It's kind of cruel that this was made in such limited production, but I'm wearing it today so I figured I'd throw in my two cents. As a vetiver fanatic, I had to own a bottle, and I don't regret buying it unsniffed. I like my vetivers strong, the stronger the better. I want that olfactory slap across the face when I spray a vetiver, and I feel Turtle Vetiver delivers. I don't get a sense of refinement in this, which is no bad thing. Instead of the intellectual conversation vetiver can deliver, this is a blunt, forward pronouncement. It feels marine with iodine features, strong in the grapefruit, and both vetiver and grapefruit can lend an air of sweat. Maybe it's the name, but the presence of the iodine/marine notes do conjure the sense of sea turtles and wet oceanic rocks. It's interesting how the presence of different citrus can bring out a different tone in vetiver; this isn't the citrusy pepper of Guerlain's, nor is it the lemony cedar of Malle's. All the same, I definitely want it in my wardrobe, which cannot have too many vetivers.
Les Nez Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1
The Turtle Project is a 21st century updating of the old-fashioned salon process, i.e. get a bunch of different creative people linked together and see what they come up with. The founder, filmmaker Michael H. Shamberg, has invited perfumer Isabelle Doyen to be part of this and her first contribution is Les Nez Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1. The idea of a talented perfumer creating small-batch "exercises" and releasing them so that we get to see an on-going creative process is fascinating to me. Add in the fact that Exercise No. 1 is pretty good and I'm really excited. Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 is indeed an exercise in vetiver and a strong opening statement on that note. The top starts with the grassy version of vetiver I like quite a bit and it is paired with a citrus accord of mostly grapefruit. This gives Exercise No. 1 a very light beginning. The heart of this begins to tread vetiver territory that feels more familiar as the wetiver becomes a little smokier and a little less green and more rich. The base is a mix of vetiver and wood, mostly cedar to my nose, which sharpens the lines around the vetiver and makes it stand out on its own a little more. Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 has a feel of falling somewhere between Encre Noire and Vetiver Extraordinaire on my vetiver scale. While never achieving the darkness of Encre Noire or the intense smokiness of Vetiver Extraordinaire there are lighter aspects of both of those qualities evident in Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1. Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 has above average longevity and moderate sillage. Exercise No. 1 has been so interesting I am eagerly anticipating Mme. Doyen's Exercise No. 2.
Turtle Vetiver started crawling my way in 2008 and didn't make it here via snailmail in 2009. It was a surprise addition to the samples of Manoumalia that I was really hoping to try before the end of the year (it would have made it to my best-of-2008 list but I guess that will need to wait to the next roundup.
The sample vial was labeled "Exercise 1", so at first I thought that this is not the finished perfume but a first mod in a perfume in progress (it is described on LesNez as "Outlaw Perfume in Progress"). However, as it turns out - Turtle Vetiver is an ever changing Eau de Toilette that Isabelle makes in small batches as contribution to the creative network titled Turtle (I'm still trying to figure out the actual connection to turtles).
Turtle Vetiver it is an interestingly bold vetiver and already got my attention not just because of the quirky name, but also because it is just in-your-face dirty and gritty vetiver roots before the soiland sand grains have been rinsed off. It opens very shapr and bold, with a certain peppery darkness to it and a coolness that can only be likened to heavy wet sand that is slightly bound by flossy rootlets of seashore plants. Once it settles on the skin it reveals the cool, clean, fresh and soft Haitian vetiver which I can only guess is the main ingredient.
I'm curious where else will Isabelle Doyen take this vetiver interpretation. There is hardly a lack of vetiver scents on the shelves and I'm always surprised at how original vetiver fragrances can still remain even though there are already so many. I am starting to think that vetiver is like tea... The differences are subtle, but make the world to those who can notice and appreciate them.
I know...the name Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 sounds a little kooky - but here's the deal: This guy, Michael H. Shamberg (an American filmmaker) decided to create a network of people, projects, ideas...etc and called the entire project 'Turtle'. Isabelle Doyen, from Les Nez Parfums, decided to create a fragrance. 'An Oultlaw Perfume in Progress', she's calling it.This is: hard core vetiver!
Have you ever been to a marine theme park or zoo filled with sea life in large aquatic tanks? Here and there, the observation areas are rocky and slightly damp - walking into them your nose is filled with the smell of standing water, salt and...a humid, almost tangy rock smell. If there are sea animals present - sometimes there's a whiff of animal presence in the air also...but very faintly. The top notes of TVEN1 smell just like this. Turtles! In a watery pond area! Duh. The mental connection made me smile.
Of course, I've smelled my share of vetiver fragrances that feature a rough-edged compost-soaked vetiver note (Vetiver by Etro and Vetiver by Annick Goutal) and dirty, root prominent vetiver (Route de Vetiver by MPG) but TVEN1 smells like rocky, muddy vetiver. Wet dirt. If you're familiar with Dirt by Demeter and many of Christopher Brosius' creations (CB I Hate Perfume) that feature dirt, you've smelled this accord. But what's interesting is that the dirt slides deliciously easily into the vetiver note - all of time churning out a Disney-World's-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-rock-salt-pond-water aura.
Longevity is great - I applied some this afternoon and could still smell it later this evening.
There's not a fruit, tobacco, citrus, floral or wood note in sight. Which honestly, for this vetiver lover is quite refreshing. Of course, the flip side of this is, you might find this a little...boring. Not me. I'd love a bottle!
Les Nez has made it clear, this scent is named Exercise No. 1 because there will be other vetiver exercises, with a different formula, released in the future for the project. For now there are only 80 bottles of No. 1, $99 for a 50 ml atomizer. Samples are $10 (2.5 ml).
As Buzzlepuff mentions, this is a limited run of 80 bottles which makes owning it very special but is likewise unfortunate since it would undoubtedly be a popular vetiver that would rival Vetiver Extraordinaire, Encre Noir, and Sycomore. The vetiver presented is quite strong, but earthy, mossy, and damp throughout the entire composition. There are no contrasting sweet notes and really no smoky notes either. Turtle Vetiver is tenacious as it lasted into the next morning for a 24+ hour wear on a few sprays. Sillage at first is almost too robust but does fade to an acceptable-to-be-in-public level in a reasonable period of time. A must-have for vetiver fans.