If we place vetiver perfumes on a spectrum, on one end we'll have the super dry and grassy ones, while the opposite are the murky swampy vetivers, usually accompanied with a thick inky note. Both extremes can have smoky notes, but citrus (especially grapefruit) is mostly associated with the cleaner dry vetivers. A fragrance position on this spectrum is not necessarily an absolute thing. It can depend on the nose smelling it and the skin wearing it-- sometimes a note is neutered or intensified on certain people, while others tend to perceive "green" or "dry" in different ways.
The first contribution by perfumer Isabelle Doyen and Swiss house Les Nez to the Turtle project (turtlesalon.com) was called Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 and came out in 2009 (limited edition, numbered bottle). I have a bottle and absolutely love it; I generally tend to prefer my vetivers on the dry side, and wearing Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 with its crispy salty notes, one can almost feel and hear the grass blades crack and crumble underfoot. In the newly released Turtle Vetiver Front, Les Nez and Doyen took the other way, into the oily green swamp.
I first tested Front on a cold day, and my impression was all marshland. I liked the idea of it, the trees growing on water, the thick moss covering fallen logs and the mists in the air, but wearing it was too much for me. It didn't develop enough and I felt uncomfortable. On the husband, though, smoke, ink and greenery were much more pronounced, giving the turtle more depth and character. Our weather has warmed considerably, including a couple of days in the upper 70s. This made all the difference in the world. I always loved vetiver in the heat, and when NYC is its muggiest and stinkiest I usually go for Vetiver Extrodinaire which cuts the humidity like nothing else. Similarly, Isabelle Doyen's Turtle Vetiver Front was waiting for some sweaty skin to show me what it can do: the green elements are actually sweeter than I thought, while still maintaining the familiar salty grass.
The thickness becomes velvety and mossy. My skin neutralizes any hint of smoke and peat, leaving me with a softer vetiver than the one I first encountered (and much smoother than the original Exercise 1). It feels like a little light managed to shine through the trees and illuminate the scene, and even reflect from the surface of the water. While I'm still most likely to reach for my sunny crisp vetivers, I can't help but appreciate and enjoy Turtle Vetiver Front. The husband, by the way, prefer this one to its predecessor.
See also Elena's review on Perfume Shrine.
Les Nez- Turtle Vetiver Front ($120, 50 ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent as well as from lesnez.com. Both sites also sell samples.
Art: Gustav Klimt, The Swamp, 1900.