No holding the horses… Caleche by Hermes The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

The other women of the court no matter how grand, or close to the King, had always to call for their carriages.

She need only look up, or smile, or tilt her head and the servants come running to gather together her party and fetch her coach and four.

Hers is a dignity not available for sale.

An elegance to be bought only by self possession and unassailable poise.

She saw out the terror and has seen Europe wrenched apart.

So a little jostling at court now cannot not unsettle her.

It is 1837 after all and the world apart from her is still a grimy place.

She begins her exit of the crumbling grand salon where military officers still smell of battles fought years ago, Barons of theirs wars with excess and the hems of the dresses of all the other women from dowagers to debutantes are frayed and greyed with dust.

She is luminous in spotless ivory. Her laundry is impeccable. Her linens the envy of France.

In the air behind her she trails citrus cologne higher and fresher and cleaner than even that worn by the Empress herself.

On her left wrist a corsage of miniature mandarin roses, the most fragrant colour, is woven together with jasmine and a single purple iris, its mouth open to show a fleshy yellow interior.

At the threshold, she turns and the train of her dress swirls through the air with a stage whisper.

In a wave the other courtiers wane from her swell.

Her presence is a calm ocean be-stilling their turbulent waters.

She curtseys deeply to the empty throne and departs leaving them in silence.

On the steps, she takes leave of her family, who have elected to see what remains of the ball through to its conclusion.

She ascends her conveyance and is comforted by the knowledge she will travel home alone.

The horses hooves rattle over the cobble stones and the wheels jolt now and again.

Even for her, the dark streets of Paris at a little after midnight seem a dangerous place.

The poor, the disaffected, the cholera.

She inhales and, above a trace of the horses’ aroma: animal and honest, feels the warm fragrance of the transparent soap from London that keeps her and her clothes bright, radiating around her.

She is enrapt in concocted cleanliness.

In a rapture of pretended purity.

It is 1837 and, after all, the world apart from her is still a grimy place.

This is how she has survived.

As other perfumes are to detergent, so Caleche by Hermes is to the finest thrice milled soap.

From the very start this scent exudes an almost ethereal brilliance.

Whiter than white aldehydes support sweet and soaring citruses to form a counter-intuitively robust opening that never departs the perfume through its stately but complex development.

This structure, so light and airy and yet so strong, is a work of engineering magic.

It is a Paxton’s Crystal Palace of perfume design, enabling all the contents of this olfactory exhibition to be viewed in clear and yet flattering light.

The floral accord which is the centrepiece of this aromatic expo, comprises chiefly of iris, rose and jasmine with other blossoms.

It is so beautifully blended that it could be perceived as a single translucent form.

But alongside it comes a darker object, shaped perhaps by an indolic quality to the flowers, or the bitterness of oakmoss, which is a presence throughout or even a horses’ hay and smokiness from the vetiver.

Wherever this deeper counter melody comes from it is welcome.

It creates an internal tension within the fragrance that takes it from the realms of a good perfume to a great one.

Caleche is an expertly simple song of spring clean freshness and summer flowers set in opposition to an aromatic and animalic choral accompaniment.

It is a ride through dangerous streets at the dead of night in a beautifully appointed carriage.

Both men and women may ride in this coach, but neither for very long, it only takes short journeys.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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18 responses to “No holding the horses… Caleche by Hermes The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful review, TPD! I love this scent, I wore it two days ago, but the soi de parfum, not the edt. Intense fragance, wrapping, and powerful. Keep in touch, here and in twiter, yours, Silvia🎀

    • Dearest Sylvia
      Thank you for your kind words… The Dandy has retuned and returned after his day without IT!
      I actually tried a lovely vintage splash EdT and found it slightly preferable to the most recent Soi… I’ve no idea how old it was, 25+ if I was forced to guess, but it was a great magic.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. aubrey

    Thank you for this beautiful, fragrant journey – through the demimonde, past the velvet homes of Cora Pearl and La Paiva!

