Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review - "Sel de Vetiver" by The Different Company

It's been quite a mild winter here in Sydney this year, which given how mild Sydney winters are anyway is a round about way of saying that it could be mistaken for spring much of the time. We've had some cool rainy days sure, days where I couldn't wait to bust out the heavier scents. On a dark gloomy day I love to wrap myself in some of the churchier incense or warming amber fragrances I own. Something angular, dark and rich. But every chance I get I also like to lighten things up and bring the sunshine in.

Note, I'm not a huge fan of winter.

I'm not particularly a sufferer of SAD, and conversely I'm also not a bronzed sun worshipper either (hello, Scottish/English by birth which means I am the palest person you know). But the sun comes out and like a flower I open to face the sun and everything is bluebirds, daisies and happiness. Spring and Autumn are my favourite times in Sydney, because we get treated to beautiful mild days without a cloud in the sky. Case in point, here is what yesterday looked like as I walking across the Domain to meet a friend at the Art Gallery of NSW:

And this is still winter. As the 'official' spring is just around the corner, I decided to add some more lightness to my collection because you can never have too much happy.

A while back I ordered a sample vial of "Sel de Vetiver" by The Different Company from LuckyScent after having read about it online. As an aside, how great is this sampling that some of the online retailers offer? I wish more of the local online retailers offered such a service, but I do appreciate it must be labour intensive and fiddly to be decanting all those tiny vials all the time. I love the fact that for a small investment I can try a whole bunch of different fragrances at home, get a couple of wears out of them, and then decide if I want to go ahead and invest.

Anyhoo, "Sel de Vetiver" was a highlight in a bunch of samples I bought, and then I was very happy to spot The Different Company brand in stock at Peony Haute Perfumery in Melbourne when I visited back in June. Fast forward, and Jill at Peony emailed me recently to let me know that she was discontinuing The Different Company as a brand (as I understand it, more to do with distribution and supply issues than any reflection on the brand) and she was offering a good discount on "Sel de Vetiver"! (As of writing Jill still has quite a bit of the brand on offer at great discounts, but act quick because once it's gone it's gone. And currently I'm not aware of anyone else offering the brand in Oz.)

I love the effort Jill at Peony puts into her presentation, wrapping the box in her signature tissue.
Firstly this was almost a very short review because I could not get the damned cap off the bottle. The stepped ziggurat style of cap is all well and good, but it means there is precious little to grab onto. It was jammed on good and tight, and there is a plastic lining inside the metal cap that forms a very tight seal against the sprayer. In the end I had to resort to wedging a knife in the crack between the bottle and stopper and levering it off. (Actually I started with a pair of tweezers, but that's not a very butch admission, non?)

Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company (2006)
Eau de Parfum
Top Notes: Cardamom, Bergamot, Grapefruit.
Middle Notes: Vetiver, Geranium, Ylang.
Base Notes: Sea Salt, Haïti Vetiver, Iris.
Nose: Céline Ellena
A spectacular encounter between Vetiver and Sea Salt.

The spicy and invigorating freshness of Cardamom and Grapefruit.
The beauty of Haitian and Bourbon Vetiver: fresh, piquant, woody and smoky.
The fascinating originality of a Sea Salt accord: solar and mesmerising.
[Notes and description by The Different Company.]

5 Minutes
The first impression on first spray is a lovely waft of light citrus and geranium notes over a warmer herbal base. Within a minute or two though the grapefruit has largely departed, and you are already deep in the Land of Vetiver. I own a bottle of gorgeous vetiver essential oil, and I keep it as a sort of olfactory reference for vetiver. (I mixed a dilution in perfumer's alcohol, and sometimes even wear this on its own.) Natural vetiver can be incredibly complex, an earthy mix of green, herbal notes on a dry base that brings to mind hemp rope and dry sunbleached wood. The effect here is achieved with a variety of aroma molecules, but it is a brilliant evocation of natural vetiver.

At the 5 minute point this is very similar to that natural vetiver, but supported and given loft with the remnants of the bergamot and citrus, the subtle flower notes, the herbal spice of cardamom, and the genius of the salty marine note. There is a spare, sun filled quality to this fragrance that makes me think of standing on a promontory overlooking the sea, with the smell of the surrounding grasses and salt air on the breeze.

30 Minutes
At 30 minutes the majority of the headier citrus and floral notes have largely, but not entirely, departed and what you are left with is very much akin to a reference vetiver tied in with a salty, ozonic marine accord. What also becomes more evident is the lovely soft iris/woody/tobacco note that comes from the ionone in the composition, and the slightly sweet/floral note from several ingredients such as benzyl cinnamate. Sillage and projection are moderate I would say, which I don't mind too much in a summery scent, but up close this is stunning.

2 Hours
At the 2 hour point to my nose there is a warmer, woodier and slightly balsamic nature to the fragrance. The main effect though is still a seaside vetiver. Sillage and projection are fair, and at this point it is more of a closer skin scent but I would not label the longevity as disappointing.

I would describe "Sel de Vetiver" as quite unisex, but it makes a great masculine. There is enough of a light floral, sweetly balsamic edge to take it out of the realm of all woods and herbs that you'd normally associate with textbook masculine fragrances. The genius for me though is that salty marine accord that just flings open the doors on a seaside summer breeze. Couple that with the soft citrus and flowers, the killer invocation of vetiver, and "Sel de Vetiver" smells like summer.

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