Poivre Samarcande by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes 2004


Post by Portia


Hey there Hermès fans,

I know there are a bunch of you out there. There’s something ultra lux, a feeling of family and extra care, about Hermès that none of the other multinationals have retained. That’s my personal take on them anyway, the company is probably as money hungry and paracious as the rest but with better marketing, who of us will ever really know?

Poivre Samarcande by Hermès 2004

Poivre Samarcande by Jean-Claude Ellena

poivre-sacramande Hermessence HermesHermès Australia

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Virginia cedar, patchouli, paprika, oakmoss, caraway, green notes, oak, pepper

Released as part of the original Hermessence range in 2004. I tried it around then but was overwhelmed by the incredibly over the top grandeur of Ambre Narguile and for the longest time felt no need to even bother with the others. It’s funny, both reviews that I have linked below write of similar experiences but with different of the five first scents. Clearly JCE had his bases covered, but then if we bypassed Poivre Samarcande then did the rest of the world too? Now 12 years on and we still find Poivre Samarcande in the Hermessence range and both Birgit and Clayton have come around to its charms.

Bloom London 2014London Crew 2014

Three years ago while in London with Michael, Val, Tara and the London crew our last stop of the evening was Selfridge & Co. We were all dog tired and emotionally exhausted from a super fun day shopping, eating, sniffing, laughing and generally being mayhem. Tara and I scooted off to Hermès to try the newest in the range at that time Epice Marine and were given some samples, including Poivre Samarcande. The samples were drained and I bought Poivre Samarcande in a Travel Set, yet I’ve never written of my love for this quietly elegant stunner, so here goes……

Poivre Samarcande Hermessence Trees and Undergrowth Van Gogh WikiMediaWikiMedia

How does Poivre Samarcande smell and make me feel?

Well, it opens wet and spicy, An unusual green that is cut through with fresh cracked black pepper and the taste of cutting into a capsicum (bell pepper). Then the green turns a different shade and I’m smelling a cross between electric sawing green wood and the sting of a pickled caper. None of these describe the scent accurately but Poivre Samarcande is hard to pin down. It has the sheer, wet, metallic, oily signature of Jean Claude Ellena yet the nuance is so subverted from the note list that I can only give my impressions.

How does it make me feel? Well, I enjoy smelling like this. Actually, it’s more than that I LOVE smelling of a JCE creation. They are clever and classy, never over the top but weird enough that I enjoy the fun of the fragrance, the mad whimsy that seems so buttoned up until you lavishly overspritz and suddenly they fragrance becomes a thick, ropey, cage of scent. You can see through it but you are captured, overwhelmed and must live the scent story alone.


Further reading: What Men Should Smell Like and Olfactoria’s Travels
Available at Hermès stores, online and some large department stores
Surrender To Chance has samples starting at $4/0.5ml

Which of the Hermès line do you love?
Portia xx


22 thoughts on “Poivre Samarcande by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes 2004

  1. Hi Portia —
    I love Poivre Samarcande too. I also like Epice Marine esp. in summer. I find the JCE scents often don’t last on me, but Poivre Samarcande gives me a few good hours without having to reapply. And, I love the Hermes sample vials, so elegant and generously sized!
    Much aloha,


    • Hey Fifi,
      Lovely to see you.
      Epice Marine is heavenly, I like it a lot. The more I wear it the better I like it.
      Yes, they are exactly enough to get you addicted, those samples always lead to purchases.
      Portia xx


  2. Poivre is pure magic Portia. It was my first Hermes love! Honest! ..Granted I didn’t buy it until much later.

    I loved reviewing this one too. It’s a fragrance meant to be studied.

    -Liam xx


    • Heya Liam,
      Agreed, the more time I spend with it, as with so many JCE frags, the more I want to wear it. It makes a good bedtime spritz too.
      Portia xx


  3. Just as I was revelling in the unique exactitude of “a cross between electric sawing green wood and the sting of a pickled caper” you hit me with “…a thick, ropey, cage of scent. You can see through it but you are captured, overwhelmed and must live the scent story alone.” Wow. I just adore your writing, Portia.

    I remember getting cumin from PS but it must have been the caraway.

    Such happy memories of that magic day in London when I first met you and we visited the Hermes concession together.


    • Tara,
      You just made my day. Thank you.
      That day was madness. I was so glad that we got a moment together to have sneaky spritzes of Hermes. I knew then that we would be firm friends.
      So glad we are.
      Portia xx


      • It was! And I know you were exhausted even before we got to Selfridge’s. I remember trying on Hermes jewellery and spritzing with you, like it was yesterday. So happy that was just the beginning for us xxx


        • That’s right! We tried on the bracelets. I love their jewellery, always so softly understated. MMMMMMM
          Yes, I probably was exhausted. HA! Never let a little tiredness get in the way of a sniff.
          Portia x


    • Also, the notes list is rarely a smell map, it’s like reading a chapter page. I bet you did smell cumin, it does have a very slightly fetid armpit waft under the lovely wet cleanness.
      Portia xx


  4. The samples are certainly generous aren’t they? The Hermes ladies in Harrods also give many samples, some of which I said no to, as I had tried them…duh,think Homer, think!
    But I did come away with Vetiver Tonka which is my favourite so far. Have not tried Poivre yet.


    • Hi JackieB,
      Vetiver Tonka is YUM! The whole Hermessence range gets me excited to be honest. I really like Ellena’s style.
      Portia xxx


  5. Vetiver Tonka, Ambre Narguile, and Poivre Samarkand. Great essay, Portia.

    And my greatest fragrance love of all time is vintage Calèche, now unfortunately reformulated beyond recognition. Good thing I’ve managed to get some. Wish I’d stockpiled like crazy back in the 70’s though, but who knew?


    • Francesca, my Mum had some Caleche at one point. I keep some close by for memory and I love it too. Even better than the fragrance, which I find is often tampered with by time, is the vintage soap. It smells exactly as I remember Mum smelling all dressed up to go out.
      Portia xx


  6. JC Ellena is one of my favourite noses! I have not tried many perfumes of the Hermessence line, but I love Cuir d’Ange. I’ll look out for Poivre Samarcande. Your description sounds heavenly.


    • Hi there Neva,
      Nice to see you.
      Cuir d’Ange was a very good surprise. I love it too. The supplest of glove leathers.
      Portia xx


  7. Hi gorgeous.
    Lovely review as always… X
    I can’t say I’ve smelled many of JCE’s Hermessence range and the few I’ve tried are pretty but just don’t seem to last.
    Looking at my collection I seem to have more Hermes than I first thought: a few by JCE (2 Jardins, Kelly Caleche EDT & Terre d’Hermes) and older Hermes (Equipage, Rocabar & Bel Ami). I am too afraid to try Hermessence in case I’ll like them too much.
    XXX… T

    Sorry I’ve been quiet… Lots going on at work ATM. 😦


    • Heya Tim,
      Great to see you.
      That’s quite an Hermès collection you have going on there. One day we SHOULD go sniff them all in Elizabeth St.
      Portia xx


  8. Hello Portia,
    Hermessence is my favorite line, thanks to the big sample of Santal Mossoia that I received some time ago from – you know who! An FB of this one may be on the horizon.
    Azar xxx


    • Hey Azar,
      I’m hitting your soft spots this week. Santal Massoia is YUMMY. The whole range is. I haven’t found one yet that’s unwearable.
      Portia xx


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