Drinking wine spodee-o-dee with Ti-Jean Kerouac and his Beat poet friends. Hanging out in bone-and-rags elegance with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Rubbing elbows with William Burroughs and Lydia Lunch and John Lurie at the Mudd Clubb.
Somehow, it’s always New York, and it’s always black and white, as smudgy as a picture by Robert Frank or an old-style newspaper with the ink coming off on your fingers, or a piece of carbon paper ripped off a typewriter. And it’s always about connection; friends.
You can never entirely dissociate a scent from the urge that produced it; the story behind it acts as its lyrics; an extra layer of resonance worked into the accords. The Turtle Series initiated by Isabelle Doyen for Les Nez is not only a scent collection, but also an exercise in community. Connections between artists is what Turtle, “an anarchic salon”,
is all about; since Isabelle’s friendship with Michael H. Shamberg, the initiator of Turtle, is what inspired the series. Shamberg produced Summer Cannibals
(1996), a Patti Smith video by the photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank; Frank, in turn, directed the seminal underground movie Pull my Daisy
(1959), adapted from his friend Jack Kerouac’s play Beat Generation. Hence the above references to New York from the 50s to the early 80s.
Turtle Vetiver is also a conceptual work-in-progress: a series of limited-edition fragrances, starting with practically raw vetiver oil then tweaking the scent by tiny, almost unnoticeable increments, until it morphs into something entirely different over the years.
If Doyen chose vetiver as a starting point for Exercise 1
, it is because she considers it to be practically a complete perfume by itself, but also because it reflected Shamberg’s angular elegance. But it makes even more sense when you consider that it is extracted from a rhizome, i.e. a vegetal network that has neither roots nor hierarchy (and is therefore “anarchic”), just like the Turtle Salon on the web.
The new Exercise, Front Turtle (to be followed by Back Turtle), is directly inspired by Robert Frank’s photographs and more specifically, their urban, gritty blacks and whites. Black: vetiver’s smoky and flinty facets, boosted until the latter achieves an ink and carbon paper quality. White: an incongruous “coconut” lactone, off-handedly slapped on the vetiver. Gray: a drop of real ambergris tincture for radiance and a lick of Evernyl, one of Doyen’s favorite materials which, she writes in an anthology published by Élisabeth de Feydeau, “smells like supra-terrestrial lichen”.
An artist friend who has made Turtle Vetiver her signature scent
, and was offered preview decants of the two new versions – again,Turtle is about connecting people – says she reaches more readily for Front Turtle, which she finds easier to wear.
Front Turtle should be sold any day now on Les Nez’s website
. Meanwhile, I will be glad to share a sample of Front Turtle with one of you from my own preview decant: just drop a comment to participate in the draw.
Photo by Robert Frank
I loved Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 so much - this is wonderful news. Pick me, pick me! :)RépondreSupprimer
I missed No. 1 - won't make that mistake again! Here, Jicky - lovely tuna, all for you! ~~nozknozRépondreSupprimer
"You can never entirely dissociate a scent from the urge that produced it; the story behind it acts as its lyrics; an extra layer of resonance worked into the accords"RépondreSupprimer
I love this sentence. I am unfamiliar with the Turtle salon. Thank you for an interesting and educational essay!
I would love to try this!RépondreSupprimer
Mike, it is, isn't it? "Front" was meant to be going on sale last week, but it's any day now. You're in.RépondreSupprimer
Nozknoz, I'm afraid the little minx is off tuna, or else she's holding out for fresh now. Won't eat more than a bite of the canned one! You're in.RépondreSupprimer
Taffy, thanks. I was thinking about the importance of telling real stories in relation to perfume-making, instead of "it's a girl in love blah blah"...RépondreSupprimer
I didn't know about the Turtle Salon either before the perfume.
