The sky was green, swirled with mists of vetiver, mint, and herbs, but blackness hovered just on the horizon. Storm clouds of cade brought tar and campfire smoke, while leather, styrax and resins seeped up from a ground made earthy with brown tobacco absolute. A fine layering of wet leaves and moss lay strewn around, a last lingering sign of fall. A single small tent was visible in the vast expanse of blackened greenness, shining a golden ambered light. None of these things, however, could detract from the Aurora Borealis swirling all around, from the smoky vetiver and mint called Vetiver Royal Bourbon.
Vetiver Royal Bourbon is a newly released fragrance from the ancient house of Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“). It originally debuted in 1914, but it very much has the feel of a modern niche fragrance. In fact, it is rather like a lighter, thinner cousin to Profumum Roma‘s Fumidus, though there are definite differences. The similarity to a very bold, edgy, extremely distinctive scent like Fumidus makes Vetiver Royal Bourbon rather an amazing feat, given that the perfume is exactly 100 years old and has been only lightly re-tweaked for the modern era by Hugo Lambert, the nose behind the “new” Oriza fragrances and one of the brand’s two co-owners.
Vetiver Royal Bourbon is an eau de parfum and part of Oriza’s relatively recent Soliflore Collection, a collection where all the fragrances are designed to highlight one specific note. The name in the title should tell you which one is the focus here, but Vetiver Royal Bourbon has a much larger ingredient list than you might expect. The perfume includes:
Top Notes: Peppermint, Thyme & Absolute Vetiver
Heart Notes: Cistus Labdanum [Amber], Iris, Vetiver Bourbon & Sandalwood.
Base Notes: Essence of Cade, Leather, Styrax, Immortelle, Tobacco, & Oakmoss.
Vetiver Royal Bourbon opens on my skin with vetiver, vetiver, and more vetiver. However, it is thoroughly intertwined with mint, aromatic herbs, and a eucalyptus-like mentholated camphor. The very green mix is followed by hints of smoky and phenolic, tarry blackness from the cade, as well as even lighter touches of brown tobacco. The whole thing is sprinkled with a subtle booziness that is quite hard to explain. It’s definitely not the single malt Scotch whisky of Fumidus, but it’s not really like purely ambered warmth, either. It lies somewhere between amber and the “bourbon” in the perfume’s title.
At times, something about the overall opening combination feels very much like a vetiver and patchouli duet to me. The true, original, black patchouli note that was so common with hippies in the 1970s could be very green, with nuances of both peppermint and camphorated menthol. The really absolute, undiluted versions also have leathery, tobacco, and oily, turpentine nuances, as demonstrated by Farmacia SS. Annunziata Patchouly Indonesiano. In contrast, more ’80s-style patchouli was golden-brown-red, warm, woody, often infused with an ambered touch, and sometimes a little boozy.
Both styles of patchouli with all of their characteristics are reflected here with Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s opening bouquet, though the notes are subtle, and aren’t all equal in terms of their prominence. To be clear, Vetiver Royal Bourbon does not actually contain patchouli — of any kind. But the peppermint, cade, amber, tobacco, styrax all manage to replicate various aspects of the note, even if it is in indirect form. The only thing which is missing is the sweaty dirtiness of black patchouli. That is most certainly not visible in Vetiver Royal Bourbon, not by any means.
One of things I find interesting about Vetiver Royal Bourbon is how the vetiver plays off of the other notes. Vetiver can smell like a variety of things, depending on the place from which it is sourced or how it is treated. It can be earthy, dry, grassy, minty, rooty, mineralized, or sometimes a little like lemongrass. On my skin, Haitian vetiver frequently manifests a strong mintiness, something that not everyone else experiences.
Here, Oriza has used actual peppermint to accompany the note, which rather leads to a situation where I’m getting double the dose. It’s a little bit of a problem for me, as minty vetiver is really not my thing and, in fact, even mintiness from patchouli can be a bit difficult for me. With Vetiver Royal Bourbon, each and every time I mention the note, you should assume that it smells of both vetiver and mint. The two things are really inseparable in Vetiver Royal Bourbon, from the very start of the fragrance all the way until its dying breath.
