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Bombay Duck London

Chanel Sycomore

My name is The Scent Critic and I am a vetiveraholic.  I can never get enough of this earthy, sensual, deeply stirring fragrance ingredient, which I’ve been enraptured by since I used to wear Guerlain’s Vetiver.  Yes, I know that technically it’s a men’s fragrance (and I dated several who wore it), but for me, vetiver has always had a wonderful grounding, tethering effect.  It’s about planting my feet on terra firma when my head has been too long in the clouds.  However, this is obviously a week for inappropriate names:  after Marc Jacobs’s un-biscotti­-like Biscotti, I bring you Chanel’s un-sycamore-like Sycomore.  Allegedly, this is a reworking of an old Chanel fragrance that dates back to 1930, when Gabrielle Chanel – whose charcoal portrait you can see, left – was creating the whole category of ‘designer’ fragrances.  But Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake’s creation is totally contemporary:  clean, minimalist, like an apartment with white leather Knoll sofas, a bare wood floor – and a chunky log fire crackling in the grate.  It’s designed to be worn by women – but I would swoon at the feet of any man whose neck I smelled it on.  This is a fragrance which I don’t mind admitting that every time I’m within 250 yards of a Chanel boutique (or Selfridges), I dash in for a fix of.  I spray it on my clothes.  I all but drench myself in it.  My pashminas reek of Sycomore now – and I get very strange looks from the Chanel sales assistants (though I do not care one jot) when I stand in front of the Les Exclusifs fixture and spray and spray and spray.  (I told you I was an addict.)  I tuck scent-drenched Sycomore spills in my hardback books, too, for serendipitous woody encounters somewhere in the future.

Intensely smoky as well as vetiver-ish, Sycomore is the perfume equivalent of my favourite Lapsang Souchong, in its so-chic chunky bottle.  It’s campfire-y.  There’s a breath of tar, evoking those road-resurfacing boilers.  (Beside which I have also been known to stand, like a mad person, breathing the fumes.)  And the merest air-kiss of incense, too, with hints of cedarwood and sandalwood (two other favourite base notes, The Scent Critic not being a musk devotee).  All wood, then.  All smoke, too.  Not a white flower within 100 paces of this (and it’s all the better for that, if you ask me, although there’s alleged to be a touch of violet – a note, actually, not a million miles from vetiver itself on a perfumer’s ‘organ’).  Some people tell me they get a whiff of tobacco from Sycomore, but uh-uh, as far as I’m concerned.  Instead, I find breathing it almost meditative, as calming to my senses as sitting in an utterly quiet room, lotus-positioned.  (Perhaps that explains why, I’m compelled to head Chanel-wards for my Sycomore spritz, to counterbalance inner city mayhem.)  What rounds it out – stops Sycomore being too dry, too smoky – is a rich chocolate-y edge, rendering it even more luxuriantly sensual as it smoulders on the skin.

With all those deep, earthy notes, on paper Sycomore ought to be a winter fragrance – but I like this on a hot summer’s day, when for me it’s just like stepping out of the blinding sunlight into a cool, dark forest.  Now, I’m too much of a princess ever to lie on pine and larch needles, staring up at the arborial canopy – and too much of a wimp, frankly, to spend a night in a sleeping bag around a roaring fire, even in the most glamping of camping situations.  But Sycomore makes me feel as close-to-nature, as feel-the-earth-beat-under-my-feet as if I was doing just that.  For me, that’s the miracle of a true vetiver fragrance – of which Sycomore is one of the finest examples I figure I’m going to encounter, in this lifetime.



5 comments to Chanel Sycomore

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jo Fairley, Josephine Fairley. Josephine Fairley said: Chanel Sycomore via @AddToAny [...]

  • morenita71

    I just turned 40 and wanted a special perfume to treat myself. I spent a few months trying different things but this is what I fell in love with. My experience in Selfridges wasn’t great; they kept steering me to more feminine fragrances or things that are similar to what I told them I wore already – the original Cristalle EDT. I’m saving this for daywear in Autumn, my favourite season. As an aside, the first luxury fragrance I wore was also a ‘man’s fragrance’ – Tuscany for Men. Crazily I then went through a phase of wearing really strong Oriental fragrances – Opium, Coco, Cinnabar, Obsession (early 90s) and now I really want something grown up and sexy for the evening I can’t find anything I like which doesn’t give me a headache! Great review of Sycomore though…

  • Ali Fox

    Try a few dabs of Vetivert essential oil with a light spray of Tom Ford Grey Vetiver over the top – dusky, dark and sublime. I’m blending a few of my own at the moment – all Vet based,

  • [...] includes vetiver, sandalwood, tobacco, violet, and aldehydes. For more reviews of Sycomore, see The Scent Critic, Bois de Jasmine, and The [...]

  • [...] in Sycomore, though she concludes the cause was the combination of juniper and cypress. The Scent Critic blog and some on MakeupAlley also picked up on the chocolate edge. And finally, Victoria from Bois [...]

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