Hail Caesar! Hail the conquest of lands by earth, wind and fire. Hail the discovery of new lands, the steely determination to conquer the challenges which lie between us and our destiny, and the power of the human spirit to defeat adversity.
Those words are the specific inspiration for Veni, Vidi, Vici, a trilogy of perfumes in the Edition Rare Collection from Histoires de Parfums. It is a French, niche perfume house which pays tribute to famous characters and mythical years, capturing a lyrical, olfactory tribute to history in a bottle. Histoires de Parfums was founded in 2000 by Gérald Ghislain, its nose and the creator of its perfumes, and in early 2013, he released Veni, Vidi, Vici. As their name gives away, they are a tribute to Caesar’s famous phrase (“I came, I saw, I conquered“) with each eau de parfum representing a different natural element in that process: Veni focuses on the Earth; Vidi on the Wind; and Vici on the Fire element. Yet, they are all linked by one common olfactory thread: they all have cardamom.
I’d heard a lot about the collection at the start of the year, and I continuously pondered getting samples, but something put me off. Frankly, the notes alarmed me; they seemed odd, discordant, and a very peculiar mix. For reasons that I couldn’t explain, the collection and its press release stories just seemed too much for me to wrap my head around. And this from someone who adores history, focused a lot on Caesar at one point, and even has a lingering bias against Cicero because of him! But Veni, Vidi, Vici in perfume form just put me off for some inexplicable reason. Then, Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle sweetly sent me samples of all three as part of a generous thoughtful gift all the way from Poland. He was convinced at least one of the perfumes with their spicy nature and their oriental, woody nuances would be bound to appeal to my tastes. He clearly knows me better than I know myself because I’m quite impressed with Veni, my first exposure to the collection. So, I’ll be reviewing each one, though not all in the same post. (I’m simply too verbose to manage such a feat in any way that isn’t encyclopedic and painful to read!) I’ll start with Veni, and then later amend this post to include links to the other 2 reviews when they are done.
Veni‘s split description on the Histoires de Parfum website is as follows:
Veni represents the earth, which in many ways still remains a mystery to us. It is nurturing as much as it is wild, forcing us to keep our senses sharp, all the while pushing our limits.
Like the early explorers who ventured beyond the borders of the known world, VENI offers an olfactory adventure worthy of the Odyssey. Journeying from a familiar bow of Lavender, the Cardamom must contend with a groundswell of Ambergris and strong gusts of Galbanum before landing on a pristine beach of Cinnamon. It then enters a dense forest of Guaiacwood, only to discover a bed of Carnations that hold subtle scents of Saffron, Vanilla and Patchouli. A journey worthy of the ancient epic heroes….
The full notes are:
Top Note: absolu cardamom, cinnamon, galbanum, lavander
Heart Note: carnation, saffron, guaiac wood
Base Note: vanilla, toffee, patchouli oil, musk, ambergris, oakmoss
Veni‘s notes, here and on the Fragrantica website (which mentions caramel and tagette), are part of what put me off the whole line. I simply couldn’t fathom the combinations. Galbanum is not one of my favorite notes and it is often such a sharp, pungent green that it borders on black. I’m not a fan of lavender, either, and to mix it with toffee or caramel with carnation? It was too much for my tiny, little mind.
Well, consider me chastised and very apologetic. Veni is a beautiful perfume that really requires ignoring what the notes sound like. To me, and on my skin, it was more like a gloriously spicy oriental with rich, meaty, beefy, jammy floral notes and velvety, peppered woods, atop a sweet, vanillic, nutty, mossy patchouli base. It was the sort of spicy oriental that reminded me a lot of Neela Vermeire‘s beautiful creations. And I liked it a lot — despite the fact that it has ISO E Super in it. (Honestly, that should tell you everything, given how I think that synthetic is the devil’s creation!)
Veni opens on my skin with the most beautiful lavender note. It’s simultaneously sweet from the vanilla, and spicy from the cinnamon, cardamom and saffron. Hints of supple, smooth, golden-red leather lurk discreetly underneath. Soon, almost within seconds, the lavender recedes to the background and the spices take over. They create an explosion of earth-toned colours: red, gold, brown, copper — all infused with a very floral note that feels like saffron-rose backed by patchouli. There is no rose in Veni but the carnation note feels nothing like the dry, desiccated, pungent, almost mealy aroma that you find in florist flowers. This is a carnation that is so red and jammy, so rich and beefy, so profoundly deep in body that it really almost seems more like a crimson rose. It’s definitely the result of the saffron — fiery red instead of dessert-like yellow — and the patchouli. The latter is also interesting because it’s never purple or dirty black like some 1970s patchouli but more of a mossy-green, infused by chypre like richness from the oakmoss. The elements work to transform the carnation into a true beauty, dripping richness and depth, with spicy nuances and a plush, velvety base.
