L’Artisan Parfumeur Coeur de Vetiver Sacre ~ fragrance review

L’Artisan Parfumeur describes Coeur de Vétiver Sacré as an “offering to the gods” and a “mystical journey from East to West”; the fragrance was created by perfumer Karine Vinchon, whose aim was to deconstruct vetiver into what she considers its main characteristics: sparkle (bergamot, orange, black tea); spice (pepper, ginger, coriander, saffron) and smoke (incense, birch).* When I first smelled Coeur de Vétiver Sacré, I felt it would have been better named Coeur de Gingembre Sacré because a rich candied ginger note is prominent. In fact, naming this perfume “vetiver” is like listing “vanilla ice cream” on a dessert menu when you plan on serving a banana split. There’s certainly vetiver in Coeur de Vétiver Sacré, but it’s not the dominant ingredient. I’m not complaining; the world doesn’t need another straight-up/vetiver-dominant perfume anyway.

Coeur de Vétiver Sacré uses vetiver as a vehicle for other perfume adornments. The list of notes sounds fabulous, complex, intriguing, but Coeur de Vétiver Sacré smells simple and linear. When you spray on Coeur de Vétiver Sacré in the morning, what you smell then (golden bergamot squeezed over a slightly smoky black tea and ginger infusion, with a touch of leather, vanillic musk and watery vetiver) is what you’ll smell six hours later. Sure, the scent fades as most perfumes do but there is no great change between Coeur de Vétiver Sacré’s beginning, middle and end (the most tenacious notes are black tea and vanilla-musk). The simple scent of Coeur de Vétiver Sacré would be great in a candle, room spray or soap.

Coeur de Vétiver Sacré reminds me a little bit of the ginger-tea in Serge Lutens Five O’Clock au Gingembre, but Coeur de Vétiver Sacré’s tea has steeped much longer, has less sugar and is more “exotic.” If you love ginger and tea scents, try Coeur de Vétiver Sacré.

In the end, Coeur de Vétiver Sacré didn’t live up to my expectations: it does not “transport” me anywhere — East or West; it isn’t a worthy tribute to any “god” either (unless the god loves sleek minimalism and lives in a white cube with almost all “organic matter” kept at bay). In the ‘old days’ L’Artisan would have known how to re-create or invent a “journey” from the Orient to the Occident…with plumes of incense, bowls of pungent spices and fruits, boughs of fragrant greenery, and bouquets of tropical flowers emitting their scents. Today? L’Artisan Parfumeur does not seem to have the heart for off-center or “risky” perfumes…nor do other, once inventive, perfume companies like Diptyque or wood-obsessed Comme des Garçons. Today, most perfume houses reserve any “weird”/unusual notes for a fragrance’s fleeting opening minute or two, and then revert to safe, predictable formulas for the heart and base. Are the perfume gods on the wane or (in the case of Coeur de Vétiver Sacré) simply stuck in a bland duty-free shop in the middle of their mystical journey from East to West?

L’Artisan Parfumeur Coeur de Vétiver Sacré Eau de Toilette is available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette ($95/135). It is exclusive to Barneys (in the U.S.) and Liberty (in the U.K.) till 2011.

*additional notes include: dates and dried apricot, rose, osmanthus, iris, vanilla, vetiver, tarragon, sandalwood, white cedar, gaiac wood, amber, tonka beans, labdanum, castorium,and musk

Note: upper teapot image is g5656 by Cookieater2009 at flickr; some rights reserved.

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69 Comments

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  1. Disappointing. When I began reading your review I was hoping with the ‘East to West’ connotation that it might fulfill a particular type of fragrance I’m looking for, but it sounds entirely too predictable. It does sound like it’d make a lovely candle, though.

    • Kevin says:

      Klytaemnestra: sorry to disappoint! But there are a zillion other perfumes on the launchpad!

  2. mals86 says:

    Vetiver is so not my thing – but ginger tea? Now I’m intrigued…

    • Kevin says:

      Mals: if you are a ginger tea fiend…this might do it for you.

      • kaos.geo says:

        I concur with Mals.
        Gigner tea sounds really good to me.
        Oh Kevin, what have you done, I am 48 hs away from flying into the US for a week of shopping in Miami…
        Impending Doom for my credit cards! ;-)

        • Kevin says:

          KG: you can cool your heels for TWO days, surely? By the way…what shops do you visit in Miami…is there a great perfume shop there?

