Un Jardin à Cythère Eau de Toilette by Hermès Review
At long last, a new Jardin has arrived. And oh, it is a delicious one.
Hermès’ Un Jardin à Cythère isn’t actually the smell of any sort of garden, as the “Jardin” in the name might imply. Rather, it’s pistachio ice cream with a spritzy citrus edge, drizzled with tender hints of olive oil. It’s a light, refreshing, cool Mediterranean gourmand with just enough sweetness to make your mouth water, all while remaining composed, sophisticated, and incredibly delicate.
I sampled Un Jardin à Cythère on my birthday and it felt like prosecco bubbles popping in my mouth. The lemon sorbet citrus accord has just the right amount of fizz, and the nutty, creamy pistachio and gentle olive tree notes are soft enough to meld around it, cushioning the sparkly summer top notes in their sunny embrace.
This perfume reminds me of a very mild lemon almond cream cake I had recently. I’d ordered it to share with my boyfriend, carefree and ambivalent, before going to see Raspighi’s Pines of Rome performed at the symphony.
Sure, we’ll get a slice of lemon cake to share, I thought. After all, why should I? Why shouldn’t I order a slice of lemon cake to share?
But then it got to our table and it was… well. Very sweet, very creamy, and very mild. Just barely lemon, nothing at all challenging, not tart or sour like a lemon bar or a key lime pie. It wasn’t bad. It was just… soft. Gentle. Faintly sweet. Creamy. And just a faint little bit lemony.
“This cake,” I complained, “is boring. It caters to a bland American palette. There’s nothing unusual or challenging about it. It isn’t tart or richly textured or even very visually interesting. It’s apologetically soft. It is, frankly, dull.”
And then I looked down and realized that while complaining, I had somehow managed to inhale more than my fair share of the slice.
Un Jardin à Cythère reminds me of the smell of that cake, sweet and creamy and just faintly lemon-fresh. I can whinge about it being simple or boring all I want, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a delicious little treat of a perfume that’s easy to love.
This is also a remarkable fragrance in that it is a truly reasonable summer gourmand. It’s light and fresh and zippy enough to wear on hot days while still having its decadent creamy and nutty layers for the gourmand lover to enjoy. It’s a balanced, tempered, delicate take on a dessert-like idea, one that manages to be comforting and not stifling in hot and humid weather.
That’s a challenging feat to accomplish, and nose Christine Nagel has done it in Un Jardin à Cythère.
From the first whiff, I know that this is no garden. It’s breezy spritzy lemon sorbet and pistachio gelato, plain and simple. Green accord? None here. Olive tree? No clue what that’s even supposed to mean. Maybe in the background nondescript-clean-dish-soap side of the citruses, in the humidity and the warmth of it all. But that’s it.
Yes, there’s a hint of something green buried in the citrus accord here. It reminds me just a bit of the clean and contemplative green-sap-and-kumquat melange of Le Jardin de Monsieur Li that charmed me so entirely until I realized it smelled exactly like the citrus dish soap from Trader Joe’s. There’s a tiny bit of that fancy-hand-or-dish-soap effect in the greens and citrus here, but it’s faint and subtle, more of a general clean effect than anything that really screams soap.
The pistachio note in Un Jardin à Cythère is most acutely noticeable in the first few minutes on the skin. It fades in and out of the perfume, returning in a rush of warm nutty goodness when you least expect it. When it’s gone, it fades into a spritzy-sweet-airy-clean-citrus-soap-sorbet-lemon-yellow sort of scent with just a hint of wooded soapy humidity.
As is to be expected from a delicate Hermès Eau de Toilette, Un Jardin à Cythère is fairly faint from the start and completely linear. After four to five hours it’s quickly getting into so-faint-as-to-be-practically-negligible territory. But even then it’s still lovely and fresh, with regular whiffs of pistachio gelato all the way through.
There is something to the background that’s a bit olive-oily, a bit tree-like. It’s not green or woody as much as it is… humid. Leafy and botanical. Not crisp and fresh like mint, but grounding and oleaginous. It probably is the marketing talking, but there really is a texture here that makes me think of olive trees, smooth and warm, tempered and blond.
It’s a comforting, gentle warmth that’s almost the temperature of skin. It makes me think of the faint olive oil smell my apartment has had ever since I bought a cast iron skillet and started seasoning it with olive oil. (Yes, I know you’re supposed to season with a neutral oil. But if the only oil I’m going to cook with is olive oil anyway, what’s the point?)
The way it blends with the pistachio note is subtle and beautiful, a melding of warm, light notes flowing seamlessly from woody to nutty with just a bit of olive fruity-oiliness around the edges.
And, sure, I suppose there is something fresh and green lurking in the corners of Un Jardin à Cythère. There’s a diet-citrus-green note, something that feels a little like lemon verbena to me, along with hints of herbs and seashore and salt drying on skin.
Yes, something about Un Jardin à Cythère feels salty to some, though I don’t pick up much saltiness at all. I’m guessing this varies greatly based on skin chemistry. To some, the pistachio note here is salty rather than sweet like almonds in marzipan. I certainly don’t get the saltiness of something like Un Jardin Sur La Lagune here. Perhaps just a fresh sea breeze somewhere among the green and citrus notes.
