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Vetiver in Perfumery

Vetiver in Perfumery

  • David La Maison Du Parfum
Vetiver has many names.The amber-brown liquid known to perfumers – the essence of the plant’s roots – has been called ‘the oil of tranquillity’ and ‘the fragrance of the soil’. Each of these names adds a thread to vetiver’s story, the tale of an ingredient that has travelled to many lands and scented many skins. In its continent-crossing past, the plant has stitched fable and reality together, bleeding through religious texts and voodoo practices, offering economic value and mass-market appeal. Sought after by perfumers across the globe, vetiver can today be found nestled into the ingredients of around 20 percent of all male fragrances and 40 percent of women’s fragrances.

A signature ingredient used across by many niche houses. we’re taking a deep dive into the history of vetiver fragrances.

The History Of Vétiver

    The roots and stems of vetiver grass have been used for hundreds of years in India: in the home, in Ayurvedic rituals, and, because of its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, in medicines to treat burns, snakebites and scorpion stings. Hindu scriptures record that vetiver oil was offered up as a gift to the gods and used in ancient times to cool kings struggling with the unbearable heat. Vetiver roots are also woven into mats or screens which, when hung damp in an open window, provide a sweet, cooling scent as the wind catches the fragrance.

Vetiver in perfumery can be dated back as far as the early 19th Century. For hundreds of years, perfume houses across the globe have been carefully distilling and subtly diluting vetiver as they attempt to capture the essence of a sultry evening with smoky notes of oud, or the mysterious petrichor (the earthy scent arising when rain falls on dry soil). Today, vetiver has become one of the most treasured resources in modern perfume.

Characteristics Vétiver fragrances


   As an oil, vetiver  has a dry  muskiness, with  moments of  leather and a  few nutty notes.  Perfumer  and scent archivist,  Jean  Kerléo, once described it as  smelling like ‘a sack of  potatoes’, which is more  romantic than it first implies.  Strangely fresh, suitably smoky, a complex fragrance  that has enticed perfumers with its versatility. The oil’s scent profile depends on the soil in which the grass is grown; oil from Java is darker in colour and richer on the nose, while that harvested from Réunion (now sadly a thing of rarity) offers a warmer, fragrance.

For the creators of perfume, it is vetiver's fixative powers that attract. Less overpowering than sandalwood, it provides longevity to perfumes - The ghost of the fragrance can last days. Traditionally, it is only this fixative essential oil from the roots that goes into the making of a vetiver fragrance.

How is vétiver oil extracted in fragrances




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 Vetiver is grown for up  to a   year before  bundles of its roots   are taken to be  distilled, a   process  that lasts more than   24  hours. It doesn’t  give up its   essence  easily: the oil must   diffuse from the plant’s inner   tissues towards the surface,   and the most valuable oil has   a high boiling point, so it won’t   pass through the condenser until late in the distillation process. The essential oil can be extracted by steam distillation or, as in Java and Indonesia, using high-pressure steam extraction. In this method, steam under high pressure is injected into a still filled with the grass to release the plant’s aromatic molecules and turn them into a vapour. The vapour is then condensed, turning it back into a liquid, in which the aromatic oil floats on top of the water, ready to be collected.


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