Le Vetiver-Itasca draws its inspiration from the red pine forests of north central Minnesota which surround Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the namesake for this beautiful perfume. I grew up not far from this place so Itasca is something of a biography in a bottle for me.
Itasca is different from most of the pine and woodland fragrances I regularly wear. Many woodland inspired fragrances seem to be created with the intent of capturing the reality of the forest as closely as possible rather than idealizing its essence as a perfume. One of my favorite fragrances, Serge Lutens’ Fille en Aiguille is a good example. Not only do you smell the sap and the wood of a pine tree, you have a visceral sense of the stickiness of the sap and the solidity of wood covered in rough bark.
But if you walk through the clearing beneath a stand of lofty red pine on a breezy day the experience is much more ethereal and perfume-like. A gentle breeze through pines sounds like murmuring and whispering and each breathy vowel releases an aromatic scent from the canopy of needles. If you happen to be in this clearing during late spring you might even notice floral notes as part of the camphorous accord.
The nose behind Itasca, Lucien Ferrero, has chosen this idealized experience as his template. Using an aesthetic similar to Olivia Giacobetti, he creates a lighter, atmospheric watercolor vision of a conifer fragrance that is truly a perfume.
Ferrero captures the breezy, airy effect in a number of ways. He uses higher pitched conifer notes and resins while avoiding strong, woody base notes. Vetiver, the title component of this perfume, is Itasca’s strongest base note yet it is well balanced to the overall fragrance. It provides just enough dimension and depth to hint at the coarser elements and muted colors of pine while allowing Itasca to remain open and airy. The result is that Itasca seems to sparkle. It’s as if Ferrero has mimicked the watercolor technique of sprinkling salt on wet paint to obtain that sparkling effect.
Later in Itasca’s development, the floral notes -neroli, tagetes (marigold) and geranium- bring a new color to the palette of the fragrance but in just the right proportion. The slight sweetness of this subtle floral accord is truly reminiscent of pine flowers. To be honest, there is no such thing as a “pine flower”. It's actually the male pine cone, but that’s another, more prosaic botany lesson. Nonetheless, if you’re in a stand of pines in late spring you may be surprised how floral the experience can be.
I think it’s only natural to associate pine based fragrances as being cool or cold weather wear. But Itasca’s sparkling lightness and subtle floral qualities mean it can be worn comfortably into the warm days of spring. I’m not sure I’d wear it in the dog days of summer but it is certainly more versatile than many other conifer fragrances.