By  on July 9, 2004

PARIS — “Hermèssence is the essence of Hermès,” explained Veronique Gautier, chief executive officer of the house’s fragrance division, referring to the company’s new collection of four scents.But the unisex eaux aren’t to be found everywhere. Hermèssence will be available solely in the brand’s 20 freestanding stores, starting Sept. 15.“It is a voyage to the heart of the métier, a voyage where color is important, touch is important,” continued Gautier.It’s a maiden journey for Hermès’ brand-new in-house perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena. For his first project in the role, he concocted tactile scents, meant to evoke fabrics through smells.“For me, fragrance should be something you can touch from a distance,” he explained, adding that each Hermèssence scent refers to a known odor — like rose or pepper — that has been transfigured.The collection, which will grow over time, includes Poivre Samarcande, which comes in a brown-tinted bottle and is meant to be reminiscent of velvet. Its aroma includes notes of pepper, oak, cedar and musk.Vétiver Tonka, in a green flacon, is likened to wool, fabric-wise. It features notes of vétiver, neroli, bergamot, dry fruit, cereals and Nigerian tonka bean.Rose Ikebana, in pink, suggests silk, boasting notes of rose tea, infusion of petals, peony, magnolia, baie rose seeds, zest of grapefruit, rhubarb and vanilla honey.Ambre Narguilé, in an orange-tinted bottle, contains notes of benzoin, labdanum, musk, vanilla, caramel, honey, sugared tonka bean, grilled sesame seeds, cinnamon, rum, coumarine and small white orchids from La Réunion. Among fabrics, it is meant to call to mind cashmere.Each Hermèssence scent comes in a heavy glass flacon tinted in a single color and topped with a leather-trimmed cap. And for customers wishing for the entire Hermès treatment, there’s also the option to buy any flacon in a hand-worked leather container.While the fragrances are more accessible than Hermès’ iconic Kelly or Birkin bags, their luxury quotient is still high. A 100-ml. eau de toilette spray and its leather holder will sell in France for $434, or 350 euros. Each similarly sized flacon without a sheath will retail for $167, or 135 euros. Also on offer will be a box of four 15-ml. eaux de toilette — either all of one scent or one of each kind in the collection — priced at $112, or 90 euros.While company executives would not discuss figures, industry sources estimate the fragrances could together ring up $400,000 in retail sales during their first 12 months on counter.— Jennifer Weil, with contributions from Brid Costello

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