Hermetica is a new niche fragrance line that launched in 2018; it offers "a collection of molecular fragrances inspired by the ancient practice of alchemy" and was founded by John and Clara Molloy (the duo behind Memo and Floraïku), who decided to "create a revolutionary collection by not choosing between natural ingredients or synthetic molecules but using a combination of the two." Additionally, Hermetica seems to be claiming the fragrances' alcohol-free base as another innovation.
I'm no chemist, but I'm raising my eyebrows for a few reasons. First, all fragrances, and all matter, are made of molecules. Second, aren't most fragrances blended with a mix of natural and synthetic ingredients? Third, other brands have offered perfume in alcohol-free bases — CB I Hate Perfume's Water Perfumes and L’Officine Universelle Buly 1803's Eau Triple water-based fragrances are two that come to my mind.
On the other hand, I love Hermetica's collage-like visuals, its references to the Corpus Hermetica (a second-century philosophical text; you can read about it here) and the online "Codex" that offers information about ingredients and notes. Basically, I prefer Hermetica's educational angle to its eco-friendly angle. Hermetica makes more sense to me as a younger sibling to Memo, an option for people who are just starting to learn about niche perfumery.
I was sufficiently intrigued to purchase a sample set from a Hermetica counter, so here are some short reviews! The majority of Hermetica's thirteen fragrances, including the five I'm discussing here, were developed by perfumer Aliénor Massenet.
My two favorites belong to Hermetica's Dry Waters trio of "floral and fresh scents." Multilotus is a composition of bergamot, green notes, osmanthus, jasmine sambac, sandalwood and musk. It comes across as a very pleasing, linear osmanthus fragrance. I always enjoy osmanthus's mingled facets of apricot, jasmine and tea facets, and not only is this a "true" osmanthus fragrance, but it has much better staying power than some other osmanthus fragrances I've tried (I'm looking at you, The Different Company and Hermès!)
Also from the Dry Waters grouping, Rosefire includes notes of apricot, rose absolute, rose oxide, violet, davana and amber. On paper, Rosefire was too fruity for my taste (the davana?). However, on skin, it bloomed into a contemporary rose chypre, radiant and long-lasting, with a heart of full-blown, jammy rose drying down to a sharp, sheer amber base. It "layers" perfectly with Lush's Rose Jam shower gel.
I also enjoyed sampling scents from The Door, a trio of "woody and sweet" blends. One is Patchoulight, an re-interpretation of patchouli with notes of lemon, lingonberry, violet, iris, patchouli, rose and musk. This fragrance feels like patchouli seen through a pane of green glass, with piercing citrus notes, hints of geranium leaf, and more of the same Ambrox-y base that appeared in Rosefire.
Sandalsun also belongs to The Door: it's a gourmand composition of bergamot, cocoa, sandalwood, vanilla, hazelnut and myrrh. It starts off sweet, with generous lashings of maltol and benzoin that make me think of Prada Candy, although Sandalsun is softer and (for me, at least) much easier to wear. It turns more nutty-woody and gender-neutral in the dry down, but it remains cozy without being cloying or heavy.
I love the name of Emerald Stairways, Hermetica's group of "green and pure" fragrances, and my pick from this trio is Greenlion (another fun name). Greenlion's listed notes include blackcurrant, juniper berry, basil, cardamom, lily of the valley, orange blossom, rosemary, patchouli, musk and amberwood. On my skin, Greenlion starts off with an unexpected almond note, slightly dough-y and powdery. Then it delivers on its "green" promise, with its aromatic juniper surrounded by other leafy herbs.
Greenlion didn't last long on my skin as the others, and its dry down was the familiar synthetic citrus-amber base that I've already mentioned a few times. In fact, this base appears in varying amounts in all the Hermetica fragrances, as a compositional throughline. It's also the main theme of Source, the thirteenth member of the Hermetica line-up, which the brand describes as "...both the base of all of Hermetica fragrances as well as a standalone fragrance in its own right..."
If you're curious and want to dip into Hermetica, there are sampling options; this is another feature that made a favorable impression on me. Overall, Hermetica's fragrances don't feel as complex and sophisticated as Memo's offerings do. However, they're contemporary and wearable, and they serve as a very teachable "unit" and intro to perfumery, using alchemy as a loose inspiration. The "molecules" thing still bothers and confuses me, but another spritz of Rosefire will probably make me forget about it.
Hermetica Multilotus, Rosefire, Patchoulight, Sandalsun and Greenlion are available as 50 ml ($135) or 100 ml ($195) Eau de Parfum through the Hermetica website, Twisted Lily, Perfumology, and Bloomingdale's. A discovery set of 13 samples ($35) is also available.