LesNez Turtle Vetiver Front & Tableau de Parfums Dark Passage ~ fragrance reviews

Today, I'm looking at two niche fragrances: LesNez Turtle Vetiver Front and Tableau de Parfums Dark Passage. They don't really have all that much in common other than that they're both limited edition fragrances made in support of outside projects. Oh, and I like them both.

LesNez Turtle Vetiver Front

LesNez Turtle Vetiver Front

Turtle Vetiver Front is the latest from Swiss niche line LesNez. It's the second in their series of vetiver fragrances made in support of the Turtle “anarchic” salon (about which I know nearly nothing, but you can read more here). Vetiver Front was developed by perfumer Isabelle Doyen, and I adored her first in the series, Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1. I thought of Exercise No. 1 (which I believe is now sold out) as a kind of vetiver for vetiver freaks. It was (relatively) lightly adorned, with nothing that detracted from the wonderful vetiver-ness of it all: really, it just smelled to me like straight-up, very high quality vetiver with a bit of citrus in the opening, and a slight mineral accord.1 I would imagine it bored non-vetiver-freaks to death?

Here is the description of the new Turtle Vetiver Front:

For this new variation (Front), the smoky and flinty facets of vetiver are brought to the fore, with carbon paper and freshly printed newspaper effects; an unexpected coconut note softens this austere blend and makes this iteration more easily wearable than the first, while preserving its raw power.

And that's all perfectly accurate. It starts with very strong vetiver, not quite so bright as the opening of Exercise No. 1, but also not as untamed as it moves through its paces. Vetiver stays in the forefront throughout — don't bother with it if you don't love vetiver. I don't smell any explicit coconut, but the heart is slightly creamier and sweeter than that of Exercise No. 1, and the dry down is slightly woodier and less earthy. These are all matters of degree, mind you, but it's just generally not so uncompromising, and I can see why they describe it as easier to wear. For myself, I prefer untamed and uncompromising; I enjoyed wearing Turtle Vetiver Front, but I did not swoon as I did with Exercise No. 1.

Verdict: very much worth a try for vetiver fiends, especially if you tried Exercise No. 1 but found it too much of a good thing. If you generally find vetiver-heavy fragrances too masculine, you'll probably find Vetiver Front too masculine as well.

LesNez Turtle Vetiver Front is $120 for 50 ml Eau de Parfum. 90 bottles were produced. For buying information see the listing for LesNez under Perfume Houses.

Tableau de Parfums Dark Passage

Tableau de Parfums Dark Passage

Dark Passage is the latest from Tableau de Parfums, which is a collaborative project between Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes and filmmaker Brian Pera. Dark Passage is not sold separately; it's basically a gift for people who want to help fund Pera's next film project, Only Child.

Dark Passage was described as a "mixture of cacao, patchouli, birch tar, and iris", and I found that slightly worrying. I adore iris every bit as much as I adore vetiver, but iris + patchouli + chocolate calls to mind several iris fragrances I can barely stand to have on my skin: Guerlain Iris Ganache, Le Labo Iris 39 (although that one lacks chocolate) and the original Dior Homme.

No worries, at least, not for me. The cocoa is dry and slightly bitter, à la Thierry Mugler Angel Taste of Fragrance — as in that fragrance, what we have here is a gourmand, but in a more sophisticated vein than your average such outing. It lacks the sweetness of Iris Ganache and Dior Homme, and isn't as heavy on the patchouli as Iris 39. The patchouli here is very smooth and clean, and it darkens the overall mix without making it heavy or musty. Andy Tauer calls Dark Passage a patchouli-centric fragrance,2 but from the first time I smelled it, I thought of it as an iris fragrance decorated with bitter chocolate and patchouli. It's appropriately earthy for such a thing, and a good fit with its name — and hey, isn't that a great name? 

Verdict: love. I wish it was sold separately. Most people would probably find Dark Passage unisex.

Tableau de Parfums Dark Passage is in a 7 ml travel spray, and can be found here; it's a gift with donations of $60. There's also a tuberose perfume, Loretta, available  for the same price, but I have not smelled it. Dark Passage was only to be available this month (March 2012), but I don't know whether or not they'll stick with that plan — at the moment, it does not look to me like they're near selling out.

