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.
“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.