def: vetiver — frequently used in perfumery, vetiver oil is steam distilled from the rootlets of grass Vetiveria Zizanoides. It has a dark earthy-woody aroma, with a grapefruit bitterness and a touch of anise-like sweet spiciness.
Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The newest addition to Chanel’s Les Exclusifs range, Sycomore is advertised as inspired by the fragrance originally created in 1930. I have a bottle of the original, therefore I was curious to compare the two. I would describe the original Sycomore as closer in spirit to Bois des Iles (vetiver, sandalwood and soft aldehydes.) It played up its gamine features with a twist of tobacco and violet. The new Sycomore eschews the obvious floral allusions. It is an elegant and pared down vetiver, which emphasizes the green hazelnut facet of the root. The embellishments are subtle, yet they serve to highlight the beauty of the raw material well. With hardly any retro references, Sycomore (2008) is a thoroughly modern fragrance. As far as I can tell, there are few, if any, allusions to the vintage. …
In fact, for years I have dreamed of a beautiful crisp vetiver of Chanel No 19 isolated and highlighted almost like a soliflore. I imagined Serge Lutens developing his trademark orientalist take on the beautiful root of this grass. With the advent of the evanescent Les Exclusifs, I have started pining for fragrances that were deeper and richer. Now, Christopher Sheldrake, the perfumer behind Serge Lutens’s collection, creates Sycomore in collaboration with Jacques Polge, and the result is the vetiver I envisioned—complex, richly hued and bold. Yet, somehow I do not feel the excitement I thought I would experience.
The main reason has to do with the fantastic range of vetiver fragrances on the market, from the opulent Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire to the gossamer The Different Company Sel de Vétiver. Not to mention, the gold standard Guerlain Vétiver, the abstractly gourmand Hermès Vétiver Tonka, the animalic marine Annick Goutal Vétiver, the sheer and deliciously nutty Etro Vetiver… Terre d’Hermès alone has been responsible for an explosion of vetiver masculines on the market—from the prestige launches like Kenzo Tokyo and Lalique Encre Noire to Zara Basics Vetiver.
Given such an array of vetivers, I find it difficult to justify adding another classical vetiver to my collection. However, those with much more insatiable vetiver appetites will find Sycomore to be a beautiful rendition. The chocolate richness of the root is accented by the peppery and smoky notes. The composition possesses an alluring dark character, which in sensation alternates between the tannic dryness of red wine and the softly worn polish of aged woods. If some of Les Exclusifs struck me as quite ethereal and thin (28 La Pausa, 31 Rue Cambon, Bel Respiro), Sycomore has an impressive presence. Now, can I please have 31 Rue Cambon in the parfum concentration?
Sycomore is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Chanel boutiques. Also, Neiman Marcus is going to carry the entire Les Exclusifs range as well.