Vetiver perfume – earthy, almost loamy, often thought of as one of the more masculine notes. When I do these guides, the characteristics of the note seems to invade how I write about it. Vetiver, while thought of as refined, more masculine, can also be warm, nutty, spicy, green, fierce. It definitely defies gender, so never be afraid to try any vetiver perfume, regardless of notes on whether it is homme or femme.
I used to think just boring bankers wore vetiver. Hermessence Vetiver Tonka was the fragrance that turned me around completely on it. If this is what you’re thinking, well, read on. There is a big, wide, not boring world of vetiver fragrance!
Normal rules – vetiver centric, not just be a supporting note. We will do a giveaway of all/most of the vetiver perfumes referenced in this post, and this will include some vintage treasure that you definitely want to have a shot at winning. Details on how to enter (more than once!) at the bottom of the post.
Classic and Must Smell Vetiver Perfume – Hey, boys, move to one side, these are for me as well!
The iconic vetiver fragrance for the last few decades is Guerlain Vetiver. It’s been out there forever, and deserves its reputation as The Vetiver Fragrance. I’ve got it in the pre-reformulation and current iterations. As a starting point for vetiver, you can’t go wrong just starting here to get the full-on vetiver experience. If you hate it? No harm, no foul, you’ve tried the best, and you can now move on. Older Guerlain vetiver in the EDC is brighter, more lemon and bergamot. The later EDT is dry, austere, less sunny.
Creed Original Vetiver opens all citrus brightness and is a classic men’s cologne. Incredibly easy to wear, I can’t think that this would ever be found annoying smelling it on the guy next to you. Spices and woods combine in the drydown to give this nice depth. It’s not a groundbreaking classic vetiver perfume, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to smell great, and this does.
Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire is at the top of every vetiver perfume list since it released in 2002. Created by Dominique Ropion, it is everything a fragrance should be when centered around one note. Opening with spices and pepper and a blast of citrus, that open is mesmerizing because you just don’t know what to pay attention to first. Mossy, green, spicy, and a truckload of vetiver. Despite the variety of notes, this is a polished rock of vetiver that glistens with moss, but you never can quite touch it. It is my favorite vetiver perfume evah.
The Sahara Desert and Taj Mahal of vetiver perfume is Guerlain Djedi. Dry as old toast, weird as being on another planet. There is nothing else like it. Doesn’t mean you’ll love it at all. It’s a little freaky, and it’s not beautiful as much as it is something that stepped out of time and place. I normally don’t like to include the discontinued/vintage stuff in these posts because they are so hard to get, and this one has hit impossibility. The rare bottles that do show up on eBay are in the 2k range plus range, which is insane. I just horde my bits of it and smell it when I want to experience another country. I think of this as No Country for Old Men, it’s definitely from a Cormac McCarthy novel and tells its story they way he does – in weird prose that you may not always understand, but speaks to you under the skin, crawls around inside your head, and you never forget.
The scarcity of Djedi leads us to Vero Profumo Onda, which is the closest thing still made to Djedi. They are different, but Onda has that deep foreboding otherworldly feel, like you woke up on Pluto with a hangover and very little memory of the previous night except it may have involved Elves. Leathery, rich, it is life lived lustily with some weird not regretful bitterness — the dregs of the coffee that you appreciate as well because that drink was so rich and amazing. While Djedi stays in weird and will never let you feel comfortable, Onda dries into a soaring floral note. Rescue? Redemption? Do you care?
Hermes Terre d’Hermes for me is more of a mineral smell, but there’s enough vetiver in it and most people refer to it as a vetiver perfume, so it’s getting tucked in here so y’all don’t wag your fingers at me and ask me why I left it out. I don’t have more to say because I love this scent. It’s so well-blended, it never seems like “just vetiver” to me. Try it for yourself, you may have a completely different experience! It is a classic and keeps topping about every best-of list for men since its release. You can’t take a tour of vetiver without including it.
Vetiver Perfume Crack
Hermessence Vetiver Tonka stands alone and takes the cheese on this one for me. Who knows what it is exactly that makes one fragrance perfect and enjoyable and addictive? The gourmand take on vetiver that created Vetiver Tonka just does it for me. I love it, adore it, and nobody gets to talk bad about it, dammit! So no hatin’ on th VT. This is velvet, nutty vetiver, and it makes me happy beyond words.
Modern Vetiver Perfume Classics
Annick Goutal Vetiver is a modern classic, salted roots overlaid with the Goutal restraint and elegance. Not so refined that you feel too dressed up, but casual refinement, a wee aquatic, like the salt air blowing gently across your face. Christian Dior Vetiver is nicely rendered green vetiver perfume with a little coffee thrown in.
