March 4, 2012
2011 was a year of pushing boundaries with fragrance as some of our most talented perfumers found ways to express themselves in experimental ways. The idea was to free their creativity without necessarily trying to correspondingly be commercially viable. It was my hope we would see more of that in 2012. The first of these to come across my path this year actually hearkens back to one of the earliest projects I know of to encourage this creative risk-taking.
The Turtle Salon project was created by filmmaker Michael H. Shamberg and is dubbed “an anarchic salon”. It is meant to be a collective of diverse artists from every discipline. In the Fall of 2009 the perfumer who is part of the Turtle Salon, Isabelle Doyen, released Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1. Exercise 1 was a fascinating study of vetiver from its rawest form through to a more refined version by the end. The raw nature of the early going of Exercise 1 made it truly for vetiver lovers only. I really enjoyed Mme Doyen’s departure from her creations for Annick Goutal. Exercise 1 really lived up to the ethos of the Turtle Salon and I was eager to see what she would do next. Now a little over two years later we have the second in the series. Instead of being called Turtle Vetiver Exercise 2 it is named Turtle Vetiver Front. It is a simpler fragrance than Exercise 1 but this time the smoky aspects of vetiver are brought to the fore and retained throughout the development.
There are three other notes besides vetiver in Front; oakmoss, ambergris and the linchpin note which really elevates this, coconut lactone. Now I know you read coconut lactone and think pina colada and that is not what coconut lactone brings to Front. This feels almost like coconut oil more woody than sweet. That quality takes the vetiver and turns it smoky. It serves to accentuate that smoky character and to focus it. That further allows the oakmoss to provide depth and contour as it adds to the mix. Finally the presence of real ambergris closes the package and like the coconut lactone in the early going it also serves as a focus for the vetiver and oakmoss to take shape as an accord of equals.
Turtle Vetiver Front has outstanding longevity and above average sillage.
Both of these Turtle Vetiver fragrances truly live up to the ideal of allowing an artist to explore freely. Mme Doyen has taken this freedom and placed her focus on vetiver. I believe once she has finished her process we will have a collection of fragrances which will illuminate and expand our olfactory sense of vetiver. I can’t wait for Exercise 3 or Back or whatever Mme Doyen wants to call it, I just think it will be fascinating.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples purchased from Luckyscent.
–Mark Behnke, Managing Editor