Perfume Review – Chanel Les Exclusifs Sycomore: Mighty Vetiver

Close your eyes and imagine you are in the heart of a forest at Yosemite National Park.

Source: Deby Dixon Photography

Source: Deby Dixon Photography

Cypress trees and evergreens intermingle and stretch far before you. The dark, dry earth is sprinkled with pine needles, and a wild boar is rooting at the tall grasses at the base of a tree, his endeavors lifting the smell of the earthy, chocolate-y roots into the air. Icicles hang from the branches where, nestled deep within, are purple juniper berries. In the heart of the forest, campfires burn thick logs of pine and cypress, and there is a smell of peppery smoke intermingling with the burning woods. Someone is cooking caramel, and burning it. You huddle deeper into your coat as the hint of frost brings a chill, but you can’t help but take a deeper breath of the vetiver surrounding you.

SycomoreGreen and brown, smoky and earthy, with a heart of cypress and wood — that is Chanel‘s Sycomore. It is an incredibly elegant smell, luxurious and leaving a smooth, trail of pure class oozing in its green-brown trail. It is richly masculine, with not a hint of florals, but this is silken masculinity in the most sophisticated, elegant of packages.

Sycomore was first introduced to the world in 1930, the creation of Chanel’s very famous, original perfumer, Ernst Beaux. From what I’ve read, it was all violet and tobacco with some support from soft aldehydes and balsamic wood. The original Sycomore vanished in the perfume mists, but it was re-envisioned and re-introduced in 2008 as an eau de toilette and as part of Chanel’s prestige collection called “Les Exclusifs.” It lesExclusifswas created by Chanel’s house perfumer, Jacques Polge, along with an equally famous “nose” in the industry, Christopher Sheldrake.

On its website, Chanel describes the new Sycomore as follows:

A rich-wood fragrance with a noble character — like the Sycomore tree that inspired it — created by CHANEL Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2008. At the heart of the scent: Vetiver, with an elegant Sandalwood note and dashes of Cypress, Juniper and Pink Pepper, for an earthy, warm and enveloping, yet subtle presence.

I think Chanel’s description nails it, unlike the Fragrantica‘s entry for Sycomore which seems completely incorrect in my opinion. Fragrantica puts Sycomore in the “Woody Floral Musk” category, and lists its notes as “vetiver, sandalwood, aldehydes, tobacco and violet.” I suspect both the categorization and the notes apply only to the 1930s version of Sycomore.

No, Chanel’s notes for Sycomore are the ones to follow and they are clearly listed by the Perfume Shrine as follows:

Vetiver, cypress, juniper, pink pepper, smoke, burning woods.

To get a true understanding of Sycomore, I think it’s important to elaborate a bit on the notes. For example, vetiver which not everyone is familiar with as an ingredient or as a smell, and which is the main part of Sycomore.  Chandler Burr, the former New York Times perfume critic, gave this extremely useful explanation to GQ:


Vetiver Roots.

In the most basic sense, [vetiver is] a grass native to India that grows in bushes up to 4’x4′. It’s also related to lemon grass, as you can tell when you smell it. The stuff—it’s the grass’s long, thin roots that they distill—is infinitely more interesting though: deep, shadowed, astringent, earthy like newly tilled soil, and balsam-woody. It can be warm like tobacco leaves, it can have a crushed-green leaves freshness, or it can be cool like lemon verbena.

Haiti produces about 80% of the vetiver oil in the world, although sometimes you’ll be putting a bit of Indonesia or Brazil on your arm as well (Haiti’s is more floral, Java’s is smokier). There are folks producing it responsibly, too. When you buy a bottle of Terre d’Hermès, which is loaded with the stuff, you’re supporting around 2,000 Haitian farmers and distillers. […]

Like wine, the scent of vetiver oil improves as it ages: the best of it is made with roots that have been aged somewhere between 18-24 months; the oil costs around $200/kg when it hits the market. American scent maker IFF makes it three ways: with steam (resulting in vetiver essence, which is dryer and lighter), solvent (which produces an absolute and is darker, with the scent of rich dirt), and a new technology called “Molecular Distillation” that uses carbon dioxide to yield a scent that’s extraordinary—strongly grapefruit, fresher, zestier.

