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May 09, 2006

Perfume Review: Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company and Reflections on Vetiver


With the newest fragrance from The Different Company, Sel de Vetiver, on my arm and a paper blotter, I am reflecting on whether a point ever comes when the world does not need another Vetiver, another tribute to the roots of grass native to tropical Asia that smell of earth and sweet woods. For devoted vetiver fans, there are dark roots that still have soil clinging to them, in case of Maitre Gantier et Parfumeur Route de Vétiver, or seaweed, in case of Annick Goutal Vétiver. Pale earthy whispers wrapped around flower petals in Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle would delight those who prefer their vetiver rendered in a lighter manner. Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire is quite true to its name, the smooth darkness resting on an ambery base. Etro Vetiver is a dry rendition, emphasizing the fresh hazelnut aspect of the root. Hermes Vétiver Tonka is a gourmand take on the vetiver theme.

Sel de Vetiver is an elegantly cut gem--a transparent veil of sweet spices over the layers of earthy vetiver. Created by Celine Ellena, it intricately folds the herbal and floral nuances into the bitter citrus punctuated sharpness, accenting the earthy, woody qualities of vetiver and lending it a delicate sparkle. ...

These are not roots covered in wet soil, but the thin reeds swaying in the wind. The green heart conceals a tinge of warm skin element, which serves as a sensual touch in this crystalline composition. And then it suddenly begins to dim, with the drydown losing the initial precision and luminosity. After such a beautiful start, this development is slightly dissonant, like a song ending far too abruptly.

This warm skin/clean sweat aspect paired with the overall execution of the vetiver theme is reminiscent of Jean-Claude Ellena’s work, particularly Terre d’Hermès and Poivre Samarcande. Ellena’s characteristic transparency underscored by the woody-spicy accord is perhaps more pronounced in Sel de Vetiver than it is in Celine Ellena’s earlier creation, Jasmin de Nuit. In Jasmin de Nuit, the transparency of jasmine accord is likewise juxtaposed with the spicy-woody base, however the finished result has such a striking character than one is reluctant to draw any direct comparisons. On the other hand, although elegant, especially in the progression from the sharpness of the top notes to the floral softness of the heart, Sel de Vetiver leaves me craving more sparks.

To answer my own rhetorical question, yes, given intriguing qualities of vetiver, another Vetiver is always welcome. However, in light of the existing masterpieces, the next Vetiver might have to take a step into the uncharted waters. First, however, I would have loved for Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle to become available outside the duty-free stores…

Sel de Vetiver features notes of grapefruit, cardamom, geranium, Haitian vetiver, patchouli, iris and ylang ylang. The Different Company fragrances are available directly from The Different Company website, First-in-Fragrance and Senteurs d’Ailleurs. In the States, they will be available from Neiman Marcus stores located in Bocca Raton, Beverly Hills and Newport Beach.

For another opinion, please see a review of Sel de Vetiver by Robin of Nowsmellthis .

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