Other notes soon rise to the surface, creating a beautiful, balanced, floral spice bomb. There are woody notes which are, at first, they are lightly peppered and delicately smoked. They compete against the fiery, rich saffron and other spices, as well as the vanilla-caramel flickers of at the perfume’s base, helping to cut through the sweetness and provide a dry counterpart. Veni is a beautifully balanced perfume with no one element overpowering the other. It’s also well-blended — so much so that the perfume throws off notes like coloured lights from a crystal chandelier hit by the light. Sometimes, the lavender seems more pronounced, sometimes the beefy carnation. Sometimes, the base seems more noticeable: the dry vanilla; the lightly musked ambergris; the mossy, sweet patchouli tinged with bright green; and the subtle dose of nutty amber. (For all the potential clash of “toffee” or “caramel,” the note merely imparts a nutty, resinous element to the sweet, vanillic, amber base.) At other times, you can detect minute, subtle flickers of galbanum, though it rarely is sharp, pungent, arid or acrid. In fact, out of two tests, I only detected the galbanum the second time around and only in the opening fifteen minutes. Veni is so well-blended, I suspect that different notes will manifest themselves upon separate occasions.
Even the ISO E Super works here — shocking as that may be for me (of all people) to say. The first time I tested Veni, the peppered notes were handled with an incredibly light, subtle touch, never feeling like antiseptic rubbing alcohol but truly more like peppered, velvety woods. I was a little less enthused the second time around when the synthetic went back to being its usual self on my skin, manifesting that unpleasant character that I despise so much and being much more powerful, dominant and intrusive. But, despite that, I actually could put up with it. I’m not quite sure I understand it and can only chalk it up to the beauty of the rest of the notes. (Frankly, I’m a little stunned.) That said, one Fragrantica commentator expressly noted the ISO E Super note and found it to be too, too much:
Veni, like its sisters Vici and Vidi, has way too much ambroxan and/or Iso-E-Super for me to be able to like it. That ethereal synthetic note is so intense that it simply clobbers what could have been a gorgeous spicy perfume.
Though I’m overjoyed at finally finding a soul-mate who detects and hates ISO E Super as much as I do, I have to repeat what I always say about the blasted note: not everyone can even detect it, and a few actually adore it. Unfortunately, what is “nothingness” to some, and a pheromone to a few, can be either revolting or a massive trigger of migraines in others. (You can read more about perfumers’ favorite, hidden, unlisted, synthetic ingredient in my article on ISO E Super here.) Judging by my two tests, I think the strength of the note will depend largely on how much perfume you apply; I applied significantly more Veni in my second test to assess its longevity, so the ISO E Super was much more dominant.
Veni’s drydown begins just short of 3 hours into the perfume’s development. The carnation — which had become quite pronounced around the 90 minute mark — remains at the forefront of the perfume, touched by spices, patchouli and soft woods. As always, the lavender note is subtle, flittering around the edges like Caspar the jolly ghost. The same thing applies to the quietly smoked note from the guaiac wood. The true emerging star, however, is the vanilla which starts to become much more pronounced. It’s flecked by caramel, and lightly dusted by cinnamon. As time passes, Veni softens even more to become, primarily, a creamy vanilla-caramel fragrance, subtly infused with spices and floral notes. In its final moments, it’s an abstract, amorphous blur of musky, woody, sweet notes. All in all, Veni lasted just a hair above 5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with a small dose and 6.5 hours with a larger one. The sillage was strong only in its opening minutes, before becoming moderate-to-soft for most of the perfume’s development. It became fully close to the skin just over two hours in and, by the fourth hour, you had to really sniff at your arm to detect it.
There aren’t a ton of detailed reviews for the Veni, Vidi, Vici collection out there. Judging by Fragrantica and some blogs, Veni seems to be the general favorite out of the trio. It certainly was for Lucas at Chemist in a Bottle whose lovely review of the fragrance reads, in part:
Right from the start it effuses a luscious warm and spicy note of ambergris which is then followed by aromatic blend of lavender and coriander. It smells kid of fluffy, like a big and warm woolen jumper. Now it is time for the gourmand vibe to appear. Slowly lavender gets caramelized, sweet caramel engulfs its all tiny flowers leaving you with a rich and sticky smell. It is absolutely pleasant!
On this caramel bed lays a sophisticated vanilla which makes for a praline-like smelling thing. It’s playful and so delicious one would want some sweets after wearing it. Guaiac wood (which I would rather say smells like mahogany) brings some balmy quality to the scent. Later on galbanum appears raising the balmy feeling to the higher levels. Cinnamon is a quiet star of Histoires de Parfums Veni. It’s spicy character has been tempered here to blend it so well with benzoin and amber to create an amazing effect.
