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  1. #1

    Default Newbie Question about Vetiver

    Hi, all. I'm quite new to perfume discussions, but I'm also a bit obsessed with them thanks in large part to Luca Turin.

    While on vacation recently, I picked up several new bottles of perfume that interested me. (More about that in another post.) One was Vetiver by Guerlain; I bought a sample bottle. It has a strong sandalwood scent to my nose. I smell little else in the Vetiver by Guerlain once I've worn the scent for a while.

    Question: how does vetiver (generic, not the Guerlain perfume) differ from sandalwood in scent? Or are they extremely similar? If they're different, then what does vetiver smell like?

  2. #2
    Artisankey's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Coastal Maine, USA

    Default Re: Newbie Question about Vetiver

    To me, vetiver has a sweet, cool, moist, earth-like scent. Very heavy and damp.

    Sandalwood on the other hand is dry, smooth, light and generally warmer. Depending on the blend its in sandalwood can take on sweeter, sharper, or almost cedary aspects. Good sandalwood (the best was and is still from Mysore, India) is much harder to come by now. Since many of the Mysore trees have been used up it's distilled from other places now or produced synthetically.
    Scent is such a lovely, simple pleasure!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Newbie Question about Vetiver

    Welcome to Basenotes, Twitchly!

    Artisankey's description of vetiver is excellent. Vetiver oil is extracted from the root of a type of grass (vetiveria zizanioides) originally native to Africa and South Asia. Sandalwood oil comes from the sandalwood tree (santalum album) from South Asia and Polynesia. I don't notice much similarity between the two scents, but vetiver can have a distinctly woody quality in certain concentrations and when combined with other notes. The easiest way to "learn the notes" is by sampling the essential oils themselves, but another excellent way (and more fun, to my....nose) is by sampling various fragrances that make a point of featuring the notes in question.

    Guerlain's Vetiver was one of my first loves, and it was the first scent that smelled different on me every time I wore it (at least, for the first few weeks): one day I'd focus on the tonka bean (although I didn't know what it was at the time), the next time on the tobacco (which used to repulse me), and then on the citrus notes. It wasn't until I had the chance to start sampling other vetiver scents that I was finally able to "pin down" what part of Guerlain's Vetiver actually is vetiver. So I'd suggest comparing Guerlain's Vetiver with as many other vetiver-primary fragrances as you can get your hands on: Annick Goutal, Frederic Malle, Carven, L'Occitane, Roger & Gallet, Hove, Azzaro, etc. With sandalwood, Crabtree & Evelyn's sandalwood used to be 'true' and excellent: now it's merely good, but still a good example of pure sandalwood. Sandalwood, in particular, can usually be found in 'headshops' and South Asian import stores and boutiques. Unfortunately, unlike vetiver (which is easy to grow and is grown as an erosion control crop in warm climates all over the world), true sandalwood is an increasingly rare species which is difficult to cultivate (as it's parasitic or semi-parasitic). I have little doubt that the vetiver essential oils I've sampled have been 'true': I wouldn't vouch for the sandalwood oils, though.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Newbie Question about Vetiver

    I have some vetiver essential oil which is very smoky, also earthy and woody, it is slightly dry. It is not too sweet, maybe only slightly. I have also smelled some which is very dry, almost like dried grass. (I didn't buy it) Try Timbuktu, if you want to experience the dryness of vetiver.

    I have never smelled the smokiness in any of the sandalwoods I have tried. Sometimes they can be dry too, but I have one good sample of sandalwood which is woody and sweet (balsamic), it is very thick.

    I have some sandalwood beads that smell even better, sweet and woody with absolutely no dryness.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Newbie Question about Vetiver

    Fascinating. Thanks for the comments and pointers; I'll start hunting down some of the scents mentioned and see if I can figure this one out. I'm familiar with the head-shop versions of sandalwood from long ago, which is what I'm getting from the vetivers right now. I'll try to find essentials of each and work out from there.

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