A New Hermès Fragrance Invites You to Be Assertive

It's an unapologetically powerful scent with an even richer backstory.

Hermès Oud Alezan
(Image credit: Future)

Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel’s first time designing a scent with oud, one of the most luxurious fragrance ingredients on the planet, wasn’t for an official Hermès fragrance. She was tinkering with a one-of-a-kind creation just for herself, a perfume that combined the earthy, sensual scent of oud with rose water and rose oxide. Before long, Nagel found that her fragrance experiment made people around her stop in their tracks.

"One day, I wore it in a meeting—an important meeting of Hermès with the CEO of Hermès perfumes," she tells Marie Claire. "She came close to me saying, 'What can I smell on you?' And I said, 'Oh, it's a thing I did for me, for myself.' She said, 'Oh, it's incredible.'" 

So incredible, it eventually became part of Hermès’ official fragrance collection. Nagel’s scent, now known as Oud Alezan, is the newest member of the Hermessence fragrance lineup.

Oud Alezan’s scent profile combines the headiness of the oud with the same contrasting rose notes as Nagel's personal prototype (rose water for lightness, rose oxide for a sharper feel). Available in three sizes, the unisex scent can now be worn by anyone ready for a distinctive and luxurious signature fragrance.

Nagel tells us the aesthetics, materials, and concern for details present in Oud Alezan are consistent with every other Hermès scent—particularly the attention to ingredients. Oud (also known as oudh, agarwood, or eaglewood) originates from the Middle East. “I think there's a deep respect for the Middle East and its culture,” Nagel says of the expensive ingredient's sourcing. “The material comes from there, just like when I use a jasmine, it comes from India.”

The master perfumer’s fragrance inspiration is as personal as the actual scent. She can trace it all the way back to childhood, when a fear of horses started a lifelong olfactory journey. 

"When I was a child and even a teenager, I didn't have horses around me. I didn't do horse riding. It wasn't my everyday life,” Nagel recalls. "The horse seemed very big to me—very powerful and distant. But I realized that the horse was present every day in the story of Hermès.” (The luxury house often quips that horses were their first clients, given that harnesses and saddles were their first products.) 

Deep into her role at the maison, Nagel asked to visit horse stables for the Saut Hermès competition in Paris. Taken aback by the magnificence of the animals, she kept her distance until a horse stuck its head out to come cheek-to-cheek with the fragrance expert. After freezing for a moment, she felt compelled to follow the horse into its stall and sniff it up close. 

“It was an olfactory surprise. There was that deep smell, that odor, but I felt such strong emotion,” Nagel says. “It was amazing. It was astonishing. And I said to myself, 'One day I will do something with this idea; with this strong emotion.'"

A stack of Hermès bottles on a white backdrop

Oud Alezan, center, joins the luxurious array of Hermessence fragrances.

(Image credit: Hermès)

The moment lodged in her memory, percolating creatively until the fateful day she smelled a scent strip of oud a few years later. She immediately wanted to feel surrounded by the warm, spicy base note, and thought about creating a scent that evoked a similar emotional response. Cut to the present: Oud Alezan captures the feeling Nagel had in the horse’s stall. 

Not every person who sprays on the fragrance can tap into Nagel’s formative scent memories; they will, at least, stand out in a crowd of scents. "I hope that the person who smells it will say, 'Oh, you're wearing Oud Alezan,' and that it has sufficient signature for it to be recognizable,” Nagel says. “I think there are too many fragrances which look like each other; which smell like each other." 

Indeed, the release smells so unique that Nagel cautions, "It's not a perfume for somebody who doesn't like to assert themselves." Hermès Oud Alezan has an undeniable presence: authentic, thoughtfully made, and created with a story as rich as the scent itself.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, gabrielleulubay.medium.com. Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at @suburban.graffiti.art