          • kaos.geo says:

            It is my first SERIOUS shopping trip to Miami since I became a perfumista.. so I am going the usual way…
            Sawgrass mills, aventura mall, bal harbour shops. (and the department stores they have attached)

            I am mostly going to renew my wardrobe with basics.I am very low maintenance with clothes, just a jeans and a t shirt guy.. so that leaves mo money for fragrances!! :-)
            Still I am going to get 2 or 3 at the most for me… and a couple as gifts.

  3. elise says:

    I agree! The floral made it soapy for me…a nice candle!

    • Kevin says:

      Elise: or roomspray at a much-reduced price.

  4. Joe says:

    Interesting take on this one, Robin. When I first sampled from a vial, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the scent. However, after receiving a decant last weekend and being able to spray, I really enjoyed it much more. It’s not mad love, and it’s not exactly transportive, but it’s a *very* nice fragrance, and I will gladly wear it this fall (once our heatwave subsides … it was over 105 here on Monday!).

    I will have to rush to L’Artisan’s defense a bit though. Havane Vanille did nothing for me, but I found both Al-Oudh (I do not like it) and Nuit de Tubereuse (I love it) to be “off-center” and risky. They are not mass-appeal, simply lovely scents. Wearing NdT the other day, I thought once again how totally unlike anything I’ve smelled or own — that doesn’t capture exactly what I want to say, because many fragrances are “unique” — let’s just say I think NdT “adds to the perfume conversation,” to borrow March’s phrase.

    So yes, this Vetiver is nice, and not another straight-up vetiver. What’s funny about “tea” scents is that I never seem to recognize them as such (and I’m a serious black tea drinker). If I didn’t read a list of notes, I’m not sure “tea” would come to mind in describing this fragrance… but that’s just a problem with the way my brain works. In short, this is hugely likeable, but not a must-have. Great review though.

    • Joe says:

      OOOOOPS! Sorry, Kevin!!!! I should know this is Wednesday: Kevin Day.

      [[blushes with embarrassment]]

    • miss kitty v. says:

      I would heartily agree about NdT. (Well, and Al Oudh, which made me politely recoil in horror when the SA presented it to me on paper. But it sure is… something.) It actually restored my faith that something different could be done with a very played-out and common theme. And I don’t even like tuberose, so I give them extra credit just for that.

      • Kevin says:

        Miss K: on me Al-Oudh was nothing special…I didn’t recoil, but nodded off!

        • 13flowers says:

          I must say, Al-Oudh was frightening to me the first time I tried it (maybe sampling in the middle of a D.C. summer was foolhardy, but I’m nothing if not adventurous!) but the second time, it seemed so much appealing & complex.

          Havana Vanile is one of my favorite smells, but I do find it linear- it’s pretty much the same at 4 PM as it was at 9 AM (and the same 8 inches away as smushed to my face.)

      • promiseevans says:

        Speaking of recoil in horror – yesterday as a punishment for having a smart mouth to her mother, I made my daughter wear Secretions Magnifiques (trying to drain that horrid sample ASAP) all evening and didn’t let her scrub it off. *muaaahhhh* (evil laugh). I think it worked quite well…. Every so often I’d see her raise her arms to pull her hair back or reach for something and then she would gag and wretch at the smell wafting up from her wrist. She certainly had nothing but pleasant things to say for the rest of the night. She even tried to offer to do the dishes, but I knew exactly why she wanted to have an excuse to plunge her hands in hot soapy water. The dishes are still waiting on her today. :-)

        • Astra says:

          That is hilarious!

    • Kevin says:

      Joe: I wasn’t as thrilled as others re: Nuit de T…a nice weird start…and a dull finish on me. It’s been awhile since one of their scents grabbed me. That being said…this is a nice enough scent…just not my cuppa.

    • Suzy Q says:

      Joe, I felt the need to come to the defense as well. I agree completely with your second paragraph. And as for NdT, it’s so complex and strange and beautiful. I’ve been wearing it almost every day for three months and it still surprises and delights.

    • Suzy Q says:

      Joe, I felt the need to come to the defense as well. I agree completely with your second paragraph. And as for NdT, it’s so complex and strange and beautiful. I’ve been wearing it almost every day for three months and it still surprises and delights.

