As an ardent admirer of Scandinavia and the many delights that it has to offer, I am always delighted to find brands coming out of the North, but have yet to find one which entirely enchants. That could all be about to change though with the ascendence of Swedish brand V/SITEUR who are putting their own, distinctive slant on the perfumery landscape.
There is something a bit weird about the scents from V/SITEUR which as a brand is pleasingly fresh and original. Maybe something a little 1990s psychedelic rave about them, or perhaps this is the party people all grown up but reminiscing those halcyon days. Or maybe it’s a slightly darker, more sinister edge that infuses these creations. Whatever it is, though, V/SITEUR has an edge, a past, stories to recount. They’re telling the sorts of tales you want to listen to, even if you find yourself unsettled and a little disturbed by them. There is a thrill for sure, like watching a creepy movie late at night in an empty house. It feels risky, but yet you can’t help those shivers of excitement too.
V/SITEUR have been building up to launching for a couple of years, finally going live in the hot mess of a year that has been 2020, but in a way their strange, unsettling, intriguing scents probably find a primed audience in what could well have been the strangest year in living memory.
The brand use respected perfumers (Cecile Zarokian, Patrice Revillard, and Marie Schnirer) to compose their fragrances but each perfumer feels like they have been given a good briefing of the brand’s character. In particular, Beach Bizarre and 1000 Lakes feel very much as if they are from the same stable.
Three fragrances make up V/SITEUR’s debut collection, each recalling memories of particular places and times. One is a nightclub, one a beach and one a lakeside sauna.
Listed notes: Gin accord, pink pepper, orange, smoke, sandalwood, powdery notes, tuberose, tobacco, cumin, animalic notes.
Let’s start with Cabaret Nocturne because it is the easiest scent to understand and get into from the bunch. It opens with a lovely shot of gin and orange that give this boozy, cocktail type of vibe. It feels like the first drink on a night out after a long week (or perhaps the first night out post pandemic when we can gather and celebrate with friends again?) in a lively bar. The energy is rising, you are shedding the worries of work and starting your weekend in style.
The orange in the scent is handled beautifully, not too much, not too harsh. It has juicy hints, but it is round and warm too. The fragrance feels friendly and welcoming but it also has a party energy about it too. The celebratory cocktail opening is followed by a make-up vibe; that sort of evocation of lipstick, powder, pastes and creams. Like the opening bars, these powdery notes are handled so well, just the right level, to give you the sense that a beautifully coiffed person has walked past, but not so much that you feel like you are suffocating in it.
Further into the wear and the warm glow of tobacco comes through along with hints of smoke. I did wonder if this brand would go down the dirty and dark route with these elements, but they haven’t (and I am glad) for the scent retains a lovely open warmth that is approachable and very wearable. Under it though is the tug of something sensual, something sexy: warm bodies, skin, a little perspiration. It’s not heavy or particularly challenging, but it’s there and it adds this real moreish facet to the fragrance. It’s sexy but in an understated way which makes it even more so, and very satisfying to observe a perfumer using restraint to such excellent effect.
The whole scent has a smoothness about it which made me think of polished wood floors, catching the whiff of someone who has been dancing and is starting to glow, sipping a sweet drink. It is a warm room, with a window cracked to stop it feeling muggy. There is lift and liveliness here but also a sense of timelessness. One could imagine someone wearing this now, ten years ago, thirty years ago or even 100 and it still being appealing.
Listed notes: Gardenia, ylang-ylang, lime, tropical fruit, sea salt, seaweed, cumin, cannabis, patchouli, ambergris.
When a fragrance has the temerity to use the word “bizarre” in its name, then it had better damn well live up to that. Beach Bizarre really does.
The scent opens with a beautiful swell of tropical fruits and florals that would have you believe you had been transported to a tropical island somewhere…BUT…the flowers and fruits feel really cold. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Luscious, but restrained by a cooler temperature. It sets up a fascinating cognitive dissonance: these fruits smell tropical, so why does it feel so cold? For someone like me who spent a lot of their childhood holidays on windswept rain-lashed beaches drinking sugary cartons of kids’ drinks, that is what it called to mind for me.
As the scent wears on, it goes darker, and a bit rubbery – perhaps a rubber wetsuit has been washed up on the shore and then the fragrance feels like it shifts again as the mineral, salty, seaweedy notes start to take up more and more space in the composition. I felt very much like some sort of sea monster – or maybe a Scooby Do villan (as in a man dressed up in a rubber wetsuit as a sea monster) had crawled out of the ocean at this point and was lumbering up the beach.
There is a fascinating juxtaposition in Beach Bizarre between attraction and repulsion, and the scent plays with that push/pull throughout. This idea is evident in all the scents to a greater or lesser degree, but this is the one which really showcases it with it’s sinister, unsettling vibe. Clearly, this won’t be a scent that everyone will like, but I applaud the brand’s bravery for producing it. Beach Bizarre is the most challenging of the line up and definitely lives up to its name but if you love that seaweedy, mineral, seaside tang then it is definitely one to check out.
Listed notes: Birch leaf, vegetal accord, blackcurrant, mineral accord, rhubarb, warm woods, musk, smoke, leather, steam.
1000 Lakes exhibits the duality seen in Beach Bizarre, but in a slightly less challenging (although in no way less interesting) form. The scent opens with a bright, bracing vegetal blast coupled with what feels like the scent of hot bodies over warm wood. The fragrance gives you a whole olfactory smellscape in just a few moments. Here is a sauna, crowded with naked, hot skin; outside, the smells of the forest are amplified through nasal passages dilated from the heat. There is even a vague hint of chlorination which seems to be coming from the rhubarb element, coupled with the warm woods, its quite something!
The woodiness is indeed warm, but the way that the perfumer here has conjured the impression of steam is masterful. Inhaling the scent really feels like you are actually breathing in a sauna at times, weird, wonderful and very clever.
1000 Lakes isn’t as unsettling as Beach Bizarre is, and the duality on show here feels like it is between the hot/dry and cold/wet facets. Again though, this gives the fragrance a lovely tension and allows you to seek within it the facets which appeal most to your own particular tastes.
The fragrance leaves us with dry, hot woods that feel a little baked, alongside the lingering tartness of rhubarb. It’s an unusual combination, for sure, but nevertheless the clever perfumer has managed to make it work nicely.
V/SITEUR’s debut fragrances are something different which, in a world of thoroughly dull scents with mass appeal, is very much to be applauded. There’s a dark side to these fragrances, but none of them seem to explore that in the obvious way, instead they seem to pick paths less trodden, bringing with them a thrill of excitement and intrigue. It’s great when brands are brave enough to do something unexpected and that is most definitely true of V/SITEUR. Whilst we cannot guarantee that you will enjoy all these scents, if you do find one that suits you, you’ll love it rather than just like. You’ll also smell utterly unique. Watching the brand grow and push the envelope further is going to be one hell of a wild ride, so buckle up and let’s see what happens next.
Highlights of the whole experience for me were Cabaret Nocturne which is just so very well done, and the tension between hot/cold and wet/dry in 1000 Lakes.
The longevity on all the fragrances is very good and we experienced a full day of eight to ten hours from each when we tested them. Cabaret Nocturne arguably projects the least, but even then it is to around handshake distance or so. The others felt like they would maybe go a touch further too. Certainly no complaints in terms of longevity or projection here.
The V/SITEUR fragrances are available online from their web boutique. They are all priced at €145 for 75ml of EdP.
The other stuff
We were kindly given no-strings-attached samples of the fragrances by the brand but with no requirement to review or provide an opinion in any form, positive or negative.