Are you familiar with Haitian Vetiver, known for its both woody and smoky scent with subtle green and vegetal nuances? Its surprising – one in a million – scent also possesses nutty and grapefruit facets.
We can say Chrysopogon zizanioides – funny latin name, right? – is a magical plant…
Why? Because having proved to be a precious ingredient in perfumery, and help in various fields, it’s gifted with an enchanting essence.
It goes without saying that this tropical raw material – native to Asia – is a must in the perfumer's organ and no less than six of Olfactive Studio’s fragrances!
This plant isn’t one of our team’s favorite natural ingredients for no reason…
Discover Vetiver in our latest article!
A PRETTY RECENT INGREDIENT
It’s only in the twentieth century that Vetiver began to be exploited for its essential oil in perfumery, not previously.
- 1 ton – early 21st century
- 250 tons – end of the 1970’s
- 130 tons – today
- Java Island (Indonesia)
It’s not surprising that France, one of the cradles of modern perfumery – and still leading country in the field – comes first in terms of demand for this essence.
VETIVER IN PERFUMERY
SPOILING US WITH A FASCINATING AROMA…
As a raw material, Vetiver essence is easily recognizable by its singular woody, earthy, nutty and smoky facets. Thus, the characteristic scent of this ingredient is both delicate and complex.
Vetiver is defined as a "base note": a deeper, heavier note with little volatility that develops over time and persists through the sillage of a fragrance.
In perfumery Vetiver essence exists in several qualities.
- Most famous & commonly employed in the fragrance industry nowadays
- Recognizable among any other raw material – possesses this very unique scent
- Nutty facet reminiscent of grilled nuts, hazelnuts – you’d almost want to eat it!
- Vegetal facet reminiscent of grapefruit & its tart scent – so fresh!
BOURBON VETIVER (yep just like Whiskey)
- Introduced in 1864 & cultivated on the French Island of La Reunion – formerly known as the Bourbon Island
- Most precious Vetiver but also rarest & really hard to find nowadays – very limited supply
- Delicate scent highly prized by perfumers
- Very smoky scent – so strong it reminds some the smell of burnt
- Less common in fine fragrance
- Lesser quality – determined by measuring the clarity of its yellowish essence (from slightly colored to dark)
VETIVER IN OLFACTIVE STUDIO PERFUMES
Four fragrances from Olfactive Studio's Black Collection, Flash Back, Flash Back in New York, Ombre Indigo, and Autoportrait, feature the delicacy of Vetiver.
The Sepia Collection of “extraits de parfum” also explores this elegant raw material’s facets in the two fragrances Leather Shot and Iris Shot.
Autoportrait’s enchanting sillage is led by a mist of tender Vetiver, fused to voluptuous depths of Cedarwood and Oakmoss.
As for top notes, Bergamot & Elemi essence open the bal, followed by a reassuring heart of Frankincense, Benzoin Siam, and Musks.
The elegance of Autoportrait and Vetiver is revealed on the skin, a touch of woods and balms, profoundly bewitching…
Nathalie Lorson paints the most alluring fragrant self-portrait.
In Olivier Cresp’s citrus-woody creation, Flash Back, we are enveloped in a vaporous cloud of smoky Haitian Vetiver essence.
In this fragrance the Vetiver is vibrant! Why? Because it’s preceded by top notes bursting with freshness and vitality: the sparkling essences of Red Grapefruit and Orange are combined to a joyful Rhubarb Accord whose green notes recall the rhubarb pie of our childhood.
Vetiver is adorned at heart by another fellow exotic essence: Pink Pepper – floral and fruity.
As for the base of Flash Back, it allies the essence of Vetiver to Cedarwood – the two are rounded out by soft Musks and warm ambery notes.
The contrast between Vetiver’s wetness and Cedarwood’s dryness is a real stroll through the mists of an undergrowth…
FLASH BACK IN NEW YORK
Vetiver unveils within the base of this leathery-woody-spicy fragrance, where its earthy facet grounds us amidst New York City’s frozen winter streets.
Joined by warm spices such as Cumin and Saffron, the aromatic freshness of Clary Sage, and a floral heart of Jasmine Absolute and Violet accord, Vetiver reigns over its scented kingdom.
In the base of the fragrance, the root meets the warm Birch Smoke essence and Tonka Bean Absolute, along with Musks leave a comforting sillage.
Vetiver is like heaven under the ground and New York is like fire under ice – the excessiveness of the city resonates in this blissful ingredient.
Created by New York perfumer Jérôme Epinette, Flash Back in New York surprises our noses with its olfactory contrasts, just as this city surprises those who discover it for the first time.
In the perfume of shadow, Vetiver’s haze plays a substantial part: it is the key to the smoky gates of Ombre Indigo’s heart and base!
Paired to enigmatic ingredients – Frankincense, Papyrus, Benzoin – along with leathery and ambery notes, the fragrance gracefully discloses its mysterious power.
Though here, Vetiver would not be as splendorous without a flower of character: Tuberose! Luscious scented shades of Petitgrain, Saffron, and Plum accord echo the opulent flower lady and her vapory knight.
Mylène Alran’s depicts a shining darkness, and it’s painted indigo.
Leather, leather, leather, in all its splendor! Leather Shot’s strong woody base is led by the woody-earthy Vetiver, combined to Sandalwood and Cedarwood.