    • promiseevans says:

      105!! Joe, I feel you’re pain… I am on the east US, and went out for a jog the other day thinking it would finally be cool enough, but had to turn back from the heat. It’s Mid-Sept for crying out loud!!
      Aren’t you a Timbuktu fan, too, Joe? I have been meaning to ask you how the longevity of T is on you. Some days it seems to fade quickly on me and I can’t decide if it’s FBW because of that. I get the same tea vibe from both Dzing and of course, the obvious, Tea for Two. Was not sure if that was a L’Artisan thing or an Olivia G thing. I’ll have to try this to see if I get a “tea” note.

      • Joe says:

        promise: I get good longevity from both Timbuktu and Dzongkha, and also a few other L’Artisans (Mechant Loup, for example).

  5. Tama says:

    Oh, I have tried this twice and liked it very much both times and i may buy it. The first time my Barney’s guy gave me a misting on my wrist – the spices were prominent and I enjoyed the sort of downsizing of the vetiver. The second time I gave myself a more liberal spray, and the vetiver was more pronounced. I do agree that it is pretty linear in its progression, but I don’t mind smelling that way at all, and it fulfills my want of a less citrussy, more autumnal vetiver. I do agree it would be a great candle!

    • Kevin says:

      Tama: I wore it several days and it lasted all day on me with my liberal applications…I just wish some of those other great (listed) ingredients had popped out at me: birch…osmanthus…castoreum…on and on.

  6. Daisy says:

    LOL –well this explains why I like it!! Vetiver is not much to my liking…I tried this and said “mmm, nice…all golden grassy…nice tea note….wow, a Vetiver that I like!!” hmmm probably because it’s not so much about vetiver! To me it does seem more a summery type scent so it won’t see much use until next year. Does seem pretty tame after what we were promised….lucky for them there’s Nuit de Tubereuse to hold my interest and I still have high hopes for Traversee du Bosphore in a couple weeks.

    • Kevin says:

      Daisy: Traversee is nice!

    • dee says:

      Daisy, I’m SOOoo excited about Traversee du Bosphore… I really hope that it does not later become known as “The Traversee du Bosphore Debacle”!

      • Daisy says:

        You mean like my split of all those bottles that became the Havana Vanille Debacle?? Egad I hope not!! L’Artisan simply can NOT do that to me again!! I’m supposed to get 3 bottles sent to me on Oct. 1st and you’ll hear the screaming all the way from Michigan if I find out we’ve been ignored in favor of European stores AGAIN! :-(

        • Haunani says:

          Well, I love Havana Vanille. Good thing, because I bought a bottle blind!

        • promiseevans says:

          I was also sucked into the HV debacle. And too lazy to try to do splits to rid myself of it. Instead I keep it for a constant reminder about what can happen when you order unsniffed.

  7. Once one of my Fav houses. I’ve been dissapointed in all the latest releases except for Nuit de Tubereuse and Al Oudh, though I don’t reach for that one much. Maybe it’s me…who knows.

    • Kevin says:

      C: we’re in the same boat it seems…I’ve not been tempted to buy a L’Artisan in ages…but do have several I keep stocked at all times.

  8. Auguszta says:

    You’re so right about some niche houses not taking chances anymore, Kevin. Actually, I can’t remember any new release that blew my socks off since Wazamba. This one doesn’t sound too interesting to me, either, but the other new L’Artisan (can’t remember its name) does intrigue me.

    • Kevin says:

      Auguszta: of the two…Traversee de B is my favorite

  9. boojum says:

    Sounds like this might be a good one for me. I liked 5:00 au gingembre, but found it a bit on the sweet side (like nearly every Lutens I’ve tried). If this is a stronger and less sweet version, I’ll definitely need to get a sample.

    • Daisy says:

      no problem Boo, I’ll stick some in with your Cuir de Russie :-)

    • Kevin says:

      Boojum: DO try this one then.

  10. violetnoir says:

    I absolutely love this fragrance. It smells amazing on me and lasts all day. At first I smell the berries, but the drydown is this beautiful smoky, tea, spicy mixture that simply envelops my senses.

    A winner in my book!

  11. RusticDove says:

    It really does boggle my mind how a fragrance with a killer list of notes like this has, isn’t a knock your socks off kind of thing. I mean, I almost fainted from excitement reading about this when it was released. Still can’t wait to try it though.

