Category Archives: Vetiver

DJEDI ON THE BEACH: : GUERLAIN’S MYTHICAL, MUTABLE VETIVER, DJEDI (1927)

IMG_1643

IMG_1645

IMG_4625

IMG_4626

IMG_4634

Duncan and family on the beach on Christmas Day

IMG_4635

IMG_4638

Duncan and little Ruby:

IMG_4639

Edward’s beautiful shell shrine:

IMG_1671

IMG_1639

I must admit to being disappointed upon first smelling Djedi. If there was any scent that I was intensely curious to smell, it was this: Guerlain’s mystical, almost mythical, long-gone vetiver from 1927 that was said to be one of the strangest, driest and earthiest perfumes ever made – a pungent, leathery, and boscous forest of vetiver, rose, civet, musk and patchouli that dragged you down into gloom and entombed ambience of a twilit, Egyptian mummy.

 

From a brief and excited sniff of the sample vial, I knew immediately that this could not be the much fêted and unobtainable vintage, as it smells so niche and contemporary: a taut and light animalic vetiver that in its initial stages reminded me for a moment of a chest-bulging eighties masculine ( beautifully impossible to imagine that this could have been created for women in the 1920’s), the civet and leather rising to the surface and almost drowning out the green and woodier notes with something verging on disturbing but never overstepping the boundaries. It was nice, but not mind-boggling.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

On the island of Anna Marie, near Sarasota in Florida, where we have just spent Christmas and the following days with Duncan’s family, his parents, brother, his wife and their kids, the dry white sands of the beach, the grass, and the brooding sky and its lung-freshing smell seemed like an ideal place to try out Djedi in the flesh, its forest doom not withstanding, as on Christmas day it was curiously cold and windy and a strange phenomenon had just occurred: as far as the eye could see on Christmas morning, fish had been strewn on the sands, stranded, perhaps washed onto the shore in a freak wave, a perturbing sight, but given the Christian symbolism and Djedi’s themes of immortality, almost beautiful

Duncan wore Djedi. On him it smelled very masculine, sweet, sexed, almost too much so – although some of the perfumes characteristics appealed to him, ultimately he said that there was something too sour in there, bitter and dry (the very qualities I had been hoping for), but to me in honesty those aspects were almost imperceptible. To me it smelled quite nice in the salty, beachy air as the waves crashed on the shore, corporal, commanding, but admittedly a little faint: for a parfum it was a little on the pale side, fading quite quickly on his skin as we headed back to the house for Christmas dinner and a very fun afternoon of eating, drinking, and dancing.

 

 

On me, though: Duncan may still not like it but over the last few days I have come to find this scent quite compelling and would love (in my dreams) to somehow find a bottle. As I write this, I am trying to overcome my fury at having lost a rather long and epic piece I had been writing on Miami, our experiences there and on the way to America, but which at the touch of the wrong button, somehow, has been deleted as I sit here in Tampa airport with D and his parents on our way to New Orleans.

I have immediately embarked on this brief review instead to quell my burning irritation ( I can’t rewrite things from scratch: they either exist as they are or not at all). Better if I just do another one instead: writing as therapy.  I am again wearing Djedi, as I sit here, and three hours in, the vetiver note is really quite sublime on me, sufficiently rooty and dark, yet also with those mineralic, citric facets I love in a good vetiver (but with none of the scratchy artificiality of many niche varieties). It is a scent that is drawing me in, hooking me. I am beginning to understand its reputation. The remaining drops are precious.

17 Comments

Filed under Djedi, Vetiver

THE REVERSE SIDE HAS ITS REVERSE SIDE: CORRUPTIBLES AND INCORRUPTIBLES IN ISEZAKICHO with MUST DE CARTIER II EAU FRAICHE (PARFUMS CARTIER, 1993)

 

(Guest post by Duncan)

 

 

Our meanderings around the lively entertainment district of Isezakicho in Yokohama – a long pedestrianised shopping street which leads from the historical portside town of Kannai south-westerly to the seamy Bandobashi and Koganecho neighbourhoods – often yield fabulous scent bargains, and yesterday was no exception, with Ginza bagging a rare bottle of Must de Cartier II Eau Fraiche!

