There’s a new mystery on the perfume scene, a fragrance called Aeon 001. It’s an eau de parfum that is described as an “experimental” vetiver and it was made by a famous perfumer whose name will be kept secret until the limited number of bottles have all been sold. I’m not a huge vetiver lover but I’m a sucker for a mystery, particularly one that is said to involve resins, spices, and white flowers, so I ordered a sample.
Many parts of Aeon 001 made me nod appreciatively and smile. It merged several perfume genres and families, glimmered with complexity, and was far from the hardcore vetiver soliflore that I had expected. At one point, it was primarily a modern animalic chypre in the vein of Bogue‘s stellar Maai, albeit a tame, baby cousin to that scent. At another stage, it was a vetiver leather oriental. At all times, though, and from the very first sniff, I thought that Aeon 001 bore the inimitable style of Bertrand Duchaufour at his best, from the use of one of his favorite notes to his trademark style of creating perfumes with paradoxical bold airiness or impactful, dense lightness.
Aeon is a new perfume house out of Lichtenstein. According to its website, its goal is
to collaborate with perfumers, artists and adventurous minds around the globe to deliver with every scent an entirely new universe of chemically driven emotions The perfumer behind each fragrance will be revealed when the following fragrance/project will start. Each fragrance will be available in only 333 pieces, carefully crafted and bottled to meet 333 sublime souls.
If Aeon is silent about the perfumer’s name for now, it does offer a handful of details about the scent. It’s an “experimental” vetiver that challenges perceptions of the note by “blending it with white flowers, smoke and spices together with a translucent layer of glowing resins.” The result is supposedly a “perfume without compromises, a world where light merges into darkness and gravity floats over time.” I confess I rolled my eyes so hard at that last part, they almost fell out.
On the other hand, I find myself intrigued by the look of the bottle which I think looks great in the top photo and not so great in the more realistic one to the right. Apparently, it was designed to hold its juice as a floating inner core or, to use Aeon’s verbiage, “a liquid gem suspended in the air ready to awake all the senses. Air is replacing thickness and lightness is fighting with darkness to sublimate in pleasure.” Hmph. If you ask me, official company descriptions should not read like they were written by someone who admires the turgid “writing” style (and I use that term loosely) of 50 Shades of Grey. I’m surprised the perfume and its bottle don’t also cure cancer, create world peace, and open portals into new dimensions of space and time.
The bloviating text notwithstanding, Aeon 001 is a good perfume that grabbed my attention from its opening notes. Against a backdrop of green, bergamot flashes like a glowing bolt of bright yellow, smelling like a tart, tangy, barely sweetened, dense lemon curd. It’s followed by a cascade of red that evokes mulled wine made from an expensive burgundy mixed with spices, tart cassis (black currant) concentrate, and cranberries.
To me, cassis has slowly become one of Bertrand Duchaufour’s trademarks, and it’s quite complex here. I loved how it initially smells of both fresh, tart cranberries and that glowing bergamot lemon curd as well. But he must have used a particularly large quantity of black currant bud absolute because the fruit also emanates wave upon wave of animalic muskiness. When I applied a moderate amount of the fragrance, the cassis has a sort of ripeness that resembles feline, civet-y urinousness. With a lesser amount, the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 small sprays from a bottle, it was tamer, softer, and merely a mild animalic muskiness that was smudged at the edges with a piquant leafiness.
The super-saturated, almost neon or 3D intensity of the bergamot and cranberry-ish cassis is so forceful that it almost obscures the vetiver in the opening minutes. Almost, but not quite. The main note weaves in and out of everything, typing them all together, in addition to being a shimmery wall in the background. What surprises me is how bright it feels. I had expected the vetiver to be something dark, rooty, earthy, or smoky like the one in Sycomore, but it opens as a bright emerald-green that feels practically mossy. In fact, there is an overwhelming sense of verdant lushness — plushness, even — rather than either the brooding vetiver of Sycomore or the grey mineralised sort of Terre d’Hermes.
