I must admit I'm fond of vetivers of many stripes. Etro's caught me by surprise. It opens dramatically, and with an honestly root-like accord.
The thing that struck me was the grand dustiness of it. It very rapidly evokes the sense that I have just stepped into a very old, somber cathedral or library, well appointed with dark wood, that has sat in exactly the same manner for several hundred years. It's not unpleasant, and there's no hint of decay, but rather perhaps the subtly lingering trace of ecclesiastical incense used day in and day out for at least one hundred of those years.
There is a gravitas to this scent on the dry down. The longevity isn't exceptional, but the initial impact is impressive for an hour or so. Plan accordingly. This is a scent that I might wear when I'm going into a negotiation.
If you like vetiver for its own sake, this one is worth exploring. To me, however, I couldn't help but detect a synthetic, almost acetone-like note here in Etro's attempt to "clean up" vetiver and give it a dry edge. This vetiver is not very welcoming. It's a carpeted hallway in an empty corporate building at night with the lights still on after everyone has left. You could wear this if you were about to engage in business negotiations in which you're unwilling to make any compromises, with a poker face and a dry "No" always at the tip of your tongue.
This fragrance is antisocial and it knows it. It's an inanimate object, not a person. When it's a person, it's your rich neighbor who always looks at you but never smiles or waves.
It's not for me, and I wouldn't like to smell too much of it on someone else.
I didn't think it possible, but this stuff makes even Maître Parfumeur et Gantier's Route du Vétiver look tame! The opening explodes violently with a harsh, green vetiver that's hot enough to singe your eyebrows. And while the scent quiets down quite a bit, it never goes so far as to mellow.
Where the vetiver in Route du Vétiver is moist, earthy, and somehow fecund, this vetiver is dry, pungent, and acidic. There's nothing sweet in this blend to dull the vetiver's knife-like edge, and the few accompanying notes I can detect only enhance its potency. There are some very dry herbs, an odd, tart, acidic note, plus some crisp cedar in the base, and that's about it. Simple really, and almost brutal, but in a streamlined, even graceful way. Kind of like a shark.
Etro's Vetiver stays close to the body, which could be a good thing, since not everyone you meet is liable to enjoy anything this radical. It will be too much for many, but for those who like their vetiver, sharp, raw, and pungent this will be a must-try scent.
Update (September, 2009):
With Maître Parfumeur et Gantier's Route du Vétiver tamed in reformulation, Etro's Vetiver is left standing alongside Vétiver Extraordinaire as one of the finest essays in vetiver-based olfactory brutalism. Revised to a thumbs-up by attrition.
What an incredible vetiver. A salty, incredibly earthy, slightly humid vetiver note, warm and mysterious, with fascinating nuances of coffee, tobacco, incense, rich woods, a rarefied and captivating fog of smells and a thin sheet of old tanning leather. Utterly elegant, pleasant, refined, an oriental elusive potion with a bold modern personality, there is a slight contemporary feel (the salty note, the transparent incense) which brilliantly and silently flows among the timeless and romantic mysticism of the more "traditional" ingredients. While the very first opening reminded me of Annick Goutal's vetiver because of its humid and raw earthiness, the evolution is one of a kind, peculiar and superb, opulent and nondescript, with all these nuances brilliantly melting together. What fascinates me most is a veil of dusty, smoky and dense sweetness, somehow tobacco and somehow talcum, really noble and melancholic, narcotic and romantic, filled with the same Oriental elegance of Etro's patterns (at least, back then). Beautiful mineral/salty and discreet drydown. A solid scent, with a clear inspiration and great materials. Straight on the top of my favourite vetivers ever!
(my review is based on a vintage EDC bottle)
I liked EV and bought it. Once the opening rapidly dissipates, it becomes a warm, almost creamy interpretation of the vetiver idea. Somehow the warmth and "cream" offsets what could have been animalistic and aggressive like Route du Vetiver (which I also like). It is linear in that it morphs very little once it enters drydown. Woody and spicey without a trace of citrus, I find it honest and sophisticated. The vetiver is there in the background seemingly preventing it from being too subdued.
When your mood is serious but gentle, EV will reinforce that.