The Perfume Shrine says that the vetiver in Sycomore is said to be of the Haitian variety so, under Mr. Burr’s explanation, the more floral kind. I’m not an expert on any of the varieties, so I will take their word for it. All I know is that this vetiver smells exactly as Mr. Burr described: “deep, shadowed, astringent, earthy like newly tilled soil, and balsam-woody.”

Do you know how perfume can sometimes take on a colour aura before your eyes? WeaveSycomore opens on me all brown and green. Not khaki but some interwoven panel of dark green and green-brown. It calls to mind green roots and brown earth. Sycomore starts exactly like that, alongside pink peppercorns and an unexpected but definite note of chocolate. It’s almost like chocolate patchouli with vetiver. It’s so confusing that I go over the notes again and, still, I’m at a loss. So, I look up cypress wood which I’m not very familiar with, and that must be the explanation.

From my reading, it seems that cypress wood has a pungent, woody, spicy aroma that can also be sometimes resinous, coniferous, or cedar-like. Here, the combination of the cypress wood with the earthiness of the vetiver seems to have transformed the sum total into chocolate patchouli. You can smell each individual note, but you also have that strong overall impression.

It’s so striking that I looked to see if others had felt the same way. On Basenotes, one commentator also thought there was patchouli 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 de Jasmin summed it up in her usual elegant succinctness: “The chocolate richness of the root is accented by the peppery and smoky notes. The composition possesses an alluring dark character, which in sensation alternates between the tannic dryness of red wine and the softly worn polish of aged woods.”

The chocolate and patchouli impression in Sycomore is so strong for the first hour that it evokes Serge LutensBorneo 1834 in its opening stages. So much so that I’m utterly bewildered by why people compare Chanel’s Coromandel (also from Les Exclusifs) with Borneo 1834, instead of Sycomore. Adding to the similarities between Borneo 1834 and Sycomore is the latter’s strong opening notes of tobacco and smoke. The tobacco note here is faintly bitter, and it is accompanied by a peppery, biting smoky note that is definitely woody.

I wonder about the “burning woods” note listed on many perfume reviews as an element (though not on Chanel’s website), and I keep thinking of guaiac wood. You can read the Glossary for more details but, in a nutshell, guaiac wood has an aroma that is earthy, smoky, tarry, peppery and similar to burning leaves. Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute is also said to have guaiac wood in it, though its official notes are equally vague and merely reference “rich woods” instead of “burning woods.” Both perfumes share a similarly woody, peppery, smoke note, so I have to wonder.

I do smell some sandalwood in Sycomore but, on me, it’s not strong at any point in the perfume’s development. Others have found it, but it’s just a whisper on me. I have to say, I doubt it is real Mysore sandalwood anyway. Anyone who has read Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, will be struck by their repeated, insistent comments on just how few sandalwood fragrances actually have sandalwood in them at all these days. According to them, true sandalwood from Mysore, India is so scarce and so prohibitively expensive that most perfumers use Australian sandalwood which is an entirely different species of plant and with an entirely different scent. To the extent that Sycomore has sandalwood in it (of any kind), I think it is completely overshadowed and overpowered in the initial stages by the patchouli impression from the cypress and vetiver.

As Sycomore continues to unfurl, there is an impression of burnt caramel, black cocoa powder, incense and dry earth. This is like the black version of Coromandel, without the latter’s vanilla, benzoin and powder heart. The increasingly peppery and smoky nature of the perfume makes me wonder again if they used guaiac wood to fortify any “smoke” accord, not to mention the weak sandalwood. There are also flickering hints of evergreen from the juniper which add a coolness or chill that counters the smoky earthiness. It’s an incredibly sexy, darkly mysterious perfume.

