less intellectual than Après l’Ondée. It’s quite a bit sweeter, more of a comfort scent. It also lacks the watery notes that make Après l’Ondée so evocative.
Chandler Burr calls L’Eau d’Hiver “among the greatest [perfumes] ever created”. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not true. However, even though I don’t find L’Eau d’Hiver as special as Après l’Ondée, I believe that it will be a reasonably good substitute for Après l’Ondée once it’s finally discontinued in the U.S. We all know it’s going to happen, y’all. Oh, it’ll still be available in France, of course, but I’ll be shocked if we Americans will still be able to find Après l’Ondée in five years. When that dreadful day comes, I’ll switch over to L’Eau d’Hiver without much complaining. (That’s not true. I will complain forever. But I’ll still buy it.)