Truth in advertising: Musc Oriental
The first thing to catch my eye as I read descriptions of Vetiver Oriental is that it shares a couple of eccentric, earthy essences with two of my favorite Lutens fragrances, Chene and Fille en Aiguilles. Where else, but in a Sheldrake formula, would you find “undergrowth” and “plant juice”? Unfortunately, those very notes, which are responsible for my deep visceral bond with Chene and Fille, also give the fragrances strong personalities. I only feel comfortable wearing them when the season is just right and I’m in the right frame of mind. In other words, I wear them just a few times a year. My hope was that Vetiver Oriental would retain a few of the unusual qualities I love while being a bit more friendly for general wearing. Sure enough, moments after spritzing, I smelled the medieval notes of Sheldrake’s alchemist's brew along with other, friendlier elements. Taken altogether it seemed to hold promise of Vetiver Oriental being a regular part of my fragrance wardrobe.
Within minutes I was typing my way through Amazon looking at full bottle prices. It was about that time I noticed another note coming to the fore. The note was familiar, but for some reason I couldn’t place it. Oh well, no worries, it would come to me eventually. Besides, all that mattered was that I liked this new note and that gave me yet another reason to think seriously about buying a full bottle. Back to Amazon.
Just about the time my head was beginning to reel from sticker shock, I actually started to feel physically woozy, slightly sick and my ears were ringing. Something about that mystery note was getting to me in an unpleasant way. Just as it felt as though I'd stepped off a carnival ride I had my “duh” moment of recognition.
I have an extreme sensitivity to musk of this variety and I strongly suspect it’s a matter of transdermal absorption rather than a respiratory issue. I’ve had the same reaction to similar smelling musks used Musc Ravageur, Musc Nomade as well as other fragrances in the Lutens' line. Nonetheless, I made the sacrifice and gave Vetiver Oriental a full wearing.
A full, head spinning, ear ringing wearing.
However, let me be clear: anything negative I have to say about Vetiver Oriental isn’t based on my sensitivity. As a matter of fact, I like the smell of musk. Unfortunately, Vetiver Oriental suffers from issues that have nothing to do with my apparent musk sensitivity.
I would agree with other reviewers and say that Vetiver Oriental’s biggest flaw is the lack of vetiver. I do smell vetiver but it's not the main event. And that’s too bad because the vetiver has a beautiful, sweet, hay-like quality. Furthermore, the opening held so much promise for something wearable and yet carry Lutens’ trademark eccentricity. Vetiver Oriental is more accurately described as a musk dominant scent and that descriptor should really be in its name.
If you’re hoping Vetiver Oriental is your answer to finding an unusual, vetiver based fragrance from Serge Lutens, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you’re looking for a musk based fragrance similar to Musc Ravageur or Musc Nomade, you might find Vetiver Oriental interesting but chances are you’ll prefer something that actually has “musc” in the name.