Suzanne's Perfume Journal

To read my most recent posts, return to Home Page


“I have learned a thing you haven’t,” Meryl Streep, playing Karen von Blixen, informs her adventure-seeking lover, Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford), in the movie, Out of Africa. “There are some things worth having, but they come at a price. And I want to be one of them.”

I thought of this line, which happens near the end of the film, the first time I tried on Hermès 24, Faubourg eau de parfum. The first time I tried it on my skin, that is, for I should back up and say that I first smelled this fragrance on a paper scent strip, and my initial reaction was, This is too, too much. Days later I decided to approach it again, this time with a light spray to my wrists, and within seconds I realized that I was experiencing something truly extraordinary, something in the realm of Love at First Sniff. Of the many wonderful fragrances I’ve had the pleasure to wear since I began collecting perfumes, 24, Faubourg falls into a small category of scents that captured me quickly, completely and utterly—and I call that category, Scents That Smell Madly Expensive.

Now, they don’t actually have to be expensive—24, Faubourg, by virtue of the fact that it dates back to 1995, can be purchased quite reasonably from many online perfume discounters—but there’s a good chance that at one time they were. And when you smell them you know why, because there is a quality and a construction to these fragrances that pushes them past the envelope of what we recognize as classy, sophisticated and elegant scents; in addition to these characteristics, which they have in spades, they possess an element that goes beyond it, to what you would call lavish, decadent, extravagant and baroque.

Think of Meryl Streep’s character. She didn’t just have a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. She had a big house full of Limoges china and fine linens and dressing-gowns-to-die-for on that coffee plantation in Africa. She had Robert Redford’s character flying her around in his airplane and taking her on safari and picnicking with her high up on the Masai Mara plain with a gramophone beside them playing Mozart. If she didn’t have such a good heart and wise way about her, you could hate her—but of course, she proved to be mostly good and wise. In the end, she seemed to realize that the things she wanted were things she could never truly own for more than a short time.

Considering my life is the opposite of hers, I’m not sure why I so relate to her story. I drive a Honda Civic, maintain a slavish devotion to budgets, live in a small house of the rural side of town—and actually dig those things about myself. But, but…paradoxically, there is also a part of me that craves luxury and the idea of exclusivity—who wants to have (and to be!) those things that are worth having, but which come at a price. I suppose I could try to suppress that other side of my character, but I’ve found it easier to indulge her with these madly expensive-smelling perfumes.

Hermès 24, Faubourg was created by perfumer Maurice Roucel in 1995 and takes its name from the address of Hermès’ flagship store in Paris. As such, it expresses everything the famed luxury goods company stands for: wealth and opulence that observe a certain sense of decorum but are nonetheless palpable. Orange blossom and jasmine are the star notes of the fragrance, and they are heady, sweet, and naughtily indolic, but also perfectly balanced by the other notes in this rich floral-oriental. Tempered by the bitter citrus of bergamot and the creaminess of tiare flower, the high-octave combination of orange blossom and jasmine maintains a perfect pitch without ever verging on shrill. The scent is as uplifting as golden sunlight while at the same time making you aware that there is something very sensual and full-bodied at its base, so that the overall effect is like autumn light slanting through a window and falling across a number of items: a stack of antique leather suitcases, a crate of oranges, a dress shirt that hangs on the back of a chair and recalls the smell of a lover’s skin. This interplay between the ethereal and corporeal aspects of the fragrance is no doubt enhanced by its base notes of patchouli, amber and sandalwood, which act as counterweight to the lilting jasmine and orange blossom, exerting a gravitational pull on them, if you will.

It’s hard not to free associate when you fall in love with a fragrance, and I’m not even going to try to hold back. 24, Faubourg is as sinfully rich and golden as Orange Blossom Honey (the raw, unpasteurized kind you can’t get in a grocery store, but must mail order from an apiary in Florida).

And 24, Faubourg is also the feminine flow and sway of a woman in fine silks. (“Whenas in silks my Julia goes/Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows/ The liquefaction of her clothes.”  Yes, those lines from the old Robert Herrick poem, Upon Julia's Clothes, they perfectly describe it, too.)

But best of all? Hermes 24, Faubourg is one of those rare perfumes of which you can say, This is luxury worth having … and it comes at such an affordable price.  

* * *

Hermès 24, Faubourg is available from a number of online perfume discounters, and, depending on concentration (edt, edp or pure parfum), prices typically range from $30 to $160.

Image is from the 1985 film, Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

October 9, 2008: