Monday, June 11, 2007

Family Affair: Guerlain Vetiver and Parfums de Nicolai Vetiver

It was almost exactly a year ago to the day that I featured a week of vetiver fragrances, so I thought it might be fun (and timely, given the season and the arrival of summer heat) to have a repeat, featuring different scents from the vetiver samples I ordered last year. My first vetiver that week was Guerlain, so I thought it appropriate to start there again. My, what a difference a year makes! I do believe I framed this fragrance as something one might use to cover up a trip to the gym. *Hangs head in shame.* What was I thinking? If anything, let this be a lesson to all perfume fans out there. First, if you don't like the perfume, consider the fact that it might just be you. Second, time and lots and lots of sampling will tell.

To recount, Guerlain Vetiver has the following notes:
Top: orange, bergamot, lemon
Heart: pepper and nutmeg
Base: vetiver, tobacco, tonka bean

The opening is citrusy and slightly floral, reminiscent of the sweet part of the rind rather than the actual juice. The nutmeg and pepper don't take long to appear, I think because the citrus is so grounded. The nutmeg adds a little more sweet spicy depth, but the keeps the sharper sense of citrus in the background. The end here is spicy, grassy and fresh without being overly bright. An interesting side note: wearing Guerlain Vetiver this time around, I really thought I smelled leather in the base. The Guerlain site does not list leather as a note, but osMoz does. Hm. Either way, to smell this is to understand why it's a classic.

And how daunting to have a family who has already created a classic and try to step out on your own! Patricia Nicolai is a Guerlain by blood, although her Vetiver is somewhat different than the classic scent created in 1959. With notes of vetiver, cumin, black pepper, clove, coriander, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and tonka bean, Parfums de Nicolai Vetiver launches itself with much juicier citrus top notes, which are amped up by the sweet spice of clove. This effervescent effect lasts only about thirty minutes, and then it begins to dry down into a dry spicy floral in the base, dominated mostly by the vetiver, tonka bean, and black pepper. This Vetiver reminds me of Etro Shaal Nur, dry and herbal, only less complicated, more sophisticated in its relative simplicity.

Both of these scents are a pleasure to wear. Both are considered men's fragrances, but women are crazy not to try them (and wear them), too. Ironically, the Parfums de Nicolai Vetiver comes across in the top notes as slightly more feminine, but ultimately between the two, I find the Guerlain more feminine. It has an aspect that reminds me of the base notes in Rochas Femme, one of my favorite perfumes. The PdN dries down into something that while sophisticated, definitely has the feel of a man's perfume.

*photos from and Parfums de Nicolai