Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire : Perfume Review

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Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire by perfumer Dominique Ropion is said to contain 25% vetiver—the most on the market where this herbal, grassy note is a frequently the principal note in men’s fragrances. Depending on which facets the perfumer has illuminated, vetiver can be sweet, dry, smoky, bitter, fruity, peppery, and woody. In Vétiver Extraordinaire, the note is freed like a balloon by ozone, which gives it a fresh airiness in opposition to more earthbound vetivers (like Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s earthy Route du Vétiver or Serge Lutens’ root-y Vétiver Oriental).

green-leaves

Vetiver is a grass that is native to India but is also grown in Haiti, Indonesia, China, Java, and Reunion.  For perfumery purposes, oil is extracted from the roots. The damp, woody scent of vetiver is so complex that it can be a perfume on its own. The note is used as a drydown accent or it can be treated as a main theme.  It’s traditionally associated with masculine fragrances like Guerlain Vetiver, but it also appears with regularity in the bases of feminine perfumes like Chanel No 19 or Guerlain Chamade.

Fragrances featuring vetiver tend to have strong and distinct personalities.  Ropion strips his of most of the bitterness sometimes associated with vetiver and replaces it with a feeling of knife-sharp clean. Tart bergamot sparkles as a topnote, followed immediately by crisp, peppery, and very dry vetiver.  The bergamot, which smells of lemon, is exuberant and it flashes very briefly before vanishing into what smells like ozone.  It is an atmospheric note of an interesting dimension and in Vétiver Extraordinaire it blanks out dampness and muddiness and replaces it with a smell not unlike what follows a thunderstorm, with a minor hint of something being burnt.

Once it settles, the remainder of the fragrance is primarily vetiver, with a spice note (nutmeg) that lends Vétiver Extraordinaire a slightly raffish elegance.  Sometimes this note reads close to cumin, another spice that can lend a sweaty, human element to a blend.  That type of association doesn’t occur here, mostly because the musk notes of the base, provided by two different synthetics that veer closely to freshly aired laundry.  I used to find Vétiver Extraordinaire smokier than I do now, and I will confess to struggling a bit with the difficult relationship of ozone to my skin.

Nevertheless, Vetiver Extraordinaire is my favorite all-vetiver fragrance.  The opening, which I wish lasted far longer than it does, is magical, and it smells like moss and woods lit by lemony sunshine.  Traversing the fragrance with ozone keeps it firmly in the outdoors, although it is undeniably a scent elegant enough for a soiree.  It has coolness suitable to the wearing of evening attire as well as burly flannels, and it’s almost perfection against an autumnal backdrop.

Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire includes notes of bergamot, bitter orange, pink pepper, cloves, vetiver, sandalwood, cedar, oakmoss, myrhh, and musk. Available at Barneys, Aedes and directly at www.fredericmalle.com.

Photograph by Kumaravel via Flickr, some rights reserved

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34 Comments

  • Heather: What a beautiful photograph!! I want to jump into it. As for VE, like you I have difficulty with some of the synthetics in this. It seems to become rather bright and almost floral and the smell reminds me of that soapy mixture for kids to blow bubbles. However I also tried the soap and it doesn’t have this characteristic and lingers on the skin very well. December 11, 2012 at 7:42am Reply

    • Suzanna: The minute I read your comment about the soap bubbles, I thought, Bingo!

      Good rec about the soap. That I have not tried. December 11, 2012 at 7:44am Reply

  • nikki: I love that fragrance! The soaps are really special, too, and perfume the whole bathroom. I find Vetiver to be very comforting. December 11, 2012 at 8:45am Reply

    • Suzanna: Nikki, you and Heather have me wanting to try/buy that soap ASAP! December 11, 2012 at 10:02pm Reply

  • Annikky: What an extraordinary photo! Just stunning.

    Vetiver can be a challenge for me, but this one holds a special place in my heart. It was my first post-getting-really-interested-in-perfume fragrance I bought for my boyfriend. I think it can be a bit severe and distant at times, but it seemed a good fit for his demanding job and our lukewarm summer. And it was.

    For myself, the favourite so far is Guerlain Vetiver, but my experience with vetivers is very limited. December 11, 2012 at 11:36am Reply

    • Suzanna: Annikky, I agree about the severity and I often wrestle with it. I used to find it smokier, too, than I do now. It is hard to warm up to in some instances. December 11, 2012 at 10:04pm Reply

  • Miss Kitty: Thank you for reminding me about this one! I had forgotten about it, and I have a very generous sample someone gave me that I have been reluctant to drain away. I love vetiver, but it can sometime feel like there are a lot redundancies out there. For whatever reason, this is probably still my Number 1. L’Artisan’s Coeur de Vetiver Sacre is a close second, and for whatever reason the Guerlain has still never done it for me. Sigh… ok, now I HAVE TO wear this today! Thanks for making it easy for me to decide what to wear today, instead of my usual staring for half an hour into the perfume cabinets! December 11, 2012 at 11:52am Reply

    • Suzanna: Miss Kitty, I do that same half hour of staring, like this morning when I was stymied for a photo shoot and ended up wearing…Pink Sugar (!!!).

      Glad you had to wear it today. I love when that happens! December 11, 2012 at 10:05pm Reply

      • Edward: Zuzanna,

        I LOVE Pink Sugar, specifically the Sensual flanker! I am enjoying it this time during the cold season in Riyadh. It is sooo perfect in this time of the year so I can relate with yout selection.