 

In the summer, we often wait until mid afternoon to head out and we have a regular route in Isezakicho, which takes in a motley medley of junk shops, recycle boutiques, secondhand bookstores, bygone kissaten (old fashioned cafes serving industrial-strength German roast kohi), an art cinema (called Jack and Betty), and restaurants (Isezakicho is Yokohama’s Asian quarter and the best place to eat Thai and Vietnamese nosh). It’s a fascinating mishmash of trashy (bling hip hop gear, knockoff perfumes, hostess heels and lurid flounciness), highstreet bargain basements (Uniqlo, Bookoff), sex (massage parlour soapland, host/ess bars), and throwback exotica (for example, the bizarre ‘hebiya’ or snake shop, which has pythons suspended in jars of formaldehyde and stuffed scaly things in the window).

 

snakes

 

 

It’s without doubt one of the most unaffected and racially mixed disticts in the whole of culturally homogenous and manically regulated Japan – a bit of an outlaw zone actually, a Yokohama ghetto, though it actually feels very safe from a British perspective. Some find it too cheap and close to the bone (let’s not deny the dark exploitative side of the sex trade, which is here in abundance and pretty much impossible to ignore) – but we have come to love this Little Asia, this rather chilled and disreputable entertainment zone. There’s a lot in it if you look carefully. As the Japanese proverb goes: ‘The reverse side has its reverse side’; or to mangle Wilde, even stars are reflected in the gutter!

 

 

Fan

 

Yesterday, we started off with a glass of Freixenet on a grass verge in the ‘old man park’ in an adjacent street because Ginza wanted to bask in the sun before hitting our haunts. I’m not good at staying still for long but it was good to quaff some sparkly with the old stick who had been taken up with ‘summer seminar’ onerousness for eight days on the trot. About two hours of rummaging threw up some good reads (best of all being: ‘The Incorruptibles – A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati’ by Joan Carroll Cruz – a New Orleans homemaker who writes of inexplicably preserved corpses at night because she ‘simply cannot tolerate writing if there is housework left undone’!), cheapy T-shirts and ties (elegant blue green silk CK stripes for 100 yen), and a clutch of perfumes (aforementioned Cartier, plus Vol de Nuit spray parfum, and KL Parfum: the folding fan bottle perched in/on an 80s grey and pink semicular prism case).

 

Incorruptibles

 

Vonnegut

 

KL Parfum

 

As Ginza can’t resist opening up his olfactory treasures on the street even as we are in transit, and then testing them out on available limb space, I was lucky to be doused with Must de Cartier II Eau Fraiche, which I had never heard of but which I immediately took to, as it fits well with the effect I prize when mixing light citrus colognes and simple vetiver scents to bring zing to wood and add heft to zest; indeed, a more elegantly and sensually rounded citric vetiver swathe could hardly be imagined. Cartier nailed it. Too bad this scent was discontinued. Boo.

 

So I have bagsy-ed this delicious accord and am planning to make it my summer signature scent. The opening is zesty but soapy, even a little proper in a luxuriant way (top notes: mandarin orange, hyacinth, peach, and lemon) and yet as the scent settles a jasmine/daffodil tang emerges sensually melding the citrus on top with the mossy vetiver beneath.

 

It’s a bit like the love child of Christian Dior’s Jules and Armani Eau Pour Homme – these were two scents that sprung to mind – but whereas as Jules always felt heavy-handed and smelt a tad urinous on me – especially in Japanese summer (yuck) – and Armani is perhaps a touch too reserved and dry/citric-cerebral (much as I admire it, it fades a little too enigmatically on my skin), Eau Fraiche is finely made and fully realised, refreshingly and sexily elegant. (Ginza pointed out that there is a resemblance to vintage Diorella as well – some muscularity under the citrus top notes.)

 

And so we ended our day admiring the Cartier and ogling Mrs Cruz’s incorruptible ancients and pickled nuns propped up in alcoves, prostrate in glass cases (St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart in Florence is below) – all over a fine Thai meal in a plush newish restaurant we hadn’t clocked before with white leather, purple, gold and silver decor, a disco ball, toddlers tumbling about on the banquettes, Siam karaoke on loop, interspersed with Gaga, Madonna, and Soft Cell (by us), and plentiful Chang beer to lubricate the colourful corruptions of summer.

