Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today’s Sample: Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vetyver Haiti

Once you’ve found true love, everything else can pale in comparison. Yesterday’s sample, the Laura Tonatto Iss, was an unexpected treasure. Other than seeing the link in the sidebar on Luscious Cargo, I was unfamiliar with the line. But Comptoir Sud Pacifique is everywhere: Aedes, Luscious Cargo, Sephora, and so on. Many of the beauty blogs I read regularly mention their fragrances as well, so I know they have a lot of fans.

In general, I don’t care for vanilla in a fragrance. First, it tends to take over. Second, it seemed to become a hot trend years ago because, if I remember correctly, there was some study that said men tend to be attracted to the scent of vanilla (and I guess it’s easier than pumpkin, their number one choice, to integrate into a fragrance). While I care what Bob thinks about the fragrance I wear (because he has to smell it too, and nothing’s worse than being trapped with someone when their scent gives you headache or makes you sneeze or what-have-you), I don’t think that going all out with “guy-getting” fragrances is really the best idea.

But I digress.

I was surprised when I loved Des Filles a La Vanille Je t’aime, which I didn’t choose on my own; it came as part of the LuckyScent Hot Pack, a sample collection of some of their top-selling and favorite fragrances. Because of this, I felt a little more open to trying other vanilla-based scents, so I was excited when I saw that my vetiver sample pack contained Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vetyver Haiti. A new take on vanilla! (Well, for me, at least.)

The notes in this fragrance are as follows:
Top: Lemon, bergamot
Heart: Jasmine, ylang-ylang, gillyflower, vetyver from Haiti
Base: Vetyver from Haiti, vanilla, musk

In the opening race, bergamot leads lemon. The citrus is bright but not sharp, and really, this fragrance could use a little sharp. The jasmine is a little heady…and then there’s the gillyflower. According to Wikipedia (which is relaying information from the American Heritage Dictionary), gillyflower (gilliflower) is a carnation. But what’s more telling in the definition is this: “Some say that ‘gillyflower’ originally referred to scented plants that were used in Europe as a cheap substitute for the spice called clove.” Clove! Yes, a hint of clove is definitely there, and lends a very sweet spice to this scent. And focus on the word "cheap." And then there’s the vanilla. You can’t miss it. But the vetiver, although listed twice, never seems to appear, at least not for me. Unless, of course, “Vetyver from Haiti” is really just a code for “more vanilla.”

I said a while back that Ormonde Jayne’s Ormonde Woman reminded me of hairspray. The fragrance itself smells nothing like hairspray, but it evoked an image to me of a woman in the 1950s dressed to go out for the evening, and hairspray would be a part of all the scents that surrounded her. When I said that, I meant it evoked elegance from another time: cocktail dresses, coiffed hair, martinis…

Vetyver Haiti, to me, also smells like hairspray. More specifically, Aqua Net. The opening smells like Aqua Net, sticky and alcoholic. From there it moves into a sickening sweet spice, not unlike a burned dessert featuring vanilla liqueur. After that it calms down and smells like…Aqua Net, at the end of the evening--dark, musky, and sticky. The image this strikes is that of an overly coiffed and sprayed ‘do, the kind that looks impenetrable as a cocoon, like you could knock on it and it would make noise. The ugly side of elegance, it evokes shellacked hair that doesn’t get washed for a week, just wrapped nightly in tissue until the next wash and style. This is what happens when the party’s over, folks, and it ain’t pretty.

Surely they make some pretty vanilla scents, too?

*photo from