There is a dryness to the rich, earthy smell that really calls to mind dirt — not rich, dank or loamy, but sweetly dry. I realise that non-perfumistas will recoil at the thought of smelling faintly like dirt, but there is really no other way to truly describe the undertones to the very smoked, rich, woody notes. The comparison to dirt also explains Luca Turin’s comments in his five-star review of Sycomore in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. There, he wrote:

The dream team at Chanel seem to delight in applying superior skills to existing ideas they deem worthy of perfecting: Coromandel was a reorchestration of Lutens’s Borneo 1834…. Sycomore is, in my view, a magisterial gloss on Bertrand Duchaufour’s Timbuktu [for L’Artisan Parfumeur]. The later introduced an Altoids-like idea to perfumery, consisting of a minty-licorice coolness combined with a radiant crackling-wood-fire note. […] Vetiver has both an anisic aspect and a smoky one. Cleverly flank it with Timbuktu’s two companions, add a big slug of sandalwood, and vetiver finds itself in worthy company at last. […] Sycomore [is] … the freshest, most salubrious, yet most satisfyingly rich masculine in years. If putting it on does not make you shiver with pleasure, see a doctor.

I’m surprised that Mr. Turin deems Sycomore one of the few sandalwood fragrance reviews not to warrant his usual comments about how perfumes don’t have real sandalwood in them any more, and I certainly don’t find the same “big slug” as he does, but I agree with the rest of his review. (Minus, his choice of which Chanel perfume to compare to Borneo 1834). I particularly understand his reference to Timbuktu which has often been described as having a dry dirt foundation. Sycomore has both the dirt aspects of Timbuktu and that slightly chilled licorice note underlying the earthiness of the dark patchouli…. er.. vetiver and cypress.

Mogambo 2


Perhaps it’s all that dry dirt and rich green which make me constantly imagine those old movies that explored the heart of an African forest — everything is slightly dark and smoky, mysterious and Tshadowy, all amidst lush greenness and dry red-brown dirt. I keep thinking of Clark Gable with Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in Mogambo, or Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in African Queen. I could see either man wearing Sycomore, and Katherine Hepburn too (though never ever Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner).

As time passes, there is even greater depth to the impressions of burnt umber, burnt caramel, resins, saltiness, and earthiness — all under the forest’s canopy of green-brown vetiver and wood. The patchouli impression ceased being dominant a while ago; now it is the turn of the juniper. In general, juniper has an aroma that is fresh, sweet, and like pine trees, with a slightly balsam-like, resinous undertone. Here, they make I feel as though I’m walking through an icy forest at wintertime, my feet crunching on evergreen needles, the chilled smoke of winter in the air, as I walk towards campfires of burning pine logs where someone is cooking with dark chocolate and another person is accidentally burning the caramel. There is still the chocolate note, you see, though it is overshadowed by a more resinous, caramel element. There is also an undertone of anise and licorice.

In its drydown and final hours, all those things vanish, leaving mostly sweet, faintly lemony, grass. It is vaguely reminiscent of the lemongrass that Chandler Burr referenced. The sweetness of the grass may be one reason why a number of people smell marijuana or cannabis a few hours into Sycomore. I do not, but the occasional “ganja” comment is something worth noting if you’re tempted to try Sycomore. What I do smell, in addition to the sweet grass, is a sort of creaminess that I think comes from the sandalwood. As always, however, it is faint; even more of a shadow now than before.

There are two things which confused me about Sycomore. One, which I’ve already mentioned, is that it is Coromandel which is compared to Borneo 1834, when I think it should be this Polge and Sheldrake collaboration instead. (At least, for the opening hour. I don’t think Coromandel is remotely like Borneo 1834.) The second is a far more important issue: Chanel’s gender classification for this scent. Chanel has labeled Sycomore as a woman’s perfume and, to me, that is akin to saying M&Ms are only for women. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Not only is Sycomore unisex, not only is it the furthest thing possible from “girly,” and not only do men adore this, but it is — I would argue — actually a masculine scent first and foremost. It may be a somewhat feminine masculine fragrance, but it is a masculine fragrance at its heart. In fact, women who have not explored niche scents and who are used to the more traditional, conventional or mass-market feminine fragrances — whether of the floral, “girly,” clean, sugary or gourmand variety — may find Sycomore to be overwhelmingly masculine and an utter shock if purchased blind. This is no Marc Jacob Lola, Guerlain Shalimar or Dior J’adore.