 

Pickled Saint

 

prayer

 

 

 

 

Toddler

Thai Todlers

 

 

Isezakicho

28 Comments

Filed under Citrus, Vetiver

EQUILIBRIUM : SPICED CITRUS VETIVER by SONOMA SCENT STUDIO (2013)

 

 

Image

 

 

 

I had a brazen woody on one hand – Wazamba (Parfums d’Empire), and Spiced Citrus Vetiver on the other. And passing from the simplistic ebonic rudeness of the former, to the latter, far superior perfume, it seemed as if I were suddenly staring right down through my own hand, down through to the glassy surface of a forest pool, a three-dimensionality and sylvan aliveness that was quite startling in comparison.

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

Image

 

 

 

A shimmering vista, like curtains opening on a intricate, pastoral scene at the opera, the eye taking in a thousand details at once as the prelude of the orchestra starts up; each ingredient shifting into its place with a well-grounded twinkle in its eye.

 

 

 

 

Soon, there blooms a big, beautiful orange, surprising us when we might have expected more tart citruses such as lemon, or lime – the usual suspects in vetiver/citrus blends – but this vivid, delicious blood orange immediately casts a warm, solar glow over the proceedings; an interlude for viola and orchestra in a definitively major key, as soft, floral absolutes of osmanthus and jasmine sambac emerge and shield us from all harshness.

 

 

 

 

The cited ingredients of clove, ginger and cinnamon are only subtly perceptible to my nose, adding complexity and a certain nose-tingling aspect perhaps (particularly in that delectable opening), but nothing in this blend can detract from the key players of the perfume, who, when Orange gracefully leaves the stage, sing their contrabasso mellowness in balanced unison for hours: a measured duet of Sri Lanka vetiver and Mysore sandalwood (believe it: I can smell it), while a sly touch of vanilla absolute adds an extra suffusion of delicate heat.

 

 

 

The simplicity of this final stage of the perfume may disappoint some who are more enamoured with the elaborateness of the opening, but the overall effect of the scent is so optimistic and uplifting, with such a sense of inner equilibrium that, as with the studio’s Cocoa Sandalwood, you can feel your shoulders unstiffening, loosening; a scent perfect for a day alone at home when you feel that you need to compose and regain yourself.

 

 

 

For those looking for an exciting, virile, off-kilter vetiver, you might want to try a more earthy take on the note such as Route Du Vetiver, or a stricter interpretation such as Artillery No 4. This perfume is a more rounded, feminine take on a overly-trodden path, and the perfumer, Laurie Erickson, has, with this creation, cannily filled a vetiver void in the market – this could be the one that converts the vetiver haters.

 

 

 

Gone are the soil-sodden, earthen smokiness; the resinous, lingering, almost astringent aspects of the root (all of which incidentally I love about such vetivers and the reason I wear them…) Instead, in their place we find a scent of balance, solidity and natural well-being; an elixir of grasses, woods, spices, flowers and citrus fruits that for many, I imagine, will become a dependable, well-loved balm for the soul.

 

 

 

22 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vetiver

MY PRISTINE BEAU: VETIVER BABYLONE by ARMANI PRIVE (2008)

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

Continuing on our theme of blameless young men, and their faultless, light colognes (see Signoricci and Original Vetiver), we find ourselves today revisiting Vétiver Babylone, a perfume that forms part of the Armani Privé Collection – one of the most overtly superbist lines in the world of perfume: at least four times as expensive as his regular scents, immaculately blended and housed in stylishly low key flacons of African Kotibe wood; scents that always smell rich, soigné, but never stray beyond the faultlines of taste;  and never take that extra, daredevil risk that would make them smell truly exciting. Like a faultlessly made-to-measure suit, his clients can swan into the Armani boutique, have their scent chosen from one of the muted, glorious blends in the selection; and put their trust in his wise, been-there done-that, hands.

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

 

One can easily imagine Signore Giorgio some afternoon in June, with a young, exquisitely dressed and handsome companion, getting ready for their day ahead, and, before clothing himself and at the behest of the maestro – several, light but perfectly judged spritzes of the immaculate Vétiver Babylone sprayed in all the right places as they descend from their balcony and head out into the streets of Milan  – the celebrated, experienced master designer, and his bright-eyed willing consort.

 

 

The scent of his giovane on this day is a sharp, refined and masculine tea citrus, crisp and new, with echoes of woods, patchouli, and a purified, vetiver delicately poised somewhere in the distance. The contemporary, metallically preserved top notes (bergamot, cardamom, mandarin, pink pepper, coriander), stay pure and crystalline as a Dolomiti stalactite;  the stately, more suggestively sexual undertones taking hours to appear, finally later at dusk, when this beautiful man is  back at the villa being undressed.