    • Kevin says:

      RusticDove: that list of notes is a head-scratcher after smelling this, that’s for sure

  12. Somerville Metro Man says:

    Kevin do you really feel like L’Artisan is not taking risks with Duchaufour as house nose?
    I thought all three of the fragrances he did in the last year for L’Artisan; Havana Vanille, Al Oudh and Nuit de Tubereuse all push at the boundaries.
    While Coeur de Vetiver Sacre is not by him and less edgy than the other three I do like it better than you did.
    I had a very similar experience to Joe as on an initial spray it didn’t do much for me but on a couple of subsequent wears it contained more to enjoy.
    I don’t disgree with your central thesis that there are fragrance house that are playing it safe…Bleu de Chanel anyone?…..but L’Artisan isn’t one of the ones I feel are doing that. Obviously you feel differently. :)

    • Kevin says:

      Somerville MM: none of those L”Artisans you mention did a thing for me…but, hey, that’s just MY tastes…and tastes are unpredictable always….

  13. Tamara says:

    Well I really liked it, in fact every time I wore it , the girlies complimented me and told me how nice I smelled. It’s very pleasing on me , I wore it mostly when I went running in my forest trails which it goes good with. And it lasts on me through sweat for many hours. But it reminded me so much of D’Zing! Not that that’s bad, I adore D’zing! but it made me pause on whether or not I would need a FB of it.

    But my decant is already running low . So maybe one day I will have one despite my lack of “OH MY GAAAWD I need this now!” response :)

    • miss kitty v. says:

      Hmmm… I haven’t tried this yet, T., but if I like it maybe we can work something out. ;)

      • Tamara says:

        Miss Kitty , I’m always down for that girlie!
        You want the rest of my decant to decide?;)
        It is lovely in it’s own way, but I’m much more likely to go in on it if it’s shared for sure.<3

    • Kevin says:

      Tamara: DO wear it side by side with Dzing before deciding on a full bottle…I can see where you would smell a similarity.

      • Tamara says:

        Yes Kevin your right, a side by side is in order. :)

      • Tamara says:

        I did the side by side-
        Dzing wins because nothing else could ever beat it.<3

        • Kevin says:

          Tamara: I’d choose Dzing too.

  14. Nina says:

    It’s a funny one. I sprayed this on a paper strip in Liberty, and thought it a bit of a confused mess. Mainly I got fruit and burnt woods; didn’t feel tempted to spray on skin. The next day, though, sitting at my desk, I kept getting drifts of delightful vetiver, and tracked it down to the CdVS strip, left on the desktop. So perhaps the vetiver takes a long, long time to cut through the soup? Too long for me, alas.

    • Kevin says:

      Nina: vetiver never peeped thru on any of the three days I wore it…and NEVER trust paper alone!

  15. Tim says:

    I thought that I disliked all the L’Artisan frags. I’ve spent lots of money on samples in the past. I brought them out for a retry and discovered something. Most scents benefit from being sprayed rather than dabbed but L’Artisan scents MUST be sprayed or they just seem out of balance. This one sounds like it would just be a reprise of past hits. I’m learning to love some of the others, though, so I’m sure I will give this a try now that I smell more than shared bases.

    • Kevin says:

      Tim: I spray everything…I even bought tons of tiny disposable spray vials I decant samples into…a ‘process’, but still….

  16. Haunani says:

    Thank you for the frank review, Kevin. I am a L’Artisan groupie, I guess, so I will try it. So many of their fragrances work really well for me! However, tea notes are usually not my thing, so I’m not encouraged about this one.

    • Kevin says:

      Haunani: I’m not a groupie…but three of their scents I always have full bottles of…which is LOTS more than I do of other companies.

      • Haunani says:

        Groupie was probably a poor word choice, as I’ve probably never been anyone’s groupie, LOL! Now I’m curious what your three are. I would never want to be without my Dzongkha, Timbuktu, Nuit de Tubereuse, Fleur de Liane, or Havana Vanille. And I have several others that I enjoy very much. I covet a bottle of the Fleur de Narcisse, as well, and probably shouldn’t wait too much longer to splurge on that (Hey, I have a birthday next week! Hmmm…).

        • Joe says:

          I’m curious about Kevin’s three top L’Artisans as well. I’d never want to be without Timbuktu & Dzongka either — although I also wouldn’t want to see Bois Farine, Mechant Loup, Dzing, and a few others ever go away either.