No, Sycomore has consistently been compared to men’s colognes. In fact, commentators on both Basenotes and Fragrantica find it to be an exact duplicate of Lalique‘s L’Encre Noire for Men (2006). A few people even bring up Hermès‘ men’s cologne, Terre d’Hermès — though most people on Basenotes find that much more citrus based and without anything close to the same degree of vetiver in it (no matter what Chandler Burr may think). I agree with that. I’ve got Terre d’Hermès and like it. But, like many on Basenotes, I find them to be very different perfumes and don’t think Terre d’Hermès is a predominantly vetiver scent. As a point of interest, in a Basenotes thread asking for people’s preference as between Sycomore and Terre d’Hermes, a monumental majority chose Sycomore as the better, more elegant, and truer vetiver fragrance.

All in all, Sycomore is an incredibly lovely fragrance and as smooth as silk. It is magnificently blended, such that everything folds into one rich layer upon another. There is a paradoxical coolness to its warmth, but it is never a chilly or aloof scent. It has too much earthiness in its beating heart, radiating its fire with every thump, thump, thump. It is never cloying, and there is not a single, synthetic, cheap note anywhere to be seen. It is truly as masterful and brilliant as so many thing. It is also a very approachable fragrance; it is not one of those edgy, discordant scents that can be worn only infrequently and are to be admired mostly on an intellectual basis as works of olfactory art. I can see men wearing this almost daily and some women frequently.

And, yet, it is not a fragrance for me. For the longest time, I could not pinpoint why. I like vetiver, I wear men’s cologne, and I like smoke and resinous scents. I find it an extremely elegant perfume and, really, it should push all my buttons. In fact, its opening led me to say “Wow” and I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists for the first ten minutes. But, at the end of the day, it was simply too much vetiver and its dryness could well be described as bone-dry. Sahara dry. For my personal tastes, Sycomore simply veers too much into the masculine without any real sweetness to accompany it.

Nonetheless, if you are a fan of vetiver, woody and/or dry scents, I highly encourage you to test out Sycomore. If you’re not a fan of either of those three categories, then you may like the sweeter, softer Coromandel. (It is my favorite of the 3 Exclusifs that I’ve tried thus far). But if you’re not a fan of patchouli, benzoin or frankincense, then I fear you should skip that one too.

Have you tried Sycomore? If so, was it love at first sniff or simply not your cup of tea?

Sillage & Longevity: The sillage and longevity of Sycomore is impressive, particularly given that most of the Exclusifs line (with the exception of Coromandel) are said to be thin, sheer, and of short duration. On me, Sycomore had good projection for the first 3 hours, and only became close to the skin after 5 hours. As for longevity, it was above-average for my perfume-consuming skin. I could still smell faint traces of it after 9 hours. On others, I’ve read reports of it lasting almost an entire day.
Cost & Availability: Sycomore only comes in Eau de Toilette concentration and costs $130 for a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle or $230 for a 6.8 oz/200 ml bottle.  The Exclusifs line is available only in Chanel stores or on their website. I have read numerous comments from people who have tried it at Selfridges in the UK, but did I not see a single Les Exclusifs fragrance on the Selfridges website. Nor have I found it on any U.S. department store websites. It’s not on Lucky Scent either. It is, however, available on Surrender to Chance which is where I obtained my sample. Prices for the smallest vial (1 ml) start at $3.

43 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Chanel Les Exclusifs Sycomore: Mighty Vetiver

  1. Lovely review.
    Chanel Sycomore is probably the only vetiver at the time that I really like and which doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable

    • Thank you, Lucas! Are you generally not a fan of vetiver? I know some aren’t. I imagine Sycomore must smell divine on you. I think it has to be a very sexy smell on a man and very darkly mysterious on a woman. I’m just not sure that a large range or massive majority of women could actually pull this one off.

      • Yes dear, I generally call myself a vetiver-anti-fan, almost every perfume wilth a tiniest hint of vetiver didn’t work for me, Sycomore is an exception, the only one by far.

        I think you’re right, ladies who like Chanel will definitely reach for something else in Les Exclusifs collection than Sycomore.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! I’m a little surprised people make a comparison to Terre d’Hermes because I’m trying *really* hard to find the similarities, and can’t. Like you, I enjoy them both, but it’s an apples to oranges thing for me. I’m going to have to wear Sycomore again because I tried very hard to remember a chocolate note and simply can’t recall smelling such a thing. I like Sycomore because I think it’s a real departure from a lot of what’s popular now.

