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