What I’m happiest about is that none of it smells minty, at least not at this point. My skin chemistry has the unfortunate tendency to turn vetiver into mint in 8 out of 10 things, and also to amplify that blasted aroma above almost everything else. It’s a big reason why I have issues with vetiver, even when the mint version also manifests a bourbon booziness like in Oriza‘s Vetiver Royal Bourbon. Here, there is no mint for the first two hours but the vetiver does have a subtle boozy nuance, although it’s far outweighed by the sense of mulled wine splashing crimson over an emerald backdrop as flashes of electrically bright yellow bergamot/lemon and blood-red cassis/cranberry burst across the sky.
These glowing, super-concentrated, almost photo-realistic bursts of scent and colour are something that I’ve noticed frequently in Duchaufour creations. Think about the almost neon, 3D neroli in his Pichola for Neela Vermeire, the radiant yellows of his Ostara daffodils, the mouth-puckering tartness of the green mango in NVC’s Bombay Bling, and the crimson cassis in his Enchanted Forest for the Vagabond Prince. It’s become a signature just as much as his brilliant mastery of contrasts in both scent and weight.
Duchaufour fragrances always manifest what one of my readers, Tim, once called something like “hefty weightlessness,” and it’s noticeable here, too. Aeon 001 is incredibly strong in both the saturated richness of its individual notes and in the strength of the bouquet as a whole. That strength also extends to the sillage, at least in the first few hours, as Aeon 001 shoots out its rays of yellow, green, and crimson all around me, enveloping me in a cloud that extends about 7 inches from my body. And yet, and yet… it’s a soft cloud in weight; the aromas float about like downy feathers, almost as light as a powder puff. This paradox of dense lightness is not only typical of Duchaufour but of Aeon 001 itself for most of its life on my skin. It’s a strong, saturated, seemingly dense radiance that lasts forever, but it feels like a feather-soft cocoon that wraps itself around you gently.
Two of the things that I admire about the perfumer’s approach to Aeon 001 are his sleight of hand with materials and how he flirts with seemingly inopposite ideas. He’s created a fruit and citrus orchard version of vetiver for the first hour, but it is also a mossy vetiver that is actually something else entirely. It’s really a tuberose-vetiver that he’s manipulated through a sleight of hand. To those of you who are phobic about tuberose, don’t recoil and run away just yet. This is a tuberose that is redolent of plush, fresh oakmoss and vintage chypres just like the one in Bogue‘s wonderful Maai. Plus, for Aeon 001’s first 30 minutes, there is nary a whiff of floralcy on my skin. That’s partially because few things could stand up to that wonderful barrage of lemon/bergamot and cassis, and partially because the tuberose has been manipulated to bring out its green, mossy side. The result is to drown out the floralcy (for now at least) under a chypre-like structure.
I think it’s all part of a larger plan because the tuberose is only one of the ways in which Aeon 001 crosses fragrance genres across the course of its development. As I said at the start, this is actually not a true vetiver soliflore as one might initially expect from the company’s description. Instead, Aeon 001 is a fruity vetiver, an old-school chypre, an animalic musky vetiver-leather, and an ambered oriental, all wrapped up into one.
The first hour is all about the citrus fruits set against the backdrop of a vetiver that’s been manipulated (through the tuberose) to appear as verdant lushness, but Aeon 001 changes direction at the start of the second hour. The bergamot-lemon pipes down several notches, and starts to make its way to the sidelines. The cassis loses its cranberry facade, quietens its urinous side, but amps up its muskiness. It curls up against the vetiver, rubbing its musky body against the greenness like a cat. Meanwhile, the tuberose rears her head up from underneath the vetiver and says hello. She waves an arm, softly wafting a green-white floralcy, but most of her body remains a mass of Maai-style mossiness that is fully fused with the vetiver atop her.
At the same time, signs of new life awaken and stir deep in the ground below them: resins. Running like thick veins of darkened ores, they waft a quiet smokiness as well as a sticky, tarry leatheriness. Unlike some fragrances that use abrasive wood-smoke synthetics or aggressively phenolic, creosote-like tar to create the impression of “leather,” the aroma here is merely a by-product of sticky, spiced resins. Styrax and balsams (Tolu or Peru) are supplemented by labdanum which starts to emerge at this time as a plush warmth descends upon the notes.