        Regards,
        Edward December 16, 2012 at 4:20am Reply

        • Suzanna: How delightful, Edward, to know that you enjoy Pink Sugar, too! Happy to know that! December 19, 2012 at 8:57am Reply

  • Tatiana: I love vetiver in so many ways and this is one of my favorites. There is something about the crisp opening and the airiness of it that I find incredibly refreshing in warm weather. December 11, 2012 at 12:25pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Tatiana, the ozone is certainly refreshing, especially in heavier and muggier weather. The crispness as you point out is something special. December 11, 2012 at 10:02pm Reply

  • Austenfan: That photo is stunning. Like a Whistler study in Green.
    I tried VE only once in a shop and liked it. I already own several vetiver fragrances so I wasn’t in any hurry to purchase it.
    I might actually get Route du Vetiver first. I adore that dark and earthy opening, VE is probably more versatile though. December 11, 2012 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Austenfan, I adore Route du Vetiver’s muddiness and the evocation of berried hedgerow. It’s a must, I think! December 11, 2012 at 10:01pm Reply

  • Ariadne: wow….your review is only outdone by your photo! You are like the Anne Rice of photography and I think you have the perfect sensibility to interpret earthy smells, and the particular and seductive aromas of ripeness and decay that are the absolute lure of the lowlands, bayou, and New Orleans. As a NOLA expat I really enjoy your posts. December 11, 2012 at 6:49pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thank you, Ariadne, for your very kind words. I must say that I spend of lot of time trying to photographically interpret swamps, woodlands, and lowlands. I wish NOLA weren’t so far away, bec. there are areas in the Cajun country I would love to turn my lens upon.

      Earthy scents are my favorite. If I stray too far, I become unhappy! December 11, 2012 at 10:00pm Reply

      • behemot: Great review.
        I must to smell the perfume and the soaps.. December 12, 2012 at 2:01am Reply

        • Suzanna: Thanks, behemot! And you should indeed try this scent and the soap! December 12, 2012 at 7:33am Reply

  • Ferris: Interesting take on Vetiver. Not the most appealing note to smell, but I always like to smell another perfumer’s interpretation. December 12, 2012 at 2:18am Reply

    • Suzanna: Ferris, it isn’t my favorite note when used as a main ingredient, on me. I tend to prefer it on men! I agree it is worthwhile to smell various interpretations. December 12, 2012 at 7:33am Reply

  • Amer: “vetiver can be sweet, dry, smoky, bitter, fruity, peppery, and woody”… don’t forget nutty! I have a chinese vetiver that starts phenolic and then takes a turn for the dried nuts. This evolution was also the main characteristic in Encre Noire but since then I believe it has been reformulated with a different vetiver oil. Btw, do you know how much vetiver oil is in EN? It seems to me it would be more than 25% December 12, 2012 at 5:03am Reply

    • Suzanna: Amer, I have no idea how much vetiver oil is in Encre Noire!

      Woody and nutty can be similar to me, depending on degree. December 12, 2012 at 7:32am Reply

      • Amer: One is foody the other is not… unless you are a woodworm that is :S December 13, 2012 at 7:11am Reply

        • Suzanna: I must be a termite, then! December 13, 2012 at 9:06am Reply

      • Amer: technically speaking I think nuts have pyrazines. Clean wood notes steer clear from those December 13, 2012 at 7:14am Reply

  • Daisy: What a wonderful and wonderfully well-written review, Suzanna! I loved reading it and it really made me think about what what my impressions are when I smell vetiver.

    Vetiver and ozone together sound so interesting. I am excited to check this out when I see it! December 13, 2012 at 12:30am Reply

    • Suzanna: Thank you, Daisy! I think it’s important to consider our impressions when we smell something, since there is always such a wide range of interpretation.

      Make sure to try VE soon! December 13, 2012 at 12:46am Reply

  • Merlin: I haven’t yet tried this but another airy vetiver is Atelier’s Vetiver Fatale.
    Another gorgeous vetiver is Dzongkha (with Iris)… December 13, 2012 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Great suggestions, thanks! December 13, 2012 at 10:42pm Reply

  • Marvin: I just tried this today – it is definitely a clean take on vetiver, not necessarily ‘extraordinaire’.

    However, this one reminds me of Adolfo Dominguez’ Vetiver Hombre, an excellent alternative (possibly without the longevity of FM VE) at probably a fourth the price? Definitely one of my favourite vetivers.

    Thoughts? September 7, 2013 at 4:00am Reply

  • Mahesh: Bergamot vetiver and myrrh…lots of myrrh when dries down. Gurrlain vetiver is still best for me and possibly Givenchy too June 12, 2014 at 2:37pm Reply

  • mARIOS: I smelled it last week and is indeed nice but i have guerlain vetiver, encre noir, tom ford grey vetiver and wondering if this is needed in the collection? unfortunately, the other male perfumes from FM line, did not impress me and i have a voucher to get something from them….dont know what to decide. musc ravageur is already in my collection. Can you pls Victoria advise which are masculine as well to sample if VO doesnt worth a purchase? tnx June 2, 2015 at 4:00am Reply

    • Victoria: I wouldn’t get it. Your collection covers all aspects of vetiver, and this one would be superfluous. June 2, 2015 at 4:18pm Reply

    • Surbhi: Dries ven Noten ? January 28, 2016 at 1:20am Reply

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