A modern mainstream classic done right is Tom Ford Grey Vetiver. This doesn’t happen that often, so we should throw a party! Opening brightly, warmed with tonka, nutmeg and woods. It’s not covering new vetiver territory, but it smells really good to great, and I’d far rather smell this all over a lot of men in public than half the other crap out there, so I give it a toss over the fence into modern classic keeper as a defensive move.
Refined, elegant vetiver oozes from Chanel Sycomore, and I think it’s one of the best modern vetiver fragrances. Smoky, peppery, it replows some old classic ground and improves it. As much as I rag on Chanel for the stuff they screw up (oh, Hi Chanel Coco Noir!), I always given them major credit when they get it exactly right. Sycomore is right and falls in the easy to wear, beautiful, can’t screw up how you smell today category. The vetiver bargain of this century is Lalique Encre Noir. A great vetiver perfume at any price, but when you can pick up a 100 ml bottle for under $50, that’s a sweet spot you don’t find often in perfume. Peppery woodsy vetiver, it is a vetiver bonanza – not too rough, not too smooth. It’s the Middle Bowl of Porridge, and the price seals it as perfection.
Going another direction with vetiver is Diptyque Vetyverio. Green and peppery, beautifully warmed and spiced with nutmeg and clove. The vetiver almost crunches on the open, then just gently warms. Not your rooty vetiver, so it’s a great pick if you like some aspects of vetiver, but just don’t want it to be all-in metallic earth/root.
Salted vetiver is The Different Company Sel de Vetiver. Where Goutal salts the roots, TDC dumps a shaker, the lid falls off and creates a crystalline, transparent vetiver that is an entirely different thing. Salty sun-warmed skin after a day at the beach, this is one of my favorite vetivers.
Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental is green, iris, chocolate, gaiac, labdanum, amber, musk. A distinctly more sensual take on vetiver. While I always admire this one a lot, there is a lush overripeness that feels vaguely malevolent and somewhat disturbing. Such an odd thing for a vetiver scent! I never can manage to love it, it sorta spooks me.
Jo Malone Black Vetyver Café shows that an odd pairing has some great results. Vetiver and coffee, mai oui! The play of the forceful nature of coffee, spooning up the vetiver like fragrant steam. It is genius.
Mark Buxton gave us Le Labo Vetiver 46, so it has a decided incense slant to the vetiver. Le Labo sometimes seems not to have so much of the main note in their perfume, and Vetiver is one of that variety. You’ll get the vetiver – sorta – but you’ll wade through a gorgeous river of incense to arrive on its woody green shore.
Atelier Vetiver Fatal is another great entry in the modern vetiver perfume classic family, and a recent one. Violet, lemon, plum lighten the woody vetiver, and it cheerfully smokes up the area with oranges and vetiver. What’s not to love? After being bounced around on whether it’s a limited edition or a main perfume for Guerlain, Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle deserves a spot on Guerlain’s counters permanently. First available only in duty-free shops, then more widely available, then gone for a while, then back, now the word is it is gone for good again. Really? Lord, Guerlain, give this thing a permanent home! This is vetiver for a bright summer day. Men need not worry about that “pour elle’ piece in the name. It’s not that feminine. It’s just a glorious vetiver infused with orange blossom, tonka, muguet, and you could probably wear this every day for the rest of your life and never be unhappy again.
Straight-up Vetiver, no chaser
AbdesSaalam Attar Vetyver is all earthy roots, all vetiver. This is a great reference point that is well worth smelling because it’s a great example of vetiver without a lot of fuss, but it also smells great as a vetiver fragrance.
Tauer Vetiver Dance is thick, chunky vetiver soup. Probably one of the most long-lived and potent vetivers. Even though it does have a chaser. I think of it as lush, jungle vetiver. Lily of the valley and other notes plump this up, keeping the vetiver front and center. If you don’t want a strong fragrance or will be in close quarters with other people, you might want to select another scent for the day. This thing is not shy.
CB I hate Perfume vetiver accords go in here because they are well worth smelling if you have them. CB is removing all of his regular accords for purchase from his store, so I should probably avoid talking about them. But if you want to smell vetiver in the wild and get an idea of the differences between Haitian, Javanese and Indonesian vetiver, these were/are a good place to start. He may still have some accords sitting around, if you are at all tempted to try to run them down.
Lorenzo Villoresi Vetiver approaches vetiver with his normal approach, walks up behind it, clubs it over the head and puts it in a bottle. That’s NOT a bad thing some/most/all of the time! This is green, woody, it doesn’t restrain the vetiver and try to civilize it much, except with a little spice. Along the same Vetiver Raw theme, Maitre Parfumeur Gantier Route de Vetiver is one of the bellwethers. I am going completely by memory because this wasn’t one that I loved and kept, but it is fierce – green, rooty, it is raw meat for vetiver fans. You’ve been warned.
I Profumi di Firenze Fresco di Vetiver is a refreshing, crisp vetiver scent, perfect for summer. Nothing complicated, but a simple; well-made citrus-vetiver blend is often just perfect on a hot summer day.