      • Erin says:

        Now I must know: which three? I can see you in, hmmm… Dzongkha? Patchouli Patch? Are you counting Aedes de Venustas? I keep three around, as well – oh well, four if you count the organic line – and while I can see owning others from the line, none are really calling to me now. My beloved three are Dzing!, Timbuktu (also one of yours?) and Drole de Rose. The Pour un Ete would be mine if it lasted longer than three seconds on me.

        Like you, I couldn’t get worked up about any of the last three, none of which struck me as particularly edgy. Al Oudh was the one I liked most of the three, but it was also probably the tamest, or least original, I guess. IMHO, the last real groundbreaker is probably Timbuktu in 2004.

  17. Kevin says:

    You know me too well: my faves are Timbuktu, Dzongkha, Bois Farine. I used to LOVE Mure et Musc too…before the horrid reformulation.

  18. rziest says:

    I had the opportunity to try this while on my annual Seattle trip earlier this month, and I was so thrown off by how far it was from my expectations that it took me a bit to realize that I really like it. On me it settled into a sort of cross between tea leaves and old pipe tobacco, and it seems like the sweetness I got was more dog rose than vanilla (though I suspect I’m letting the tea aspect confuse me on that point). Very linear and tame, like you say, but it suits my chemistry so well it’s hard to find fault in it. Now that I’m over the disappointment of not getting any vetiver in this vetiver fragrance, I think it could become a comfortable staple scent for me.

    • Kevin says:

      rziest: my expectations were high too…I never learn.

  19. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Joining the discussion a bit late, I’ve been just dipping a toe into the L’Artisan universe and found Havana Vanille underwhelming while Dzongkha absolutely blew me out of the water and is on my must own list. I was optimistic until I got a sample of Mure et Musc, and was disappointed all over again. But I got a generous sample of this and as I’m just beginning to explore vetiver as the primary note in a fragrance, I adore it.

    There is something so bright and fizzing in the CdVC (maybe the bergamot and ginger combo) that is an intriguing contrast to the vanilla, vetiver and musk in the drydown. It wasn’t a perfume I had to screw my nose up over and contemplate amid repeated sniffings as time elapsed, but was instantly lovely yet earthy enough that I feel I can wear it and just drift in the thoughtful warmth it creates. Dzongkha had been my main L’Artisan lemming, but a decant, perhaps even full bottle of Coeur de Vetiver Sacre is now definitely on the want list as well.

    And, the black tea note in this works better on my skin than the sad realization that no matter how much I tried to love CSP The, it just couldn’t love me and my chemistry back, and I enjoyed wearing CdVC very much as summer waned here in the midwest. To me, it embodies both the last exhuberence and overblown nature of August (the last few weeks of prime lemon tea making here) as well as the tender smoky whisps of burning leaves in the fall combined with mulling spices and more elaborate baking. I just love it.

    • Kevin says:

      AbScent: A friend commented on one day that I wore it I smelled like spiced hot apple cider…she wanted to drink CdVS.

  20. 13flowers says:

    Well, darn, because sparkle, spice & smoke sounds like just the ticket for me. I do have a certain appreciation for linear fragrances. I would have been just as happy with NdT if that mangoey opening lasted all day (I’m actually not crazy about the far dry down, but that’s what re-applying is for.)

  21. March says:

    Wow, Kevin, you have made me MUCH more interested in this one than I thought I’d be. A tea-vanilla, not too sweet, with some ginger sounds like just my thing.

    • Kevin says:

      March: well, I hope you like it then! I got no complaints from “the masses” on the days I wore it. HA!

  22. mikeperez23 says:

    I think I wanted to buy this blind, simply because it sounded like a spicy vetiver and I loved the sound of that. But now it just sounds like an OK spicy scent. (sigh)

    And, I agree with Joe: I have sort of loved all of the recent L’Artisan releases especially Duchaufour’s: Havana Vanille and Nuit de Tuberose. Although Al Oud should have been named Diet Oud.

  23. Kevin says:

    Mike: or “Oud? Really?”

  24. megatronyc says:

    i have to agree with Kevin on this one, too linear and dull, I was excited, as I’m gaga over Memoir, same nose, anyhow, Bendell’s had Traverse du Bosphere which was a MUST have. It’s funny, I haven’t really smelled anything this year that was a must have, except for memoir, and Bosphere…..ouch, my bank account.

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