Monday, January 19, 2009

Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1 by Les Nez: fragrance review

the Navagio beach on Zakynthos/Zante island in Greece
"In Lebanon, at the border with Israel, there is a turtle sanctuary. It is the result of being a protected area during the civil war. The almost extinct Mediterranean sea turtle was allowed to flourish. This is something good that came out of the war. This is poetry. I have gone through my own corporeal civil war and TURTLE is my sanctuary and celebration".

~Michael H Shamberg

"Outlaw Perfume in Progress" sounds like contraband that is waiting to change hands in some faraway country full of sailors with dirty pea-coats. But in reality it is Turtle Vetiver by Les Nez, perfumer Isabelle Doyen's contribution to the creative network Turtle salon, "an anarchic salon", masterminded by Michael H.Shamberg. The quirky, poetic and catchy name brought me memories of the endangered caretta caretta turtles (the loggerhead turtles) ~one of the oldest species in the world, alive when dinosaurs roamed the planet~ I had seen protected in the sanctuary of Zakynthos (Zante) island in Greece. Something so durable through the fabric of time itself, yet so fragile: The hatchlings have to complete an arduous journey to the sea once they've come out of their sand-buried eggs. Heading towards the brightest light, hopefully what is the moon's reflection on the horizon over the sea, before the hot sun comes up and fries them alive and before sea birds have them for prey. Only few survive, but those few are resilient, proud, swimming tall. But the affairs of man, never too far off the affairs of nature, lie close by on the ShipWreck or Navagio beach, one of the most photographed beaches of Greece, its name coming from the ship which was wrecked in 1983 while carrying smuggled cigarettes.
Turtle Vetiver seems to be a parallel story of surviving hardship, small or bigger personal tragedies and smuggling hope; and on its cragged planes one can feel the emotion of having come up victorious.

Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1 is a hard-core vetiver for true-blue fans of the earthy deliciousness that responds to the name of that miraculously tenacious root and I feel like it became a symbol for the project same as turtles. The rough opening of "dirty and gritty vetiver roots before the soil and sand grains have been rinsed off" as Ayala described it is a prelude to a leitmotif of dark, edgy, earthy treatment of the note; remakably close to the pure essential oil, yet more palatable with a spicy edge and an almost salty undernote. It feathers out slowly, becoming clearer and clearer all the while like mud water shifted through a sieve.
In a way I am envisioning a cross between the nautical, iodine-rich Vetyver of Annick Goutal and the craggy, wet cobblestones of Vetiver Extraordinaire.
If you are wondering whether it might be too hard for you, you might reconsider because it certainly would. But if you want to be surprised by just how many interpretations are possible in this fascinating material, Turtle Vetiver is an intriguing addition.

Isabelle Doyen makes small erratic batches of Turtle Vetiver and plans on changing the formula constantly. Therefore Exercise 1 is simply the version currently in stock at Les Nez, it might change later on. Samples can be ordered from the LesNez website.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Vetiver Series, Les Nez fragrances.

Song Ερωτικο/"Erotic", sung by Haris Alexiou, lyrics by Alkis Alkaios, music by Thanos Mikroutsikos. Written in memory of Marxist philosopher Nikos Poulantzas who commited suicide in Paris.

Lyrics translation by helg:

In a pirogue you set off and wander
when the rain gets stronger
In the land of Visigoths you wander
and Hanging Gardens seduce you
but you're sawing your own wings slowly.

Saltiness covered your naked body,
I brought you fresh water from Delphi
You said that your life would be cut in two pieces
and before I had the chance to deny you three times
the key of heavens had got rusty.

The caravan is rushing through the dust
chasing your shadow along
How could a sheet calm the mind,
how could the Mediterranean be tied with rope,
my love, whose name was Antigone.

Which melody of the night has tempted you
and in which galaxy could I find you?
Here is Attica, a grey pit
and I am but a shooting ground
where foreign soldiers train cursing.

Pic of Navagio Beach (the Shipwreck) on Zakynthos/Zante island in Greece by jjbach/flickr. (Beach accesible only by boat, leaving daily from Porto Bromi.) Song originally uploaded by kostasdiefhon on Youtube


  1. The turtles are protected here also. The street lights are dimmed and it is against the law to tamper with them. They lumber in and lay their eggs. Later the hatchlings head to the sea, unless they get disoriented and head to the lights. Volunteers put them in the right direction if that happens.

  2. Thank you for these words Helg, and for the wonderful musical tribute. Geia sou Haroula!

  3. Karin,

    good to know! I guess something that has survived for millenia deserves to survive a bit more still, doesn't it.

  4. D,

    you're welcome. I knew you of all people would appreciate :-))

  5. Anonymous13:35

    Do you hear that noise? It's my pocketbook groaning! You make this sound so very beautiful as e.o. of Vetiver is one of my very favorite scents. I often use a drop or two on my hands when doing energy work on a client as it is used to help clear the energy field.

    Beautiful musical tribute as well. This is truly a renaissance site!

  6. D,

    perish the thought that I am enabling! It's a very earthy, very true vetiver, worth checking out. They have a sample programme, so I think you can safely go ahead (the other perfumes in the line are also very sample-worthy!)

    Thanks for the kind words on the site and for the appreciation on the musical clip! Glad you liked it. (I am never sure how a song in a foreign language can be perceived, so I am a little hesitant and try to include some background as space allows).


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