The golden era of Etro

Three scents in their early and only magnificent version.


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Messe de Minuit (EDC, 1994)

Messe de Minuit opens with a really balsamic, vibrant citrus-herbal accord of aromatic herbs, candied citrus notes which manage to smell sweet and sugary but at the same time much bitter and fresh, on a resinous base of olibanum and "something" which I am unable to identify which smells quite dense, sticky and carnal, like a lighter version of castoreum. The scent is undoubtedly unique and intriguing, it's a dusty, Oriental, mystical blend, really luminous (in a rather unusual way – a "grey morning" transparent luminosity, forget any predictable "summer" light) but at the same time dark. The balsamic is all over: balsamic herbs, balsamic resins, balsamic incense. Finally the sugary feel is also peculiar and compelling, it's not a gourmand sugar and not fruity, it's more a really spicy, resinous, almost "fizzy" sweet note, with just a taste of citrus. A lot of interesting contrasts and nuances going on. In a way it's surely an "incense" scent, although more earthy, organic, spicy, herbal than most of others – plus the incense is resinous, thick, Oriental, so don't think of any dry, synthetic, austere incense à la Avignon (to which Messe de Minuit, at least this early version, has not really much in common). The incense here smells more of dry myrrh, church woods, stale nuances of dusty furniture, old books, with a thin breeze of cold air. It fascinates me a lot how this scent recreates a mystical mood avoiding a bomb of incense, it's rather a really well played harmony of other "ambiental" suggestions – woods, furniture, flowers, dust... really meditative and captivating, surely a memorable and unique fragrance. The only "con" is that it's quite bold and long-lasting, and being fairly peculiar, it may not be the safest scent for a blind buy – in other words, it's not really versatile and "crowd-pleasing", better try it. Surely worth it!

8/10

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Palais Jamais (EDT, 1989)

Incredible, unique opening of oak moss (great, earthy, stale), vetiver, herbaceous notes, tobacco, a light leather note, dense and humid floral notes (the typical "masculine" ones, like lavender and carnation), a genius tea note providing a beautiful thin fruity aroma, then a nuance of licorice, which I also smell in Etro Vetiver. A real triumph of natural mysticism, hard to describe but easy to love, powerful and deep, "rural" somehow but incredibly charming and refined it its woody silkiness. There is also a slightly salty-animalic base note which adds ambiguous and dark sensuality to an already decadent and elegant carnal scent – a concoction which effortlessly manages to appear Oriental, exotic, savage and mysterious but at the same time, amazingly sophisticated, gentle, "European" in its austere, aristocratic meaning. The notes themselves may appear common, but this scent is truly unique, enigmatic, elusive, dense – to sum up and give you a "rough figure", however, a mossy-woody-tobacco Oriental blend with resins, flowers (as I said, the typical fougère ones), and an aromatic fog comprising nuances of leather and licorice. A bit linear and quite long-lasting, so be sure to try it before wearing it – otherwise you may get bored after a while. To me, an incredible gem totally worth at least a try (one of those scents which truly smell "niche" to me... you need gallons of today's niche stuff to reach such a creative zenith!).

9/10

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Vetiver (EDC, 1989)

My favourite from this trio. What an incredible vetiver. A salty, incredibly earthy, slightly humid vetiver note, warm and mysterious, with fascinating nuances of coffee, tobacco, incense, rich woods, a rarefied and captivating fog of smells and a thin sheet of old tanning leather. Utterly elegant, pleasant, refined, an oriental elusive potion with a bold modern personality, there is a slight contemporary feel (the salty note, the transparent incense) which brilliantly and silently flows among the timeless and romantic mysticism of the more "traditional" ingredients. While the very first opening reminded me of Annick Goutal's vetiver because of its humid and raw earthiness, the evolution is one of a kind, peculiar and superb, opulent and nondescript, with all these nuances brilliantly melting together. What fascinates me most is a veil of dusty, smoky and dense sweetness, somehow tobacco and somehow talcum, really noble and melancholic, narcotic and romantic, filled with the same Oriental elegance of Etro's patterns (at least, back then). Beautiful mineral/salty and discreet drydown. A solid scent, with a clear inspiration and great materials. Straight on the top of my favourite vetivers ever!

8,5-9/10



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