    Also, perhaps some annoying comments, but I know you’re a perfectionist – it looks like the 1.7 oz. is $130, not $110. It was $110 as recently as December 31, and I think even shortly after (because I wondered if Chanel would be raising their prices once 2013 came). Indeed, they did, by $20 on both sizes! Good thing I got mine when I did! 🙂

    • You’re so right! It’s $130 now. Thank you. I think fatigue must have gotten to me by the time I finally published this. I lost 1/3 to 1/2 of it at 2 in the morning, when… well, I’ll spare you my technological woes, but suffice it to say, I was rewriting the whole middle to end of it in a state of utter exhaustion, trying desperately to recall everything I’d lost, and it was close to 6 a.m. when I finally finished. You know, that price change makes it only $100 more for some MASSIVE size differentials! 6.8 oz is a lot of perfume! When people do “splits” of perfumes, I imagine the large size can make it quite economical at the end.

      I don’t see the Terre d’Hermès similarity either. Just having vetiver doesn’t make things similar. Let me know if you smell any chocolate in the earthy root of the vetiver. 🙂

      • You? Technology woes? I simply can’t believe it! *chortle* You poor thing. Well, I have to say, your exhaustion doesn’t show. This is a lovely review!

        Yeah, their differential in pricing (while good for the consumer, or at least someone who really likes a scent) makes it VERY difficult – or in my case, impossible – not to buy the larger size. I just hope I like Sycomore for at least a decade. ROFL. I think I will. It’s such a lovely scent, but I agree with you that I think it would take a particular type of woman to pull it off, while I can see it being a man’s daily scent. Funny thing, that. I don’t think I’ll ever decant my large Chanels, I’ll just hoarde them for years until they are finally gone, then will probably mourn their loss since the scent will probably no longer exist in that form at that point in time!

  3. I’ve never tried it, and although it sounds enchanting, I’m not sure it’d entirely be my cup of tea. It’s possibly because I tend to prefer more feminine scents, but also because there isn’t really anything that’s ‘earthy’ that I’ve adored in the past. Having said that, I’d try it just for your review; I loved it.

    • Thank you so much, sweetie. I would never recommend this perfume for you, though. In fact, I cannot think of a scent that is less suited to you! LOL! But I think this would be rather magnificent on Kace.

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  5. Great review, Kafka. Chandler’s comment about Terre having tons of vetiver is interesting. I don’t get any of it. To me, Terre is mostly a grapefruit/benzoin fragrance.

    Sycomore has a gorgeous crispy smokiness. I don’t agree with the comparison some people make with Lalique’s Encre Noir. To me, Encre Noir is more rough around the edges – on me it opens with deep synthetic woods (javanol one of them) and then in the heart and drydown the cold crispy vetiver emerges. Sycomore is a lot more interesting and refined.

    It’s also not that expensive for a Chanel Exclusif fragrance – I did the math at one point and it came to about $1.5/ml.

    • Scent Bound, I too just raised an eyebrow at Chandler Burr’s comment about Terre d’Hermès. I don’t agree with it either. In fact, I know some people who like Terre d’Hermès in part because it’s not a vetiver fragrance, as that is an ingredient they’re not keen on at all!

      I loved hearing your personal thoughts about L’Encre Noire!! Whatever review I’d read for Sycomore (on whatever website) I’d see comment after comment about L’Encre Noire! It’s good to see a different perspective on the perfume and its alleged similarities to Sycomore. I wasn’t familar with Javanol as a note, so I looked it up. Givaudan’s synthetic sandalwood substitute? Well, according to Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez, almost nothing has real sandalwood in it any more, leading perfumers to either use synthetics or Australian sandalwood which smells absolutely nothing like it. Was the Javanol screechy in L’Encre Noire?

      • Hi Kafka,

        Javanol gives a slight woody creaminess to Encre Noir. The vetiver in the drydown has a screechy nuance to it. I think Encre Noir also has Iso E Super. I find a synthetic velvety feel to it.