1. Although don't get me wrong, I've tried "plain" vetiver oil before, several times, and none of them were nearly so nice as Exercise No. 1.

2. See Perfumer Andy Tauer on Dark Passage, a Limited Edition Fragrance at Evelyn Avenue.

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  1. monkeytoe says:

    They’re both Swiss!

    • Robin says:

      Ack…so true, how could I have missed it? And now I will have to ponder what that might mean :-)

  2. victoriaf says:

    I was also going to say Swiss!

    Like you, I’m yet to smell pure vetiver oil as interesting as Turtle Vetiver.

    • Robin says:

      Turtle Vetiver 1 was a really great scent — Isabelle Doyen did a great job of making it seem “simple”.

  3. poodle says:

    Robin, what’s the lasting power of Dark Passage? I’m intrigued by the notes even more now that you said you get more iris from it than the patchouli or chocolate.

    • KateReed says:

      Me too, me too!

      (*sigh* Not loving any of my chocolates so far, and it’s getting horribly warm here terribly early, so I’m even running out of time to try the damned things.)

      • poodle says:

        I wear the cold weather scents year round because it’s always winter at my office. I’ve been known to turn my portable heater on in July. Lol.

        • nozknoz says:

          :-) Same here – I always have cold weather samples or decants in my office drawer!

    • Robin says:

      Very good. I don’t know about fabulous. I worry less about lasting power than most people so don’t always pay fabulous attention, though.

      I hope to see other reviews — maybe everybody but me will think it is a patch fragrance! Also true that I’m not sure I always think that what a fragrance is “about” is necessarily what I smell the most of in some quantifiable way, so your comment gave me pause.

      Another way to put it — right away when I smelled it I thought oh, an iris fragrance, and was pleased. Not sure that means it is “more” iris than patchouli. Also true that this is a very smooth patchouli, clearly a molecular fraction, which changes things!

      • poodle says:

        Thanks. I know things smell different to everyone but your description is helpful.

  4. Joe says:

    Thanks for this timely review, Robin.

    I got a decant of TV Front last weekend and LOVE it for its straight-up vetiver deliciousness. I couldn’t stop smelling my arm. I admit, I never got to try Turtle #1. I found front very wearable… for vetiver lovers, of course. I’m perplexed by the name. I have no idea what “Turtle Vetiver Front” is supposed to mean unless it’s supposed to connote some kind of grassroots revolutionary action, like “Earth Liberation Front.”

    There may, in fact, be a creamy facet when compared to Turtle #1, but I don’t know that creamy came to my mind when smelling it, and I’ve told several people that I would not ever guess that any type of coconut accord is in there if I hadn’t read it — seeing the note listed had a few folks worried.

    I’m curious about Dark Passage a bit more now — to be honest, Le Labo is my favorite iris and a total staple for me, and I like Ganache as well (soon to be d/c, FYI). However, given the limited availability, I’m not sure I’ll ever smell this particular Tauer. He does amazing work.

    • Robin says:

      I am likewise perplexed by the name. Clearly, Turtle is for the salon, but no idea what front was — your idea is as good as any! It might also have some other connotation about the Turtle thing, which I gave up investigating because it looked like it would take a long time to figure out.

      I would NEVER guess coconut, and I wasn’t kidding about “slightly” — I don’t think you’d smell this and think oh, creamy! But wish you’d smelled the first one. I do think anyone who loves straight up vetiver deliciousness would love it.

    • Suzy Q says:

      I think I read somewhere that the next exercise will be Turtle Vetiver Back and it will feature more, uh, “bodily” notes.

      • Robin says:

        LOL — seriously can’t tell if you’re joking. It’s kind of funny either way!

        • Suzy Q is right, there will be a “Back” Turtle Vetiver, which was actually presented at a Turtle Salon event in Paris last year. From my notes at the time, it will have violet, musk and mimosa notes. I don’t remember it being particularly bodily — more like a soft skin note.

