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What Are Vetiver Perfumes?

By Carol Luther
Updated May 21, 2024
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The making of perfumes is an art that has endured throughout history. The majority of the world's fragrances rely on essential oils extracted from the leaves, roots or fruits of plants. Vetiveria zizanioides is a grassy plant that has a fragrant essential oil in its roots. Vetiver perfumes blend this oil with additional scents to create a longer-lasting fragrance.

The vetiver plant is native to India and the Bengal region, where its practical purpose was preventing erosion. The fast-growing grass has traveled to the Caribbean and other semi-tropical regions of the Americas, including the state of Louisiana. The French, renowned for making perfume, also encouraged the cultivation of vetiver in Haiti, La Reunion and Java. These countries are among the largest vetiver plant producers in the world as of 2011.

The vetiver plant has large rhizomes that make up its root system. This is the only part of the plant that contains the essential oils used to make vetiver perfumes. Vetiver's natural aroma is similar to the citronella oil commonly used in insect repellent products. It also has woody, earthy tones and a sweet undertone that resembles the fabled myrrh.

In India, people used the extracted oil for scenting clothing and linen. In its earliest forms, the vetiver perfumes created in India featured the single note or aroma of the plant's essential oil. Modern perfumery techniques combine fragrant oils to produce fragrances. The perfume's scent has three parts: the top note, the middle note and the base note. Vetiver perfumes most often employ vetiver oil as a base note or as a fixative, which helps the multiple notes of a fragrance last longer.

A few fragrance companies have used vetiver oil as their prominent middle note, marketing these vetiver perfumes as masculine scents. One popular vetiver perfume for men has lemon as its top note and combines tobacco and vetiver in its middle note. Women’s vetiver perfumes that have vetiver oil as a prominent note may have top notes of hazelnut, musk or citrus to soften the vetiver scent.

Vetiver perfumes that include the plant's name in the brand are often among the world's leading and most expensive brands. Demand for vetiver oil also keeps the price high, because the majority of the world's perfumes contain this oil. Perfume-making countries import vetiver oil from producing countries to make vetiver perfumes. The importation of the oil makes the market price higher than that of essential oils extracted from plants that have a greater cultivation range.

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Discussion Comments
By Perdido — On Aug 29, 2011

My husband’s cologne has vetiver as a base note, and it really does seem to last a long time. He sprays it on his hands and rubs it on his neck and arms, and I can smell it on his hands all day.

This particular cologne has a scent I couldn’t quite define. I love it, and I would like to wear the perfume version of it.

I looked it up online to identify the scents, and this cologne is a complex mixture of quite a few aromas. Many of them I have never heard of, but the ones I am familiar with are orange blossom, jasmine, musk, cedar, and of course, vetiver.

By Oceana — On Aug 28, 2011

It’s strange to me that something which resembles citronella is used in perfumes. I equate the scent of citronella with bug spray and those strong smelling candles that make me gag.

If vetiver smells like this, I can see why companies don’t use it as their prominent note. Maybe as a base note, it takes the background enough to let other scents overpower it.

I can imagine citronella smelling better if it were toned down a lot and mixed with an orange blossom scent. It makes me wonder if people who wear vetiver perfume enjoy the added bonus of repelling insects as they walk around.

By Mykol — On Aug 28, 2011

I have several bottles of perfume in the cupboard of my bathroom. Some of them are clear in the back and have dust on them because they don't get used very often. You can tell which ones are my favorites because they are almost gone and are at the front.

This is certainly the case with my bottle of Amarige perfume. This delightful mimosa scent has a combination of vetiver and sandalwood which make up the woodsy scent, but it also has some jasmine, rose and lilac that adds a perfect floral touch.

Even though I am familiar with this scent, every time I wear it I find myself trying to pick out the different tones and notes.

By LisaLou — On Aug 27, 2011

I get bored wearing the same perfume over and over again, so am always trying to find something new that I have never tried before.

There are many more perfumes for women than what you usually find in your department stores. Sometimes you have to go online to find a huge selection, but the worst thing about this is that you can't sample the smell and have to rely on the description.

When I was visiting New York I stopped in a perfume store and was so excited about the unique selection that was available. I sampled a lovely vetiver perfume that I ended up buying.

There are many times when I want a scent that is more woodsy and musky than sweet, and I found this vetiver perfume had the perfect combination. I receive a lot of compliments on it when I wear it. Most people have never smelled anything quite like it before.

By golf07 — On Aug 27, 2011

I like to use essential oils for many different things, and have a small bottle of vetiver. This bottle doesn't get used very often because I have a hard time with the scent of this oil.

When I heard they made vetiver perfume, I had no interest because all I could think of was what the essential oil smelled like.

When I was doing some shopping for Christmas presents, I was smelling different perfumes and colognes and smelled some Vetiver Guerlain cologne for men.

I was surprised that I enjoyed the rich, earthy scent and thought my husband would like it as well. It has become one of his favorites, and he wears it often. Even though it contains vetiver, it doesn't smell anything like the essential oil does straight from the bottle.

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