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January 17, 2007

Vetiver Tonka by Hermes : Perfume Review

Although I enjoy the airy softness of Osmanthe Yunnan and the smouldering sensation of Ambre Narguilé, the only fragrance from theHermès’s Hermessence collection for which I truly feel strong affection is Vétiver Tonka. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, this composition is a startling tender vetiver melody. The pungent and woody root is often made even richer and smokier as in Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire or the original version of Guerlain Vétiver. Or, in another extreme, it can be rendered as weightless and fresh as in The Different Company Sel de Vétiver. Either treatment can accent the fascinating tonalities of this amazing material, yet it is rare to discover vetiver transformed into a velvety, enveloping veil. This is exactly what Vétiver Tonka succeeds in achieving. …

The fresh top note of Vétiver Tonka is framed by a plummy sweetness which intensifies as the fragrance develops. A toasted note almost makes me salivate, as it recalls for me the scent of genmai-cha, a Japanese green tea mixed with roasted rice grains. The characteristic grapefruit-like sharpness of vetiver is softened by rich violet and spicy notes; while its milky nuttiness is accented with roasted hazelnut. It is an excellent example of an abstract gourmand fragrance—the edible notes are woven so masterfully into the tapestry that nothing dominates the composition.

The delicate sweetness and the pronounced smokiness of Vétiver Tonka lend it an androgynous quality. Yet, even with the large dose of the quintessentially masculine note, the fragrance does not become too virile. It is elegant and classical in spirit, even though its execution is thoroughly modern. Like many of Ellena’s fragrance, Vétiver Tonka has a radiant chill about it, despite its warm and sweet accents. A genius fragrance!

Vétiver Tonka features notes of bergamot, neroli, cereal notes, dried fruit, tonka beans, vetiver, and hazelnut. Hermèssence range created by Ellena includes Rose Ikebana, Poivre Samarcande, Ambre Narguilé, Osmanthe Yunnan, and Paprika Brasil. Available at select Hermès boutiques, the fragrances can be ordered by phone from the New York store, 212-751-3181.

Photo of vetiver roots from Osmoz (includes additional interesting information on this material frequently used in perfumery).

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