Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guerlain Vetiver- An Attractive, Charming Disappointment

I know I promised a steady stream of Hermes reviews for the next few weeks, but I feel compelled to blog about one of the many (many many!) samples I recently received in the mail from BitterGrace. I’ve already tried a handful of the twenty or so she’s sent me over the last couple of weeks, and each will get its turn at being reviewed. But today I want to focus on Guerlain’s Vetiver, a scent that so narrowly missed finding a place in my heart, it makes me feel kind of wistful.

The opening notes of Vetiver are incredibly pleasant – green and spring-like, with just the slightest bite to give it some interest. It has an astringent, almost mentholated, quality that made my nose tingle and light up. As soon as that passes, Vetiver settles into a melodiously smooth phase that’s reminiscent of rosewater. Wearing it last night, I kept sniffing my wrist and thinking it was far too pretty to be a masculine fragrance. My tastes run more toward unisex and lighter masculine scents, though, so that isn’t necessarily a strike against Vetiver.

Before I could fall in love with this fragrance, though, the drydown brought out a nagging, bitter note that first left me with an unsettled feeling, then a touch of nausea. At first, I wondered if it was the vetiver note, itself, that was bothering me. I haven’t tried enough perfumes containing vetiver to know whether or not I like the smell of it, though it’s listed as a base note in Terre d’Hermes, which I love. Besides, whatever was bothering me smelled familiar, like something I’d encountered a lot outside the world of perfumery. A quick look at the fragrance notes list on Basenotes, coupled with some sniffs at my wrist for confirmation, helped me to finger the culprit: tobacco.

Tobacco is a common note in many masculine fragrances, and one I didn’t really expect to dislike. I used to smoke, though I never became addicted, and I still appreciate the smell of a good pipe blend. But that strong, unmistakable tobacco twang at the bottom of Vetiver just bothered the hell out of me. I didn’t end up scrubbing this one, at least. Vetiver is so light, overall, that I was able to ignore it until it faded away on its own.

Too bad. We’d gotten off to such a promising start. Sampling Guerlain’s Vetiver was a lot like having a wonderful conversation with a charming, interesting, articulate new friend, only to discover later that he voted for George W. Bush. The flaw isn’t enough to make you dislike him, exactly, but you’re forced to acknowledge, with a tinge of regret, that the two of you will never quite see eye to eye.

Image note: Tobacco. Pretty, no?


BitterGrace said...

Great review. The analogy to a budding friendship captures the whole near-miss experience perfectly. I feel much as you do about GV--it's a likable "almost" for me, although I sometimes enjoy it girlified with a rose soliflore. Dave won't wear it.

It's always been really popular with women, btw. Elle MacPherson was a famous fan.

jmcleod76 said...

Dave won't wear it because it's kind of girly, or because he doesn't like it in general?

I can see how rose would go well with this. I already thought it smelled a little rosy. Is that the vetiver? I know vetiver is supposed to be a very bright, almost citrusy, vegetal smell, but I've never smelled it on its own.

Similarly, one could probably butch this up a bit by adding ... what? Something with a heavier cedar scent and/or some oakmoss? Lavender might be nice.

I'll probably continue to wear this sample from time to time, but I don't think I'd ever buy this. I'm thinking maybe the tobacco won't annoy me as much if I'm expecting it.

BitterGrace said...

I'm not sure what Dave objected to about it, maybe he just found it insipid. Dave actually goes for pretty strong scents, on him and on me. He loves Caron Yatagan, which has lots of moxie.

Vetiver on its own is, to me, an earthy, slightly green smell. I just sniffed my bottle of vetiver essential oil to remind myself what it's like. There's a sweet "root-iness" to it. Most popular colognes set it into a light, citrus-y composition, which plays up its sweetness, but it shows up in the base of a lot of really rich women's orientals and woody florals. There's a typical base accord of sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver that is used in a lot of the great classics--think Arpege. And it does often accompany the oakmoss in chypres.

punkrockperfumeparty said...

maybe i am the only one who liked vetiver! on me it smells like french summer and white tennis shorts

punkrockperfumeparty said...

btw i added a link to your site from mine. hope you don't mind!

jmcleod76 said...

Hey punkrockperfumeparty, welcome! And thanks for chiming in here (I love your reviews, by the way. Great stuff!) I do _like_ Vetiver. The top and middle are gorgeous. I just wish the drydown didn't make me nauseous and headachy.

And no, I don't mind the link at all. Thanks! I already added yours here last week.