Duking it Out – Vetiver Tonka

EakinsBoxersYou don’t associate Jean Claude Ellena’s perfumes with pugnacity.  At his most communicative Ellena, who is now working with Christine Nagel,  explains a good deal about his scents – but Vetiver Tonka doesn’t require much back story. The perfume is a solid one that stands on a heavy molecular base and offers no apologies for itself. It’s tough, and pulls no punches.

I bumbled into it at Hermes the other day, while debating whether or not to give Vanille Galante another try.  I had barely smelled VG the first time around, and my hopes for smelling it a second time were not high.  So I went with the vetiver instead, and I was in for a surprise.

Let me state for the record, that I had already marinated myself with something of Tom Ford’s (a something which smelled exactly like another briskly selling perfume on the market which differed from the Ford chiefly in being called something different).  The Ford was heady, and so anything of Hermes’ that I put on was going to fight for epidermal space, and given the competition, I thought the Hermes would be down for the count.  Tom was not going to fight by Marquess of Queensberry Rules, that was for sure.

Vetiver Tonka punched above its weight.  Are your surprised?  Frankly I was.  It stayed on there as long as the TF, which was still clapping brass knuckles on my skin until I finally, escorted it out of the ring via a makeup remover (my favorite trick with unloved perfumes) and the VT was still on its feet, maybe a little punch drunk and weaving, but vertical. I was, grudgingly, impressed.

Vetivers are an odd, usually virile study, admittedly.  The most earthy vetivers smell not simply like earth, but also vaguely like rubber, and they have a strange twang to them on skin.  Some perfumers work with this oddly pitched note, de Nicolai’s Vetyver comes to mind, and some perfumers camouflage or work around it, Guerlain’s Vetiver and Carven’s come to mind.  Some perfumes even glorify this burning rubber note, I’m thinking of Maitre Parfumier et Gantier’s Route du Vetiver.

Aside from Encre Noire, Jean Claude’s own Terre d’Hermes is probably the smoothest vetiver in creation with no trace of twangs or bulging muscles.  So, I suppose that I was expecting to have more of this suavity, you know a sort of Takashi Miura rendition of  vetiver, rather slender, almost slight, a feather weight vetiver.  However what I got was different, much deeper, much earthier, this was the Mike Tyson of vetivers, rich and complex and rounded, and full of meditative darkness; an ex pugilist who reads philosophy in his spare time.

It’s probably unsurprising that I liked it. I love vetiver.  I wore both Guerlain’s Vetiver Pour Elle and  Vetiver, but this was easier on my nose, and had the charm of being a vetiver for winter.  All the other vetivers are competitors in  sweaty July, they disappear in December, but not this one. You can burrow into this vetiver and cuddle up in its thick fluffy tonka bean finish.  It’s perfect for dark days when the light is gone by three or four. This is something to wear with the second cup of tea, Yorkshire Gold for preference, strong enough to trot a mouse, while staring at a chilly pallid, winter evening spreading across the fields, this vetiver would let you borrow its jacket on the way home. Some ex-boxers are gentle folk at heart, and VT is one of these, a gentle giant retired to a velvety green farm somewhere in Ireland.

Be Sociable, Share!

7 thoughts on “Duking it Out – Vetiver Tonka

  1. Confession time: I have not tried ANY of the Hermessences at all because they are expensive even to sample, never mind acquire. What is VT’s lasting power like? I am going to get hold of Encre Noir soon , I’ve heard it’s tops.

    My gardenia is flowering happily, BTW. You had me so worried when you said that yours drops its buds for no obvious reason. Mine did that, just one, several weeks ago, but since then it has been developing lots of new buds and two have flowered. Another may flower tonight. The plant has a nice warm but not hot spot, and I water and fertilise it regularly but not too often. Surely it is happy? What else could I be doing for it? Playing it Bach cello suites every hour? :)

    • Yay for the gardenia! You must have found the right location for it. None of mine ever lasted more than a month or two, so I think I’ll follow your example with them, and maybe I’ll be able to have a gardenia thrive-for once in my life.
      Vetiver Tonka, which I sampled because I have a Hermes shop nearby (The Great MALL of Jersey) lasts about five hours on me. Encre Noir is maybe a bit more unisex and VT could skew slightly masculine. EN is really nice and very smooth- didn’t like the EN for Women though.

    • Anne-Marie: Just a quick note that if you have an Hermes store nearby (or next time you are near one), Hermes will give you a generous sample. They come in the 4-5″ test tubes, and I’ve never met an Hermes who doesn’t stock them for all the Hermessences.

  2. This is a favorite of mine, and I couldn’t agree more that it has an unexpected weight for something that goes on feeling comparably (to other vetivers) weightless.

    • JCE is so very good at weightless vetivers, frankly I’m surprised he went to the other end of the vetiver weight scale so easily here ;-)

  3. Catching up during below zero “weather days” here in MI. This sounds perfect for right now.

    Thank you for sharing the makeup remover trick, I’ll have to try it on my scrubbers in the future!

    • May February be a little bit warmer, and Spring come sooner! We don’t get your weather but even here in Jersey it’s ten degrees this morning.

      The creamier the make-up remover is the better, and generally it removes frags faster than scrubbing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>