Forest In The Mist – Review: Hermes Hermessence Santal Massoia

I have a soft spot for Jean-Claude Ellena and his creations. They were among my first loves and I wore and loved his minimalistic pieces of art long before I evolved towards a broader appreciation of perfume and learned to love rich and opulent fragrances just as much.

But in the beginning there was Hermés, there was Ellena. Therefore the tenth Hermessence, the exclusive boutique line of the House of Hermès was a must-try for me.

Aside from that, I have a thing for creamy-woody fragrances like PG Cadjmeré, Le Labo Gaiac 10, Voyage d’Hermès or Estée Lauder Sensuous, so this was another incentive to try Santal Massoia.

There are linear, vertical woods like cedar, and others that are horizontal, round, supple and velvet-smooth, such as sandalwood and massoia. With this understanding in mind, I composed this enigmatic, inviting yet distant perfume of milky woods, with its unusual, pungent hints of resin and dried fruit, and familiar smells of dulce de leche and flowers.”

– Jean-Claude Ellena about his newest perfume

Santal Massoia includes notes of sandalwood, massoia bark, and coconut.

To say that Santal Massoia was a perfume to last all day and blast you with sillage would not only be a blatant lie, but it would also not be what anybody suspected, or would it?

We all know how Ellena works, what he loves and the sheerness, transparency, lightness, sparseness, minimalism, indeed the Haiku he aspires to create with every perfume is what we know and expect from him. So it is a given that you’ll have to look elsewhere for an all day scent.

All that said, Santal Massoia is a delicate woody fragrance that impresses me with more presence than I would have given it credit for after the first wearing. It has actually some stamina, but you have to listen closely to its tender and quiet song.

Santal Massoia starts out with a green fig note, which is reminiscent of Jardin en Mediteranée, although this fig strikes me as drier and more woody than the one of the earlier Ellena creation.

Slowly sandalwood becomes apparent and with it a creamy, milky diffuse sweetness, sometimes hinting at coconut, sometime like caramel. But while all that sounds heavy and like a gourmand festival, this perfume is certainly not that. Throughout, there is a shimmering, nebulous quality, like strolling through a bare forest in the morning mist.

Everything is diffuse, barely visible behind whitish clouds of mist.

Santal Massoia is a woody perfume that is essentially linear in its development. It is smooth, perfectly refined and – for lack of a better word – utterly pleasant.

That sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, but I am not. This perfume actually grew on me much more than I ever thought it would. From a shrug of my shoulders and the dismissive adjective “nice”, I have now arrived at “I would buy a bottle immediately if it were possible, and will eventually, when I’ve saved up or find a bargain on eBay”.

When I was sick recently, Santal Massoia was like a gentle tonic, calming and soothing, never overwhelming but still very much present.

And as an aside: I can’t not comment on the beautiful leather accenting this Hermessence. The cap is a greige (don’t you love that word? Greige is my favorite color, ever since I know what it is called.) leather with a rugged, suede look. If I were rich I would certainly opt for the leather cover that comes with the 100ml bottle. 🙂 Being decidedly non-rich, I will stick with another image of the bottle for your (and my) viewing pleasure.

See reviews of other Hermessences here.

Image source: hermes.com, khoras.net
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54 Responses to Forest In The Mist – Review: Hermes Hermessence Santal Massoia

  1. I really wish I could appreciate this one the way you do, you make it sound so beautiful and the misty, grey forest is a perfect image. Ellena does great things, and usually I love his watered down style, but Santal Massoïa is perhaps one of his most watered down compositions 😦

    • Olfactoria says:

      I have read your review and initially I agreed, but after wearing it for a few times, it revealed its tougher side. It is quiet, sure, but I don’t get the feeling of it being watered down.

  2. andrea says:

    I bought the travel set of 4 Hermessence and decided to give this one a whirl, it is a lovely soft gentle fragrance, I am happy with my 15mls but it does not go onto BFB (big full bottle) wish list.

