Vetiver is like comfortable old shoes to me. Ahh…vetiver, it’s relaxing and there are relatively few versions of vetiver I’ve ever come across that I didn’t like. I love Terre d’Hermes, though perhaps it’s not as good a vetiver as in its salad days. I also love Guerlain’s wonderful old Vetiver. A marvelous scent, and the tobacco in there is a brilliant touch.
I’ve always crossed the aisle and so wore Givenchy’s Eau de Vetyver and I loved and briefly wore Maitre Parfumier et Gantier’s Racines. One was very masculine and comfortable- kind of like borrowing your boyfriend’s hacking jacket- and the other was more refined, good to wear in fall with woolens. Naturally I also had Guerlain’s Vetyver for a long time. The square bottle with the wave pattern on the glass was sublime but gave headaches, so I sprayed it in my shoes or on my feet. I still managed to get my vetiver fix and discovered along the way that the Guerlain Vetiver killed moths.
Encre Noir appeared and that was a perfectly fine version for vetiver lovers, I never could understand why the company released Encre Noir Pour Elle. The first perfume was modern and a fine rendition, perfectly unisex-no need to put frilly panties on it. Encre was never one of those butch vetivers like Maitre Parfumier et Gantier’s Route du Vetiver. Now that was tough stuff (with stubble) every time you tried to smell the sample. I feared that the formula would put hair on my chest and so never bothered to wear R d V.
On the other end of the Vetiver spectrum was Hermes’ Vetiver Tonka so elegant and with no declared gender. VT is easy to wear and a winner in almost any situation, particularly good in late Fall. I find that it is a stand in for some of the old woody orientals I used to love like Jacques Fath’s Expression, only with far fewer ingredients. It even recalls Coty’s Chypre faintly in a thoroughly deconstructed way.
So given that I really like the stuff, why do I now wear a vetiver that I once actively disliked? The truth is if cornered these days, I would have to admit that the Vetiver I have been wearing most of late is Patricia de Nicolai’s.* Old Vetyver is a dry, complex rendition of vetiver and it contains a healthy dose of cumin. (I know, I know, many people find cumin a deal breaker.) This is a strange treatment which grows on you. At first I thought I detested this Vetyver. It was Green Eggs and Ham to me -no lie.
However as generally happens, Sam I Am catches up with you, and you have to admit that you actually like green eggs and ham, or in this case green vetiver and cumin. There is supposed to be ylang ylang
in this formula, and jasmine. Honestly I’ve never noticed them. What I do get, in spades actually, are coriander, pepper, and that cumin. Then there is tonka bean which is probably why I tend to layer this with the Hermes for maximum throw and complexity. Combined they smell like the final weeks of summer to me, and either one is a fine accompaniment to any of your favorite vanilla brews (if you’re like me you keep a couple of these on hand. Vetiver and vanilla are old friends.)
So yes, I’ve even learned to love dry spicy vetivers. Not so sure about green ham though…
- lately people on Basenotes and fragrantica complain about the lasting power and strength of this. Look for the bottles with the grass green label, those are the strongest.