It's hard to imagine that a non-niche perfume for women would be released today that smells like Amazone. It's not girly enough (some readers on Fragrantica thought it was for men), and it is something of an acquired taste, even for me.
When I first put it on, I mistook the herb-y vetiver in Amazone for coriander, and just as I was wrapping my head around it, I caught hyacinth underneath its earthy scent, as well as the clean-green scent of galbanum and an initially surprising warm berry sweetness from black currant. Jasmine, lily of the valley, and rose bloom in a bright, fresh way alongside those notes, balancing them with some conventional perfume femininity.
Top notes: Hyacinth, galbanum, cassis (black currant), bergamot
Heart notes: Jasmine, lily of the valley, orris, rose
Base notes: Oakmoss, cedarwood, vetiver, amber (Perfumer: Maurice Maurin)
I love the smell of vetiver, which imparts a dry-grass, herbaceous note. (It actually is a tall grass, originating from India.) When it's in feminine fragrances as a predominant note, as it is in the 70s floral-green chypre Amazone, it connotes a can-do woman, earthbound, grounded, and maybe even tomboyish in an elegant way.
Herbaceous, floral, and dry (yet shot through suddenly with lush, juicy fruit), Amazone reminds me a little of Weil's 1945 ode to the savanna, Antilope. (The latter had galbanum, farnesiana, acacia, and oakmoss — surprisingly, no vetiver, but a dry grass/hay smell nevertheless.)
Neither girlish nor womanly, Amazone's persona is in keeping with Hermès's attempt to construct gender in fragrance around the idea of a particular class of woman, the "horsey" Parisian set whose wealth and femininity are anything but conspicuous.So how does Hermès signify this complex class attitude into a perfume? Conventional feminine perfume notes (jasmine, lily of the valley, rose) + prominent conventionally earthy "masculine" note (vetiver) + classical, a little reserved, mature fragrance family (bergamot/oakmoss chypre structure) + a touch of sensuality (cassis/black currant) et voila — a woman who's a bit above it all. She doesn't really have to care.
The last time I was on a horse, he was leading me around; I'm not particularly aspirational, especially when it comes to being "understated" so as to signify a particular class; and I like a more outré scent that dares to be tacky for the sake of being original. Although I like Amazone's warmth and restraint, where would I wear it? Maybe to go to the library? Or to a museum? Or to bed, as I'm about to? Yes, that sounds nice.
(Grab a vintage mini from the nice folks at Miniature Perfume Shoppe.)