Tom Ford is one of the few designers whose stuff is worth smelling. Vert d'Encens is such a fragrance too. Yet, I’ve been ignoring his Vert collection (part of his Private Blend line) for far too long. Now that olfactory boredom has beset me, I decided to give it a more thorough exploration.
Part of the reason why I didn’t care about the Vert line was because of the name. When it first came out in 2016, I thought this was another installment of green fragrances created to appeal to those conventionalists who are willing to explore something other than citrus without veering too much into the danger zone of avant garde perfumery.
It is with this prejudice that I approached the Vert line for the first time. As expected, I didn’t give it the light of day. After a few cursory sniffs, I dismissed the collection as intriguing but unimpressive.
A year later, this was all about to change.
At a recent trip to Nordstrom I re-tested all bottles of the Vert line. Even though they all had their merits, the one that captured my imagination was Vert d’Encens.
The pine sap takes a back seat, while the incense starts dancing with the vanilla.
As the name suggests, Vert d’Ensens is a incense-based fragrance surrounded by greenery (the Vert part). On the surface, this is exactly what you get - pine resin, fir sap, forest-like green accord and dry incense. The compositions somewhat reminds me of Comme des Garcon’s Zagorsk minus the floral elements.
The genius of the perfumer behind Vert d’Encens is to combine two accords that are not commonly seen together because of their mutually exclusive sharpness. In Vert d’Encens, however, they make a good match.
The composition opens with a green woody accord and a touch of fresh incense. If your exposure to incense fragrances is limited to the now cliche church-y scents, you’ll find the incense here different.
Incense is often dismissed as a heavy accord most appropriate for cold weather. In many compositions, this indeed is true as incense is usually combined with heavy resins, spices and amber accords. If you take it out of its usual habitat, however, it can be a very dry and fresh note that works great in a warm weather.
I first made this discovery in Tauer’s Incense Extreme. Now, I am discovering it anew in Vert D’Encens. The combo of dry incense and fresh pine and fir resins make for a marvelous opening with a transportive qualities.
As the fragrance dries down, things deepen. Spices emerge. First, comes a hint of vanilla - the nutty variety you find in Madagascar. The pine sap takes a back seat, while the incense starts dancing with the vanilla. Heliotrope and resins play a piano concerto in the background.
The composition almost feels surreal. It reminds me of a winter ball in the court of Tsar Alexander I. We have just trespassed through the endless pine forest surrounding the snow covered estate of the Russian monarch and now are warming up by the fire with a snifter of the finest brandy. Smoke and the smell of burnt pine and birch resins waft from the burning trees in the fireplace.
If the opening of Vert D’Encens is fresh, its drydown is warm. Resins and residue of incense is what remains. The official notes list doesn’t feature vanilla but I smell it front and centre.
If the paragraphs above leave you wondering what to make out of Vert D’Encens, let me put it in simple terms: this a good fragrance worth getting a bottle of. Tom Ford and his perfumer have balanced originality and marketability well in this composition. Vert D’Encens is interesting enough to keep the critics happy and wearable enough to hit the quarterly sales targets.
Photo credit: Grooming Advisor