Roughly 75 minutes into its development, Aeon 001 walks away from the orchard and steps fully into Maai territory. To be precise, it becomes the vetiver baby cousin to Maai, but it’s gentle in its animalics in comparison, wafting a mere muskiness rather than anything resembling the feral howl of Maai’s opening stage. There is nothing heavily urinous here, nothing smelling like hyraceum mixed with civet, and absolutely zero hint of anything barnyard or fecal in nature. On my skin, it’s merely a quietly animalic fuzziness enveloped by larger waves of soft, dark muskiness. Think of Maai in its middle stage rather than its opening, then think of a toned-down baby version of that animalic muskiness, now add in fruity cassis and vetiver to accompany the (tuberose) mossiness, quiet smokiness, sticky resins, and soft warmth, and you’d get Aeon 001 at the stage it is now.
It is also at this point that Aeon 001’s tuberose finally shows more of her floral face instead of smelling purely of chypre-like greenness. Let me reassure you that the flower here bears no resemblance to the demonized tuberose-tuberose-tuberose of fragrances like Fracas. It also does not resemble the camphorated, mentholated version of such deconstructed tuberoses as Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle. This is a different sort of tuberose entirely, one that wafts a soft, non-indolic, white-green freshness that only barely hints at the flower behind it, a flower that is a mere bud rather than a ripe, lush, indolic, heady tuberose in full bloom. Moreover, if one were to break down the aroma into its parts, I’d calculate that 75% of the note still smells purely of mossy greenness, while 20% now consists of an abstract, impressionistic “tuberose,” and 5% is a sort of sappy milkiness, rather like the liquid that seeps out of a cut in the plants stalk. So I hope that helps some of you.
The “baby Maai,” fruity vetiver-chypre bouquet is Aeon 001’s second stage that begins about 75 minutes into its development and lasts roughly until the third stage kicks in around the 2.5 hour mark. At that point, the fragrance transitions to more of a chypre-leather hybrid. Over time, the smokiness and ambered warmth have grown more prominent as the resins seeped up from the base. They emerge fully now, stroking the vetiver with fat sticky fingers of golden darkness, smearing the tuberose’s mossiness, muffling even further its demure floralcy, and taking turns waltzing with the fruit and musk accords. Their movements send out sparks of spiciness, smokiness, and a darkened warmth. Aeon 001 is now primarily a green-black, resinously leathery vetiver that is thinly lacquered with a crimson smear of tart cassis, licked at the edges by a rather gossamer and impressionistic “tuberose” floralcy, then placed atop of a bed of mossy greenness before being enveloped by a heavy blanket of ambered muskiness.
This third stage is an interesting one that reminds me of several other fragrances. It feels like a cross between Maai’s baby cousin and Anatole Lebreton‘s multi-faceted L’Eau Scandaleuse which, in and of itself, referenced several other fragrances, most notably Germaine Cellier‘s vintage Bandit. L’Eau Scandaleuse combined fruity florals and classic chypres with Bandit-style galbanum leathery-vetiver and tuberose leather, although its core essence was really about Bandit and smoky green-black vetiver. There’s a lot of that going on here, but there are differences, too: Aeon 001 is warmer; it doesn’t have the cold steely edge of galbanum (shudder); its smokiness is more moderate and also not as sharp; the vetiver is smoother, more rounded, and a hair better quality; the fruitiness is completely different; and, finally, there is the whole Maai factor. Like L’Eau Scandaleuse, Aeon 001 also morphs into a resinous, leathery vetiver with some tuberose floralcy, but the Aeon is much smoother, more approachable, and milder than the Lebreton fragrance. I struggled with the latter’s sharpness and Bandit-like butch toughness, but I never did so with the Aeon.
