Vetiver Tonka is distinctively Hermès. It typifies the exemplary work by its creator Jean Claude-Ellena. His signature; ephemeral, distinctive, close, light, sheer—a watercolor Master in olfactory paint.
At times I find Vetiver Tonka can drift away from his hallmark vision (the likes of Declaration by Cartier for example), that it’s sometimes complex, surprising, rising to the surface, announcing its presence, loud even—like something by Damien Hirst.
What sets Vetiver Tonka apart from Ellena’s other creations is its almost sickly nature. Where the vetiver comes through as typically green (it’s not a smokey take on the Indian grass roots), it’s counterbalanced by the edible lusciousness of tonka, those seeds that are intensely sweet like vanilla, cinnamon and sugar.
The pairing seems odd at first to a novice like me—sweet AND green? But whatever fiddling and conjuring went on in the background works and its simple, humble smell works throughout the day.
Sometimes I wonder if the two themes clash, fighting for attention rather than being paired and working in harmony. I remember one day being so put off by the smell I tried to wash my neck at work. And I recall another day when I doused my boyfriend in way too much of it. Subtly is a virtue and sometimes the mood has to take you with Vetiver Tonka.
Green sheets of glass
There are days when the smell takes me away, right away across an ocean, breath and all, into the warmth of a cosy wooden-floored home, deep in the icy grip of winter. Wearing Vetiver Tonka in blistering cold temperatures, trudging through snow is incredible. It slices through the air, like bright emerald sheets of glass—a silage of angles in its wake. In summer, I find the smell couldn’t be any different. It sings warmth, the tonka notch is turned up to eleven and the smell is like green blooming blades.
It smells clean yet stuffy, sweet yet fresh, warm and cold. I’ve come to appreciate chameleon scents—ones that are almost completely indistinguishable upon sniffs, weird even and ever-changing. But what you smell on the first few sniffs of Vetiver Tonka is what you get throughout the day.
It’s perfectly one dimensional and a fine execution of simplicity and minimalism, an idea so prevalent in Ellena’s work. Where I’ve smelled one dimensional fragrances before, they are flat, a tad boring, or simply too simple.
Arriving at a destination and hanging around all day, especially in something like Vetiver Tonka is to be understated. The wearer is playing elegance over opulence, style over substance and understands their fragrant decisions in life.
What do you think?
Is Vetiver Tonka a hallmark piece of work from Jean Claude-Ellena? Is it green and sweet for you? Or pretty dull?