Vetiver: Notes on Notes

Hello APJ, Welcome to our small scale collaboration project. Old Herbaceous (OH) of Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities and I will be doing a monthly post on different perfume notes. We are not perfumers but aficionados of fragrance. So lots of our information will come with links for further reading or text references. We are learning as you are learning, or refreshing.

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Vetiver: Notes on Notes

This month I got to pick the note and it was an easy pick. I’ve long loved the many uses that Vetiver can be put to. Talking last year to my friend Kerry (who owns De Vries Wholesale Nurseries) about it inspired him. He searched and searched and now keeps Vetiver. As a thank you he gave me my own plant, which is currently thriving on our main bedroom balcony.

Vetiver Parramatta Summer 2023

What is Vetiver? Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), also called khus, is a perennial grass of the family Poaceae (Britannica) from India and surrounds. Vetiver has high tolerance for extreme adverse conditions, including heavy metal toxicity, making it suitable for the remediation of heavy metal contaminated soils and waterways. Its roots can grow to 7m depth in three years, excellent for stabilising land, keeping moisture in the soil and for capturing sediment runoff on eroding slopes. Its ability to thrive in saline, heavy metal, acidic, & agro-chemical soils/water and help bioremediation is now also being lauded. Vetiver root extract is being used as a pre-emergent weed killer and as pest control. Industrial and domestic waste water can be reduced and purified by vetiver, reducing soluble P & N and help slow algae growth in  waterways (intechopin). It is also used as mulch, animal feed and as a natural border between paddocks. All this and we haven’t even mentioned perfume, yes vetiver cultivation is also an excellent way for emerging nations to plant something that sells. Historically it has been used to make fragrant mats and curtains that are cooling and pest resistant.

How does Vetiver smell? Vetiver has an enormous range of scent, especially as it’s usually not the leading note but with other accords. In its solo form it’s not-lawn grassy, inky, earthy, smoky, a little musty and often reads to me as salty. Sometimes I get a very mineralic smell and others it’s like breaking grassy stems. It can make me thing of dark depths and sunshiny bush walks. Famously Jean Kerleo told The Perfume Society co-founder Jo Fairly that it smells like a sack of potatoes.
My girlfriend Ainslie Walker describes it thus: To me the essential oil smells earthy, green and smokey – sometimes, especially the acetate of the oil has a kind of grapefruit/citrus top note as well. Yum

How is Vetiver used in perfumery? Apparently Vetiver is an excellent fixative and has been used as a base note for generations of perfumers. It is noted for its antiseptic, calming, cooling, and detoxing properties in Ayurvedic medicine and aromatherapy. This century has seen it become more of a headline note in fine fragrance. When looking up Vetiver perfumes on Fragrantica it is mind-blowing how many perfumes contain it in varying amounts. Many of my collection as well: Sycamore, Encore Noir, Terre d’Hermès, No 19 and Leau d’Issey Pour Homme are just a few.

In which perfumes will you find Vetiver? Here are a couple of my faves. Mildly amusing story: Jin fell in love with my Guerlain Vetiver early on so I thought it would be a safe note to purchase fir him. Both of these fave perfumes were bought for him at different times and he flat out loathed Fat Electrician, thought it was utterly offensive. We picked Coeur de Vetiver Sacre  together in the Galeries Lafayette Haussman, behind l’Opera. Sadly on our return to Oz he didn’t really like it. Oh well, his loss has been my gain.

Vetiver Notes on Notes ELdO L'Artisan 2023


Etat Libre d’Orange Fat Electrician

Fat Electrician is a smoky, zing of electrical sparks, oils and dirt underpinned by this ridiculous sweet nutty accord and woods. Here vetiver shows its dark, inky, sooty side and the bright burnings of sparks. It’s like this electrician is eating Croissants aux Amandes while about to burn the house down. A hilarious, multifarious and ultimately interesting way to treat the vetiver. Laugh out loud gorgeousness. As much as I love Fat Electrician it rarely gets the spritz. It’s quite distracting if I need to think about other things. Dry down is beautiful, vanilla, resins and whispers of ripening produce fields.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Coeur de Vetiver Sacre 

Seriously! This note list looks like it comes from the heart of the 1980s. Coeur de Vetiver Sacre is a kitchen sinker of a fragrance. Surprisingly though it’s not as cacophonic as the list would have you believe. Grasses, sweet tea, woods and smoke are my main protagonists. I know I’m probably swayed by the title but the whole fragrance smells tranquil and serene, like the dream of a Hindu temple at dawn. Incense, offerings, tea and the smells of old wooden buildings and mountain breezes. All of this over the greenery of drying grass stems and lightly polluted waft of auto rickshaws burning petrol and diesel. Way down in the dry down is even a hint of humanity. Vetiver is the star player but the rest of the notes play integral roles.

Please go check out Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities and see what OH has to add to the Notes on Notes about Vetiver.

What are your favourite fragrances with Vetiver listed as a note?
Portia xx


23 thoughts on “Vetiver: Notes on Notes

  1. I usually struggle with vetiver as a note. However, I find ELdO Fat Electrician, Chanel Sycomore, and Prada Infusion de Vetiver very enjoyable.

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  2. Wow, I never knew you could grow vetiver as a potted plant! Does that mean the soil is more important than the general climate for it to grow?
    I love smelling vetiver essential oils, but struggle to love it in perfumery, so I can relate to Jin in his vastly different reactions to the “same” note. I personally disliked Guerlain Vetiver as it smelled harsh to me, and Terre d’Hermes took time to grow on me. Thought I’d found my perfect vetiver in Essential Parfums Mon Vetiver but it turns out I like it better in the summer than the fall, or something like that.

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    • Hey Nose Prose,
      On reading about Vetiver it seems that it can survive anywhere but prefers warmth and a full sun position. In the toxic rivers of South America it is grown on the banks and rows are strung across the river where the roots are dangling into the water only. The % reductions of toxicity are amazing.
      Sop I’m not even sure the soil type ,matters as much as it needing lots of water.
      Portia x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Greylocke by Phlur. I have the original bottle. The vetiver is pronounced but it is paired with apple and pine. Every time I wear it I receive a compliment.
    And woo hoo, you don’t need wordpress to leave a comment now!!!!!!!!

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  4. I am surprised to find relatively few Vetiver scents in my collection. Those I have are Cristalle EdT, No 19 EdT, Diorella, Eau de Magnolia, Mitsouko & Bois d’Encens. So obviously I like my vetiver wrapped in citrusy chypres.
    I cannot choose a favourite from these, it would be like choosing a favourite child!

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