When I first smelled the Atelier Cologne fragrances Rose Anonyme and Vetiver Fatal, I immediately fell for the sheer, smoky roses and left the vetiver to languish on my desk. Perhaps that day I craved more flamboyance and more glamour which Rose Anonyme amply delivered. But a week or so later, I absentmindedly dabbed Vetiver Fatal on my wrist–there was no other perfume around–and curled up with War and Peace. Well before Natasha Rostova appeared on the scene, I abandoned the book and sat with my wrist glued to my nose. The scent on my skin was bright but moody, rustic but sophisticated. It smelled of sliced oranges, damp earth and fallen leaves–a little vignette of late summer.
At first, Vetiver Fatal makes me think of green tangerines, complete with their leathery leaves–verdant, zesty and tart enough to make my mouth water. The vetiver takes form stealthily, until you distinctly smell its characteristic scent of earth covered roots and milky hazelnuts. Perfumer Jerome Epinette makes a seemingly simple choice by pairing vetiver with citrus (vetiver oil naturally has a grapefruit-like accent in its top notes), but the harmony and the addition of other elements makes Vetiver Fatal stand out.
As I wore Vetiver Fatale longer, I discovered that it can be either uplifting and comforting, depending on my mood. This is thanks to the contrast between the exuberant orange accord–think Orange Sanguine!–and the somber darkness of vetiver. It’s a pairing that also illustrates why Earl Grey tea is such perfection. Just as the spicy bergamot cuts through the leathery, tannic richness of tea, the bitter citrus in Vetiver Fatal offsets the earthy, damp bite of vetiver. The violet gives vetiver an unexpected tenderness, and it is woven into the composition in different ways: from the cucumber freshness of its leaves to the candy sweetness of its petals.
The nuanced beauty of vetiver inspires many perfumers; it’s the reason for the many great vetiver perfumes available today. The classical Vétiver de Guerlain, the chocolate toned Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinare, the salty Annick Goutal Vétiver, the marine KenzoAir. Annick Goutal’s perfumer Isabelle Doyen even created a fragrance based just on vetiver called Turtle Vetiver. But while Vetiver Fatal is a sibling of Vétiver de Guerlain, it holds its own for its effervescence and surprising contrasts–salty and sweet, bright and dark, green and smoky.
Vetiver Fatal is sheer and sparkling, but its light aura belies its good tenacity and excellent sillage. It was a refreshing choice during our brief spell of summer in Brussels, but these days when I wake up to cool, overcast mornings it gives me a pleasant jolt. By the time I get going with my day, the citrusy notes vanish, and it lingers on my skin as polished, violet scented woods. Perhaps it’s because I discovered Vetiver Fatal when reading War and Peace, but I can’t help associating this scent with Prince Andrei Bolonsky–a similarly complex and dashing character. Now, the question is what would Natasha Rostova wear?
Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal includes notes of bergamot, lemon, bitter orange, orange blossom, violet leaf, plum, haitian vetiver, cedar, and agarwood. Available from Sephora, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Luckyscent. 30ml/$70, 200ml/$185.
Sample: my own acquisition
Photography by Bois de Jasmin (1st image).