But that green freshness is incidental and secondary, hidden more within the zestiness of the citrus accord than in any true woody-green accord of its own. It makes for a springy, juicy, spritzy lemon, just a hint underripe and green in places. And, underneath the lemon, hints of something faintly aromatic and quite oily.
I’m convinced that Hermès called this note “olive tree” for the elegance factor alone. It’s olive oil, really. The warm, silky-smooth comforting cooking smell of a good extra virgin olive oil.
Except if you work at Hermès you can’t say your perfume has an olive oil note in it because that will weird people out. You have to package it as something quiet and rustling, mysterious and demure. Something like olive tree.
This, for the sophisticated silk-scarf-wearing woman who wears the Hermès Jardin line, is dessert. But it isn’t a sickly-sweet, over-indulgent, over-the-top sort of dessert. It isn’t a real melting pile of pistachio gelato and lemon sorbet served up with a heaping pile of “whipped topping” they legally can’t call cream.
No, this is a cocktail off the Skinnylicious menu, a zingy flavored yogurt, the iridescent idea of dessert transmogrified into something half-reasonable and measured. It has the spirit of a sweet gourmand, packaged into something light and balanced, a fun and breezy splash of summer that won’t leave you feeling bloated afterwards.
When Un Jardin Sur La Lagune first came out, many people had opinions about nose Christine Nagel taking over the Jardin line from Jean-Claude Ellena. Indeed, while JCE is hard to beat, Nagel has brought a competent hand and new vision to the line.
Just as with Un Jardin Sur La Lagune, though, I’m left wondering whether this scent ought to have been sold as a Jardin at all. The expectations attached to the iconic series risk doing a disservice to Nagels’ new and interesting compositions, all because they don’t quite line up with what Jean-Claude Ellena had been doing.
Un Jardin Sur La Lagune hadn’t felt like any sort of garden to me, to be honest. It was a salty summer beach perfume, unapologetically muggy and swampy with a pretty early-2000s it-girl magnolia top.
Similarly, Un Jardin à Cythère is not a garden but a heaping pile of frozen dessert eaten in a Mediterranean garden on a hot and sunny day. It’s ice cream, gelato, custard, and lemon sorbet, all swirled together in a kitchen where everything smells a little bit like olive oil and brought outside to enjoy among the trees.
Simply put, Un Jardin à Cythère is fun. It’s a gourmandification of the light-and-refreshing genre we’ve come to expect from Hermès in general and the Jardin line in particular. It’s all carefree laughter and tan lines and going out for ice cream. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Un Jardin à Cythère is a carefree delight that still manages to squeeze into that dainty delicate garden party dress.
The name of Un Jardin à Cythère refers to Cythera, also transliterated as Kythira (Greek: Κύθηρα), one of the southern Greek islands. In ancient times, it was a center of worship for Aphrodite.
It’s an appropriate inspiration for this jovial jubilee of citrus and sunshine. There’s something romantic about it. It’s a melty bowl of pleasure and beauty, a sensual sort of dessert that dances on your tongue. It’s pretty in a way that makes me want to wear it with a silk skirt and go on a long walk hand-in-hand with someone who thinks I’m wonderful.
In my own perfumery experiments I’ve just recently acquired a little aromachemical called Acetyl Pyrazine that smells warm and deliciously nutty. There’s a pistachio-like note in it that’s exactly what I smell in Un Jardin à Cythère. On one hand, it ruins the magic a little, knowing the exact chemical name of a certain smell. But on the other hand, maybe that’s just an inevitable symptom of slowly becoming a wizard.
Un Jardin à Cythère has quickly become one of my favorites in the Jardin line. It’s simple and entirely uncomplicated while still being incredibly unique, comforting and lightly sweetened while still being fresh enough to wear in the summer heat. It’s a melting frozen dessert on a sweltering summer day in Greece. Garden or no garden, this is excellent, and fits in rather well with the general effervescent ethos of the Hermès Jardin line.
Pistachio ice cream with a spritzy citrus edge and a hint of olive oil is the celebration of summer I didn’t know I needed, and I’m going to be craving it all summer long.
I never quite knew what an oily smelling perfume might smell like, but this is it. And yet, it isn’t at all what I’d expected. It sounds sticky and gross, but really that sheen of good high-quality olive oil is aromatic and delicate, comforting and soft and warm, reminiscent of sunlit kitchens.
It’s kind of like oleato, that new line of olive-oil-infused Starbucks coffee beverages. It sounds kind of gross, but really the olive oil inbues the coffee with a faint nuttiness and delicate sweetness that gives the rest of it more body. (Supposedly. I haven’t yet tried the olive oil coffee trend. But after wearing this perfume, I’m kind of tempted.)
I think I’m going to have to dedicate this review to a particularly strange formula of spam comments I’ve been receiving recently, which involves using as many synonyms for the word “oily” as one can possibly think of.
I legitimately have no idea what these mean. I wonder whether I’ll get more of them on this post since I talk so much about olive oil.
If you’re a fan of the light, fizzy, delicate aesthetics of Un Jardin à Cythère, you might like to check out the rest of the Hermès Jardin perfumes, including:
- Un Jardin en Méditerranée Eau de Toilette by Hermès
- Un Jardin sur le Nil Eau de Toilette by Hermès
- Un Jardin sur la Lagune Eau de Toilette by Hermès
- Le Jardin de Monsieur Li Eau de Toilette by Hermès