Back in 2008 I purchased a 100 ml bottle of Vermeil, I think based upon what I read in some online reviews. I liked it so much I bought a backup bottle, but then swapped both off. The reason for this change of heart involved what I think was a bout of “chemical sensitivity” that occurred when I sprayed on too much Sung Homme one day (two sprays to the chest, I think). After that I could only wear weak scents for several months (and even then, just one spray). Because Vermeil opens with very powerful citrus and animalic notes, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to wear it again. However, I did keep a reference sample, fortunately.
About a week ago I did a sample swap with someone and received a vial of the original Davidoff scent, which has been compared to Vermeil. After wearing Davidoff the next day, I sought out my Vermeil sample and tried to figure out how similar it was (and if so, in what way it was). My conclusion, which I’ve pointed out in another blog post, is that there are note similarities but the construction/composition is at least somewhat different. My thought was that Vermeil is actually more interesting, perhaps due to the strong tobacco note it possesses, unlike the Davidoff. I noticed that an online retailer was having a free shipping promotion and jumped at the chance to reacquire Vermeil at a very low price.
A few days later, when I opened the package that contained it, I didn’t think anything was “wrong.” The heavy plastic case in which the bottle is housed was identical (same exact stickers on it too; made by “Parfums Jean-Louis Vermeil”), and I sprayed it on with high hopes. Immediately I realized that the strong opening was gone, especially the citrus element. I then went to ebay to look at pictures of the bottle and sure enough there are two different designs. The new one, apparently (pictured on your right, above), has linear aspects to it whereas the first two I bought had more of a “smooth” quality. I’m guessing this is how one can identify which formulation one is going to experience. I decided not to get disappointed at this point, since the top notes were too strong for me, even after the “chemical sensitivity” type of problem passed. Note that the bottles look like they are different colors but since I no longer have the first two I can’t say if that’s just due to the effects of lighting.
After an hour or so it seemed quite similar to the first two Vemeil bottles, so I then sprayed sample on my ankle to compare. The next day I did it the other way around, with original Vermeil sprayed to the chest and new Vermeil on the ankle. Other than the top notes, I must give them credit for a decent reformulation, especially if it was done to comply with new IFRA guidelines. However, I do wonder if fans of this scent are going to stop buying it, because I’d guess that the major appeal to most fans is the powerful opening. As a newbie, I could smell hardly anything other than that opening; it was a great olfactory fatigue generator, that’s for sure! Note that this is a rather odd reformulation, because while top notes are sometimes strengthened, they are never weakened to this degree, in my experience.
Smelling the two up close, it was clear that the original has higher quality ingredients, but it is also sweeter and has more of an ambery quality. Now that I can appreciate “naturalness,” the cloying qualities of this formulation seem to be right on the edge of tolerability, but other than that it’s a great scent, quite close to niche, with the strong civet/castoreum and tobacco notes (and the kind of scent Kouros fans might really enjoy). In the new formulation, the sweet/syrupy qualities are toned down quite a bit, which is great, but the tobacco, if present, is blended in significantly which is a bit of a disappointment to me. If you smell it up close there is some sort of “chemical” or “off” aspect, but from a distance it doesn’t seem too bad. I think layering the two might be the best idea, actually. In fact, the new one might be excellent to layer in order to add an animalic quality (with a bit of a citrusy background hum) to scents you think would benefit from it.
Many people complain (probably rightfully in most cases) that strong animalic qualities are so uncommon in scents these days. and that something seems to be lacking, leading me to think that using the new Vermeil in this way might work out well for quite a few such people. This won’t work with the original Vermeil, which has such a powerful opening it will likely simply overpower other scents, or create a nasty clash if you try layering it with another very strong one. In fact, it seems like a portion of Spicebomb was used to create the new Vermeil, with the strong spices and sweet (think 1 Million) aspects removed. If you are partial to tobacco or animalic scents I suggest sampling the original Vermeil, but please be sure to disclose which bottle you sprayed from if you write up a review !
Neither of these possess a clear fougere accord, nor any “soapy” quality, though the original’s citrus blast may suggest that to some people. There are florals here, I’m guessing at least rose, which provides some depth and body, and also softens it a bit. And though the original is quite musky at first, that quality is lost within half an hour or so. The new one provides an impression of “dirty tobacco,” so it may not satisfy “hardcore tobacco” note fans. I tried layering this new one with Dunhill’s Desire for a Man, and the result was at least mildly successful (I haven’t had that much success with layering, though I haven’t done it often). Overall, unless you are a “niche person” or very particular about your “dirty tobacco” scents, this one is worth sampling, and the bottle you seek out should reflect how you intend to use it or what you want to experience, IMO. Those who seek a cheap, toned down Kouros-like scent (closest to the last formulation with the “chrome shoulders) might want to sample this as well.
UPDATE: I found a seller with quite a bit of “new old stock,” and bought a few bottles. None are identical, but unlike what I believe to be the new formulation bottle, the three older ones have some dark spots in the design, whereas the new one does not. This may be the best way to identify formulations.