Bel Ami Vetiver enters straight as a train in the round of the best five fragrances I've had the pleasure to test along this year and I'm sure it's ready to get soon its appearance in my collection (I hope so). Well, actually a fantastic dark-brown bergamot/leather/vetiver/musk combo full of peculiarities and nuances. The fragrance (decidedly peculiar - I mean diverse- in comparison to its excellent predecessor) seems a more dandy and refined sort of Jovoy Private Label (also Eau d'Italie Bois d'Ombrie, Gianfranco Ferre For Man or Sigilli Athunis jump on mind) with all the traditional Hermes Grandeur. Leather animalistic neutrality, powerhouse heritages, oriental soft mildness, woody powder, "steam" and vetiver woodsy "saltiness" (actually citric lemony tartness) converge here to finally merge in a stunning masterwork of art. Woods are dark, powdery (dusty aromatic cedarwood) and smoky, the leather is velvety while the note of vetiver is surprisingly silky and smooth (with an hesperidic vibe after a more rooty energic and herbal opening). The amber/vanilla/patchouli centered oriental theme is smooth and aristocratic as linked with bergamot, mild spices and subtle undiscernible floral notes. A touch of tonka enhances a sort of general nutty smokey vibe. The dry down wake is a masterpiece of suede type of silkiness, smooth musks (oakmoss, musk, labdanum) and aromatic woody smokiness. The final work is classic (yes, old-school in aura and more than vaguely "powerhouse" in undertone, it conjures indeed Gianfranco Ferre for Man in the background) but effectively at once finally clean any contemporary, smoothly powdery and silky as the silkiest suede). I detect a sort of malt-like type of fluidity which provides a single malt type of languid booziness perfectly joined with powdery "neutral" woods and leather. Cozy british ambiences jumps on mind (scottish style clothings, cottages, intellectual old men, hounds, scotch wiskies, wet gray English farms, green yards, light candels, old books, cigars and squares blankets). Existentialist, moody and refined as few scents around.
08th October, 2014 (last edited: 25th November, 2014)
Bel Ami Vetiver opens with a fresh herb-laden citric vetiver before transitioning to its early heart. As the composition enters its early heart the citric aspects slowly fade as the vetiver becomes quite woody taking on an aromatic cedar bent supported by a slightly sharp leathery undertone derived from its Bel Ami related base. During the late dry-down the woody vetiver shifts to support, turning slightly lemony as tonka bean sweetened leather smooths out to near suede through the finish gradually adding in just a touch of fine powder. Projection is good to very good and longevity outstanding at well over 12 hours on skin.
Bel Ami Vetiver has got to be close to a perfect flanker. It definitely has strong ties to Bel Ami with its tonka bean infused leathery base but adds some versatility to the mix by freshening things up with vetiver and aromatic spice early. The vetiver takes on many forms during the composition's development, starting citric but turning woody and even lemony late. The vetiver used throughout pairs perfectly with the leathery Bel Ami base, making for an excellent option for fans of Bel Ami that want something fresher for warmer months. That said, with the Bel Ami leathery base intact, it balances the fresh elements making the composition super-versatile year-round. When I heard many compare Bel Ami Vetiver to Vetiver Tonka (another Jean-Claude Ellena composition) I feared it might be too sweet just like Vetiver Tonka was to my tastes, but while there certainly is a bit of tonka bean related sweetness here, it is nowhere to the level found in Vetiver Tonka and quite frankly the compositions have less in common than one might think on first glance. The bottom line is when one creates a flanker to a masterpiece level classic like Bel Ami you better know what you are doing and create something worthy of the name's heritage. Happily, the $125 per 100ml bottle Bel Ami Vetiver is a fine example of a flanker done right, earning an "excellent" 4 star out 5 rating and a strong recommendation. In short, Bel Ami Vetiver is the best thing Jean-Claude Ellena has released since Terre d'Hermes Pure Perfume, and that is a large compliment indeed.
This is better than I dared hope. Take the bitter orange note from Terre d'Hermes, the nutty vetiver from Vetiver Tonka (with the sweetness level mercifully dialled down to 4), add a subdued leather note, akin to that from the original Bel Ami, and you pretty much have it. As expected, the citrus notes fade quite rapidly; the vetiver keeps delivering for most of the day, until a late-stage drydown dominated by the very tenacious but soft leather note. It has all day longevity from 4 sprays and moderate sillage. In style it is a fairly conservative, traditionally-masculine type of scent, but lighter and less dated than the original Bel Ami. Suitable for year-round use.
Bel Ami Vetiver is a winner. The original bone structure of the popular masculine fragrance by Hermes, is there but not as much as one would think. Now, that's a good news for me because while I absolutely ADORE vintage BA, I don't think I needed a replica. Also, I don't think BAV should really smell like Bel Ami, for that, one has to check directly Bel Ami. BAV striked more as a sweetish suedey thing with an unripe green citrusy (almost fruity) vibe. There are the usual JCE's spices while the leather note seems definitely more vegetal than animalic. The vetiver is extremely old-school, green, soapy and a tad angular and provides great balance turning the fragrance into something unquestionably masculine (at least theme-wise) while its slight rubbery facet, perfectly pairs with the overall leathery-suedey vibe.
I'd say BAV feels like a very smart move from JC. Smells like a modern remix of something very classic. Sort of a tribute to barbershop / soapy leather-vetivers of the past. In this context, the first fragrance that comes to mind is Tuscany Per Uomo by Aramis. Don't get me wrong, these fragrances don't share many objective similarities but they move in very similar territories. The best part though, comes with the Ellena's *treatment* which turns a somewhat dated theme into something that's surely old-fashioned but at the same time contemporary and even modern. That's basically why I think about *classic-remixed* as opposed to merely *old fashioned*. It's like a modern fragrance that continuely quotes *the bigs* of the past. In this context, Bel mi Vetiver feels cultured as opposed to trendy but also cultured as opposed to nostalgic, If that makes any sense. All of the Ellena's hallmarks are there: transparency, weightless character, spices, clean vibe, watercolor tones but this time, they're supported by a more traditionally robust bone structure to create what, in my opinion, is a contemporary classic.
Now, my final question is this? What this beauty has to envy to whatever Hermessence? Absolutely nothing.
The fragrance is probably not groundbreaking and original Bel Ami (especially the vintage formulation) was completely on another level, but I can totally see myself wearing the hell out of this stuff. Very good and absolutely full bottle worthy.
One word can make such a difference...
Been sampling this side by side with Bel Ami (current) they are poles apart. Where BA is soft tan leather with sparkling citrus and cinnamon/cumin spices, BAV is all about, bitter citrus (at opening) with dark musky smokey leather paired with a dominant lush rootsy vetiver. As the fragrance progresses towards drydown things soften up you are left with a gentler smokey vetiver. Projection/longevity seem around par with BA and things get fairly quiet by drydown.
I was ready for this to be a disappointment, but it's actually bloody nice, and deserved is own name rather than have flanker status. JCE did well, it's got whole lot more attitude than you might expect (one may even say butch at least for the opening and heart) and has a vintish feel that makes it instantly comfortable. My admittedly poor nose likes it alot. Should you enjoy leather/vetiver, by all means check this out.