Yet, there is much more going on in the perfume’s opening moments. Under the top layer of green vetiver-mint, there is a subtle touch of earthiness, no doubt from the tobacco, followed by campfire smoke from the cade, burnt resins dominated by the styrax, and tarry, blackened leather. The oakmoss is subtle, but it adds to the story, too, conjuring up images of wet leaves festooning the ground in a damp, very misty, foggy countryside on a fall day. Much more apparent is that streak of boozy amber that I talked about earlier.
It all reminds me strongly of Profumum‘s famous (or, perhaps, infamous?) Fumidus, though there are sharp differences. There is no Laphroaig whisky here, no saltiness, no diesel touch, and no passing suggestion of a compost heap. The sense of something peaty from the vetiver is more muted, as is the black rubberiness from the cade. As a whole, Vetiver Royal Bourbon feels greener, more herbal, and slightly more medicinal, especially for the first hour. Fumidus doesn’t really have anything comparable to the eucalyptus-like camphorated note that is evident here, and the mint that I experienced is probably limited to my weird skin chemistry and the tricks it plays with vetiver in general. Plus, even then, the mintiness was milder.
Fumidus feels like a much black scent as a whole. While there is a definite streak of that in Vetiver Royal Bourbon, thanks to the cade and styrax, it feels much less substantial or heavy here. Fumidus has birch tar conjoined, arm in arm, with the vetiver, but the balance is different in Vetiver Royal Bourbon. I think the cade note trails in 3rd place in the Oriza scent behind the vetiver-mint. Then again, cade is very similar to birch tar. One perfumer told me that he sees cade as a more masculine note than its olfactory cousin, while I think it has a more turpentine-like quality. The thing is, both Fumidus and Vetiver Royal Bourbon demonstrate quite a bit of the latter.
In Oriza’s creation, the cade’s turpentine nuance starts to awaken 20 minutes into the perfume’s development, along with a certain tarriness. Black leather and sticky, smoky, styrax join it, as they seep upwards to coat the pungently green, minty vetiver. The end result is to substantially weaken the impression of patchouli, and it soon fades away entirely. The perfume also becomes much less earthy, though an occasional hint of thick, slightly dirty tobacco absolute lurks at the edges.
From a distance, Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s predominant bouquet now is of a chewy, dense, slightly dirty, minty, smoked vetiver. And, by and large, it remains largely the same way until its very end, with only a few exceptions. As a soliflore, Vetiver Royal Bourbon is never going to be a complex, twisting, morphing creature. It is a very linear scent, but there are changes to the secondary notes, their prominence, and the perfume’s sillage. It’s largely a question of degree.
One of the bigger changes pertains to Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s weight. It opens as an incredibly light fragrance, sheer, and feels quite insubstantial at first. The perfume is miles away from Fumidus in this regard, as the Profumum scent has great opaqueness, heavy oiliness, and density. In contrast, the Oriza scent feels as light as air, even though the actual notes are relatively strong. Vetiver Royal Bourbon doesn’t have Chypre Mousse‘s forcefulness, but it feels more potent than many others from the line, including Muguet Fleuri.
The odd thing is how that wispiness changes. Vetiver Royal Bourbon never gets into Fumidus territory, but it does grow deeper, richer, and fuller over time. The first hint of it arrives after 20 minutes, as the labdanum, tobacco, and styrax stir in the base. An hour and a half into the perfume’s evolution, Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s leathery quality grows more pronounced in the foundation. Up top, the cade’s turpentine and smokiness start to overshadow the aromatic, herbal and mentholated camphor notes. Once in a while, there is almost a burning feeling to the scent, as though a vetiver wildland had been covered with black pitch and tarry asphalt, then set on fire. The perfume now feels much heavier that it did at the start, though Vetiver Royal Bourbon is still a light fragrance as a whole. To put it bluntly, Vetiver Royal Bourbon is no longer anorexic, because the vetiver has been fed a meal of richer notes.
By the end of the 4th hour, the labdanum is in full bloom, turning Vetiver Royal Bourbon sweeter and much warmer in feel. The various smoky, tarry, leathered, and turpentine undertones are in slow retreat. Vetiver Royal Bourbon is now primarily a minty vetiver scent cocooned in a warm, golden embrace with milder, increasingly muted smokiness and blackness. There is a slight powdery quality to the fragrance, but it’s really more of a texture than any actual powder. It’s almost as if the labdanum amber is a bit grainy, if that makes any sense.