          • Robin says:

            Thanks D.

  5. littlemoron says:

    Just a note about Dark Passage – it seems to me that if the ONLY CHILD project doesn’t make the money it needs to get off the ground, then the various gifts that come with the donations won’t get sent out. :-( I wonder what will happen with all those bottles of perfume if that turns out to be the case.

    • KRL says:

      Worry not. According the I Smell Therefore I Am, this perfume will hit the open (and for profit) market in September

      • Robin says:

        Very good to know, and not at all what I understood — thanks!

      • KRL, I’m sure you’re mistaken and I don’t want other people to make decisions based on misinformation. The fragrance that Brian mentioned as being available for sale in December is Loretta, which is also available as a Kickstarter incentive. Brian and Andy have been very clear that Dark Passage will never be available again after the conclusion of the Kickstarter campaign.

    • Robin says:

      Littlemoron, I didn’t realize the product wouldn’t be shipped in that case…are you saying if they don’t raise a certain amount, they’ll return everyone’s money?

      • Yes. This is the way Kickstarters work. More motivation to recruit friends! :)

        • Robin says:

          Gotcha. Another thing I did not pay enough attention to…I was focused on the scent, not the intricacies of raising money for films. It’s actually sort of interesting how it works out — the people who care about the perfume might not overlap all that much with the people who care about the film?

      • littlemoron says:

        Yep, breathesgelatin summed that up – they also won’t charge your credit card until they know for sure whether or not the project will go forward. In this case, they have 14 days to raise almost $10k, so I’m not entirely optimistic that I’m going to get my bottle of juice, which is such as shame because it sounds awesome. Hmph. I’m so jealous that you managed to get your fingers on a bottle, Robin!

        • Robin says:

          Oh, I don’t have a bottle, just a little sample!

  6. Kevin says:

    R: I’m still kicking myself for not buying Exercise No. 1! I had it in the “cart” one day, didn’t order, came back the next day to find it sold out. It seems 90 bottles would go quickly.

    • Robin says:

      On the one hand, I wish I had a bottle. On the other, gosh, I’ve got a lot of vetiver already, so I know why I didn’t buy it.

      A couple times recently I’ve had opportunities to buy things that I thought were lost for all time, things I thought I was dying to buy & own, and I find when the opportunity arises, I have a hard time spending the money. So I may just be “saturated” with product already.

  7. Suzy Q says:

    This one is for the vetiver fiends among us. Wow–it may be my favorite vetiver ever. When they make something this good, I can’t help wishing they’d made Just A Little Bit More of It.

    • Robin says:

      I wonder exactly how long it took for Exercise No. 1 to sell out? I should have paid more attention. I assume it took awhile because it was so long before Vetiver Front appeared, but maybe that’s not right.

      • nozknoz says:

        It didn’t sell out right away, but I feel like it must have been at least a year ago. Like Kevin, I saw it on LuckyScent, hesitated, and by the time I went back it was gone.

  8. Abyss says:

    Ack, a vetiver freak here totally lemming after Turtle (what a sentence!). I completely missed out on the first one so I’ll have to see if I can score a sample of this somewhere.

    • Suzy Q says:

      Lucky Scent has samples but the bottles are back ordered.

    • poodle says:

      I really don’t like the name but now everyone has me lemming Turtle Vetiver Front too. I need a paycheck that can accommodate my fragrance needs. ;)

    • Robin says:

      Do try it then…you can order sets of samples directly from LesNez too.

  9. Ikat says:

    I am seriously IN LOVE with Turtle Front Vetiver. It spilled a little in the box, and I can smell the vetiver when I go into my closet. I’m just so impressed.

  10. nozknoz says:

    Like Kevin, I hesitated on the first one, missed it, and have been fretting ever since whenever anyone mentions how wonderful it was. Hence, as soon as I got the first whiff that “Front” was online (and billed as wearable), I dropped everything and ordered it.

    Happily, I really like it and find it sufficiently different from my other vetivers to fill a gap. And it was so affordable relative to most of my other lemmings.

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