Vetyver (L'Occitane)

Vetiver has always been a problematic note for me. It's not that I don't like how it smells, because I do. There's something wonderful about its rooty-green goodness, and the way it compliments a man's presence. By all rights, I should love vetiver, for I've found it loves me.

However, there's one serious snag - vetiver is boring. There, I said it. Despite its charms, vetiver comes across as a bit one-dimensional, and lacks dynamism, intrigue, exoticism, whatever you want to call it. To my nose, an exciting vetiver fragrance has yet to be made. Too many perfume houses rely on vetiver alone to carry their in-house vetiver scent, and wind up with a stodgy product. Guerlain Vetiver is beautiful, in many ways the perfect masculine fragrance. But I'd sooner wear Jacomo's Silences, or anything with more complexity and pizzazz. That's just me.

Creed's Original Vetiver is a beautiful fragrance, and it's one of my top ten of all time. But that's because it's a beautiful green composition. The very reason Luca Turin slams it is the reason I love it: it's an example of excellent perfumery, that design sensibility of arranging olfactory components in a manner that creates a whole new accord, a truly unique experience that isn't easily replicated or improved upon. A lot of work went into integrating the vetiver, and making it crucial to the scent's success. Even more work went into ensuring that vetiver wasn't the star of the show. Those of us who "get it" can appreciate Original Vetiver. Those who don't can wear Guerlain's instead.

L'Occitane's take on vetiver is somewhat of an anomaly to me. It's a vetiver fragrance that truly has no vetiver in it. It's a sleight of hand trick, a well-placed aroma chemical in measured proportions to some other sly notes. And it rubs me the wrong way from start to finish.

I'd like to impart this about Vetyver - it's a good fragrance for Christmas time, as its smooth smell conjures the holidays, Christmas, New Years, anything from late November onward. It has that warm, spicy, homey feel to it. It opens with a brilliant desiccated lemon, rosemary, and sage accord, and rapidly transitions into a deep nutmeg and cedar, with strong rosewoody overtures. I like the smell of rosewood, and enjoy how this olfactory illusion plays out in Vetyver. Underlying all of these things is a vetiver-like woodiness, very well centered and obvious, but not overpowering.

As it dries down, Vetyver becomes very dry and smoky, with a subtle tobacco-like effect, although I'm sure there's no actual tobacco in there. Vetiver steps forward and attempts to claim its territory, but nuthin' doin' since this ain't no vetiver fragrance to begin with. No, this is just an aroma chemical, namely Hexyl Benzoate, shown above. HB imbues perfumes with a dry, rooty, woody-green balsamic feeling that could easily be mistaken for vetiver, if used in the right context. Vetyver is nice, easy to live with, and well made given its provenance, but simply misses the mark for me. Very subjective call. I could see others loving Vetyver, and could understand why. Maybe in a few months when I'm roasting chestnuts I'll have a change of heart.


  1. Now this is case of true reformulation. I tried this when I was on a trip to Portugal several years ago and it was marvelous. Real vetiver and a good one. I didn't buy it then because I knew I could find it in Athens and I didn't buy it immediately when I got back but maybe a year later. And what I got is exactly as you describe it. Woody, cedary with some incense (it actually reminds me of Gucci pour Homme). Still a good fragrance for its money but not much to write home about.

    1. I think if you happen to like the composition, you'll at least like the fragrance, if not the "vetiver" idea of it. But if you're a traditionalist, you could get Guerlain's Vetiver for the same money, and if you're a green-lover like me, you could get Original Vetiver and simply get a much better fragrance that is far more effective and memorable (and costs a hell of a whole lot more). This frag might have been reformulated, but I don't smell anything here that would make me gravitate toward it in any incarnation. It's not that it's a bad scent, just that I don't happen to like the composition.

  2. Hmm- the L'Occitane website seems to indicate this EDT does contain actual vetiver. Are you sure it's not an ingredient in the EDT?

    1. well they have it as the one ingredient, expressed in a little picture under the "ingredients" tab, but dunno how seriously you can take that. If it does have vetiver in it that's fine, but it's so incredibly blended in there that it seems lost to the rest of the composition, just to my nose anyway. what do you think of it?

  3. I need to go back to my local store and check it out again. It didn't blow me away the first time.

  4. I asked L'Occitane Customer Service about whether "Vetivyr" contains any actual vetiver. After reading the below I'm still not sure! Here is the response I received:

    "Thank you for contacting L’OCCITANE. An essential oil is extracted from the strong, white and aromatic vetiver roots. It is very popular in perfumery due to its soft scent and woody, earthy notes. Vetiver essential oil aids arterial circulation, boosts the immune system and soothes the nerves.

    Should you require further assistance please contact us.

    Thank you."


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