This amber is very sensual, like a velvet scarf infused with the most precious essences of orient. There’s something very sexual and inviting in it, something that provokes the senses. In its far drydown Veni smells of very light musks and saffron which also happens to be quite erotic. Patchouli gives the last, finat touch to the composition closing the entire bouquet of this perfume.
As you can tell, I had a very different experience than my friend. On my skin, Veni was far from a caramel gourmand. It was fiery spice bouquet dominated by a beefy, jammy, heady, rich, floral note that dripped glorious drops of ruby-red saffron, dusty cardamom, and mossy patchouli like a bleeding rose in a thicket of velvety, peppered, smoking woods. If Veni had been a lavender caramel on my skin, there is no way I would have loved it so much. That said, my skin turned the final stage into something quite similar to Lucas’ experience with the sophisticated vanilla, amber and light musk, even if the notes were still lightly spiced and as sheer and translucent as gauze.
Another blogger had a totally different experience than both of us when it came to Veni. Ines of All I Am — A RedHead wrote in her review:
in my mind, Veni comes very close to the description [of the perfume representing the earth]. It is very reminiscent of dry, summer land and I can imagine an army crossing it during early summer while the smells of green hasn’t yet been burned out by the sun, accompanied by lavender and other herbs wafting on a warm, green breeze. And there must be an orchard nearby, as there is definitely a fruity, lightly citrusy tinge to it.
When I say herbal, it is to signify the spicy notes that work so well with the green notes in this perfume, I can smell the cardamom but the idea is what I described.
And even though I am the first one to forgo depicting a perfume as masculine or feminine, in today’s sense, there is a definite masculine tone to it. Which makes it perfect for me.
The warmth of the earth and the sweetness of the plants growing on it, making this smell lightly fougerish and then woody, I am definitely conquered by the approaching perfumed army.
I was conquered, too, even though I had a drastically different experience. To me, the combination of the rich, red, almost rose-like floral with the heady spices over a rich, vanillic, ambered base made the perfume feel like some sort of distant cousin to Neela Vermeire‘s gorgeously spiced Trayee more than anything gourmand, aromatic or fougèrish. Trayee is a fragrance I adore, so the comparison is high praise for Veni (especially in light of the loathed ISO E Super). For one reviewer on Fragrantica, “adrienn99,” Veni reminded her of a Montale perfume. Montale is a line which, frequently, has a very rich, jammy rose note imbued with oud and ISO E Super which probably explains her comment: “Although aoud is not listed there, somehow I got that Montale feeling, although this one is way softer and very feminine.”
Even though all three of us had very different experiences with Veni, the fact that we all really liked it should, hopefully, inspire you to hunt it down and give it a sniff for yourself. It’s such a well-blended perfume that it throws out prismatic reflections like rays of light, so perhaps all three experiences might pop up on your skin, depending on occasion. Personally, I hope you get to experience what I did — a rich floral-oriental, woody, spice mix that overcame even my fierce loathing of a certain note. Try Veni and you may be conquered, too.
Oh, my! You are a living ISO E Super detector!
I wasn’t even intending to sample this trio, but your review makes it sound wonderful. I am a sucker for a good carnation note.
There’s a perfume that broke me and crushed me with ISO E Super, so ever since then I’ve been a little traumatized. But the fact that I like this perfume nonetheless says quite a bit. It helps that they went with a very light hand on it, at least if you didn’t spray on a lot. But Veni is really lovely.
I will make sure I try it sooner or later 🙂
Nice review, Kafka! Lucas’ review put me on a mission to find a sample and it took a LONG time for me to finally score one – from Bergdorf’s. Of course I have not tried it as yet but now I will (eeek, no skin time over the next several weekends but we’ll see…). I am fascinated by your comparison of this with Trayee, which is also one of my favorite perfumes. Did you also smell the resemblance with Mona di Orio’s Vanille which I swear smells just like Trayee minus some of the spice?
No, I don’t think there is resemblance to the MdO Vanille for a few reasons: that has an incredibly rich, thick, unctuous, almost buttery, boozy vanille spiked with smoke. The vanilla here is not buttery rich, not very yellow and boozy, and, by the time, it really appears, it’s very white and light. It’s significantly sheerer — like most of the scent’s drydown — while the Mona Di Orio one is rich from the very start. The resemblance between Veni and Trayee is definitely at the start with the spiciness imbuing the florals, so it’s not due to the vanilla at all.
