Chanel – Sycomore

Posted on January 15th, by What Men Should Smell Like in A - F, Woods. 8 comments

Chanel - Sycomore

Sycomore is the work of Jacques Polge and Christopher Shedrake who wanted to recreate a 1930s formula by Ernest Beaux, Chanel’s orginal in-house perfumer. Polge is a modern perfume legend with over 30 years of experience with Chanel. Sheldrake returned to the luxury fashion house in 2005 after 22 years at Quest and now reports to Polge as the Director of Research & Development. Sycomore is a wonderful collaboration between these two perfumers and should not be overlooked by any vetiver fan. Sheldrake, who created most of the Serge Lutens, has a deep understanding of working with vetiver and few understand how to capture luxury and sophistication in scent like Polge. Vetiver is complex and can provide the perfumer with many facets to work with. Sycomore uses Haitian vetiver known for its smoky earthiness. Polge wanted to create a fragrance that centered around but was not overtaken by the scent of vetiver. It is certainly a powerful ingredient in perfume; so much so, many fragrances that contain it will employ the use of its name in the perfume title. Sycomore is the 11th release in Chanel’s Les Exclusifs range of larger 200ml bottles that are available exclusively from Chanel boutiques and selected department stores in the world’s major cities such as Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

Olfactory impressions:

Although Polge didn’t intend for the vetiver to dominate his creation it is hard to go past it. If you don’t like vetiver then this one is not for you. If you do like vetiver and haven’t sampled Sycomore you are in for a treat. If you are unsure whether you like vetiver I recommend a visit to Chanel. Sycomore is unusual in the way it’s notes unfold. Like a linear style perfume all elements of the composition are there for you to experience when the bottle is freshly discharged. Gradually parts begin to disappear until you are left only with the stoic smell of green vetiver grass. The citrus notes are short-lived giving way to smoke, hazelnut and an abstract composition of green florals. The bitterness of vetiver is tempered by the presence of vanilla and peppery spices making this creation a cousin to Bois des Iles.

Suggested wearing:

Wearing a Chanel fragrance is similar to wearing a Chanel suit. Their perfumes smell of money just as women in a Chanel suit look like money. Very few fragrance houses can pinpoint their demographic through their fragrance lines and this is something I think Chanel and Hermes do very well. Sycomore is a bourgeois fragrance and is not something I wear when I’m out and about in jeans, tee and sneakers. It’s a sophisticated scent and deserves a sophisticated audience. Reserve it for dinners, special occasions or events. With it’s sober vetiver notes, look elsewhere if you are looking for a ‘fun night out’ scent. Within the Chanel family I would suggest either of the Egoistes, Allure or Coromandel for the more adventurous male.


Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, The Different Company Sel De Vetiver, Lalique Encre Noire Pour Homme, Etro Vetiver, Guerlain Vetiver Extreme, Hermes Vetiver Tonka, Maitre Parfumeur Et Gantier Route Du Vetiver.

Perfumer: Jacques Polge

Bottle designer: Jacques Helleu

Release date: 2008 (1930)

Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods

8 responses to “Chanel – Sycomore”

  1. Dwilliamson says:

    Excellent read Clayton. I love the vetiver note in Sycomore, do you happen to know if Polge is utilizing the Haitian variety of vetiver in Chanel’s other male offerings (Allure,Bleu, Egoisite)?

    • What Men Should Smell Like says:

      Hi, thanks for reading. I have not seen any statement by Chanel thank confirms the origin of the vetiver they use. I can only assume they are using vetiver in the form of an essential oil or a fractional distillation or extraction from Haitian vetiver. My thinking behind this is based on the quantity and quality they would need, especially for large productions like Bleu; countries producing nice quality but small quantity, like New Caledonia or Hawaii would be ruled out. Bourbon vetiver is currently very scarce and it has a different smell, which I don’t perceive in Bleu or Sycomore. Javanese vetiver could be a possibility if they are not using Haitian vetiver.

      • DWilliamson says:

        Clayton, while we are discussing vetiver, do you happen to know if it is being utilized in Allure Sport Eau Extreme? They do not have it in the note breakdown, and I have only smelled this scent once or twice. I was contemplating going out and adding this one to my collection today.

        • What Men Should Smell Like says:

          I’m not extremely (excuse the pun) familiar with this one. From memory it has some woodiness and some tonk a bean, which probably gives it a fougere touch in the base. It’s not uncommon for fougere fragrances to have a bit of vetiver in them but it is not a key or defining note overall. I’m doubting I would smell Allure Sport Eau Extreme and vetiver would be the first thing I think of. From memory when I smelled this one, I thought of it being a modern, fresh, beachy scent. Not vetiver but nice nonetheless… Chanel rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong in my book!

  2. Mike says:

    I wear Chanel Sycomore with t-shirt and jeans. I wear it for me, not for a sophisticated audience. What a waste that would be.

  3. Maowel says:

    Dear Clayton,

    Thank you for your remarkable website, it is an absolute delight to read your articles on the perfumes of your choice which, incidentally, very much coincide with my own tastes.
    Sycomore is one of the most beautiful fragrances I have ever smelled: lush yet simple, rich yet understated, it has all the qualities I like to find in a cologne. I have yet to purchase my first bottle, which I’m sure will happen very soon.
    I see you have tried Houbigant’s reissued Fougère Royale and quite enjoyed it: don’t you find any similarities in the quality between Sycomore and Fougère Royale? They both hit me with a sense of intense luxury not often to be experienced in masculine fragrances. In fact I would thoroughly enjoy reading your account on the latter… 😉
    Kind regards from Paris,

    • Bonjour Emmanuel!

      Yes, I would have to say Sycomore is also one of my favourite fragrances. I loved it the first time I sampled it and it became one of my perfume souvenirs during a holiday in New York. Everytime I smell it I think of Soho. Your comment on the reissued Fougere Royale made me think. I would not have made the direct connection but putting both on paper and comparing the two side by side you are right. There are some interesting similarities in the wood and tobacco structure of both fragrances, which are easier to see once you dig past the aldehydes and citrus up the top and the dusty tonka notes further on with Fougere Royale…. It also made me realise how complex Fougere Royale is. There is a lot going on with it! I had planned to do a small blog entry on fougeres, a favourite perfume family of mine, towards the end of this month. This should include a full review on Fougere Royale 2010.

      Thanks for reading and stay warm! I am sure Paris must be getting chilly this time of year.

      À bientôt

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