        Even though there is a certain chemical feel to Encre Noir, I think it’s intentional. I read somewhere it is supposed to recreate the note of ink. I do find it to be an exquisite fragrance. Unfortunately, I’m not big on vetiver.

        I think Luca and Tania are probably right. I’ve read most of the sandalwood is over-harvested. Researching amyris for the Amyris Homme review I recently did, I read somewhere that amyris or West Indian Sandalwood is often used as a cheaper substitute of sandalwood. Of course, nothing is cheaper than synthetics.

  6. I know that I’ve smelled Sycomore at a store once or twice. But most likely I decided it wasn’t for me because I’ve never persued it and haven’t tried it on my skin. I might one day (because I like vetiver) and your review makes it sound even more appealing but I doubt it’ll ever be love.

    On a separate note (about the technology): 1) I strongly recommend writing posts outside of WP editor and then just make finishing touches. If you don’t want to use desktop applications (Word, Write or Notepad) you might consider Google docs (it has a great auto-save feature and it’s almost impossible to loose your work); 2) I hope you realize that most of your followers wouldn’t notice if you posted this article the next day instead of sacrificing your sleep: you aren’t in a business of deliveryng a paid for content so we’ll read you whenever you’re ready (or a couple of days later ;)).

    • Sweetie, my ability to screw up the most basic technological things is legendary. Really, you have no idea. It borders on some sort of twisted super power. In short, I would probably screw up both Word and Google Docs as well. *grin*

      You’ll have to let me know if you try Sycomore and if it ends up being more appealing to you, even if it’s not true love. I truly loved its opening but I think it wore me down by the end. That’s probably the best way to describe it. Wore me down. But then, I really seem to need some warmth to counter super-dryness. You didn’t have the dryness problem that I had with Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain, so Sycomore may not be a problem for you at all! xoxo

  7. Great review! I think I will add this to list of samples you gave me. I never knew I was a vetiver fan until I started reading your blog! I have since look up the ingredients of several my favourite scents and sure enough vetiver is listed!! I’m always learning here!!Love it 🙂

    • How cool is it that you’ve discovered a note or ingredient that you didn’t know you loved?! What are some of your favorite scents that have vetiver in them, Jackie?

        • There are no gender limitations in perfume — at least, there shouldn’t be. So rock on with the “men’s” cologne, sweetie. Spicebomb is a great choice!

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  10. This was the first perfume from the line i tried on skin and immediately liked. I find it effortlessly, elegant, grounding and calming my mind, i felt competant and self assured. Ive never had a perfume do that! Someone wrote on fragrantica wrote that the 2008 vintage is inherently better than the recent ones. I was always yearning to buy… and now i regret it. All i have is a 2008 sample ive been hoarding. The price hike doesn’t help, either.

    • Hi there, Arxsyn. I’m so glad to hear about the joy that Sycamore brings you and how it makes you feel. Feelings like that aren’t common. Have you tried eBay for a vintage bottle? I’ve had some friends who’ve had luck buying Sycamore at less than retail prices from there, so perhaps that might be an option for you? I don’t know how large your sample is, but it would be a shame not to find more, if you can, since it works such magic on you. 🙂

  11. Mmmmm….LOVE this one, and I’m not normally a vetiver fan. In fact, I think Sycomore is the first Vetiver fragrance I’ve truly loved, and I’m tempted to make it my winter daily scent. It reminds me of high altitude pine barrens in the American West. The smell of a forest fire hundreds of miles away is just barely detectable. The air is crisp and cool, the sky a perfect fall blue.

    What a wonderful surprise!

    • It’s in a class by itself, LairdAngus, when it comes to vetiver. Plus, it doesn’t have the horrible ISO E Super note that plagues Lalique’s Encre Noire. Are you tempted to get a bottle of Sycomore?

  12. I just tried Sycomore and it is marvelous ! I love how it is so smoky and dark. The grapefruit aspects of the vetiver rendered in Sycomore is wonderful. I have never smelled vetiver that has this quality before. Usually it’s very rootsy and wet. I think I need to upgrade to a FB. Chanel always does their fragrances very well and Sycomore is testament to their abilities.

