Black Vetyver Café is such a unique smell that I can understand why it developed such a cult following, though I can also understand why it's now discontinued. Yes, there's vetiver and coffee, but there's also a condensed milk smell and the smell of fresh fennel and some cinnamon-dusted pie spices. The coffee smells more like wood than coffee, and the vetiver smells more like sweet field greens than vetiver. And all mixed together, it all combines into a weirdly original smell, a captivating but oddly awkward fusion that's simultaneously green, milky, spicy, and woody.
To be honest, I disliked Black Vetyver Café for many years, though sampling it now, I find it much more fascinating than I did before. But it reminds me of that quote (which I am butchering) from the owner of Bergdorf Goodman, describing how he decided whether to carry clothes in his store or not - "Where would a woman wear that? Where is she going?" To that end, I have no idea where someone would wear Black Vetyver Café or where they'd be going smelling like it. But it's actually possible that's a good thing...
Genre: Woody Oriental
The “Café” part is great: a delectable lightly sweetened coffee top note so photorealistic you’ll go looking for the cup. The “Black Vetyver” I’m not so sure about. There’s an interesting coffee and vetiver accord that lasts for about an hour while the two principals overlap, but once the coffee’s gone the vetiver and artificial wood drydown is unpleasantly bare and hollow.
Too bad. Coffee and vetiver is as fine an idea as chocolate and patchouli (Borneo 1834, Coromandel), but it requires a more solid and nuanced execution than was paid for here.
It took me several years to recognize the pleasure I get from close-up scents, like Black Vetyver Cafe. It's like the guilty secret that gets shared with only a few, if any; but I know it. Reminds me of that line from the old John Prine song:
"And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don't cost very much, but it lasts a long while"
The rich, dark vetiver opening is very nice, dark, but freshened up by the citrus-like zest. The drydown adds wood, and later incense and a touch if vanilla join in. Not a particular complex scent, but the freshness and the nigh-smoky darkness of the coffee are well balanced
and the overall composition convincing. The silage and projection are very good, and, unusual for a Jo Malone product, the longevity on my skin is over eight hours. One if Malone's best for me, and well designed by Estée Lauder.
Another nice fragrance that just doesn't have any legs. Black vetyver cafe is one of those fragrances that'll have you at first sniff, but after 2 hours there's nothing left. Yes it smells great, but it's so light that it negates the whole point of this fragrance. In the opening you'll get the vetiver infused with the dark bean coffee and a bit of sweetness. This lasts for about 20 minutes and then the coffee disappears and all your left with is a weak sweet vetiver/tonka smell. Even worse this seems to sour on the skin after a short time. I'm not sure about the concentration on this fragrance, but it would be a stretch to say this is an EdT. More like a weak EdC. At over $100 a bottle it's really a head scratcher.
Dark maple syrup, chased quickly by a heart of Vetiver. Dries down in minutes to a syrupy molasses and a vague moss. Little projection or longevity. Perhaps my sample is old but I smell little cafe. Woods but no smoke.