Native of India and distant cousin of lemon grass, vetiver is the essence of masculinity in fragrances.
80% of the world production today comes from Haiti, the rest scattered from Indonesia, Brazil and China. At first glance, vetiver is a somehow unimpressive perennial grass that can reach 5 feet tall. It can however survive animal grazing, frost and fire, making it the die-hard of the savanna. In Hawaii, vetiver is used to protect soil erosion, as its root system is so strong that it can reach up to 10 feet long.
Vetiver is today mainly cultivated for the fragrant essential oil distilled from its roots. The oil is thick, amber brown and ages well. Old vetiver oils are particularly sought in high-end boutique perfurmery. It is an excellent fixative, allowing other more volatile fragrances to remain in the blend and combine magically.
The subtle yet insisting fragrance of vetiver is of the most sensual “wood”, with its musty, dry, woody scent with bitter chocolate and smoke facets. It is a “base note” that remains on the skin after most other oils are evaporated.
Vetiver oil is the basis in some 36% of all western perfumes and 20% of all men’s fragrances. Many famous perfumes and eau de toilette took even its name, such as the classic “Vetiver” of Guerlain or “L’Eau de Vetyver” de Givenchy. It is also an essential contributor in “Eau Sauvage” of Dior or less known but amazing “Encre Noire” of Lalique.
My special recommendation goes for “Cowboy Grass” from the niche fragrance house of DS & Durga in NYC. Vetiver is present in it in top, middle and base notes and complemented by many woody and grassy oils. A must try, for all lovers of vetiver like me.
I have often used vetiver oil in my home-made cold process soaps. The oil resists very well the lye and remains in the soap bar for many months. It blends well with bergamot, rosemary and lavender to create a chypre-type bar that will please many in the family.