Thursday, July 29, 2010

Perfumer's Palette Series - Vetiver

vetiver rhizomes dried and bundled for sale , Wikipedia
parts of this article were published last month ,
but it seemed appropriate to include them again here

The nose knows what it likes . These associations are made early in life , and are fascintating to explore . As I have said many times I don't care for vetiver at all . Why ? What it is that makes it so hard for me to tolerate ? Deep in my stomach it causes a very negative reaction...too green , bitter , rich....I don't really know . I do remember the first time I smelled the essential oil . I was living in the Methow Valley of Washington State , a beautiful remote area in Northern Washington . Some friends were starting an aromatherapy business in 1979 , had filled their home with jars and bottles of essences of all kinds . Even then I was working on creating a fragrance , so of course I visited their home and sniffed everything...

When I first sniffed the jar of dried vetiver roots , I thought they were wonderful . But when I picked up a bundle I almost became nauseous . Since then , I can barely tolerate vetiver in any quantity , and 90% of fragrances today contain at least a touch of vetiver . As stated the other day , it is part of the " HOLY TRINITY " of rose , jasmine and vetiveryle . I must like vetiver , because I love Arpege and Caleche , among other scents containing the holy trinity !?
But only in the right proportion ....

Vetiver , ( or vitiver , cusscuss , khus-khus ) is indeed important in perfumery . It is the roots or , actually rhizomes , which are harvested and distilled or first dried , bundled and shipped to distilleries for processing . The best oil comes from wild khus which grows in India , distilled from plants at leat 18 months old .
An essence of vetiver is also produced by tincturing the rhizomes in alcohol .
Historically , it is native to India and for centuries in Calcutta , the roots were used to weave mats , blinds and awnings called Tatty. In the heat , they were wetted and caused a cooling effect as they dried while also scenting the surroundings . Today , vetiver is grown mainly in Haiti where the rhizomes grow approximately 4 meters deep . The distillation process creates huge amounts of bio-mass as a by-product which can be returned to the soil . The grass ( leaves ) has no scent ! In my research I read many proposals suggesting vetiver as an excellent crop to prevent soil erosion .
About 100 pounds of vetiver will produce about 14 oz . of otto ( oil ) .
Vetiver , known since ancient times for it's fragrant properties , was used for it's scent long before the rose . Vetiver is one of the most complex chemical mixtures of sequesterpine alcohols and hydrocarbons ( vetivine and khusimone being the most important odorants ), one of the most viscous essential oils with an extremely low rate of evaporation , making it of excellent fixative value in perfumes . These characteristics make in an excellent perfme on it's own , and it's high solubility in alchol make it easy to blend with other essential oils .
Depending upon the country of origin , vetiver will have different odor profiles . That produced in the Reunions and Haiti has an almost rose undertone with a peppery nuance . That which is produced in India is more woody-balsamic . When hydo- or steam distilled , the oil is dark green in color , and when distilled in traditional copper degs , it is dark amber , becoming even darker with proper aging .
I want to like it . I try . Exploring the Webber Collection has been a great exercise in vetiver because a few of these scents are overdosed with vetiver...yet after almost 50 years of aging in some cases , vetiver becomes smooth , rounded and , well almost tolerable for me .
Case in point : Khus Khus .
I recieved a bottle of Khus Khus , the fragrance , in the Webber Collection . This is a really big bottle , at least 4 oz , and must be quite old . Khus-Khus , being another name for vetiver , is a fragrance I did not expect to like . Here it is complimented by an overdose of Tonka , and is very powdery and delicious ! Penetrating , long lasting but soft , Khus-khus may just teach me to enjoy vetiver .

I have lots to share if you are interested !! Sample included in Friday's drawing . Check out Musette's article on the Posse yesterday , where she features WAFT !!
In honor of our " Holy Trinity " , today I am wearing vintage Arpege parfum !
How about you ?


Anonymous said...

I have to admit my love of vetiver. Guerlain Vetiver is THE ONE when I need something fresh but earthy. I also have some samples of different vetiver oils. I can see though how it might be an acquired taste. I'd love to try the KHUS-KHUS you have. Today I have on Agent Provocateur. I really like the dry woody rose!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this lovely series! I'm really been enjoying each addition with my morning coffee : )

Oh, and I love vetiver. My mom wore a vetiver oil when I was young, and it has a very comforting smell to me!

waftbyCarol said...

Meliscents , e-mail me and a samp is yours !
deeHowe _
Welcome and thank you for stopping by . Thank you for your encouragement . Your Mom was an unusual lady , to wear veriver . Great memory for you !

Tamara *J said...

"Khus-Khus , being another name for vetiver , is a fragrance I did not expect to like . Here it is complimented by an overdose of Tonka , and is very powdery and delicious ! Penetrating , long lasting but soft , Khus-khus may just teach me to enjoy vetiver . "

You had my mouth watering at the OD of Tonka and and very powdery and delicious. I don't know why but I've been a real powder puff lately , I have been craving these kinds of scents left and right.
And of course I love vetiver also!
I hope I win the draw. :)

If not will you perhaps be interested in selling me a decant of KhusKhus? I'm supposed to be saving for my Tauers in Oct. but I've got to ask just in case. :D

You can reach me by-

Great post as always!
Thanks very much,
Tamara Jackson

chris g said...

I have a collection of vetiver fragrances as well as vetiver essential oil...looooove it! Please enter me in the draw - thanks!!!