Vetiver is my antidote.
Sometimes, after all the coconut-vanilla baccanalia of the night before, the lunging sweetness, I need a pointed clarity; a virile freshness. The length of a leaf; a clarified root….nature, in other words – a walk in the trees to refresh the lungs and head.
A good vetiver is a point of dignity. A no-nonsense striation of elegance in the plant world; less golden and voluptuous than sandalwood; more reserved and discreet than its fuzzy, soil libating sister patchouli.
For me it is also one of the few aromatic materials that almost do not necessitate a perfumer. Where rose or jasmine essential oils smell woozy and unfettered in their raw state and require dilution and embellishment before their setting in the jeweller’s ring, a good vetiver oil I can dab on neat. Once the initial cursory roughness dissipates, the complex, depthening, head-grounding oil resonates beautifully, and uninterruptedly, for hours.
At the same time, pure vetiver essential oil is not something I want to wear every time – sometimes you want a slice of citrus and some tonic in your gin, and vetiver oil combines so naturally with delicate florals and citrus notes that when watered down and freshened, it can have a regular, beautiful simplicity of early morning ablutions.
This is exactly what Angela Flanders has done with her Artillery Series; simple and inexpensive colognes formed around one key aromatic material: contemporary but pleasingly classical throwbacks to unfussy transparence and briskness.
The most fêted vetivers tend to be the sculpted and perfected citrus/woody/resinous interpretations, such as Grey Vetiver, Encre Noire, Sycomore, and Vétiver Extraordinaire, all of which are very fine perfumes, ‘urban vetivers’, if you like, for the impeccably-dressed and the chic. I can wear these scents for a short time as they buoy me up and make me feel as though I have rejoined the world, but, ultimately there is something quite passive aggressively proscribed about these scents for me. There is no room to move: I feel constricted within these never-ending, synthetic spines that give me headaches: so-called ‘masterpieces of vetiver’ that quite honestly leave me cold.
By contrast, Artillery N° 4 is grace and simplicity itself: an early morning, vitreous vetiver with the lightness of a cologne that to some may lack panache, but which speaks to me directly. The official notes for the scent say it begins with bergamot and lavender, but to my nose it is all about rosewood and lime and perhaps just a hint of clary sage; a glassy patina of linalool like the surface of a Canadian lake where imaginary reeds of vetiver sway, cool and thriving, down below in deep waters; an agile, herbaceous beginning that brings to mind the flinty diffidence of Penhaligons’ regretted Eau Sans Pareil – not a hint of sweetness or overemphasized lemoned counterpoint – only a call to the outside; to that walk in cold air that your body is telling you need – before finally progressing in a very natural fashion to a light, airy, mineralic vetiver that lacks any pomp or ‘perfumer’s extravagance’ – and the very reason why I like it.
15 responses to “DAYBREAK …..ARTILLERY No 4 by ANGELA FLANDERS (2012)”
You are a brave soul, vetiver applied neat! I purchased a Sri Lanka vetiver which I added to a blend recently but could not imagine wearing it straight up, as I would with patchouli or sandalwood absolute. However, I am going to dig up that vetiver and try it out today! I’ll let you know what reactions I get at work!
Back to the fragrance, I am always on the lookout for “simple inexpensive” colognes as the perfume budget wears thin in a house of four who request certain bottles (myself and three children are all obsessed) and only one is employed! Curious, does this company sell in the States?
It will really depend on the vetiver! And a TINY dab on the wrist…..but when it is perfect it is PERFECT
(and no, I don’t think you can get them outside of the UK, but you never know….)
forgot to say happy winter solstice (tomorrow for us in the states). Also,according to Mayan calendar, the end of the world. SO I will be throwing caution to the wind and, despite protestations of perfume-phobic hubby and perfume-despising co-worker, will be reeking of Avalon Juniper! IF I am going to go, I want to at least smell great!
I need to smell this! Time for a swap-fest me thinks
Tiny dab on the wrist and no response from the perfume adverse in my life. And actually, I rather like it, reminds me a bit of Gray Flannel (was that one heavily laced in vetiver? I seem to remember violets and lavender, or am I mistaken?). My eldest daughter was the only one in close proximity on my way out the door so I stuck my wrist up to her nose. Her response?
” It’s a bit odd. Way to “nature-y” for me” Always amuses me to hear their olfactory interpretations!
PS. I ADORE THIS IDEA ABOUT NOT ONLY YOU BUT ALSO THE CHILDREN BEING OBSESSED! LENGTHY DETAILS REQUIRED!!!
Can the young appreciate the classics? What perfumes are shared? I need to know more!!!!
Permission to e-mail when I get to work? too much to say in the comment section but would very much like to share (I have your address)
e-mail went out 🙂
Will wonders ever cease? I held my wrist up to perfume-despising co-worker’s nose and she replied, “not bad…smells like nature..very grassy
Nice. I LOVE it when vetivers go grassy rather than like tar….especially on alabaster wrists…
Hahaha, Neil. I spent yesterday afternoon laughing away to myself at a spritz of Guerlain’s Vetiver Eau de Toilette on my wrist – an outrageous perfume I’ve been amusing myself with trying to fathom in recent weeks. What can I say? It goes so against the grain of how it’s advertised and I love its cheekiness, but I feel that the Chi is wrong today for my clown-like musings on this, so will save it for another conversation another day!
I frequently wear vetiver as an essential oil – it’s very intense and grounding – one for days when you need to see clearly I find!
On the more subtle vetivers, Tom Ford Grey Vetiver – the only one of his range I actually like – but I’ve already written on this. More on vetivers please!
Also on this – my latest acquisition – Uomo by Trussardi. Reformulation. Very subtle. I think the original had vetiver in but the reformulation doesn’t – has been frutified and feminised by geranium and lemon.
Ah no, it was Pettigrain not Vetiver in the original Uomo. I’d like to get hold of the original – something about that strange crocodile-skin bottle! And I love Pettigrain! And nutmeg with pettigrain…? Alore!
Yes! yes! give me bitter orange (green or red), neroli, petigrain, orange blossom for the days when I am gloomy! Nina, have you tried petigrain sur fleur or mandarin petigrain (go check out eden botanicals you will be floored !) Wonderful straight up but when incorporated into a blend with a bit of patch or vanilla or sandalwood absolute along with some citrus top notes like blood orange, orange essence, wild orange (Or everything for that matter!) it is outrageous!
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