My Favorite Things: Vetiver

For those of us with more than one bottle of perfumer the change of the seasons signals a change in the perfumes we look forward to wearing. With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror for 2014 the summer days have begun and for the next three months my perfume tastes tilt towards the citrus, the colognes, and the vetivers. I wear vetiver fragrances all year round because it is one of the more versatile notes in perfumery but there is something about a hot day which elevates my favorite vetivers to something even more enjoyable. I thought I’d share my five favorite vetivers as I dust them off and move them to the front of the shelf for the summer.

sel de vetiver

The Different Company Sel de Vetiver might just be the perfect summer fragrance as perfumer Celine Ellena created a near perfect mix of vetiver and sea. Mme Ellena wanted to create an accord of “salt drying on skin after swimming in the ocean” and she does. Before getting to that a very grassy vetiver along with grapefruit and cardamom lead into that accord. Ever since trying this in 2006 it has been one of my summer staples.

For nearly as long another summer staple was Guerlain Vetiver but in 2012 Roja Parfums Vetiver Extrait supplanted it. Roja Dove takes the same spine found in that fragrance and turns it into something as brilliant as the noontime summer sun. The bergamot is bolstered by lemon. Jasmine and rose provide an amuse bouche for the vetiver main course. Vetiver is swirled in a sirocco of spices and woods. Nutmeg, pepper, and caraway match up with gaiac, cedar, and amyris. This carries a luminous inner glow all day and into the night.

Like I said I also use my colognes a lot during the summer and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal checks both cologne and vetiver boxes. Perfumer Jerome Epinette uses a higher distilling fraction of vetiver which produces a much greener, less heavy, woody vetiver source. M. Epinette weaves it into a traditional cologne structure of citrus, orange blossom, and cedar. The unique raw material turns this Vetiver into an opaque vetiver breeze and because it is a cologne absolue this breeze blows all day long.

encre noire

If Sel de Vetiver has been my summer days Lalique Encre Noire, also released in 2006, has scented the nights. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson uses a simple structure of woods to coax out the woodier character of vetiver and turn it into a sultry night. Mme Lorson sandwiches her Haitan and Bourbon Vetiver with cypress and cashmere woods over a musky base. This is the scent of potential as you head out into the evening.

My all-time favorite vetiver fragrance is Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. The entire Frederic Malle collection was a sensation when it was released in 2002. I remember trying it for the first time and it was Dominique Ropion’s smoky vetiver which exerted the strongest pull upon me. It was also the first bottle I purchased from the line. M. Ropion has made the perfect vetiver fragrance when I am wearing my linen ensemble at a summer outdoor event. It has a perfect casual sophistication for the season. What sets this apart is the “floral ozone accord” which energizes the vetiver in the heart. The vetiver here feels more virtually alive than in any other vetiver I own. All of this lands on a base of smoky resinous wood as myrrh, oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk complete this. I have always envisaged Tom Wolfe wearing this.

Enjoy the summer and get your vetivers out!

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all of the fragrances mentioned above.

Mark Behnke

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