  13. Reblogged this on In The Nose: A Fragrance Blog and commented:
    I was never a fan of vetiver until I smelled this wonderful composition from Chanel. The vetiver in Sycomore is rendered so lovely and the grapefruit aspects are beautiful. Usually vetiver is very rootsy and wet. Sycomore is dark and smoky yet at the same time light and sparkly.

  14. Fantastic review! I just ordered a sample out of curiosity, and browsed for reviews. You have put to words the exact experience of Sycomore.

    I like it a lot, but my husband – a rabid vetiver fan – adores it. It’s on his FB wishlist, and Christmas is taken care of! It does read as more masculine to me, and I prefer a bit more floral with my spice and smoke. I had hoped for the violet to make an appearance.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the review, Annina. 🙂 And your husband has excellent taste. I’m sure Sycomore smells divine on him. I think a bottle would be the perfect Christmas present. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your impressions.

  15. I am a woman and I love wearing Sycomore. I find it very centering, calming, and elegant.

    I do get a big ol’ slug of sandalwood from it, which I love. I don’t know enough to know whether it’s Mysore sandalwood but I do know it’s not the type of screechy sandalwood that I’ve smelled in other sandalwood fragrances (e.g. Tam Dao, 10 Corso Como) that is totally off-putting to me because it smells like varnish or turpentine. The sandalwood in Sycomore is perfect to my nose — very elegant, woody, incensy, with no hint of turpentine screechiness whatsoever.

    I also get a rich, slightly sweet and nutty note from Sycomore which blends in such an interesting way with the fresher, drier green tones.

    It’s definitely one of my favorite fragrances.

    • Hi JJ, welcome to the blog. I’m so glad Sycomore works so well on you. It seems to bloom beautifully given your description. How lovely. I’m finicky about sandalwood, too, and I agree, it’s nicely done in Sycomore. Thank you for stopping by and offering your perspective. 🙂

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  19. I love your review and your the way you broke down and discussed the issues.You answered so many question I had about this. I agree about the notes being wrong on fragrantica and I agree over which list is right. It was all pretty confusing for me because I knew how much I loved Sycomore but didn’t like the smell of tobacco and I certainly didn’t get any florals at all (i.e.;, no violet) and no real smoke (maybe some slight smokiness to the vetiver note?). Did It mean I did like these notes as a result of genius combining on the part of the perfumers? Online, I found some descriptions and reviews really chimed with my own response and some did not so I was really fascinated to find this thread. ( The maker of comment no 35 says that the burning leaves note was takes out in the 2011 reformulation after which he describes it as “now drowning in sandalwood.” He prefers the 2008-2011 version whereas I am glad I smelled – and bought – the current version with the wonderful big slug of sandalwood Turin describes….. This is a scent that gives me the perfect vetiver hit that then segues into my dream sandalwood. Obviously I am not sure which version you reviewed but for me, finding this scent in summer, it currently feels sunlit. It actually reminds me of raking hay when the grasses are drying fast in the sun and there is a grassy sweetness in the air that combines with sweetness of the scent of English meadow flowers (like cow parsley, clover and birds foot trefoil). I do also get a strong lemony-ness later on sometimes. This can be triggered by getting scent-sprayed skin wet …..

    • Welcome to the blog, SHMW. I’m pleased my review could be of some use. I believe my version was post 2011. I got the sample in early 2013, I think. Like you, I prefer the more sandalwood-heavy version as well.

      Two other nice vetivers that you may want to consider sampling are Roja Dove’s Vetiver Extrait (assuming that it is not part of the discontinued Extraits due to its popularity) and La Via del Profumo’s Tarzan/Oakmoss which is actually a very, very sunny vetiver-moss-meadow composition. Neither have the strong sandalwood aspects of Sycomore but that difference means that you won’t get a ton of overlap in your fragrances should your tests go well. Aeon’s 001 is a nice floral-leather-vetiver that is worth trying too. In all cases, I am suggesting sampling; not blind buying. 🙂

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  21. Thanks for your review. Sycomore is a fragrance I really love and bought a 75ml bottle last year before they reformulated it as EDP. Sometimes I feel it’s too masculine/harsh on my skin so I’ve been experimenting with layering to soften the fragrance. I know that will seem blasphemous to some!! So far I’m thinking a tiny dab of Indult tihota is working… any suggestions?

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