Review: Tom Ford Vert des Bois — 4.0 points

The name Vert des Bois (Tom Ford, 2016) implies that this perfume is about green and woody notes. And it is: when I smell Vert des Bois, I think of green chypres from the 1970s. Those raunchy green-woody compositions such as Aliage (Estée Lauder, 1972), Private Collection (Estée Lauder, 1973), and Jean-Louis Scherrer (1979) come to mind.  As often is the case for Tom Ford fragrances, they are inspired by perfumery’s classics. But Vert des Bois is far removed from just another all-too-familiar knock-off.


Instead a whiff of Vert des Bois reminds me of the summer trip from Madrid to Seville by train. I smell green olive, sweet thyme, and a sharp resinous fir from the outset. Its aromatic green accord, rounded by a plummy note, conjures the pastoral landscape. A peppery accent brings in the attribute of the mid-day heat in an Iberian summer. And even before the fragrance reveals its woody counterpoint, I can vividly recall the scorched land along route, dotted with venerable olive trees.

And when the dramatic woods do unfurl, they reveal themselves nineteen to the dozen. Leather. Oakmoss. Balsams. All at once. These are inextricably intertwined with a patchouli trail. The dry down some hours into wearing Vert des Bois retains this gripping character, but has become slightly warmer, as sweet tonka bean and musk mellow the rough-hewn woods. The result is nothing short of excitement, from top to bottom.

Whilst it does recall the heavy-hitter chypres from the seventies, Vert des Bois does not feel at all like a mere knock-off of the classics. What sets it apart is the accents. Plum, pepper, thyme, and pine needles make for a twist in the green accord, and when paired with a strong woody accord, one gets an interesting vantage point of a classical green chypre. Having said that, those who enjoy the stark contrast and drama of this genre will relish Vert des Bois and its olive groves and sun-scorched earth.


Review: Hermès Vétiver Tonka — 4.5 points

Whereas most vetiver compositions tend to dominate with its smoky, earthy woods, few resort to the less explored facets of grapefruit as that in Sel de Vétiver (The Different Company, 2006) or of roasted nuts as in Vétiver Tonka (Hermès, 2004). Here, perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena showcases vetiver in a most interesting light. Enamoured of this handsome material, he wanted to bring out its warm enveloping side. He chose to contrast the woods with the nutty facet, and this duel between woods and nutty sweetness forms the central idea of Vétiver Tonka.

vet tonka

In keeping with this concise, clear-cut idea, there is no need, then, for an elaborate introduction. A touch of simple fresh notes mixing grapefruit, lemon, and a bit of bergamot will do, and the choice is a clever one. Not only does the grapefruit link to the grapefruit-facet of vetiver, but the citrus also contrast well with woods. It is fresh, yet simple and straight to the point of being a vetiver.

From then on, it is the woody impression of vetiver, but its intensely bitter and smoky character needs to be tempered. The use of cedarwood is ideal here. The dry woody and ambery character of cedarwood naturally enhances the woody notes of vetiver whist softening its bitter roughness. Filed and polished, the composition is smooth, but does not detract from the woody character.

At the same time, the delicious nutty facet of vetiver is played up to contrast the rough-hewn beauty of its woods. An accord that recalls glazed roasted nuts is befitting. The sweetness of coumarin, and the caramelic suggestion ethyl maltol, too, push this gourmand suggestion. The interaction between sweetness and woody bitterness gives a vetiver that possesses its much-loved classical woody note and a warm sensual side. And, the nutty sweetness of vetiver lingers from dawn till dusk.

The coarse wood is made cosy and enveloping, whilst the caramelic sweetness is tamed by bitter smoky woods. The composition strikes a perfect balance. I often associate vetiver with crisp white shirts, tailored suits, and all things of classical elegance, but here it has a surprisingly easy-going and relaxed side. The sum feels like a smart casual, but its versatile character will fit just about any outfit for me. Its portrayal of vetiver as smoky firewood and roasted cashews is a most tempting combination.