Aeon’s aeon 001 (2015)

Aeon's aeon 001 (2015) © Victor Wong
Aeon’s aeon 001 (2015) © Victor Wong

The idea of a perfume company launching its debut perfume in small quantity (in this case, 333 bottles) and also as a limited-edition scent is baffling to me. What if it’s a smash hit? Are they going to lose their cool and release another batch due to popular demand? I suppose they have something new up in their sleeve, otherwise, how do they sustain their business? And how do they expand their customer base for there are only so few people who can experience their perfumes?

On top of that, Aeon are also keeping the name of the perfumer anonymous. Frederic Malle goes against the tradition of keeping the perfumers’ name out of the picture and puts the perfumers under the spotlight, but now aeon is upping the ante and does the exact opposite. I am pretty sure they are not doing that just in case the perfumer sucks – they want it to be fun and controversial… as long as the perfumer is not someone who no one knows about.

(Spoiler Alert) So the perfumer of Aeon 001 is Antonio Gardoni, the same guy behind the famous chypre, Maai. At a perfume exhibition, he put the beautiful fused-lab-glass bottle on his booth table and said, “Well, everyone knows it’s mine, anyway.”

If you have smelled both Maai and Aeon 001, you could tell they share the same DNA – a signature heavy, oakmossy, resinous, musky, civet-loving animalic base. (Maybe that’s why a lot of people could guess he’s the perfumer behind it right away.) It’s easy to say Maai is a gigantic floral chypre and aeon 001 is a smoky vetiver-based perfume, but in terms of mood, if you say Maai smells like a perfume taken from the last century, then aeon 001 smells like it is taken from the last geological period.

When I wear Aeon 001, I feel like I am lost in a midnight forest surrounded by tall vegetation and I am holding burning torch, and things around me are smelling toasty. The animalic base makes me feel like there’s some beasts lurking around me behind the tall grasses. It smells raw, raunchy, unsettling, primitive and dangerous. If I may rename it, I would name it Jurassic Park. It simply is entertaining and thrilling. Aeon 001 is one of the most satisfying and “full” vetiver perfumes I have ever owned.

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Frederic Malle’s Vetiver Extraordinaire (2002)

Frederic Malle's Vetiver Extraordinaire © Victor Won
Frederic Malle’s Vetiver Extraordinaire © Victor Wong

A few years ago I joined a Hong Kong tour to Japan. Our tour guide was probably the most memorable part of the tour for she had told us many captivating stories while we sat in the bus going from point A to point B. She told us a story about the head of Japan Tourist Board who paid an official visit to Hong Kong to promote Japan: on his first day, he was graciously welcome by the representative of Hong Kong Tourist Board, who took him to a very fancy Chinese restaurant for dinner. They had a great meal, and the check was of course taken care of by the Hong Kong host. The next day the Japanese man did not know where to go for dinner, so he went back to the same restaurant, and asked for the same dishes he had yesterday without checking the menu. When the check arrived, his heart almost jumped out of his chest for it was a 5-figure bill (USD).

He probably had no clue what he had eaten – the abalones were not ordinary ones but some rare giant ones from the deep seas, the ginsengs used in the soups were some hundred-year-old ginsengs gathered from the top of some steep mountain, and shark fins from a giant shark that probably had killed the wives and puppies of many fishermen… and they all came with astronomical price tags. (The tour guide said that one night a drunken man left that restaurant and threw up in the street, and that pile of puke probably was worth $50K.)

Now, my questions: can you tell if you are consuming something really really good that probably costs a lot? (Assuming things that are good don’t come cheap.) How often do you say something is vastly superior after knowing it has a high price tag despite the difference is subtle?

Frederic Malles’ Vetiver Extraordinaire boasts that it contains the most vetiver one can find in a perfume, and the vetiver used has gone through molecular filtering to remove the undesirable aspects of regular vetiver essential oils. Personally, I can’t single out and tell if the special-treated vetiver in Vetiver Extraordinaire is that marvelous that it deserves a high price tag, but to me, the overall smell of the perfume is quite uncommon due to the huge dosage of vetiver used.

If loving vetiver is loving unhealthy food, Vetiver Extraordinaire is a no-salad fried chicken buffet with mini cheesecakes for half-time. If you don’t like vetiver, please skip this perfume. It is so masculine and spicy, the opening of the citrus notes cannot douse its smoking hot base. Compare to most vetiver perfumes I have smelled, It’s an alien atmosphere with more oxygen than nitrogen, making it borderline too much for me. I once took a sample of VE to work for my coworkers to smell, and a female coworker said it’s one of the sexiest perfumes she had ever smelled (and not to mention both she and her boyfriend are crazy sexy, anything they wear or don’t wear is sexy). She wanted to buy a bottle for her boyfriend but when she googled the price of Vetiver Extraordinaire, she screamed across the cubicle at me, “You are mean!”