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
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
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.