Photo courtesy of Hermès
To meet Jean-Claude Ellena, the exclusive in-house perfumer for Hermès since 2006, at his hilltop atelier in Cabris overlooking Grasse, with Nice and the Mediterranean in the distance, is to understand his passion for fragrance and the art of making scents. As his wife of 45 years, Susannah, put it during a candlelit dinner at the sprawling house Hermès bought for his workplace, “Many people believe science is important to perfumery—Jean-Claude does not. For him, philosophy is more relevant.” And never more so than in his latest fragrance, L’Ambre des Merveilles, a refined, subtle scent. “I wanted to recount one of the mysteries of amber,” he explains, “somewhere between delight and sensuality, where vanilla meets the warmth of labdanum and the moistness of patchouli. It’s a smell that’s enveloping, almost aphrodisiac or narcotic, evoking the Far East. With L’Ambre, a woman becomes sensual, mysterious.” And that’s something science will never be able to explain. $149; hermes.com.