Last month, Hermès held a special “scent lunch” in New York to launch its new fragrance Jour d’Hermès by the exclusive parfumeur for Hermès, Jean-Claude Ellena. The incredible meal was done in collaboration MAD Museum’s curator of olfactory art, Chandler Burr (of the recent “Art of Scent” exhibition), and chef Jean Georges.
The new fragrance was inspired by Botticelli’s painting Le Printemps (1842). Ellena wanted to capture the memory of the colors and smells of the flowers in spring he recalled from his childhood.
And how to turn that into a meal? Well, Ellena went to Georges with around a dozen molecules that make up the major notes of Jour d’Hèrmes – some food-related and some not. The chef then created four dishes corresponding to separate groups of molecules. “It was scary to start,” Georges admitted with a smile.
Before each course, we were given the scents that corresponded. Tea, sake, and grapefruit went with our first course of tuna sashimi with grapefruit sorbet and coriander. It was a whole new way to taste, smelling the individual molecules first, then altogether, then finding those same notes on our tastebuds.
Second (and our personal favorite) was based off a sythentic molecule that Ellena described as “hot sand heated by the sun. Georges matched that with a delightful ravioli covered in black truffle shavings.
Next came coconut, heliotrope, and clove, which we then tasted in a filet of sole and herbal sauce, with parsnip puree and a coconut broth.
Finally, white flower, pineapple, and a chalky scent brought us a tea tray of sorbets, pineapple rum cake with ice cream, and home-made marshmallows (our second favorite).
Ellena and Georges managed to create an unforgettable, and incredibly rare experience (we were seated next to Ellena’s wife who said she’s only done a handful of scent meals). When we put on Jour d’Hèrmes the next morning, we could still taste it.