    So far of the 4 I bought I am left with only 2 (1 of them part time as the Son keeps stealing Vetiver Tonka ) I sold Vanilla Galante (not me) BF stole Amber Nargile and I am left with Santal Massoia. Good job I have a large supply of other perfumes to keep me happy. 🙂

  3. masha7 says:

    Massoia bark is just gorgeous stuff, I have a little bottle of it. It’s intensely rich and buttery, a bit like sandalwood on steroids. It’s a tricky note to use because of its intensity, so I was surprised JCE decided to tackle it! His “watercolor” style doesn’t seem to match massoia’s hefty personality. But reading your review, I will have a find a way to try this, he’s the master, after all!

  4. Tara says:

    “Everything is diffuse, barely visible behind whitish clouds of mist.” Oooh sounds very appealing to me! It’s irritating that you can only test these at the boutiques. If anyone knows whether you can try them at a department store in London, please let me know.

    Sometimes you don’t need a perfume to stay the day. The fact that it soothed you during your recent sickness says a lot for it.

    Oh and greige is my new favourite word!

  5. arline says:

    I’m going to have to stop reading you, for you give me the wants!!!!!!!! Just kidding!!!! I appreciate your writing and passion for the art of perfumery!!!!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Usually quiet scents aren’t very me, except when there are wood notes involved. 🙂 I have to be in the right mood for it, but there are certain days when I crave Le Labo Gaiac 10 — and a pale-milky sandalwood fragrance sounds even better. I’ll definitely give Santal Massoia a try at some point. Thanks for the lovely review, Birgit!

  7. Alexis says:

    I am just discovering Hermes, particularly the Hermessence line. I do love the softeness of Santal Massoia but I fear it’s too soft, like there is no staying power. Maybe I should give this a go again. If it is love I’ll be on the hunt for someone kind enough to split with me!

    Lovely review as always!

    • Olfactoria says:

      It is not meant to stay the day, but I get a good five hours out of it, which is not worse than many others. And I like to have perfumes I have not to commit to for the day. I find I wear those a lot more often than a Serge Lutens or Amouage that I am stuck with come hell or high water whether I want to any longer or not. 😉

  8. Sandra says:

    Thank you for your review! I have had the samples since the perfume came out, but have not had the interest to test it – until now. Hmmm.

  9. Vanessa says:

    I am pleased you like this as much as I do, and especially that it was soothing when you were ill! The “good coat” done good. : – )

    And I agree that “greige” is a great word and colour. Money being no object, i would own a few of these Hermessences in all their leather accessoried finery.

  10. Undina says:

    I read (and liked) your review last night but didn’t want to comment yet. This morning I chose Santal Massoia for my office wear. It was an unusual step for me: normally I do not wear anything for the first time to the office. But I smelled this one before and it was very safe to assume it wouldn’t offend anybody or require a shower.

    I enjoy wearing it and it smells exactly like your review reads: “It is smooth, perfectly refined and […] utterly pleasant.”

    Thank you for the nudge 🙂

  11. Kathleen says:

    As I was reading your review, I thought to myself “this sounds like a perfect scent when you’re under the weather.” Come to find out, you felt the same way! 🙂 Glad you’re feeling better.

  12. lady jane grey says:

    You made me very curious. Have to get a sniff somewhere, when back among the living again.

  13. Georgy says:

    Is greige the new black? 🙂

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  15. Eva S says:

    I just bought a bottle of this almost unsniffed, not the big one, but a second travel set with Santal Massioa, Vetivier Tonka, Brin de Reglisse and Osmanthus Yunnan. So now I own all the Hermenessences apart from Poivre Samarkand and Paprika Brasil, those have never tempted me. I can’t wait to try it out, although I don’t know how well it competes with -30 C…

    • Olfactoria says:

      I think it does quite well in the cold, I’ve been wearing it a lot lately and loved every minute.

      A question: Does your local Hermes store allow to mix the travel bottles or did you order them online?

      • Eva S says:

        The store in Stockholm (the only one in Sweden) allows you to mix the travel bottles, I get the impression that it’s the standard procedure-it was the SA who suggested it the first time I bought a set. I think they sell much more of the travel sets than the big bottles. The SAs are also always very pleasant and helpful and seem genuinely interrested in the perfumes they sell.

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