In Aeon 001, the chypre elements are almost co-equal with the fruity leather-vetiver elements in the third stage, but the balance is slowly shifting as the fragrance begins, inch by inch, to move away from the chypre territory into the resinously leathery vetiver one. That change comes to a head in the 4th stage that takes place about 5 hours into Aeon 001’s development when the vetiver blooms and briefly becomes the star of the show. It’s backed by the fruity, musky, animalic, smoky, and deeply resinous elements, but they are layered in varying proportions into the main note. The cassis is so fused within the vetiver that it’s quite subtle at times. When you look at the vetiver itself, separate from its companions, it’s different, too. From a bright, fresh, emerald-green plushness, it’s changed into something that is dark, almost earthy, and a bit woody. It’s probably because the mossy greenness is weakening and turning more diffuse, in large part because the tuberose that triggered its rich depth is now a ghost in the background. Unfortunately for me, the personal quirk of my skin chemistry has finally brought out the vetiver’s minty side as well (and in heaps), but that’s obviously not something that most people experience.
My favorite part of Aeon 001 takes place at the top of the 8th hour in what you might classify as either its 5th stage, the main stage, or the first half of its long, long drydown. Regardless of how you carve up the periods, this is the perfume’s most appealing part to me not so much because it’s gentler (and the tamest version of the vetiver yet), but because I think the bouquet as a whole is damn sexy. In essence, the balance of notes has now tipped towards musky, ambered leather far more than the vetiver. It’s such wonderfully soft, sophisticated, snuggly leather, too, imbued with the sort of sexy muskiness and “heated skin” warmth that marked the beautiful drydown phase in Papillon‘s Salome.
Aeon’s vetiver is still there and it’s still dark, but the resins that created this sense of “leather” no longer smolder with such blackened intensity. Now, the smokiness is more of an undercurrent. As the dark elements weaken, it impacts and changes the vetiver, rendering it softer, lighter, almost grassy at times. It continues to bear a lingering hint of mossiness and earthiness, but this is a supple, almost suede-like vetiver as compared to what it once was, and it’s extremely sheer or diffuse in body.
As a whole, Aeon 001 is now primarily centered on a richly burnished, oiled leather that is warm, refined, and quietly spiced. It’s thinly lacquered with a smear of red fruitiness; layered with strands of lightly smoked, grassy, earthy and mossy vetiver; and smudged at the edges with the lightest tuberose floralcy. The whole thing is then enveloped within a warm, dark-gold cocoon of soft resins and muskiness. The latter smells more like heated skin some hours after you’ve indulged in carnal pleasures rather than anything truly, properly, or heavily animalic. It adds sexiness, warmth, and snuggly coziness to what is otherwise a very elegant, polished, and sophisticated scent. And, best of all, the whole thing goes on for hours.
Aeon 001 lasts for a very long time on my skin, and this final or main stage spans the 8th hour almost until the fragrance’s end. The bouquet merely turns softer, sheerer, and hazier over time. It goes from being a lightly spiced, delicately sweetened fruity leather with greenness, muskiness, and ambered resinous warmth to being a golden blur of muskiness, resins, and warmth with only a faint undercurrent of something vaguely leathery. In its final hours, all that’s left is a soft, musky, skin-like quality.
Aeon 001 had superb longevity, average projection, and initially strong sillage that bore a paradoxical powerful softness. Using several generous smears equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 4 inches of projection but about 7-8 inches of sillage that felt stronger than the rough numbers. After 2 hours, the projection dropped to about 2.5 inches while the sillage was about 5 inches, though the scent wafted about noticeably whenever I moved my arms. Aeon 001 became a skin scent after 8.75 hours, but it was still easy to detect up close without major effort until the 15th hour. At that point, Aeon 001 became the merest coating on the skin. Still, it clung on tenaciously, and I could smell the scent on small patches of skin until almost the 22nd hour. When I applied a smaller quantity of scent to my other arm, somewhere between 1 to 1.5 small sprays, Aeon 001 still lasted a good 16 hours.
