Sunday, August 10, 2008

Soivohle' Underworld by Liz Zorn: A Review

Liz Zorn has very quickly become one of my top five favorite perfumers. I just discovered her this year, during the first few months of 2008. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with several of Ms. Zorn’s fragrances, in this order: Domino Voile’ then Blood Orange & Vetiver then Misetu and now Underworld. Underworld is my absolute favorite Soivohle’ fragrance. Underworld rocks the free world. Underworld is so amazingly good I’ve gone gaga and I’m at a loss for words. I will do my best to describe this fragrance, but I’ve got to tell you, it’s like the day I tried to review Serge Lutens Chergui; it’s so beautiful I get tongue-tied and feel that I’m not competent enough, not worthy enough, to review Underworld.

According to Ms. Zorn, the notes in Underworld are as follows:

A dark earthy pairing of vetiver and balsams, with a touch of Jasmine and Rose in the heart, set against a smoky leathery base.
PROFILE: Green/Balsamic/Earthy/Leather
INSPIRATION: Vetiver, Liz's favorite natural material.

Vetiver, as an ingredient in perfumery, has become my “note of 2008.” I’ve always liked the smell of vetiver and usually like most perfume that focuses on this note. This year, however, I’ve really taken a dive right into a big pool of vetiver. I’ve been reading up on it and find it interesting that (taken from Wikipedia) approximately 90% of all western perfumes contain vetiver. This is due to it being an excellent natural fixative. Straight vetiver oil is amber brown and rather thick. The odor of vetiver oil is described as deep, sweet, woody, smoky, earthy, amber, balsam. The best quality oil is obtained from roots that are 18 to 24 months old. The roots are dug up and cleaned then dried. Similar to patchouli and sandalwood essential oils, the odor of vetiver develops and improves with aging. The characteristics of the oil can vary significantly depending on where the grass is grown and the climate and soil conditions.

The vetiver in Underworld is combined with balsams which creates a truly primordial aroma. To me, it smells of the imaginary middle earth, or perhaps the world described in J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Underworld actually smells quite familiar, like a smell I have always known, all my life, even though I don’t know what exactly it is… There are earthy seasonal smells that I enjoy when I’m out for a hike with the dogs. I love filling my lungs with that autumnal aroma in October/November of slowly decomposing leaves and cool crisp air mingled with chimney smoke. Or, in March/April I enjoy the aroma of the damp muddy earth, just beginning to bud and grow, the smell of early spring. Underworld seems like this sort of aroma to me, something that I’m familiar with but can’t quite place. The affect of Underworld is peaceful, calming and soothing. Underworld is such a natural smell, there is nothing artificial, harsh or obtrusive about it. All day long I keep smelling my wrists over and over because I just can’t get enough of this scent.

Along with the vetiver and balsamic notes, there’s a nice spicy component, sort of a cinnamon, nutmeg and amber smell. Even though it’s dark, earthy and primordial, I’d describe Underworld as a clean scent, because there isn’t a dirty or skanky quality to it. I just can’t get enough of this stuff. I’m positive that if more people were to experience Underworld, it would quickly gain a cult-like following. Underworld is that good.

Lasting power: excellent, at least 5-6 hours
Sillage: small, stays close to your skin.


Tania said...

I can't define it either, but Underworld has a familiarity for me, too. Even though I know I've never smelled a perfume like it. It resonates somewhere in my memory.

I'm kind of glad it has low sillage - more for me! ;-)

Abigail said...

tania, how'd I do? is this the way Underworld smells to you or differently?

ScentScelf said...

Running up to check sample of Underworld...

Tania said...


you did very well!
Underworld has an autumnal feel to me too - which is odd because normally if someone told me a scent was 'autumnal', I'd expect smokey notes. But instead it's moist earth and an old leather jacket and dying leaves and ... oh, stuff like that ('m not poetical!)
And yes, no 'skank' dirt at all, it's clean in that way dead leaves smell clean even though they are actually rotting.
Um, that doesn't sound right, because Underworld is lovely and not at all to do with unpleasant stuff like decay... oh well! You said it a lot better.... ;-)