  3. Lilybelle

    Calèche is one of my very favorite fragrances. I have personal associations with it. I cherish it. It’s mine, as a matter of fact. Or one of mine. It is among my top five best loved fragrances; that is, IF I had to come up that list which thank Heaven I don’t. I have never been able to articulate why, exactly, I love it sooo much. It is such a fine, seamless creation that I can’t really pick it apart. It is so much more than its constituent parts. I feel so good in it, at home in my own skin, when I wear it. It lifts my spirits and gives me a sense of spaciousness and calmness and a sense of perfection all at the same time. Even the current Soi de Parfum is lovely. I have some vintage Calèche, but the oakmoss seems so foreign now! I have to readjust to it when I wear it. I enjoyed your review, Mr. Dandy. Thank you! I will read it again later so I can think about it.

    • Dearest Lily
      Caleche would be a wonderful favourite, a semi-signature even.
      The Dandy adored it and only hopes that the review conveys this successfully.
      As you so accurately put it, it is the perfume’s seamless expansiveness, it’s unerring sense of purity that I find the most pleasing.
      In the heart the blending is so perfect that the constituent parts are almost impossible to decipher, they form a glowing orb around which the other notes orbit.
      Interestingly, though I think my sample is rather old… and eau de toilette splash from more than 25 years ago, even then the opakmoss, though present, far from dominates the proceedings.
      It simply provides a bass line above which that wonderful melody can swoop and soar.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. ojaddicte

    Dear Mr. Dandy, you have just created a lemming who needs to try this scent. : )

    • Dear Ojaddicte
      Oh I am pleased, this scent needs to be adored.
      A word of advice if I may, a vintage sample is best, but failing that the Soie de Parfum is, as pointed out by others, by far the best current incarnation.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • ojaddicte

        Dear Mr. Dandy,

        I had the opportunity to sample the vintage edp today thanks to my mother and it is every bit as beautiful as your review. Now I must hunt down a vintage bottle for myself! Should I fail in my mission, I will try the Soie de Parfum. Thank you for introducing me to Calèche!

  5. I’m not a fan of Caleche but I need to re-smell as soon as possible after this piece. 🙂

    • Dearest Ines
      I suspect Caleche lives or dies by one’s feelings about aldehydes, if you can bear a perfume where the blending is such that individual notes are not always discernible and which version is being tried.
      Vintage really is best in my experience with this one, and The Dandy is not normally an absolutist in this regard, but Soie de Patfum is undoubtedly the one to go for of the current crop.
      Best wishes, and do let us know how you get along!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. I don’t know whether to bathe in it or dab it on – seduction in the pristine structure and the ethereal clean… Yowza. I’m for Caleche.

    • Dearest V
      You know only on returning to a house for a few reviews does The Dandy fully appreciate how much he likes its style. Hermes, currently under the estimable Jean Claude Ellena is simply splendid, but there is so much to admire in the back catalogue too…
      I think you would get along quite well riding in this particular carriage.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Alice

    Thoroughly enjoyed your review (and the sub-text). ‘Her linens the envy of France’ – excellent! Can’t wait to read more.
    Have a lovely weekend

    • Dear Alice
      Why thank you, and how wonderful that the subtext is actually visible… The Dandy sometimes wonders whether he buries them too deeply.
      We shall be hearing more from Hermes and, indeed, from our heroine, later today….
      Have yourself a splendid weekend too.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  8. Robert

    Calèche always a favourite of my old mother. 83 tomorrow and in the antechamber of death. I’ve got a small amount of vintage on the way as a valedictory gesture. I’m hoping she’ll be wearing it and not me, but you’ve sowed the seed of doubt in my mind.

  9. Robert

    There comes a time when infirmity narrows the world down to memories of days long gone, oft seemingly forgotten but only waiting for a smell to bring them to life.

    I’ve enjoyed your reviews.

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