Paprika Brasil Hermessence
Paprika Brasil is rarely the hero of perfume reviews and probably the least lauded of all in the Hermessence collection. It was met with a ‘boo’ from perfume bloggers, and the admiration of perfume lovers is lavished on other fragrances of Jean-Claude Ellena – like Ambre Narguile, Vetiver Tonka, Vanille Galante, Osmanthe Yunnan, Rose Ikebana… What’s so special about this scent of Brazilian pepper? To begin with, it’s Brasil, not Brazil.
“A local tinctorial wood once widely used in Europe to colour fabrics red, ‘brazil wood’ gave its name to the country. With its power of suggestion, ‘bois de braise’ sparked my imagination and I chose paprika, a Brazilian pepper, to illustrate it. By mixing and matching, and using an iris-reseda-pepper association, I recreated its scent, which is more secretive and discreet than its taste.” – Jean-Claude Ellena.
Indeed, the new South American country, Terra de Vera Cruz, was soon renamed Terra do Brasil after the redwood tree that the Portuguese called Pau-Brasil, a tree with fiery redwood. Brasil in Portuguese is red as the embers.
Brasil was also the name of the natural dye from the sappan tree, which Arab traders brought to Europe from India and Sri Lanka; the Portuguese thought they had found a new source for this red paint in Brazil. These woods have a common coloring agent – brazilin, but the Brazilian tree was a separate species, later called pernambuca (now it is called Caesalpinia Echinata and it’s the national symbol of Brazil. This is an endangered species – for the sake of the purple dye, it was cut down whenever encountered until the appearance of a synthetic substitute). This natural red color, reminiscent of mahogany and dried red pepper, can be seen on the stopper and bottle, clad in red leather, and the gradient of red in the tinted glass of the bottle.
It is all the more surprising after this red feast to find out that inside the bottle of Paprika Brasil there is a scent that isn’t red at all (at least, in my own opinion). On the contrary, for me, it is white powdery, with an evident green tint. It’s similar in mood to Dzongkha by L’Artisan Parfumeur, also launched in 2006 and orange-red in design. Perhaps this is just my own smell-color synesthesia fail, which does not coincide with Jean-Claude Ellena, Bertrand Duchaufour, and the brands’ creative teams – it may be very different for you.
Paprika Brasil’s start is fresh, transparent, yet spicy and dry, and even soothing. It resembles the smell of dried potpourri made of citrus, lavender, rose, cinnamon, and cloves, immediately powdered with dry orris powder (by the way, there are reasons for this – the red-orange sappan wood has a distinct violet smell, the smell of powder).
From under this dry and spicy, but not sharp white cloud, a strange green accord peeps out indecisively, which seems to me to be something like green bell pepper – beautiful, but deliberately hidden deeper in the powdery accord. Later, a wonderful suede shade is found in the dry, spicy powder, and, as in many fragrances of the Hermessence collection, Iso E Super is the base of the composition. So Paprika Brasil could be considered the forerunner of the M Eccentric Molecules collection, sort of M01 Orris Capsicum.
Luca Turin calls Paprika Brasil “evanescent peppers,” “another of Ellena’s refined compositions, this one is overly so,” “a translucent and wan scent, you search for it on a blotter.” Fans of Molecule 01 and Jean-Claude Ellena, of course, think differently – Iso E Super lasts for weeks on a blotter.
For me, this is a very persistent and light aroma of the cold morning fogs of August-September, when the forest is already beginning to wither and smells not only of greens but also of bitterness. At this time, the scent is simply beautiful.
Hermessence Paprika Brasil Hermès
Top notes: Red Pepper, Paprika, and Clove;
Middle notes: Orris and Green leaves;
Base notes: Woody notes, Mahogany, and Reseda.