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The fact that luxury car manufacturer Bentley are making excellent fragrances is a surprise to pretty much everyone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised that a brand who is responsible for some of the highest quality motor vehicles in the world gives a damn about quality when it comes to their diffusion products – that actually makes a lot of sense. But, this is not just acceptable perfumery from a brand using good quality materials – this is really well thought out and executed perfumery that fits the spirit of the brand and the man who one would expectg to wear such fragrances. In short: Bentley is doing some great stuff so don’t sleep on them just because they also make cars…

Bentley’s latest launch is the Bentley Beyond collection, which consists of three fragrances: Exotic Musk (Mathilde Bijaoui) Majestic Cashmere (Julie Massé) and Wild Vetiver (Sidonie Lancesseur). The collection is an exploration of exotic places – Acapulco, Goa, Java – through singular materials, a story that is not new, but is really well executed here. Both Exotic Musk and Majestic Cashmere are delightful olfactory experiences, but it is Wild Vetiver that is the gem of the collection. It’s a vetiver that, even after all of the other vetiver fragrances in the world, feels new. That, my friends, is something worth turning your attention to.

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Anima Vinci offers a very solid collection of fragrances. They riff off classic styles – the hesperidic, the rose, the white floral etc. – but bring something entirely new to their respective genres. Most are beautiful (find me a prettier rose than Rose Prana, I challenge you) and some, like Wood of Life, are new and challenging. All are fascinating, fully fleshed out fragrances created with a vibrant spirit and a sense of passion.

Sesame Chān is the latest launch from Anima Vinci. It’s an ode to vetiver via an unusual combination of nutty notes and sesame seeds:

Sesame Chān exudes tranquillity, Japanese gardens, a touch of almond pink flowers, light meditation stones, deep and rich grounded emotions, the cosiness and warmth of a winter season.

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We often talk about ‘notes’ or materials in fragrances and how they come together to create a multi-faceted composition. But these materials are incredibly nuanced themselves and each one brings not one, not two, but a multitude of different things to a fragrance, meaning that there is always a lot to learn when one goes back to the source materials. I always think that the best way to understand a perfume material is to break it down into facets and that’s exactly what these olfactory deconstruction pieces are for – to dissect each material into little parts so we can really understand what makes it tick, and what makes it smell so good.

Perfume is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each fragrance is made up of specifically shaped pieces that lock together. Perfumers match up the pieces, locking them together facet-to-facet, tessellating each nuance to either enhance or contrast them, or in some cases, to create something entirely new. The great thing is that, unlike jigsaw puzzles, where there is one way of piecing things together, perfumery is open-ended and the perfumer can tie things together in whichever way they see fit. This means that the picture at the end can be whatever they dream up. There are endless possibilities and to me, that’s pretty damn exciting.

Raw. Elemental. Encre Noire À L'Extrême.
Raw. Elemental. Encre Noire À L’Extrême.

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!

The Carven Man
The Carven Man

A few weeks back I slapped on some of Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver (the Eau de Parfum) and commented on my instragram, that “when in doubt, go for vetiver”.  A flippant comment for sure, but it is one that seems to ring true, and let’s face it: you really can’t go wrong with vetiver.  Vetiver, a fragrant perennial grass native to India, is so successful as a perfume ingredient because it is so distinct – there isn’t really much else that smells like it.  Of course, being distinct does mean that it is less versatile as a note than some others (rose, for example), but many perfumers have found interesting ways to utilise the ingredient as a main feature or a supporting act.  I like vetiver very much and when one is in the mood for something clean, sharp and dashingly dapper, there’s not much else that can beat it.

There are many excellent vetiver fragrances out there, many of which are aimed predominately at men.  Classics such as Guerlain’s Vetiver (Jean-Paul Guerlain; 1961) immediately spring to mind, but one can’t ignore wonderful modern interpretations such as the aforementioned Grey Vetiver (Harry Fremont; 2009), Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fat Electrician (Antoine Maisondieu; 2009), Lalique’s Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson; 2006) and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Vétiver Extraordinaire (Dominique Ropion; 2002), to name but a few.  Each one does something entirely different with this incredibly familiar note, whether it be amping it up to the armpit-like spice of the Malle or pairing it with gorgeously creamy and smoky resins as the Etat Libre d’Orange does.  Vetiver may not be a shape-shifting material, but it certainly does have an element of range.

One vetiver that doesn’t get a huge amount of press is Carven’s.  Now, this may be due to the fact that it has been in and out of production since its launch in 1957, but now its back and should be considered as a serious contender for any vetiver afficiando.  Housed within a new and gorgeously modern bottle, coloured with the most attractive shade of green Carven’s Vétiver, is that rare thing – a casual vetiver.  This is not a vetiver fragrance to be worn with a sharp suit or a crisp white shirt, no, no, no.  This is a vetiver to pair with a chunky piece of knitwear in muted, earth tones.  It’s a relaxed vetiver to cuddle up with – to explore softly and quietly – a vetiver that salutes introspection rather than attention seeking ostentation.

A Vetiver Mini Guide
A Vetiver Mini Guide

Is there any perfume ingredient more enjoyable than vetiver? I mean, sure, floral notes can be great, and oriental materials are often sumptuous and exotic, but vetiver is consistently good as well as being completely distinct. As a celebration of this most important and most beautiful ingredient, I compiled a mini-guide of vetiver fragrances for my Escentual column last week. The guide takes a look at a classic, modern and contemporary example of vetiver and is an essential peek at the world of perfumery’s staple ingredient. Click here to head on over to Escentual to read the guide, and don’t forget to let me know about your vetiver fragrances whilst you’re there!

Movember Masculines Part 3 - Dior Homme
Movember Masculines Part 3 – Dior Homme

So Movember comes to an end and as another week of mo-growing passes my column over at Escentual takes a lot at another important masculine fragrance that represents just one facet of the modern man. This week’s scent is Dior Homme, a scent that many readers will be familiar with and whilst it may seem like an obvious choice, due in part to its high critical acclaim, it is most definitely worthy of the spotlight.

Dior Homme represents the sensitive man of today. It’s a highly stylish fragrance that speaks of well-groomed and sharply dressed young chaps, but it is by no means a vapid fashion scent for the masses. The softness of feminine notes makes Homme a truly interesting and comfortable fragrance amongst a sea of dull aquatics and faux-wood affairs. It is simply remarkable. Do click on the image above to read this week’s column.

In addition to this, for the very final week I’ve taken a look at the more contemporary and more than a little bit unusual ‘Fat Electrician’ by Etat Libre d’Orange. This is a John Waters, pencil-thin moustache of a fragrance and is also one of the most intriguing vetivers one can buy. Please click on the image just below the jump to view.