Datura, you're in.RépondreSupprimer
I would like very much to be able to try thisRépondreSupprimer
I like so much Isabelle Doyen's work
thanks for the draw
this is all so intriguing, I'd like to try it! BeeRépondreSupprimer
Irina, Bee, you're both in (separately, of course!)RépondreSupprimer
Oh, exciting news- I was thinking other day if Les Nez is going to continue this project. Tried Exercise no.1 from my friend's sample ages ago- such a raw, non-conventional vetiver. Looking forward to testing its further incarnation. Regards!RépondreSupprimer
very exciting news, indeed! Of Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1 I only managed to salvage a sample...RépondreSupprimer
I'm very curious about this newbie ^_^
Was always curious about the original TV, but was too late to try it. Would love to try this one - thanks for the draw!RépondreSupprimer
As a native New Yorker who grew up downtown, near the Beat's old haunts, I would love to try this!RépondreSupprimer
Ela, they've been a bit slow getting there, but then it's a tiny company... You're in.RépondreSupprimer
Laurinha, you and lots of Turtle-starved people! You're in.RépondreSupprimer
Karin, here's your chance!RépondreSupprimer
Arin, New York AND downtown is double-dip cool. You're in.RépondreSupprimer
This is just too weird. The other day Bois de Jasmine asked what fragrance do you imagine Lauren Bacaul wearing in a specific black and white picture and i instantly thought of Turtle Vetiver! I trully think that the scent captures the feel of old photographs (even the smell of old photographic paper, moistened and then dried is there) but appropriateness was not the only reason I chose this frag for belle Lauren. As my sample of this amazing scent is near the end without any hope for replacement it's scent is on my mind daily causing me agony. I open the vial to sniff it and then hurry to close it again in fear that the precious droplet that's left will evaporate in the current of air generated by my breathing. How stupid can I get? I swear I should drink the remains and be done with it. I find it very disturbing to find my thoughts governed by a drop!RépondreSupprimer
Vetiver, like hay absolute, really is a perfume all on its lonesome. And there are so many kinds! My favorite is the Surinamese. But sometimes that earthy, gutsy Haitian vetiver is just perfect. Indian sometimes has a dash of horseradish to it, not my favorite, but it seems to play nicely with others. I'm going to be planting some soon in the backyard, it seems tough enough for the harsh environment here on the dunes. I'd love to try one of the turtles.RépondreSupprimer
Also, could the formulae for these ever be published for DIYers? They aren't going into distribution, they aren't around to make money, and most of us will never have a chance to try them, which is just sad.RépondreSupprimer
Kostas, that is the heartbreak of perfume lovers with rare or vintage scents...RépondreSupprimer
I saw that picture, which I didn't know, and thought of course of bitter chypres like Bandit, but vetiver wouldn't have suited the husky-voiced Baccall (of which it was said "she's got a panther in her family tree").
You're in the draw!
Marla, I agree, vetiver oil is a complete perfume and never fails to move me.RépondreSupprimer
I'd be surprised though that a perfumer would chose to publish her formulas: there may not be much profit in the series but it's still got to recoup its costs, and it is made for a brand, however arty and indie...
The first Turtle was indeed scintillating, but definitely quite hard to wear - however, I love vetiver, & would be delighted to try out this softened, coconutted version!RépondreSupprimer
I guess I will have to content myself with growing vetiver and distilling it here on my dune, I'll never be able to try the turtles at my obscure location...on the other hand, I was just watching a dolphin mother play with her calf, it was adorable, no complaints....RépondreSupprimer
I remember your previous post about the mods and I had already started to wonder if the Turtle Vetiver project is even alive anymore... Glad to hear this one is finally going to be available! I still have a tiny bit of the first Turtle left in a sample vial, it will be interesting to compare. Thanks for the draw!RépondreSupprimer
Parfymerad, you're in the draw!RépondreSupprimer
Marla, growing your own vetiver and seeing dolphins play can trump any number of turtles... I'm sure the Perfumed Court will sell samples pretty soon though, in case you don't win the draw.RépondreSupprimer
Mikael, it's taken its own sweet time to come out. I hope it'll be up on the Les Nez website soon, it was announced for last week.RépondreSupprimer
I would like to be in the draw. I love your writing.RépondreSupprimer
Your blog seem literary as much as scent related. Enjoying this new found reading about perfumes. Enjoy vetiver too. ThanksRépondreSupprimer
I love vetiver, and would love to try this!!RépondreSupprimer
Pam, thank you! You're in.RépondreSupprimer
Shelly, that's probably because I've got a boxful of French lit diplomas... I don't write about literature per se but it's certainly an important reference for me.RépondreSupprimer
Tomatefarcie, you're in!RépondreSupprimer
I've tried everything from Les Nez just Turtle Vetiver wasn't available at that time, so I would be very happy to be able to try this one.RépondreSupprimer
Civava, lots of people missed Exercise 1! You're in the draw.RépondreSupprimer
Hello, Denyse. I'm glad to hear of a new Turtle exercise coming out, as I enjoyed No. 1 very much. It reminds me very much of the deep, dark green khus oil I see here in India.RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, if memory serves, you snapped up Turtle 1 as soon as I posted my review, right? And of course it would remind you of khus oil since it's practically the raw stuff... I'm sure you'd enjoy this one too.RépondreSupprimer
I see your point but I just think that people that sensual don't need to accent their sensuality but rather contrast it. Turtle Vetiver excersize 1 was (to me) at the same time casual and cosy as wool but edgy and somehow morbid as unadorned dressing can be sometimes. Woody-masculine and yet in the drydown there was a powdery and honeyed femininity with an iodine aspect as painful as the reminiscense of summer vacations in the grim of winter. It is a perfume as you mentioned because it is already contrasted. Somehow this is what I get from this picture. She seems content with herself while enjoying the casual pleasure of a cig and a cup of coffee but at the same time she would rather be somewhere else. She has all the beauty that comes from restrained desires, sometimes depicted in the paintings of Botticelli or in harems and slaves of the orientalist school.RépondreSupprimer
I actualy suggested that she would layer Turtle Vetiver with Jasmine absolute just to enhance that contradiction and capture that feeling. It is not something that would represent her as a person (for that I would see an oriental with character as a stronger candidate)
Kostas, I'd say Bandit is just about as tough as any "feminine" perfume will ever be, so I wouldn't think of it as underlining the wearer's sensuousness...RépondreSupprimer
Jasmine would work well with Turtle I as I get a phase in its development that's positively floral, and feels like hedione. I love the way you describe both Turtle and Baccall's picture...