Aeon 001 was released quite recently so I haven’t found much discussion on the scent to provide you with comparative analysis or opinions. For the moment, neither Aeon the brand nor Aeon the perfume have entry pages on Fragrantica and Basenotes. However, there is a Basenotes discussion thread that includes three different takes on the scent starting about 20 posts downs. Early reaction is mixed with two of the three comments being negative about the scent and its price.
For “The Beck,” Aeon 001 was a huge disappointment because it smelt almost entirely of labdanum amber instead of vetiver on his skin. He thought the scent wasn’t as good as the look of its bottle, and that the fragrance was over-priced for what it was. His review is long, but I think his experience is an important one for you to know. He writes, in large part, as follows:
To my nose this is all about labdanum. It’s only slightly smokey which is a plus. The florals tame it down just right for a very nice blend. I ordered two samples and will enjoy them for what they’re worth, but owning a bottle or even a decant doesn’t interest me.
The bottle is outstanding, and […] I think if the scent was constructed to match the bottle, we would have a near masterpiece. Maybe that should have been the brief – MAKE THIS SCENT SMELL AS GOOD AS THIS BOTTLE LOOKS!
That’s what happening here. You see that fantastic bottle and you want it to smell great. You try and convince yourself it’s great, but in the end it’s just another nice amber scent with a price tag that doesn’t match the contents. I think most of you know I don’t hesitate to spend $600.00 on a scent I feel is something I can’t live without, so in the end it’s not about the cost that turns me off – it’s the high cost for just ordinary juice that bothers me.
I only get vetiver in the top notes, not in the heart or base notes. If there is vetiver there, it’s barely perceivable. After 20 minutes in I get tons of amber and the amber persists until the end.
THIS IS AN AMBER SCENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – to my nose anyway… [Emphasis from him and in the original.]
In contrast, “Dorje” didn’t find Aeon 001 to be an amber scent and really seems to like it, despite finding the fragrance to be quite synthetic in nature, though “not in a bad way.” In his opinion, there were similarities to Eau Sauvage, Bruno Fazzolari‘s Lampblack, and some of Antoine Lie’s Etat Libre creations. His analysis goes beyond several posts and is too long for me to quote in full, but I’ll share one part so you see the differences in perspective and then you can read his full analysis later for yourself. Please note that the emphasis below is from him, not me:
this is definitely NOT an amber scent on my skin. It’s there for sure, labdanum along with some lemony frankincense. I think there’s also bergamot and lemon, but it’s hard to say as frankincense can also smell like this and the citrus lasts a long time. Probably both, with the citrus fading relatively quickly and the lemony aspect of frankincense lingering on.
On me, this is an ever-changing fragrance that seems different from moment to moment. I would call it a Vetiver fragrance, vetiver is the core, the heart of the fragrance with everything else complimentary to it, so in that way it is very vetiver-centric although the different facets continually shift one’s focus from one aspect of the vetiver’s character to another. One might pick up a green grassy citrus, or smoky white florals, at times I noticed the salty/earthy aspects of vetiver. The amber note is ever-present so I can see how thebeck could see it as an amber, but for me, it’s in the background and acting as a base while the vetiver, citrus, smoke and white florals are the heart. There is also a musk in here, fairly subtle and only slightly animalic. Not a white laundry musk but not too dirty either.
On feel or vibe, this has a lightness to it that is reminiscent of Eau Sauvage, with an overdose of hedione creating that indolic, watery feel. But the amber gives it more body and the oakmoss is replaced by vetiver. I’d also consider this similar in feel to some of Etat Libre d’Orange and Bruno Fazzolari fragrances. In fact, the vetiver here, and the entire fragrance is also reminiscent of Lampblack. This is a lot like a summery version of Lampblack, instead of Lampblack’s darkness you get summery, bright frankincense/citrus and white floral notes. [snip]
A third commentator, “Alfredo 86” seems to have disliked Aeon 001 quite a bit. He replied to “The Beck” to agree that it was primarily an overpriced “synthetic-smelling amber vetiver.” He wrote:
… I didn’t even enjoy it as much as you did. I tried it yesterday at the Scent Bar. The opening is deceivingly impressive but at the end it turns out to be a synthetic-smelling amber-vetiver with an unpleasant indoor swimming pool accord (albeit with some nice turns and changes that distinguish it from a generic supermarket scent, granted). I wouldn’t wear this if it cost 3 times less, and like thebeck here, I would pay $600 for a fragrance if I thought it was worth it, but this one isn’t. There are other niche fragrances that cost less and blow this one out of the water (think all of the Papillon, many of the Lutens, Bogue‘s Maai…). [Emphasis to other brand names added by me.]