LezNez Turtle Vetiver Front, what happened to this one, did they discontinue it? Damn shame. They had the original Turtle Vetiver, then issued this, and now it seems gone. Smoky, rooty, and almost ice-cold. It’s a wonderful full-on vetiver that doesn’t try to disguise vetiver at all. Prada Infusion de Vetiver is perfectly fine, perfectly vetiver, and it’s really light and airy. If you want a little vetiver smell, this is your go-to spot. I don’t hate it, I just don’t really get it. It’s like vetiver air.
Odd and off the Beaten Vetiver Path
Montale Red Vetyver strikes me as odd, but an interesting odd. Grapefruit, elemi, cedar. An interesting woody warmed coolness over all of that woody heat, it has contrasts. I’m never sure if I like it or not, but it always gets my attention.. Mona Di Orio’s les Nombres d’Or Vetyver is another oddball vetiver perfume – musk, tonka, sage, vetiver, ginger, violet. It’s a wild ride and complicated. Sensual, mysterious, dry, warm, an unusual and out of the ordinary vetiver ride.
Miller Harris Vetiver Bourbon is a surprise from the normally laid-back Brit line, but there is a family vetiver resemblance to Djedi. Not super-close, but enough of that weirdness, the other-worldliness, green, the booziness lays in some lushness that takes out enough dryness and separates it from Djedi. But this is a vetiver off the beaten path that is absolutely worth following.
Parfums de Nicolai Vetyver lands in the off the beaten path because they throw in some cumin and other interesting bits to make their vetivery concoction something else more interesting. Well-made, the cumin in here isn’t of the body odor type. It hints at it, but you’re not going to smell like you were just in the locker room. The spices warm it a bit, masala vetiver is my best sketch of it. So it veers spiced/gourmand vetiver, but doesn’t ever really land in the gourmet camp. Dolce & Gabanna Velvet Vetiver never got much attention when it came out, but I like the notes used in it – fig, vetiver and galbanum. It lends a milky incense quality to vetiver that I think is unusual. I’m not entirely certain I like it. It falls more in the gourmand family with the fig. I think the price point of the D&G Velvet Collection punted a couple of the best fragrances out of people’s minds, but this one struck me as something different in the world of vetiver and at least worth a mention.
Nasomatto Absinth is equal parts vetiver and absinth, plus there are some nutty, gourmand notes in it, and it has that same addictive quality of some perfumes that are like peanuts – you just want another sniff. Farmacia SS Annunziata Vetyver Incense does an odd pairing of incense and sweetness with vetiver. I wasn’t really sure where else to put this one. It was an interesting approach to vetiver, and I’m not sure if I like it, but I might! It does meander over into Hermes Terre d’Hermes territory, but if you like incense and vetiver and Terre doesn’t do it for you, this one might.
Il Profumo Vetiver de Java has notes of lavender, vetiver, birch, incense, red rose, Cashmere cypress, gaiac wood and oak moss. I love this take on vetiver. It’s a lovely, warm, woody and well done. I’m not that familiar with the Il Profumos, except through doing these guides, but so far I really like the couple I’ve tried. Easy to wear, beautiful, what more could you want really? L’Artisan Coeur de Vetiver Sacre is a beautiful tea and vetiver mix. I probably should have included this in my tea post, it’s got a quite strong tea feel, and with the lovely osmanthus pairing. Ginger, incense, tonka, amber, woods. I sorta remember there wasn’t universal love for this when it came out? I smelled it when we were at Robertet in Grasse, Karine Vinchon, the nose behind the fragrance, presented it to us. I still really like it like I did then. You do have to have patience for the vetiver to show itself. It’s a really beautiful tea/vetiver combination that veers gourmand, but never seems to tip over it. It’s unique for me in vetiver, so it should have a spot on your to-try lists for vetiver.
Budget vetiver perfume, but still worthy
I don’t have a lot of other comments about these, but vetiver is a great note and plays easily in the budget end of things too, so try any of these if you just don’t want to spend a ton on a really good vetiver perfume – Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vetyver Haiti, Demeter Vetiver, Korres Vetiver Root Green Tea Cedarwood, Tesori d’Oriente Sandalo del Kashmir e Vetiver.
So where did I go wrong? Any glaring omissions? I hate asking this question because there is usually at least 1-3, and I cringe! What’s your favorite? Hate vetiver, love it, indifferent to it? The drawing! Below is the little gadget to do more entries. You must comment on this post to be entered, but you can earn additional entries by tweeting, liking, sharing, etc. Entries will be accepted until next Monday, 1/21/13, and then I’ll draw the winners of the two vetiver sample sets that will include all or almost all of the vetiver fragrances in the post.
All samples were provided from my private collection or donated by Surrender to Chance