A few weeks back I slapped on some of Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver (the Eau de Parfum) and commented on my instragram, that “when in doubt, go for vetiver”. A flippant comment for sure, but it is one that seems to ring true, and let’s face it: you really can’t go wrong with vetiver. Vetiver, a fragrant perennial grass native to India, is so successful as a perfume ingredient because it is so distinct – there isn’t really much else that smells like it. Of course, being distinct does mean that it is less versatile as a note than some others (rose, for example), but many perfumers have found interesting ways to utilise the ingredient as a main feature or a supporting act. I like vetiver very much and when one is in the mood for something clean, sharp and dashingly dapper, there’s not much else that can beat it.
There are many excellent vetiver fragrances out there, many of which are aimed predominately at men. Classics such as Guerlain’s Vetiver (Jean-Paul Guerlain; 1961) immediately spring to mind, but one can’t ignore wonderful modern interpretations such as the aforementioned Grey Vetiver (Harry Fremont; 2009), Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fat Electrician (Antoine Maisondieu; 2009), Lalique’s Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson; 2006) and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Vétiver Extraordinaire (Dominique Ropion; 2002), to name but a few. Each one does something entirely different with this incredibly familiar note, whether it be amping it up to the armpit-like spice of the Malle or pairing it with gorgeously creamy and smoky resins as the Etat Libre d’Orange does. Vetiver may not be a shape-shifting material, but it certainly does have an element of range.
One vetiver that doesn’t get a huge amount of press is Carven’s. Now, this may be due to the fact that it has been in and out of production since its launch in 1957, but now its back and should be considered as a serious contender for any vetiver afficiando. Housed within a new and gorgeously modern bottle, coloured with the most attractive shade of green Carven’s Vétiver, is that rare thing – a casual vetiver. This is not a vetiver fragrance to be worn with a sharp suit or a crisp white shirt, no, no, no. This is a vetiver to pair with a chunky piece of knitwear in muted, earth tones. It’s a relaxed vetiver to cuddle up with – to explore softly and quietly – a vetiver that salutes introspection rather than attention seeking ostentation.