Of course, Lucas had a totally different experience where he never had any spicy florals, while Ines had yet another (and 3rd type of) experience, so I worry a little about which version may show up on a person’s skin.
Kafka I really love your site, not only because your perfume reviews are so detailed and so full of passion but also because I learn new things. I can recognize the base notes of this perfume but I have no idea what galbanum would smell like, I don´t think I have ever smelled that, it must not be a common ingredient in commercial fragrances. I love the fact that it focuses on a very powerful part of history, I hope that this won´t be discontinued in the future so that I can hopefully smell it and even buy a small bottle in some months from now. Glad the ISO E Super didn´t ruin this one for you 🙂 .
I’m so, so glad, VickyM, that you’re enjoying the site and the reviews. I have to say that it’s an absolute joy to have you here and it always makes my day when I see your name show up.
As for Galbanum, you can read more about it in the Glossary but, basically, it’s a Persian plant that used to be used extensively in perfumery. In the old days, long before either you or I were born, it was hugely popular and used to be used in a lot of florals, chypres and even leather perfumes. It has a very earthy, very green smell but it can be sharp and pungent, verging on black, in some perfumes. Chanel No. 19 had a lot of it, before it was reformulated and changed, including the type of galbanum that was used. Nowadays, it’s not a very common ingredient in perfumery — not the way it used to be — and it’s especially rare in commercial perfumery. One reason is that commercial scents are much more fruity-floral or gourmand in nature these days. That’s what sells. Another reason is that the oil or resin from galbanum is hard to find it the same, high-quality version after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. I hope that helps a little, sweetie, in letting you know about the note. I love how intellectually curious you are and how you love to learn all this stuff. It’s a rare thing and wonderful to see. 🙂
I am so happy you liked it! 🙂
Generally speaking, I find the HdP line one really deserving of more perfumista love. Starting with me – I still want to review the colored line (dealing with flowers).
You know, I believe that reading three such different takes on this perfume might actually give one a better idea of whether they might like it or not, than reading reviews that all sound the same. 🙂
I wish Histoires de Parfums had more appreciation, too. They seem like a fantastic line. 🙂 As for the very, VERY different takes on Veni, I have to say, I worry about it. I fear that the degree to which all our experiences varied may make someone think there is no guarantee of which version will show up if they spend almost $8 to buy a sample. After all, someone may want a gourmand experience and get something else, or perhaps want my version and get yours instead. I don’t know, I just hope the depth and range of the perfume tempts *someone*! 🙂
Yaay! I had a hunch that you’ll actually enjoy at least one of the Histoires de Parfums trio I sent your way. I’m happy you like Veni and reading your review really shows you understand the perfume and that you’re quite fascinated by it. I’m glad Iso E-Super didn’t manifest itself much on your skin so that you were able to wear the perfume without a chemical overdose.
Now, this makes my day a happy one. It feels so good to make others happy with perfume.
I was pretty stunned to like it, I must admit. The notes just seem so….. odd. I have to thank you again for your sweetness in sending me the trio. I wish I could say that the others were also a joy to test but, alas, no. I’ll post my review later, but Veni is definitely the best of the bunch. But your hunch was right in guessing that at least one of them would be a hit! 🙂 😀
I know, the notes could sound like too much. There’s not much relation between them.
No need to thank you. Just a friendly gift – we all love them when they surprise us.
Sorry for Vidi and Vici not being to your liking but at least Veni is fine for you and I’m happy for that. This quite satisfies me.
I have samples of Veni, Vidi, and Vici that I picked up from Surrender to Chance when they were the weekly special a few months back. I put Veni on while reading your review, which really helped me to pick out the notes described and brought the review to life even more than usual! I look forward to doing the same with the other two.
I’m dying to know, Lulubelle, which version showed up on your skin: what I experienced or what the other two bloggers experienced? Did you get a very rich floral note or was the perfume more gourmand or more aromatic/dry/fougerish on you?
I may have to give this a try- I love carnation.
It’s done beautifully here, Aurora. Thank you for stopping by, sweetie. It’s always wonderful to see your face. xoxoxo
Must, must, must try! I tried Vici (I think…) and really liked it. This one sounds even better. Bah humbug to having to buy samples of it though! I wish HdP would beef up their sampling program to include their more exclusive stuff. I’d gladly pay more for their samples if I had access to them via HdP, but 8 bucks for 1ml is a bit rich for my blood! I loved reading this review! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pick my jaw up from the ground after hearing you like something with ISO-E Super! 😛
I know, the ISO E Super part is shocking, no?!!! I agree on the samples being very steep in price. Ouch at $8 a vial. If I had more left in the ones sent to me by Lucas, I’d forward them on to you. I’ll check the quantity for Veni later to see, because it’s definitely worth a sniff!
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