 

 

 

 

 

Image

20 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vetiver

O The Virtues: ORIGINAL VETIVER by CREED (2004) + SIGNORICCI by NINA RICCI (1976)

 

 

Image

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

A bright winter’s morning.  The bathroom of a stately home.

 

On the wash basin,  lies a pristine bar of soap.

 

It is the most perfect soap imaginable; a hard, impenetrable, triple-milled yellow soap; the clean, heart-clearing brightness of bergamot: the finest essences of sun-binding neroli all married grassly to a light, fresh note of cool, purified vetiver root planted down, somewhere beneath the surfaces, in its fragrant, pounded, centre.

 

A vetiver, then, of spanking immaculateness and spruceness; a perfect accoutrement to the face-splashing morning ritual: a scent that very reeks – very nearly,  ALMOST – of trust.

 

Until you smell Signoricci that is, when the artificial, clammed together, and somewhat hysterical brightness of Creed’s Original Vetiver is suddenly exposed……

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signoricci, one of the few key masculines from a classical house that, in its heyday, produced some of the most delicate and exquisite feminine florals ever created, predates Creed’s scent by three long decades and is of a similar soap-cleansed theme; citrus (lemon, verbena and lime), over delicate, cologne-steeped vetiver, but in this long discontinued perfume the effect is incredibly, incredibly refined.

 

 

I first smelled smelled Signoricci at my brand new friend Federico’s apartment in Rome one October afternoon – standing there, alone as it was on his wooden bookshelf in his room – and I remember how immediately blown away I was by its deceptively simple beauty; a beautiful conception of fine-hearted masculinity that is almost impossible to imagine now in today’s world of hard-hitting woods; spices;  and designer-bearded synthetics.

 

 

Beginning with perhaps the most piercing, yet simultaneously gentle and perfect citrus top note I know of, the vetiver, cedar and sandalwood heart of this composition is  revealed gently and gradually;  an accord of almost heartbreaking cleanliness: a perfection and purity of soul.

 

 

 

Its perfection notwithstanding, if there can be any criticism of Signoricci (and must there be, really?) it is just that: this perfume, in all honesty, is possibly too perfect; a saintly, flawlessly scrupled man who seems too good, almost, to be possibly true.

 

 

 

 

Like doubting Thomases,  we stand agape.

 

 

 

 

 

Image

11 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vetiver

PRECIOUS ONE by ANGELA FLANDERS (2012)

Image

Image

The talk is all of tuberose, and jasmine, and fleurs de nuit, flowers floating ethereally above vetiver and oakmoss; a velvety, new, but classically-leaning chypre that won Angela Flanders the award for best independent fragrance at the 2012 FIFI awards.

The first thing I can say about this fragrance is that I can really see why it won this award: it has depth, richness, and integrity, and is one of the earthiest women’s perfumes to have been released in decades.

Which brings me to the second point: there is some serious gender subversion going on here, as the perfume, to me, smells emphatically masculine, almost brutishly so. I love the idea of delicate, spindly, fashion creatures honing in on the Precious boutique in Spitalfields, London, on a  cold Monday morning, being seduced by the immediacy of the store’s in-house fragrance, and emerging, clad in moss and peat, ready to overturn perfumed clichés in a ‘back to Bandit!’, balaclava-wearing revolution.

While the name of the perfume seems to allude to a beloved – only one in my life – for me, no matter how many times I smell Precious One, this is nothing but a vivid, bisexual, menage à trois.

She may be wearing white flowers, procuring a slight sense of vague floral sweetness to the proceedings, but her two men, young, sinewy and virile, vy for her attentions and each other, almost completely drowning her out with their male aromas, which compete in the air like a dance of the dryads, their bodies and aromas concurring and wreathing aromatically: the spice and fougèrish warmth of vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme; the classic, dark green auras of the oakmoss and pine-drenched vintage Lauren Polo: mouthing up the flowers, kissing, and merging with the trees.

Sparring together, the three lovers eventually settle on an arid, mousse de chêne-covered rock to catch their collective breath which they exhale together, sighing: a bark and foliage layered vetiver, tarry in the early evening light, somewhere in the heart of the forest.

 

 

 PRECIOUSONE_3068

 

9 Comments

Filed under Chypre, Vetiver

DAYBREAK …..ARTILLERY No 4 by ANGELA FLANDERS (2012)

Image

 

 

 

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 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vetiver