Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Black Vetyver Café by Jo Malone

Total Reviews: 30
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...
16th March, 2016
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.
09th June, 2014
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"
22nd November, 2013
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rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
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.
25th December, 2012
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.
24th July, 2012
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.
01st March, 2012
Alityke Show all reviews
United Kingdom
I find this overly smokey - I've actually been asked if I've been smoking when wearing it, not exactly a compliment. Sort of ok though I certainly wint be purchasing again
01st December, 2011
Looked very much forward to trying this fragrance after reading about it here on Basenotes and hearing some positive thoughts about it. Additionally, I bought some pretty nice body sugar scrub and shea-cocoa body butter creram in a (dupe) scent of BVC. So, I thought, "Why not...while waiting for my scrub 'n cream, I'll get a sample of the fragrance from The Perfumed Court to try in the meantime...just to see."

Well, perhaps in a (dupe) fragranced sugar scrub and/or cream this scent will be pleasant enough. As a cologne or EDT, it is just alright but nothing special. Certainly not a fragrance I would ever purchase or wear on a regular basis, if at all.

The notes??? Well to my nose-smile-BVC's initial opening is a very pleasant and rather fragrant note of a medium roast coffee...pretty interesting actually. What immediately follows (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) is a moderate middle note of, well vetyver and then...pretty much more of the same and a lot of least that is how it landed on my skin.

Vetyver and coffee...that's that order...on and on Mostly vetyver and little coffee, if any. I was actually hoping for a unique roastier, toastier, nuttier fragrance with less green (vetyver). But...nothing unique here, nothing particularly fragrant. All in all, I found it somewhat bland and boring. But again, I'm the type of gal who likes to smell unique and who likes to know that I am wearing perfume. Subtle, linear-type fragrances aren't my forte; complex ones are.

Having said that, I think the scrub and cream are gonna be great because I will be able to "layer" other like notes & scents...well, any scent actually. This fragrance is okay but not something I would ever purchase, wear or even recommend to anyone...except for someone looking for a neutral, clean, very linear, barely there fragrance.
24th October, 2011 (last edited: 23rd March, 2015)
Not an unpleasant smell, and does not feel cheap, but boring. A pale, earthy vetiver combined with an even paler coffee bean. Poor longevity on my skin, reaches the drydown quickly and without fanfare. Unobtrusive and at least not likely to be offensive.
19th October, 2011
Vetiver and coffee, the latter with some interesting turns of toffee, liquorice, and roasted nuts, recalling not L’Eau du Navigateur (1982) – the original coffee scent – as much as Méchant Loup (1997), also from L’Artisan Parfumeur. The woody drydown arrives quickly, this being a cologne, and while Black Vetyver Café isn’t gonna change the world, it is nonetheless serviceable, if dull.
27th June, 2011
The smell is solid, but the longevity is weak. If either of these aspects were better I would not hesitate with a thumbs up, but alas, it is an "almost."

This is a sort of post-modern creation that needs to be explored more often, despite my moderate feelings about it. The vetiver n' friends form a solidly fresh base that could be considered ethereal and cloud-like. The coffee is dark, bitter, and resinous. The combination of the two make for a fluffy, refreshing coffee mist.

And I can't shake the feeling that this would be what people might be wearing on Coruscant, The Citadel, Deep Space Nine, and in Apple Stores.
16th June, 2011
A light and vaguely woody cloud of alcohol right out of the vial. I waited patiently for quite a while for the pure ethanol fumes to go away, and I'm left with just the barest hint of spice and wood with light coffee. What little wood there is is dry and smooth (interesting, because I often find sweet wood to be smooth, and dry wood to be grating). It has a graininess that I like, such as that from brown rice or pasta cooking, wheat bread, or certain cereals, but this is temporarily marred by a sourness that reminds me too much of cigarette smoke. Still, it's so ridiculously weak that I couldn't possibly give it anything but a thumbs down. I don't know if the rest of the Jo Malone line is so weak, but smelling this one certainly doesn't encourage me to try any of the others! By the end (15 mins?) only the vaguest wood aura remains, but there is so little left that I almost wouldn't know I had applied any fragrance at all.
24th April, 2011
zztopp Show all reviews
United States
Top: Black roasted coffee, cistus oil
Heart: Nutmeg, green pepper, coriander
Base: Vetiver, sandalwood, sequoia wood, lichen, temple incense, vanilla

Black Vetyver Cafe (BVC) gives a typical Jo Malone fragrance performance - that of a light, streamlined, somewhat linear fragrance made with clear, unobstrusive materials that reflect the name on the bottle. BVC is a coffee fragrance light enough for tea people, a gourmand for the sporty, non-sweet tooth crowd, the smell of downtown Seattle in heat.

