Vetiver was one of the first perfume notes I fell in love with. When I first smelled its use in Guerlain Vetiver, I was shocked by its smell, but in a good way; I had never smelled anything like it before and I was smitten. I went on a bit of a vetiver bender for a while after that, gradually acquiring samples of Vetiver Extraordinaire by Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle, Route de Vetiver by Maitre Parfumeur Gantier and Turtle Vetiver by Les Nez. I have a number of other vetivers in my collection, but the ones I've mentioned here are probably my favourites. You'll notice that these ones are all better examples of the strength of the vetiver roots, rather than the grassiness or nuttiness that this plant can also convey and for me is my favourite manifestation of the note. Hermes Vetiver Tonka is a good example of the nutty accord one can exploit, while examples of grassiness include Creed's Original Vetiver and even Guerlain's gold standard, which is bolstered by nutmeg and tobacco. Another vetiver I adore and struggle to categorise is Sel de Vetiver, by The Different Company. Try it if you haven't already.
I want to write a bit more about Turtle Vetiver (TV) and Vetiver Extraordinaire (VE). I wore them side by side, one on each wrist. I was interested in comparing them because previously I thought they smelled quite similar. VE opens with a stunning wet, dark, earthy and rooty accord. The vetiver is strong and if you aren't a fan of vetiver, this might well be too much for you. For me it is one of the most wonderful openings in a perfume, unlike anything else I have ever encountered. This is no nutty, grassy or sweet vetiver. Rather, it smells like rotting, wet leaves on a damp, misty autumn day, but rotting in a good, natural way. This perfume always evokes autumn for me and it is my preferred season for wearing this. Compared to TV, once the initial blast has worn off, the vetiver stays much softer and earthier, with more of a plush, restrained feel. It's dark and musty, but not in the sense of a mouldering building, but vegetal and organic. I always think of earth, leaves and countryside when I wear this; a true outdoor scent. VE does become fairly linear from the middle onwards, but then, I find most vetiver-centered fragrances do. VE retains a surprisingly sophisticated air for such an outdoorsy fragrance and I think this is a work of genius by Dominique Ropion.
TV opens at a much higher pitch than VE. There is also a very high concentration of vetiver in this fragrance, but I find it cleaner and less earthy, with a more watery feel to it, but not in the sense of being weak, and definitely is not a marine fragrance. Its initial feel is more like Route de Vetiver I think. The vetiver here if anything gets stronger as the fragrance progresses and is for hard-core vetiver fans. It does brighten a little and despite its strength, I'm constantly reminded of a watery theme, like I'm smelling the roots submerged in a creek, but live roots, not decaying vegetal matter. Again, the progression later on is quite linear, although it does retain that wateriness and perhaps just a touch of salt. Perhaps there is an ambergris accord in here?
Side by side then, I think both VE and TV share a similarity in as much as both are very good examples of intense, vetiver-focused fragrances and both tend towards the root, rather than the grass. However, I think overall TV has the stronger vetiver note, while VE has a bit more sophistication about it and is earthier and has its roots firmly in woodland soil, while TV is of the waterways. Both are very well done and I would definitely recommend sampling them, particularly if you are a fan of vetiver, or interested in expanding your vetiver repertoire.
Vetiver Extraordinaire is a work of genius in my opinion and this (along with Musc Ravageur possibly) is the full-bottle-worthy fragrance in the Frederic Malle line, for me. I am generally quite lukewarm about the Les Nez line but Turtle Vetiver is very good and quite out of keeping with Isabelle Doyen's general work in my opinion.
Image Credit: www.vetiver.com