The Strange Case of Carol Corinto Vetyver (1993).

This is not a scent that has achieved “mythic” status, as some say (about ones like Patou Pour Homme), perhaps because too little stock was available when the Basenotes’ crowd caught wind of it. I have no idea how this brand got started, but the first scent, from 1984, reminded me of a cross between Quorum and Yatgan, though it’s been years since I have worn it. Fragrantica.com states that this is a design house for menswear, but my online searches resulted in no examples of anything other than scent offerings. For those who are not aware, vetiver scents are a kind of “must have” among many aficionados, and some seem to be aficionados of just this kind of scent, if none other !

Moreover, vetiver scents seem to generate more divisive exchanges of opinion than any other genre. While most aficionados seem to be seeking something smoky or “earthy” or “dirty” or outright harsh, some want a more “clean” presentation, or even one where one can hardly smell what most perceive as a vetiver note. And example of the latter (clean and not that obvious) is Creed’s Original Vetiver, which Luca Turin has called “not vetiver.” However, this post is focused on CC’s Vetyver, and so if you want to read about different interpretations of vetiver, it’s easy enough to do on your own, using google and with words such as vetiver and basenotes.

With CC’s Vetyver, we see some widely divergent opinions, from:

…the smell is of burned sugary sweetness melded with stewed and overly sharp herbs – creating a waft of unpleasant smokiness. What is going on???? I was expecting something fresh and invigorating…

and:

The initial onslaught is of the odor of my oven being self-cleaned with a rancid and sickly sweet overlay. After several minutes, which seem like hours, this devolves to an unpleasant, synthetic combination of smoldering garbage and Lysol air freshener…

to:

Wonderful vetiver fragrance of the soapy variety. Starts with bergamot, a little lavender and a little incense behind a soapy haze. The top notes drop off into the soap and then the true vetiver emerges, and what a note it is….

The woody base supports well, holding up the vetiver without intruding and smells of high quality ingredients. The sandalwood in particular seems wonderful and perfectly attuned with the main vetiver accord.

and:

The top is classic lavender and citrus but it only lasts for a little while as the vetiver comes to the fore quickly and takes over the proceedings. The vetiver accord here is a cross between the sweet version present in Guerlain Vetiver and the smoky version present in Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire…

This mix of smoky and sweet is what makes Vetyver a real stand-out for me. The base is a strong hairy-chested sandalwood which is to be expected from a scent that was born in the powerhouse 80’s…

I have sampled several “vetiver scents,” though not being a fan I rarely wear them. Because CC’s Vetyver is apparently very rare, and the price wasn’t outrageous, I decided to buy a bottle when the opportunity arose. To be clear, this is Vetyver (as pictured above), and some claim there was a reformulation that was not as good, though not necessarily terrible, called Vetiver. What struck me was the clarity in the notes, with even the weak ones, such as carnation, being obviously present. Here is the note pyramid, from Basenotes.net:

Top Notes
Bergamot, Grapefruit, Amalfi lemon

Middle Notes
Carnation, Geranium, Thyme

Base Notes
Vetiver, Virginia cedar, Sandalwood, Amber, Musk

I tried not to dodge the top notes as much as I usually do, but even so, there was nothing especially unpleasant – certainly no household cleaning products citrus nor super-sweet qualities. In fact, I’d say Blenheim Bouquet is sharper/harsher, and I enjoy the opening of both these scents (though as a newbie I definitely did not). Within no more than half an hour the drydown emerges, and this may be a little too busy for some, with various facets vying for dominance. A few hours or more in, and the vetiver note is more obvious, being a bit “clean” as well as slightly smoky. There is a minor fougere element, a bit of floral body from the carnation (presumably), along with citrus and green/herbal aspects that are strong at first, but not so strong as to be overwhelming. The woodiness is never that strong, nor is it ever too sweet (and never comes across as vanillic to me).

That said, the busy middle area of development might strike some as somewhat irritating, perhaps even a bit blob-like. The ingredient quality seems to be at least reasonable, and the two negative reviews (from which are derived the above excerpts) do not make sense to me, assuming we all sampled the same formulation. While it’s certainly possible that citrus top notes can “go bad,” I don’t think there is any reason for a scent to become very sweet within about twenty years (or less), if ever. This is a good example of how reviews can really confuse readers, but here the most likely explanation (in my experience) is that those who wrote the two negative reviews were overly sensitive to certain notes, accords, or aroma chemicals, just as I seem to be more sensitive to iso e super (or other aroma chemicals) and camphor within the last several months. In a recent post I mentioned the discovery of a couple of scent bottles (about 150 years old) that were still sealed and not contaminated. Yet even here the opinions were quite divergent. However, I’ll let the articles I’ve read about this speak for themselves:

Opening the sealed bottles, Delville [a “senior perfumer”] says, was like “going back 150 years into life.”

“I was shocked at how fresh and floral it was and by the amount of citrus in it,” he says.

The 150-year-old perfume smelled primarily of citrus along with some more intense woody and oriental fragrances, Delville says. There were also some hints of floral and “animalic” scents, such as musk.

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/07/150-year-old_perfume_bermuda_shipwreck_drom_fragrances.html

In April 2013, the Perfumery’s director Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone hand-carried two of the Piesse & Lubin perfume bottles to the laboratories of drom Fragrances in New Jersey, where they were opened and their contents analyzed via a gas chromatograph under the watchful eyes of Jean-Claude Delville and Lionel Nesbitt. The results of the analysis showed that both bottles contained the same fragrance and miraculously after 150 years underwater were uncontaminated with salt water. The smell of the fragrance was overwhelming of rotten citrus with some notes of hydrogen sulfide (commonly known as rotten eggs).

The perfumers characterized the smell as unpleasant however to the amateur nose of the archaeological researchers the smell was characterized as surprisingly citrus, grapefruity, and inoffensive. Some impressions of orange flower, geranium, orris, bois de rose, opoponax, sandalwood and benzoin were also recognized with a dry-down of civet and ambergris tincture.

http://www.cafleurebon.com/150-year-old-lost-fragrance-found-in-a-shipwreck-piesse-lubin-perfume-rescued-off-the-coast-of-bermuda/

One thing I think is worth saying about CC’s Vetyver is that it’s a kind of scent that isn’t being made any longer, presumably due to changing tastes. The closest scent to it that is readily available is likely Guerlain’s Vetiver, but that one’s not as complex nor as floral. Is it the kind of scent that more than a few can appreciate but that hardly anyone wants to wear, other than once in a long while? That’s my impression – its construction may just not be all that compelling. The “non-professional” nose doesn’t seem to find it compelling, generally-speaking of course, though whether this is due to nature or nurture is an interesting question.

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