These powerful woody raw materials get straight to the point: no need to wait for the base of Leather Shot to perceive the leathery notes, reminiscent of a smooth leather!
Vetiver and its fellow woods are complimented by zesty top notes of Cardamom, and Bigarade Orange, followed by a leathery heart of Iris and Black Tea absolute.
Leather Shot is a modern and reinvented leather by Bertrand Duchaufour, conferring a very classy allure to it.
Iris Shot is a consistent and linear Iris soliflore, faithful to the scent of the flower’s precious rhizomes.
Indeed, the fragrance of the flower resides underground… Hence Vetiver, whose buried roots are the object of desire for perfumers!
The two raw materials share a very unique raw earthy scent, making Vetiver’s presence among Iris Shot’s ingredients an inevitability.
Vetiver and Iris concrete are joined by the finesse of Cardamom, Pink Berry of Madagascar, Blackcurrant bud absolute, leading to a heart of Almond milk accord & Carrot Seed, and a base of Ambroxan and Virginian Cedarwood.
PRODUCING THE OIL
This raw material belonging to the woody olfactive family is full of surprises as its rhizomes – outer roots – contain a myrrh-like (Commiphora myrrha) resin aspect-wise, from which the essential oil is produced.
- 2- to 3-year-old plant’s roots are harvested
- Soil is turned over to extract roots – “digging” method
- Roots are shaked with fork-like tool until they’re soil-free during digging
- Processing: rhizomes are washed & cut
- Drying: rhizomes are sun-dried
- Hydrodistillation (steam distillation)
- 8 hours per ton distilled
- yield-wise 100-150 kg of dried roots = 1-1.5 kilograms of essence
- From August to December
- Product: very thick, yellowish, resinous essence
…THEN CHILL OUT
A LOW-MAINTENANCE PLANT
- Not water-needy
- No extra care
- No particular diseases = no important use of pesticides
It seems like the perfect plant-pal, doesn’t it?
FINE FRAGRANCE’S MOST CHERISHED
Many classic perfumes feature the subtlety of Vetiver among their base notes.
The ingredient had its glory days and rose to become a star raw material in the twentieth century, when many Vetiver “solinotes” were created – perfumes built and whose scent is focused on a single raw material
This raw material has and still is much used in woody perfumes. It also acts as an excellent fixative for top notes, and is found in chypre and leathery notes.
WIDELY USED IN MEN’S PERFUMES
- Vetiver de Carven – first Vetiver solinote for men to focus on this raw material – woody & delicate – 1957, Firmenich
- Vetiver de Guerlain – among most famous Vetiver fragrances – woody-spicy – 1959, Jean-Paul Guerlain
- Vetiver de Givenchy – solinote following the trend – woody – 1959
- Vetiver de Lanvin – solinote following the trend – woody – 1964
- Vetiver de Le Galion – solinote following the trend – woody – 1969
Yes, you guessed it, back in the days Vetiver was a masculine ingredient – or considered so. If some still believe that, we personally find it genderless like all raw materials!
AND WHAT ABOUT FEMININE VETIVERS?
- Chanel n°5 – floral-aldehydic fragrance – 1921, Ernest Beaux
- Arpège de Lanvin – floral-aldehydic – 1927, André Fraysse
BACK TO THE (ASIAN) ROOTS
Known as Chrysopogon zizanioides – a scientific name from Greek – the word “vetiver” is itself derived from the Tamil word "vettiveru". Nowadays the scientific appellation "Vetiveria zizanioides" is also commonly employed.
You’re probably wondering “ok its name is peculiar but what does it look like?”.
Well, it’s actually an herb – a tall one – which grows in 1.5 to 2 meters high clumps.
And that’s not it! We can only see the tip of the iceberg, as its roots are able to go 3 meters deep into the ground!
So, this more-under-than-over-ground perennial plant (twice as much) grows in the humid soils of tropical and subtropical lowlands, especially in swamps and flood plains.
Now you’re thinking “where are those?”
- In its birthplace: Southern India – vetiver is called “khus khus”
- Indian Ocean in general
- Haiti (of course)
Vetiver has been widely used and appreciated since ancient times for some regions of the world – mainly concentrated in Asia!
- Chrysopogon zizanioides supplies the modern perfume industry
- Poaceae family
- Chrysopogon genus
- Dozen other species of Chrysopogon exist
- Chrysopogon nigritanus (Southern Africa)
- Chrysopogon nemoralis (South East Asia)
As we mentioned in our introduction, vetiver has super powers, magical powers, all of them actually! What do we mean by that? You’re about to find out…
AMAZING MULTIPURPOSE PLANT
- Good fertilizer and soil fixer – protects it from erosion
- Leaves are used to feed animals – in rural areas forming vetiver’s habitat
- Thatch for the roofs, mats & even accessories like bags – in La Reunion
- Flavors drinks & used as soda syrup – in South India
- Insect repellent
Now, did you get a hint of the profitability of these crops? Its extensive uses have made it an extremely advantageous ingredient.
TO MAKE IT SHORT AND SCENTED
Vetiver is without a doubt a fascinating species whose versatile properties and unequaled scent found in various famous fragrances, make it so hard to forget!
Anna Grézaud-Tostain as The Raw Materialist for Olfactive Studio