BVC renders the coffee note without the cream (New Haarlem) or the intense coffee bean innards aroma (Eau des iles) - imagine walking into a neighborhood coffee shop, glancing at the beans in their glowing canisters and inhaling the diluted aroma wafting about. Its a coffee aroma from the surroundings, not a forced dip-thy-nose-into-the-bean-bag experience. Coffee is usually rendered using Furfyl Mercaptan molecules, but the rendition in BVC seems to be primarily "prenoid" mercaptans, i.e. more focused on the 'fresh roast' aroma. A little dry herbal labdanum joins in the top notes; its a linear light coffee aroma, lightly spiced with nutmeg, with shades of green vetiver, and sweetened with a drop of vanilla. There are no citrus or florals in the formula to round out or soften the composition, but I guess thats why the sillage is toned down so as not to impart a bone dry feel..

BVC may disappoint people looking for a powerhouse gourmand or coffee fragrance but we already have many such screaming powerhouses on the market. BVC is light and dry enough for me to classify it as a Eau d'Coffee Cologne... its not remarkably complex or unique, but thats why it fits perfectly in the Jo Malone Parfum catalog. New Haarlem is still King, but BVC could be a crowd favorite..

Rating: 7.75/10.0
19th August, 2010
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First we give the notes as given at the Jo Malone website:

Top notes: black roasted coffee, cistus oil (woody floral)
Heart notes: nutmeg, green pepper, coriander (spicy herbal)
Base notes: vetiver, sandalwood, sequoia wood, Colorado lichen, temple incense, vanilla

The intent was to create a “perfect coffee note”, inspired by Dean & DeLuca in New York. Further it is described as the “deep, bitter character of the coffee bean is steeped in earthy notes of vetiver and temple incense.”

I think this description is apt. To me this scent is about two things: black coffee and vetiver. It is interesting that some reviewers speak of sweetness. To me, it is anything but sweet until well into the drydown when the vanilla peaks through. I wish it didn’t take that turn (just a personal preference). This is a neat fragrance. I wouldn’t buy it for myself, but I think it is well executed.
09th March, 2010
Sweet delicious coffe on vetiver and woods. the coffe is sweet and it is better that way because bitter coffe note rarely dissolves into a scent succesfully. This is a well blended, smooth and manly scent. All of a sudden it takes you to a hunters cottage, in front of fire, with a cup off coffe in your hand; comforting. A bit flat though or may be unfinished; a few notes more would make it more shiny and finished.
02nd November, 2009
Jo Malone Black Vetyver Cafe

Jo Malone Black Vetyver Cafe is my favorite coffee scent out there. Usually when one mentions coffee you think that indicates the scent should be a full-blown gourmand. What is completely refreshing about Black Vetyver Cafe is coffee is used as an aromatic note and not as an excuse to roll out the olfactory buffet of food notes. This 2003 release by Jo Malone is a coffee centered scent that is different. From the top the coffee note calls out its presence but this is the coffee of the roasted bean prior to being ground up. I can smell the rich almost nutty quality of a whole coffee bean and it is beautiful. Where another scent would start piling on with chocolate and vanilla this one takes a different road and instead turns towards the woods . The heart of this contains a woody note which comes out in stages and acts as a bridge to the vetiver in the base. The herbal, green character that the vetiver imparts really compliments all that has come before and finishes things quite nicely. This is a beautifully composed scent which shows that coffee is a note which can stand all on its own without needing something else to go with it.
02nd May, 2009
Wonderful smell of salty liquorice meets me at first. I love this dark, spicy and very tasty beginning.

When it dries down, the savory quality continues to please, but unfortunately it looses very soon much of its strength and it becomes very weak. Personally, I would like to see much more volume in this, especially considering the fact that I enjoy the aroma itself very much.

I don’t get much coffee from this, unlike vetiver which is of course very notable. It has also very spicy tone; it reminds me of cloves although there is not clove in this scent to my knowledge.
Dark, sweet, little bit bitter, smoky. Slightly “oily” structure brings Black Cashmere in mind.

Great smell that is too weak for my tastes. And the lasting power is a total disaster.
03rd February, 2009
This has a kind of nutty tone (like nuts, not goofy). I don’t really detect a coffee note. And I don’t get the usual sorts of vetiver notes, though I can imagine some sort of vetiver here. The drydown is interesting, a bit of "lite" incense there. This is kind of odd or unusual, in my opinion. It gets more powdery and sweet as it progresses. Don’t really care for it.
10th November, 2008
I had been warned off by perfumistas who claim that everything Jo Malone has ever done is underwhelming, but this is one I like and wear semi-regularly.

Its a journey perfume-- starts as coffee and ends as vetiver. A little perfumey for my taste, but sooo interesting that I can't resist jumping on every once in a while for the ride...

I agree with Surreality that the coffee note is very gourmande, but I fine the vetiver to be refreshingly sharp and green, and not so smoky.

The longevity is decent, and though the coffee open fades quickly, on my skin it makes an encore appearance in the dry-down.
31st July, 2008
The coffee top note in Black Vetyver Cafe is very sweet gourmand note, more like a coffee candy than a fresh brewed espresso. It reminded me of a coffee icing a local bakery used to use on one of their cakes. This coffee note fades in about 30 minutes revealing an earthy vetiver with hints of wood in the background. From here the development is linear.