I agree with them in different ways and for different reasons. I absolutely and most definitely agree that Aeon 001 is not a pure, hardcore vetiver fragrance. That is what the company’s copy and description would lead you to believe, but it’s not true. I also agree that the amber plays a big role in the fragrance towards its later stages. As for the price and synthetics, I’ll get to that in a moment.
In my opinion, your expectations and hopes for Aeon 001 will be the key to determining how you feel about the fragrance. If you’re a diehard vetiver lover and that’s what you wanted when you sampled or bought the fragrance, you’re going to be as disappointed as the two Basenoters were. On the other hand, if you’re like me and you’re not gung-ho about having a vetiver, vetiver, vetiver fragrance, and you far prefer amber, animalic chypres, or chypre-oriental-leathery hybrids, then you’re going to be both relieved and happy. I enjoyed Aeon 001 because it was not vetiver soliflore to the max, and because the supposed core note was always infused by other elements. If you’re the same or if you liked any of the fragrances mentioned by me here or by “Dorje” on Basenotes, then I think you may enjoy Aeon 001 quite a bit.
Other factors will also play a role in determining how you feel about the fragrance. Skin chemistry is going to make a major difference as to just how much vetiver there is on your skin, as well as to how much it might be overshadowed by the chypre or oriental elements. Plus, I agree with “Dorje” that Aeon 001 is rather a “kaleidoscopic” scent in which a variety of things swirl around, so the degree to which the vetiver breaks out of their midst to shine will depend not only depend on your skin chemistry, but also on how much of the fragrance you apply.
As for the issue of price, I don’t know if Aeon 001 is “worth it” because I think it’s going to be quite subjective. The fragrance costs $240 or €225 for a 65 ml bottle. Personally, I didn’t find the fragrance to be quite as synthetic as some of the Basenoters. Yes, the animalic musks are synthetic, but they are the same sort that were used in Maai and Salome and both fragrances smell great to me. The vetiver’s synthetic nature wasn’t overt on my skin as it was on others. So, the real issue, in my opinion, is the price as compared to other similar fragrances. Aeon 001 costs more than Maai or Salome, not to mention Anatole Lebreton’s L’Eau Scandaleuse which is only $110 or €90. Is the Aeon 001 worth it? Well, we have to make a full circle back to the issue of expectations, what appears on your skin, and what you really love in terms of notes. If you’re looking for a vetiver baby cousin to Maai or a very longlasting vetiver hybrid, then maybe. It’s going to come down to very personal, individual valuations.
For me, as someone with ambivalent feelings about vetiver, the cost/benefit analysis is clear. The vetiver may be accompanied by other notes, sometimes even buried under them, but there is still more of it than I enjoy in fragrances for my own personal use. As a result, $240 is too much and I’d never buy a bottle. But I thoroughly enjoyed wearing my sample, and may even use up the rest of it.
In short, I strongly recommend trying Aeon 001 if you have even a moderate love for vetiver and if you also fall within one (or more) of the following categories:
- you either loved Bogue’s Maai or would have liked a milder, baby version of it;
- you liked L’Eau Scandaleuse and its tuberose Bandit-leather aspects, but want something smoother and less intense;
- you love animalic chypres, ambered oriental-chypre hybrids, floral leathers, or vetiver orientals.
However, if you’re hoping for a hardcore, solo vetiver, then you may want to consider things carefully. Don’t let the limited availability lure you into blindly buying a bottle.
My ultimate advice to both groups: recalibrate what you expect from Aeon 001, and you might end up enjoying it.