I am not a nose. But my nose isn’t bad either. And so when trying Vetiver Java by Perris Monte Carlo, a brand I am quite drawn to overall for its plush, generous take on individual notes (the jasmine, mimosa, lavender, are all great – a convincing, hybrid take on classicism and the contemporary, though I am not entirely sure I like the bottles), I realized that the Javan vetiver at the heart of this composition is precisely the same as the one I am currently using in remixing an old bottle of Monsieur De Givenchy (1959), an original vintage edition I found recently, a little drab and bland now, sitting with sloped shoulders at the back of the barbershop, its best days far behind it, but which is perking up nicely with the big dollops of a Japanese brand of imported Indonesian vetiver oil I have added – along with a fine quality lemon that is bringing out the verbena and lemon leaf aspects of this suave, aromatic Lazarus-like enough for me to decide that this will be probably be one of the perfumes I will be wearing for the upcoming Christmas season and New Year.
The only reason I mention my (admittedly) eccentric and rabid adulterations – today I am also getting a different vetiver oil today to add to my Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental, which is just….boring – is that this oil, a rather rough and beardy vetiver which is not particularly refined, is actually very cheap. Just a handful of dollars. So if this is the main component of Vetiver Java (which it is), it does feel like a bit of a rip off. At $225 for 100ml (in niche terms only mid-brow, but still not a cheapie), my first impression of this was that there was nothing but alcohol and essential oil, unadorned.
(A friend sent me a link to an interesting podcast, the other day, incidentally, about how much the ingredients in perfume really cost, and whether lovers of any particular perfume, when financially pressed, would ever go for a copycat/dupe : I would like to know your thoughts on the subject; I am too pretentious and aesthetically conscious to fill my shelves with fakes with dumb names in ugly bottles personally but it certainly did all make me think).
Creator of Vetiver Java, Gian Luca Perris – the brand uses different perfumers for its creations, including Jean Claude Ellena for the superlative florals mentioned above – describes the selection of this particular vetiver note as follows:
«I have been smelling different qualities of vetiver – Haiti, Bourbon – with bold and intense scents, but too clean, transparent, linear. Then, I lingered over a vetiver from the island of Java, less used in perfumery, which I found intriguing, pungent, smoky, burned-like, with surprising floral, green and spicy nuances. It wasn’t love at first sight, but at the end the arrogance of its intensity conquered me.»
I like the idea of an ‘arrogant’ essential oil, and agree that there is something brusque, but magnetic in this specific varietal that works, eventually, when you get used to it (for me anyway – I have quite a lot of it, currently, two weeks in, on my winter coats alongside vintage Chanel No 19, sighing each time I walk by them or put them on). If you are not going to give me exquisite orchestration in a perfume then I am also, in general, at least drawn to fragrances that highlight one note and do it well; Aurelien Guichard’s Matiere Premiere range manages this expertly in scents such as Neroli Oranger and Encens Suave; you can smell the quality of the essences, they speak for themselves (they sing), but they are also arranged and blended in a way that is cleverly synergistic. For me, there should, with a luxury end perfume, never be the sense that I could just do this at home ; yes, there are tinkerings of citrus, here, in Vetiver Java, a base musk, and what I refer to personally with horror as ‘the endocrine’: a sour, industrial note that is way too prominent in many other famous vetivers (and perfumes in general these days) such as Chanel Sycomore, which I have decided, definitively, I now don’t like (I was on a bit of a spree on Wednesday evening, going around everywhere, spraying Vetiver Extraordinaire by Malle in copious amounts- again, ‘meh‘ – Hermes Vetiver Tonka – ditto, though I have it and sometimes it is perfect for the nutty coumarinic blanket of the base (and which you definitely couldn’t do by yourself).
Trying other vetiver centered scents while I was at it as well, Dipytque Vetyverio – blah; for lightweights!! – Bruno Jovanovic’s ‘Mon Vetiver’ for Essential Parfums – fresh, pleasant, but not for me, with vetiver perfumes it can sometimes feel as if can never get exactly what I want. Though Nose Shop in Yokohama, where I was voraciously sniffing, do carry the always undervalued collection by Patricia Nicolai, ( and which I want to get to know better), they unfortunately don’t feature her strange, vegetal caraway floral Vetyver, which we used to have a bottle of but used up, and which I always thought was alluring in that unique transformationally-compressed-into-dry,hermetic mist way that her perfumes often have. Kerzon’s intriguing and inexpensive aquatic patchouli vetiver Isle St Louis keeps drawing and then repelling me with its flashy interior contrasts but at least it is challenging and original, unexpected (like Samuel Gravan’s Vetiver Absolute, another more interesting patchouli vetiver, sour and bewitching and quietly psychological that I got through a whole bottle of in England over the summer).
I don’t know: perhaps I am just too difficult to please.