The longevity of Black Vetyver Cafe is reasonably good; on my skin it lasted about 5 hours before it needed refreshing. The coffee note really projects while it lasts but the vetiver and woody notes stay fairly close to the skin. If you are looking for a vetiver fragrance that is a little different then this might just be for you.
26th July, 2008
Immediately the black coffee note is eviden,t smooth and creamy with sugar.

Lip smacking good.

Unfortunately ,after a very short time it begns to fade releasing the Vetyver.

It isn,t long lasting,but maybe in cool weather(it,s 90 F. this evening) it would behave
07th June, 2008
I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be this rich. The vetiver is very well done, but the coffee note is wonderful – just like some especially lush freshly roasted freshly ground coffee beans. Oh, yes, I do get a bit of incense in the background, and, I suppose, the sequoia, although I have a difficult time separating the sequoia from the incense; they are both just that – background. What makes the coffee note seem so rich, and what I really love about it is that the coffee is not sweet. I’m tired of coffee notes mixed with sweet, and this one, even though it’s quite different, can sort of take the place of the coffee / fragrance love of my life, Vanille Mohka by CSP. I’m out of Vanille Mohka and I haven’t been able to replace it. It’s just a pure pleasure to have found Black Vetyver Café. Short on longevity, though.
10th March, 2008
OH MY GOODNESS - YUM! I'm in my 20s and this is just so yum. Think sensual, deep, warm smelling. It reminds me of incense or something woody but not burnt incense.

I am not good with these things but it's so delicious and I imagine would go nicely with the Rose one that is available.

I'm so going to buy this!
23rd October, 2007
I really liked the initial burst of scent here, especially the citrus and coffee notes. Unfortunately, this almost immediately fades to just the vetyver scent, which is NOT my favorite part of any pefume. Also, I NEVER picked up any scent of temple incense of sequoia, which were part of the description that made me want to try this.
13th June, 2007
Gross. Will give you a bad headache after a while. It kind of smells like John Varvatos for men.

I myself am just not a coffee person.

If you want to smell like freshly ground coffee beans this is for you.
03rd May, 2007
Black Vetyver Cafe is my second favourite from the Jo Malone line - right after Vintage Gardenia. Black Vetyver Cafe is exactly what it sounds: vetyver and coffee! The combination sounds strange, but it works magically well. It starts with black coffee note, and than dries down to a clean, woody vetyver. I can smell another woody element there, which makes it softer than just straight-up vetyver. I think it's sandalwood, but it could be the sequia note. I just wish the coffee note lasted longer and that the dry down was a tad sweeter - not as to make it “sweet” in a gourmand manner - just not all that woody. Vetyver has sweet & tart aspects and I wish they were played out a bit more here. Compared with Vintage Gardenia, Black Vetyver Café is more intriguing, yet less balanced in my opinion. I am not a fan of layering, but when layered with with Vintage Gardenia, it is quite interesting. The cardamom and white florals really complement it, and I recommend using a much lesser amount of the Black Vetyver Café.
Any way you look at it – from a vetyver or a coffee angle - this is a unique scent and should not be missed.
11th December, 2006
Indeed, in comparison with Mugler's damnable H*ll, this is a masterpiece. Now if I could only smell it 30 minutes after applying it, I'd give it a thumbs up.
15th November, 2006
It is indeed fleeting, and its a shame, because veitiver is a great note to "suspend" (as Quarry termed it) with this nutty coffee accord. Black Vetyver Cafe fills a gaping hole among coffee scents: the non-sweet. Those looking for coffee notes have numerous options: New Haarlem, L'Eau du Navigateur, Casual Friday, etc, but all of these have a sweet, gourmand voluptuousness. Not so Black Vetyver Cafe, which keeps it clean and bitter, courtesy of that vetiver. Hence the "black" (as in "hold the cream and sugar") I sense a little echo of L'Artisan Mechant Loup, but alas, by the time I can try to get a close read on it, Black Vetyver is gone :(
31st October, 2006
Quarry Show all reviews
United States
I haven't left a review for BVC? Gasp! I guess we take some of our best friends for granted.

BVC feels as much like a second skin as any scent I've sampled (that's 300+ and counting). Subtle, cozy, the coffee note is not strong--more akin to the strength of an empty coffee cup left over from breakfast, but it is perfectly supported by the dearest suspension of soft vetiver notes. Hinting at sweetness, BVC is entirely gender neutral. I'd like to smell this on any body, any age. The only drawback is its throw: It hovers close to the skin and can stand to be replenished every couple hours. On the plus side: This is the first frag I got a compliment on.
12th September, 2006
Monsieur, have you been grinding your own coffee beans in the middle of the night again?, my valet asked me this morning.

"No, my good man," I replied, "I just put on this new vetiver scent from Jo Malone called Black Vetyver Café. Do you like it?"

"While I don't drink coffee, I can smell this aspect of the scent and it is charming. However, it seems to be fading fast, Sir, and in no time there will scarcely be anything to smell!"

I couldn't argue with him, for yet again he was spot on, this scent, while beguilingly charming straight away, lacks the lasting power that would really distinguish it and turn it into a contender. As it is, Black Vetyver Café pales against my cherished Guerlain Vetiver, which vanquishes it with stunning power, bravado, and persistence.

17th August, 2005