Over time, the ambered glow fades on my skin, and Vetiver Royal Bourbon turns into a minty vetiver duet. It’s as though the vetiver has been purified, set free of both the smoky, blacker, leathery elements and of the labdanum’s warmth. What is left is a scent that very dark green in visual hue, and largely limited to pure vetiver. I’m afraid its mintiness is too much for me, especially as it demonstrates a tiny medicinal touch on my skin with lingering traces of mentholated camphor. In its final moments, the perfume is a mere wisp of vetiver greenness. All in all, Vetiver Royal Bourbon consistently lasted over 9 hours on me: 10 hours with 3 small sprays, and just under 9.5 with 2.
I have worn and tested Vetiver Royal Bourbon four times in total. On all of those occasions, I never detect any immortelle. Not at any point on my skin. The perfume never varied in its core essence or in the structure that I’ve outlined here today, but there were two very minor differences. In one test, the booziness of the amber was significantly less noticeable. In another, the earthy, tobacco, and oakmoss undertones were even more muted and subtle.
I have the very vague, wholly unscientific sense that heat was the deciding factor in the last circumstance. More of Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s subtle nuances came out in the heat, while cooler temperatures (and higher air-conditioning levels) squashed some of the elements. And, as with a number of Oriza fragrances, applying a greater quantity of the fragrance seems to amplify some of its base notes.
There is great purity in Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s vetiver focus, as well as a triumphant celebration of its minty and smokier aspects. All of that makes it a little too much for me personally, but that is merely a question of individual tastes and the fact that I don’t love vetiver in such concentrated amounts. Fumidus was too much for me as well, though I respect it just as much. In both cases, it is the mintiness of the vetiver that is my difficulty, not the blackness, tarriness, or smokiness. I think those things are very well handled in Vetiver Royal Bourbon.
In fact, the Oriza perfume would be a great alternative to those who struggled with the much greater quantity of smoky birch tar in Fumidus, as well as its thick, oily density. I can’t see many people wearing Fumidus in summer, but Vetiver Royal Bourbon’s lightness makes it a fresher alternative that you could definitely pull off in the heat.
As a whole, I think the perfume is unapologetically masculine in nature, and the handful of raves that I have seen for the scent on Oriza’s Facebook page all come from men. One chap stated how much he appreciated the vetiver’s darker facets, the lack of earthiness, and the perfume’s overall refinement. Another asked about the eucalyptus-like note, and I have a vague memory of someone else talking about the smoky leatheriness. I mention these comments largely because there are no other reviews for the fragrance that I can share with you. Vetiver Royal Bourbon is too new to have a Fragrantica entry, and no-one has tried it on Basenotes.
Oriza is a house whose creations sometimes have a very vintage feel, but Vetiver Royal Bourbon is a fragrance that could have been launched today by another niche house. It simply does not feel like a fragrance that was released 100 years ago, not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’ve spent a good deal of time amusing myself with thoughts of people’s reactions back then to the smoky, leathery, Fumidus-like vetiver in a world where Jicky, L’Heure Bleue, Phul-Nana, powdery florals, and scented waters ruled the day. Vetiver Royal Bourbon must have been completely revolutionary for its time, but it fits in perfectly in today’s modern world.
Vetiver Royal Bourbon is very affordable for a niche scent, especially for 100 ml of eau de parfum. The perfume costs $125 or €90, which is less than the €120 price of its other Oriza siblings outside the Soliflore line. It is currently available on Oriza’s website and at a variety of European retailers. (See the Details section below.) For American readers, I’ve been told that Vetiver Royal Bourbon should be available next week (or at the beginning of June) at Luckyscent, a site which is now carrying the full Oriza L. Legrand line, including the lovely soaps and candles.
So, if you love smoky, minty vetiver, do give Vetiver Royal Bourbon a try. I think it’s very well done.
Disclosure: Sample courtesy of Oriza L. Legrand. That did not influence this review, I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.