Santal Massoïa by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès 2011


Post by Liam


There is no secret that I dislike gourmand perfumes: I can’t stand them! But, there’s another side of myself that secretly adores the sort of gourmand that doesn’t make itself out to be one. Shalimar and L’Heure Bleue are considered gourmands to an extent, but perhaps because whilst they themselves are totally and utterly edible perfumes (Shalimar oscillates beautifully between incense oriental and vanilla dessert amazingly), they do not actively come across as perfumes designed to be eaten. This is where my distinction is drawn. I am a gourmand loving anti-gourmand fan, who happens to love vanillas, chocolatey patchouli and milky woods when they don’t market themselves as edible.

Santal Massoïa by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès 2011

Hermessence Santal Massoïa Hermes FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords: in one line:
Massoïa wood resin from New Guinea, coconut, peach, butterscotch, sandalwood, milk sweets, dried fruits

Jean-Claude Ellena (my favourite perfumer) has treated Santal Massoïa as a meditation on the characteristics of wood notes in perfume. ““There are linear, vertical woods like cedar, and others that are horizontal, round, supple and velvet-smooth, such as sandalwood and massoïa”. Ellena grapples the curvaceous facets of sandalwood and massoïa, and bolsters it to intensify comfort, like an embrace or a soft blanket. Gone are the vertical conventions of wood found often in masculine scents, as Santal Massoïa has been scrubbed down to reveal a genderless woods fragrance, with its apparent lightness an overall illusion.

The result then is a creamy creation, round and indirectly delicious, pushing Ellena’s trademark minimalism to the very edge, described by Chandler Burr as: “maximal minimalism”. Massoïa wood and sandalwood maintain inherent lactic qualities, cradled gently in a bath of warm milk and carmel. To add complexity, Ellena adds an additional dimension of florals and fruits, taking indolic creamy white florals (jasmine, and perhaps tuberose stripped of its carnal severity) with moreish fruits, such as apricots and the sweet skin of green figs. Together, this creates an encompassing impression of coconut and dulce de leche (custard), again, this is warm, decadent and skin-like. A sort of luminism with a clear depiction of calm, and a natural stillness creating beauty.

Hermessence Santal Massoïa Hermes calm UnSplash PixabayPhoto Stolen Pixabay

The sandalwood here is assertive and importantly doesn’t smell synthetic, opening with a tropical humid quality that at certain angles appears wet and nutty, with a tame oiliness. Thus, there are pleasantly pungent aromatic hits from time to time, which is nasally very pleasing and thankfully breaks the wooded monotony. Inviting yet distant, Santal Massoïa trails away with frothy lactic notes and a green fruitiness, but always pulls back into familiarity with gourmand impressions of creamy desserts and scintillating florals.

This fragrance becomes a very elegant second skin that moulds with the wearer and additionally with the seasons. It smells clean and inviting, with it smelling dense in nature but not heavy. I wear this for quiet periods and nervous moments, as I closely project a welcoming and warm presence.

Hermessence Santal Massoïa Hermes Tree Clours PhotoPhilDe FlickrPhoto Stolen Flickr

Further reading: Olfactoria’s Travels and Non Blonde
Hermès stores stock the Hermèssence range exclusively
Surrender To Chance has samples starting at $4/.5ml

What’s your second skin fragrance?


13 thoughts on “Santal Massoïa by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès 2011

  1. This sounds delightful, how has it flown under my radar?
    A gourmand you have when you’re not having a gourmand…maybe a Claytons?
    It is going straight on my sample list!


  2. Hi Liam,
    I love Santal Massioa. I haven’t given much thought to a second skin fragrance but I imagine that SM would be a great candidate for that category. I find it very soothing and calming. Thanks so much for another lovely review.
    Azar xx


  3. I don’t really care for second skin scents too much. Frankly the closest I’d get is the absolute of the vanillic CB I Hate Perfume’s 7 Billion Hearts. I smelled Keiko Mecheri’s Musc Nobilis today though, which might be good if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂


    • As I said in a prior comment, these 2nd skin fragrances are only ever good when serious comfort is required or if you are a bit unwell and need a light pick-me-up for an ailment.

      Will try some of the Keiko lineup, have not yet explored it.



    • The longevity is relatively reasonable, but the longevity on most of JCE’s (esp. Hermessence) creations have become a bit of a fait accompli – a light thin veil.

      Indeed, take it for what it is. As I say … Luxury is fleeting!



  4. Eau des Merveilles is one of my skin scents. After it fades a bit it lingers in a delicious way. Fragrances that are delicious without seeming edible are among my favorites. I love Vanille Galante for that reason, and now I’ve got Santal Massoia on my to-try list. I’m always looking for florals by default, but I often love aromatic and wood scents when I try them. Thank you for the review!


    • And thank you for reading!

      I find Vanille Galante very difficult probably because I seriously love heavy and boozy vanillas (They are my crux fragrances in terms of resisting!). Will try that again soon…



  5. Pingback: Santal Massoïa by Hermès | Olfactics

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