Vetiver is a grass-like plant that is often used to lend freshness, earthiness, or an overall "green" feel to a perfume. It is a unisex scent, and common in green perfumes that are focused on a plant-like or floral vibe. It can also be used to add surprising depth to sweeter or resinous perfumes, as it has a very natural and easy-to-like scent that is less disruptive or distinctive than something like patchouli. Vetiver is often used in smoky perfumes to evoke the unique mixture of damp heat that comes from a burning wood fire. Because it has a scent profile that straddles the line of light and dark, it stands up to stronger notes like incense and wood without getting lost the way a light floral scent would.
Vetiver is closest in scent to damp grass mixed with a tiny bit of soil. It's not a sunny, dry grass smell like hay. It definitely has darker earthy nuances, which is why it's such a nice blender for lighter green perfumes. Vetiver is less zesty than the smell of fresh flower stems (which can have a sour, bright smell) and it lacks the sweetness of something like fresh mint leaves. Because it has a soil-like quality, it can also be used to complement or recreate a wet-stone feeling
Perfumes featuring vetiver:
- NAVA OM NA: Eternity: The vetiver is not the star player here, but a backup to the sage note. This is sort of a surprising use of the note, because you wouldn't think to mix it with something as sweet and creamy as coconut milk, but it works. It doesn't fight with the more gourmand coconut notes, but it cuts the fatty sweetness and gives a little fresh feeling. It complements the sage, which is another herbal/green smell without overpowering the sage's more distinctive scent. Mixed with the heavy Dragon's Blood, it definitely makes me think of a dark, damp stone temple filled with offerings to the gods.
- Deconstructing Eden Gentian House: A very masculine and fresh use of the note, this scent features vetiver strongly and uses it excellently as an atmospheric note. Instead of smelling like a handful of plants, the vetiver in Gentian House conjures the image of a house in a field with all the windows and doors thrown open, the scent of wet grass and earth drifting in and purifying the home. The lavender and violets are both herbaceous/green floral scents that complement the vetiver well, and the smoke in here is also a classic pairing. This is probably the most unusual AND harmonious use of vetiver of any perfume in my collection.
- Long Winter Farm Campfire: This is a standard, but excellent example of how well vetiver works to make smoke notes come alive. You know that smell of the winter air, just after the rain/snow when the whole world is soaked-through, and you can smell everyone's chimneysmoke? That's what vetiver and smoke smell like together. It's one of my all-time favorite IRL scents, and Campfire recreates it spectacularly. No sweetness or florals in here, just a roaring fire in the middle of a damp forest.