Vetiver is a fascinating material. It is wonderfully complex with a vast, nuanced olfactory profile that can smell earthy, rooty and dark, but also fresh, citrusy and clean. It’s also a material that many of us living in the western world have no specific reference point for, simply because it isn’t something we encounter in our everyday lives, which means that vetiver can be a bit of an abstract concept.
But fear not; here at Escentual, we are all about making the abstract come to life, so that you can recognise and appreciate strange things such as vetiver when you encounter them, whether in written or olfactory form.
So, what is vetiver? It’s a perennial fragrant grass that is native to India but also grows in other places around the world, most notably in Haiti. It has several traditional uses in medicines and ceremonies, but it has become a staple of modern (predominantly masculine) perfumery due to its unique odour.
But what does it smell like? If you smell the grass itself, it’s incredibly earthy and damp, with a sweetness that is hard to pin down and describe. The materials extracted from vetiver smell: grassy, green, earthy, rooty, salty, spicy, and mineral, with facets of; citrus (grapefruit), liquorice, spice, smoke, and nuts. It’s an incredibly varied and versatile material. Here are some reference vetivers you absolutely must try (if you haven’t already experienced them in June’s #EscentualScents box, that is!)
Scent A: The Soapy Vetiver
GUERLAIN Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Vetiver Eau de Toilette
GUERLAIN Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Vetiver is refreshingly green and soapy in the best way. The most recent addition to the famous nature-inspired Aqua Allegoria collection, Nerolia Vetiver is a celebration of the union of fresh grassy vetiver and the tart, citrusy neroli note. It’s a bright green-woody fragrance with an equal measure of zingy citrus, which showcases the versatility of vetiver note as its able to share the leading role with another note without feeling threatened.
Scent B: The Zingy Vetiver
Prada Les Infusions de Prada Vetiver Eau de Parfum
Vetiver has a natural citrus facet that smells acidic and zingy, like freshly sliced or squeezed grapefruits. In Prada’s Infusion de Prada Vetiver, this fizzy vibrancy is amplified and contrasted by juicy slices of ginger to create the effect of a bubbling vetiver cocktail served over ice. It’s completely transparent, a touch soapy (in the best possible way – think of it as super clean), and unmistakably vetiver, making for a modern masterpiece that almost gives the GUERLAIN a run for its money.
Scent C: The Smoky Vetiver
Miller Harris Vetiver Insolent Eau de Parfum
We move now from the freshness of vetiver deep into the dark and dirty facets of the material. As we know at this point, vetiver has natural nuances of earth and smoke, and these facets are pushed front and centre by Miller Harris’ striking Vetiver Insolent. In this impeccably blended perfume, cardamom, iris, and moss enhance the spice, earth and mineral facets of the ingredient whilst lavender and tonka bean add a flash of the fougere sophistication of classic French perfumery. Wearing Vetiver Insolent is like crawling through the cool earth of the rabbit hole before tumbling down into Wonderland. Vetiver is the
magic key needed to unlock the door to an unexpected adventure.
Scent D: The Fresh, Outdoorsy Vetiver
Moncler Pour Homme Eau de Parfum
If you want a vetiver fragrance that will take you straight to a steep mountainside dotted with tall conifers, Moncler Pour Homme is the one you’re looking for. It’s a ‘breath of fresh air’ kind of fragrance as it initially starts will a cool alpine green accord and aromatic sage before delving into a comforting woodsy heart. Vetiver dominates the heart, adding a touch of earthiness and a touch of smokiness to the woody tone of the heart – maybe there’s a campfire tucked away somewhere in the forest…
Scent E: The Silvery Vetiver
Histoires de Parfums 1899 Eau de Parfum
1899 takes inspiration from the American novelist Ernest Hemingway and nights spent chasing shadows in Paris. On this night out, the vetiver trawls a few gin joints and definitely necks one or two bourbons, each drink adding their respective herbal (the gin) and amber (the bourbon) facets. This may make you think that is a raucous, boozy vetiver that knows how to have a good time, but in fact, it’s a fresh, herbal take on the material that feels silvery, clean, and rather well dressed. Perhaps all that debauchery is hidden just behind a freshly pressed suit and tie? You’ll have to wear it to find out!
Scent F: The Cool Vetiver
GUERLAIN L’Homme Ideal Cool Eau de Toilette
As we’ve established already, GUERLAIN know how to do a good vetiver. And because they are so adept at handling the material, they’ve used it in many of their fragrances over the years. L’Homme Ideal Cool is one of the more recent offerings from GUERLAIN that features vetiver, and its use here is a good example of how vetiver doesn’t always have to be the main attraction. It presents the nutty, green, almond-like quality of the original L’Homme Ideal but diluted in a much fresher, more transparent manner, all with a nice green vetiver twist. Yes, it’s as delightful as it sounds.
Scent G: The Oud-y Vetiver
ZARKOPERFUME Oud-Couture Eau de Parfum
Zarko is the latest fragrance brand to launch at Escentual, so I’m thrilled we got to sneak them into June’s #EscentualScents box. Created by Denmark’s only practising perfumer, Oud-Couture is a great introduction to a lot of perfume notes – and I mean that in the best possible way. If you’re not sure about oud, try Oud-Couture. If you’re not sure about vetiver, try Oud-Couture.
Perfumer, Zarko Ahlmann Pavlov doesn’t make vetiver the star of the show (oud is), but it adds a smoky, grassy edge to the fragrance as it mingles with oud, sandalwood and rose wood, helping to balance out the oud so it doesn’t feel too dark or heavy.
Scent H: The Classic Vetiver
BVLGARI Man Terrae Essence Eau de Parfum
If you like your Vetiver wrapped in heavy swathes of dark black leather, then I think BVLGARI Man Terrae Essence may be the scent for you; this is a fragrance that feels like scorched earth, with the inky, tarry, and smoky facets of leather ground into clouds of dust that roll slowly through the tall, dried strands of Vetiver. It is a deeply evocative fragrance that, despite its darkness, feels endlessly wearable and more than just a bit sexy. Vetiver may not be the star here, but it certainly adds a touch of something wild that makes Terrae Essence such a fascinating olfactory adventure.