Perfumed Alphabet: V is for Vetiver

A tumbleweed, c. 2016


A dashing and distinguished scent.

A root. Reminds me of ginseng.

Recalls to some people leather

Or ink. Some types may be better

Than others. It’s an earthy note,

Full-bodied with a hint of smoke.


If it’s more gravitas you seek,

Some vetiver is what you need.

It’s the yang to most florals’ yin;

With citruses, a mutual win.

It strikes a good deal with most woods

To help the debonair smell good.



Vetiver was one of the first ingredients that intrigued me at the beginning of my perfume journey in earnest last year. The first time I ever heard of it, the aroma was described to me as like “a leather couch,” but I also smelled something solvent-like or metallic. Eventually I forgot about the leather couch and made new associations with inkiness. One day I sprayed some Comme des Garçons 2 Man on my wrist in a store without knowing anything about it and was enchanted by the opening that smelled so much like ginseng—but after about an hour it developed a dirty, earthy tone.

I have Haitian vetiver and Bourbon vetiver essential oils. The Haitian is sharper, reminiscent of ginseng, and otherwise leathery, inky, and a bit like gasoline. (This is even more so when diluted in alcohol.) If they translated into musical notes, the Bourbon would be just one step higher—it’s more like molasses, rounder, sweetly smoky, with suggestions of a fragrant cup of coffee.

Though a darker note, in Tom Ford Grey Vetiver it felt cold and steely. In Jovoy Private Label, the vetiver seems to play tug-of-war with patchouli. It does the same in Jovoy Incident Diplomatique, but in the end it loses the game. Comme des Garçons Radish Vetiver seemed pretty true to its name.

Which vetiver perfumes get your vote?






4 thoughts on “Perfumed Alphabet: V is for Vetiver

  1. Vetiver, what a legendary note. I think of Grey Vetiver, Terre d’Hermes, and Guerlain Vetiver, which I heard Tom Cruise wore but I was banned from wearing it by those around me due to it’s strong civet/urine scent mine had. Wondering if something was wrong with my bottle, though. . .

    Liked by 1 person

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