Vetiver (Guerlain)

Ever wonder what the perfect signature scent for a man should smell like? We hear the term tossed around all the time, a "signature scent" is something the sturdy and reliable guy uses in lieu of (or despite) having a wardrobe of multiple EDTs. It's the smell most associated with this guy, something people automatically associate with him. As such, it's best to go find your own signature, as you do not want to be caught in the embarrassing male version of two socialites showing up to a charity dinner in the same dress. A signature is something to be proud of; there are thousands of perfumes in the world, and you have picked one, and only one, to represent you. Perhaps it isn't much of an achievement, considering the thousands of other guys out there who have very likely chosen the exact same scent, but still. It feels like an accomplishment.

Rich or poor, young or old, a man wants something that is well made, masculine, elegant, practical but never utilitarian, of the earth, yet firmly above it in every way. Men of prior generations often chose wet shaver (otherwise known as barbershop) scents to fill the signature slot, stuff like Old Spice, Clubman, Skin Bracer, Brut. Modern orientals and fougères with touches of antiquity, conveying masculinity via reference. Smell Clubman and you think "Mmm, that reminds me of getting my hair cut when I was twelve." Smell Old Spice, and it's "Wow, you must be someone's father." Smell Brut, and "look out for the hippie-turned-yuppie, turned retiree." They're all admirable in their own right, but are they perfect? Nah, probably not.

For perfect, one must find something that is as appropriate with pajamas as it is with a tuxedo. A scent that captures the very soul of a man with two or three basic accords. The references should be in there, but should never trump the sheer brilliance of its parts, or the vanity of the fragrance as a whole. This sort of pristine masculinity is still readily found in the ultimate masculine fragrance by Guerlain, which is simply called Vetiver.

The pyramid is easy to smell, and very smooth. Vetiver opens with a bracingly bitter citrus accord, which is of equal parts bergamot, lemon, and lime. After five minutes the fruitiness lifts, leaving a scorched green vetiver root that smells so crisp you can almost hear the blades of grass snapping in the wind. An hour from there brings a mellow tobacco note, very simple and bittersweet, only hinting at smoke. The dry smoky quality of vetiver is thus amplified enough to last all day, with the shadow of lemon still tinging the periphery in shades of pale yellow-green.

Is Vetiver the most exciting fragrance on the face of the earth? Absolutely not, nor should it be, as excitement is only fun in small doses. This scent is crafted to be a daily wearer, the sort of thing you take from Monday thru Sunday, and then on again through the very next week. You can wear it every day and appreciate its rugged charm without getting tired of it. There are no bombastic herbs to cause olfactory fatigue, and Vetiver works in warm or cold weather. It smells casual enough for a picnic, yet formal enough for a business meeting. There is no monster sillage to be had, and its legs pace pretty close to the wearer, so you won't gas the neighbors if you get carried away with the trigger finger. It's fine stuff.

If you should ever find yourself hunting for a good summer signature, or just something that works year-round without fuss, and are tired of the sugary orientals and weirdo Mugler-esque concoctions that plague the current masculine scene, check this one out. Ladies, this would work on you, too. It is utterly unisex, and feminine skin is reputed to bring out the citrus notes with better clarity. Guys, you'll like it, which is a sure sign that you're finally becoming that reliable, responsible, mature man that all the right ladies fantasize about meeting. If you're already that guy, and have been wearing Vetiver for years, I salute you sir. If you're already that guy, and have not been wearing Vetiver, I encourage you to seal the deal on your manhood, while the reformulations are still good.


  1. A nice piece... Some reviews seem to get so caught up in charting GV's 'reference'-ness in relation to this or that more modern product that there is not much time spent actually describing the scent (or sketching out a portrait of its social character, something I think you explore quite well in your writing.)

    I have been struck by the way that Guerlain Vetiver somehow manages to be (for me, anyway), both relatively linear and very addictive. Oddly, this is also one of the few things that, if I dose myself a little more heavily than I ought to, I feel no shame in heavily projecting (unless I'm just becoming a terrible person in my old age, but also I've never seen it generate an adverse reaction...)

    One question -- have you tried the 'Extreme' flanker? I love the regular version, but find (on the basis of limited sampling, admittedly) that it doesn't seem to last all that long on me. I was curious if the Extreme had more legs (also curious about that tarragon, seeing as how the liquorice-ish aspects of vetiver notes appeal to me a lot.)

  2. It's my birthday in a few days and I decided to threat myself accordingly. Since I'm a fan of the vetiver note I had been eyeing Guerlain's Vetiver for some time so I decided to go ahead and order it.

    Once again your description is accurate and Guerlain's take on Vetiver is everything you described!

    However there's one thing I would like to add; I don't know if it's the "Geurlinade" that people often speak about but I couldn't help but be reminded of Mitsouko (it's the only other Geurlain I have at the moment as reference). As if they both shared a similar DNA - does that make sense?

    Also, I feel that Guerlain's Vetiver is very addictive and I have a presentiment that it will be much harder to still enjoy my other frags from now on.

    1. Something else I would like to add; the longevity is way above average (I have the new bottle with green cap) and I can still smell it on my skin the day after.
      Perhaps a funny anecdote is that I always thought my Mitsouko had turned or gone off, it's something I had read about some Guerlain perfumes. But now I notice that same kind of "funky"smell with Vetiver, it's only something that manifests after a while and now I guess it's the animalic note. It's a hard to describe smell, it's vaguely reminiscent of an earthy kind of dirt. I also think that this is what make people think of the "old people smell" somehow.

      I must admit that it's something I will have to get used to and I'm still not fully confident to exude this kind of smell in public, although perhaps I should, since I've heard so much praise for animalic notes from other fume heads?

      Now, believe it or not but Varon Dandy has this too but much more subdued, so yeah I know I have mentioned it time and time again but Brian you should definitely try it. It's cheap but has excellent longevity and it does remind me of the stuff the barber used when I was little and went for a haircut. I think it's classic and it has been described as a fougère cousin of Knize Ten.

    2. Ok Natan, you sold me. Varon Dandy is in my que. Look for a review of it later this summer. Also I'm looking to acquire a bottl of Irisch Moos by Sir. Should have something on that later this year also.

    3. That's awesome Bryan! I'm looking forward to read both your reviews on Varon Dandy and Irisch Moos by Sir which I have never heard of before, so it most definitely piques my interest.

  3. A few weeks laters and I must confess that I like Vetiver even better than before and I also like the dirtier part much better. I guess it's something one needs to get used to in order to enjoy it.
    It also gave me a renewed appreciation for Jovan Musk for Men as the musk in the very drydown of Guerlain Vetiver is very similar.

    Last but not least I discovered by accident that Vetiver works really well combined with Agua Lavanda by Antonio Puig; normally I'm not one to mix fragrances but since I use Agua Lavanda as an aftershave (since it's short lived anyway) I then proceeded to apply Vetiver. Guess what, I got greeted by a much more expensive fragrance; namely Royal Scottish Lavender by Creed!
    I kid you not; Agua Lavanda + Vetiver = Royal Scottish Lavender!
    Well, perhaps not a carbon copy but close enough to remind me to the Creed. All of a sudden that nice Puig lavender turns into that heavenly creamy version that makes the Creed lavender so gorgeous!
    Perhaps a bit blasphemous to do that but well, you can't always have both aftershave and fragrance from the same make. Definitely a win in my books.


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