'Monsieur Li' is a purely fictitious character, but it is a name that communicates a sense of maturity and of even-handedness... of an individual whose efforts and dedication to cultivating his garden with such precision and love, culminate in a retreat that is every bit as gratifying to the eye as it is to the nose. It is a name with a certain charm and whimsy... a collision of East meets West; "Monsieur" being devoutly French, and 'Li" being resolutely oriental. Not surprisingly, the name Monsieur Li speaks well of what one can expect in the bottle... that is, a tender olfactory essay in Chinese gentility and refinement, which has been approached in a conspicuously French way; a way which is unquestionably Hermès.
In retracing the route of the inception of this perfume, Ellena visited countless Chinese gardens. He recalls:
"I remembered the scent of the pools, of the jasmine, the wet stones, the plum trees, the kumquats and the giant bamboo. It was all there, even the carp in their pond, taking their time to live to a hundred. The Sichuan pepper bushes were as thorny as roses and the leaves gave off a lemony scent. All that remained was to compose this new garden, one which contained all the others."
The flight of this perfume is a bright citrus with an unusual aromatic green undercurrent... it dances between notes of bittersweet kumquat and jade-colored aquatic accords. There exists a sense of balance and refinement right from the outset... a curious symmetry between components that feels effortless and precise; Ellena's very own Chinese 'masterstock', perhaps. Jasmine is listed amongst the olfactory notes declared on the outer packaging, and indeed one can find it there, but there appears to be an assortment of flowers that are not mentioned in the accompanying pyramid; rose? peony? magnolia? Again, Ellena has woven them all into the tapestry of this perfume with such mastery, that they are difficult to distinguish. The overall feeling however, is one of tenderness, filtered light, and an accomplished marriage of the elements, earth, water and air.
Monsieur Li feels incredibly diaphanous - as thin as Chinese rice-paper lanterns, and as semi-transparent as blooms of coloured ink dropped on wet watercolour paper. Over the hours, it tapers into a fine mist of clean musk and blonde woods.
As far as the Jardins series goes, Le Jardin de Monsieur Li takes up residence comfortably amongst it's older siblings and feels very much a part of the broader picture. Collectively, Ellena's Jardins creations form an aria to genderless perfection, each with a proficient sense of lightness and harmony.
Le Jardin de Monsieur Li is available internationally from March 2015, and will launch here in Australian department stores, Hermès boutiques, and on the Australian Hermès website this September.