My love for vetiver is well established here, I think, and I could not call any list of my favorites complete without Chanel’s Sycomore. Composed in 2008 by Chanel’s in-house perfumer Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake for Chanel’s Les Exclusifs line, this is a deeply sophisticated and beautiful fragrance.
If you have a bright memory of the smell of pine sap (I don’t know what sycamore sap smells like but one must soldier on), that will serve you well here. Begin with that, then amp up the earthiness with a dry, woody vetiver. Soften and gently sweeten this with a steady undercurrent of sandalwood, then add the slightest hint of the signature Chanel aldehydes to make everything glow, a little bit like the effect of a citrus, neon citrus. Pinch of cedar. Then, in the underbrush, something faintly sour or bitter, like an inedible root, which could be another facet of the vetiver or what I imagine cypress to be. And something else still more nebulous, some kind of flower, which I understand is an iris but which I cannot personally identify as anything other than the vague suggestion of a floral. It is, for me, unmistakably dimensional, not straightforward. The whole effect is wonderfully elegant and lush.
This is reminiscent of yet softer and more complex than the also much beloved Encre Noir [Lalique], reminiscent of yet less a true, clean vetiver that the also beautifully executed Vetiver Extraordinaire [Frederic Malle].
Entirely unisex to me, and really quite bewitching. This an example of how good it is possible for perfume to be: distractingly, marvelously good. This doesn’t really evolve on me that I notice, and lasts several hours on the skin. I recommend small doses, as the formula is potent – a proper parfum.
Gorgeous any time of year but ideal in fall/winter.
Men, put down the bland stonking aquatics. Women, there is another kind of sweetness out there. Investigate the alternatives.