One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Unification: Hermes Vetiver Tonka

After being instantly smitten with Ambre Narguilè, left rather cold by Rose Ikebana, and generally underwhelmed by Poivre Samarcande, I was thrilled to discover that Vetiver Tonka, the fourth in the Hermessence Discovery Set, is gorgeous, wearable, and completely me, a very close second in quality and beauty to AN. All four were created by Jean-Claude Ellena operating in his modern-day light- transparent-minimalist mode, but Vetiver Tonka, like AN, is much more complex than its apparent simplicity would suggest.

Two parallel threads open the scent: bright vetiver underscored with citrus, and the warmth of toasted nuts, possibly sugared brazil nuts fresh from the oven. And these two basic ideas continue to run side by side for hours, occasionally weaving in and out of one another: dry, masculine, slightly cologney vetiver paired with warm, edible tonka bean (made even more edible by that roasted-nut smell).

That's it, really, but it is much more than the sum of its parts. The balance between the two opposing ideas--dry/sweet, warm/cool, light/dark, angular/sensual--is the point of it, and it's flawlessly handled. Vetiver Tonka is not quite as thrilling to me as Ambre Narguilè, but it's stunning nonetheless--easy to love without smelling quite like anything else you own. (With one possible exception: if you are lucky enough to own a bottle of the cruelly discontinued Yohji Homme, you will notice that the sweet/warm elements of VT are occasionally very reminiscent of YH, a consequence, I assume, of the quantities of tonka in both. It's still its own creature, though, certainly not a copy of the Yamamoto.)

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