I like vetiver but I don’t own many vetiver fragrances. A brief sweep of my collection highlights the truth that I only own four vetiver-centric scents; Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford in Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette concentrations, Carven’s reissued Vetiver and a bottle of Guerlain’s Vetiver (a must for any card carrying perfume nut). In fact, that’s not the truth at all because all four of these technically belong to my husband who, for the record, does enjoy a good vetiver. So why the vetiver snubbing at Candy Perfume Towers? In all honesty, I do not know. Perhaps I’m too busy focusing on my florals and macerating over my Muglers to really allowed vetiver to show me its veritas. Who knows?!
There is a new vetiver in town though, that may just sway my opinion. Well, I say new, but once again I am being creative with the truth. This vetiver is a flanker to a cult vetiver and I have to admit that it’s rather blinking good. Most of you will be familiar with Lalique’s famous Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson; 2006), a dark and brooding vetiver that is often regarded as one of the very best the genre has to offer. Well now, Encre Noire has spawned a child – an intense and more raw version of itself that has one mission, and one mission only: to smell damn good.
The scent is called Encre Noire À L’Extrême and it is pretty much what you would expect from a fragrance boasting that sort of name: a richer, more intense and more extreme version of the original. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Encre Noire, perfumer Nathalie Lorson has reinterpreted the iconic vetiver fragrance, or as Lalique put it Lorson pens “a new chapter in the saga”. Pushing the signature of the original “to its limits”, Encre Noire À L’Extrême is a fragrance that “plays on contrasts to express every facet of masculinity through powerful, seductive accords.” I’d say that it does a pretty good job of it too!
Top: Bergamot, Cypress and Elemi
Heart: Incense, Java & Haiti Vetiver and Iris
Base: Sandalwood, Patchouli and Siam Benzoin
How Does it Smell?
Encre Noire À L’Extrême (or ‘L’Extrême‘ as it is hereafter referred to for brevity) starts out all vetiver and no excuses. There’s a paleness to the vetiver in the initial moments that is attractive and unusual, almost as if the familiar tones of the central ingredient are witnessed through a storm. The vetiver is calm at the eye of the storm, but is shadowed by a turbulent veil of elemi and spice as the scent is unleashed with force from the atomiser.
The vetiver that is the heart of L’Extrême is rich and salty with facets of dry grass and earth. I find it to be hardier and more pointed than the original Encre Noire, which has always felt rather smooth to my nose, and I feel that it ultimately comes a cross as more raw and elemental. What I find particularly beautiful about L’Extrême is the way that it weaves a soft, suede-like iris note in between the sharp tendrils of the vetiver. The iris tempers the vetiver ever so slightly, stopping it from being so sharp it cuts, whilst intensifying its aloof earthiness and bringing a touch of the feminine to the proceedings.
As it dries down, L’Extrême warms up with woods, spices and something with a mineral feel, but it doesn’t soften, and if anything it transitions to a more solid state. Sandalwood plays a big role in the dry down, creating an angular pattern of wood and spice with gaps for the rooty, salty and earthy vetiver to fall into. The whole thing feels seamless and bold, but at no point does the fragrance feel loud of intrusive, in fact I would say it’s best described as quietly confident.
I may be controversial here, but I have found L’Extrême to be one of the most enjoyable vetivers to wear, in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I have found it to be my favourite interpretation of the note so far. Sure, you can’t beat Guerlain’s Vetiver, but this one brings something new out in this age-old note – a ruggedness and a rawness that is as attractive as a stubbly face, or a rocky landscape. If you’re a vetiver fan (or an Encre Noire fan, for that matter) do seek this out – I’m certainly going to be enjoying it quite regularly as the weather drops (it really does smell rather fantastic on my scarf) and I’ll be living in my fantasy world pretending that I’m a rugged Ben Cohen type…
Encre Noire À L’Extrême is currently exclusive to Harrods and is available in 50ml (£57) and 100ml (£79) Eau de Parfum. It launches nationwide in early 2016.
Sample, images, notes and quotes via Lalique.