This is from Ayala Sender's SmellyBlog. I've selected parts of the article.
For the full article, well worth reading, as is the entire site, go here and scroll down: http://ayalasmellyblog.blogspot.com/.../label/Vetiver
I believe that Bourbon vetiver comes from Madagascar.
This is the vetiver that made me fall in love with vetiver as a building block. Up until than, I thought it was only chemicals that made commercial vetivers smell so fresh and lemony. I presume that this vetiver is the variety most suitable for fresh, clean, almost “green” vetiver colognes. It is ethereal and sublime, light and almost airy - and smells almost citrusy on its own, but not quite. The variety I have is of wild vetiver from Haiti. If I had to pick only one vetiver to use, this would be it. I also tried another variety (not the wild one), which is similar only with a top note reminiscent of Jerusalem Artichokes - very rooty and earth-invoking, yet somewhat heady and sweet; and with a body note that is quite woody and reminiscent of Amyris (aka West Inidian Sandalwood).
This vetiver is so different I almost didn’t believe it was vetiver. Now, talking about woody… This one has almost no trace of earth. It smells like wood – driftwood to be precise – and you’ll almost think it is some kind of a fake sandalwood. I use this variety when I am looking for a woody note, without the need for a recognizable vetiver note. It is particularly marvelous with florals, lending a rich, deep woody fixative but still letting the florals stay at the centre of the stage.
I haven't worked much with this variety, but I do have a sample of an organic oil from Madagascar. It is closest to the Haitian vetiver, only woodier and with a certain floralcy to it. It's not as smooth and woody as the Sri Lankan vetiver, but it has the typical underlining clean/earthy/sweet that makes vetivers so charming.
Indian vetiver is the most earthy and rich of all the vetiver I’ve smelled. I would like to mention to particularly interesting specimens I have recently got from White Lotus Aromatics. Christopher McMahon, the proprietor, is a self-confessed vetiver connoisseur, and I think I got infected by his passion – which is quite understandable: there is something utterly intimate about getting in touch with the roots of foreign countries. Vetiver roots being fully enveloped in earth for the longest time, soak many of the qualities of the land they come from. This makes for a very interesting experience of visiting far away countries with a simple uncorking of a vial…
Inidian Vetiver co-distilled with Mitti (Baked Earth)
As if Indian vetiver wasn’t earthy enough to begin with, this artisan distillation marries the essence of vetiver with that of baked Indian earth. What does it smell like? You guessed it: dirt.
Ruh Khus (Wild Indian Vetiver)
While all the other vetiver oils I mentioned earlier are in different shades of amber, Ruh Khus is a dark blue-green. The reason is simple: this oil is distilled in the traditional Indian way, in copper vessels. The copper lends its unique colour of oxidation (turquoise) to the oil, as well as a tinge of metallic aroma. Copper vessels are relatively light and the Indian perfumers have the custom to travel with them to the place of harvest, to gather the plants and distill them on the spot. This flexibility is highly important for the traditional Indian perfumers, because this way they can easily travel from place to place and distill rare essences in remote places – as opposed to importing the raw harvest to a remote atelier, by which time the essences will be either gone or spoiled.
There are two more interesting vetiver varieties that I am interested in trying, and I will add them later to SmellyBlog once I’ve obtained and evaluated them. I am curiosu to explore more distillations of vetiver from around Madagascar - Reunion, Comoro and the Bourbon islands, and also of South African Vetiver.
To make a long story short – I will try to answer the question posed in the title of this essay: Is vetiver earthy, woody or green?
The answer is, of course, “all of the above”.
Some varieties are earthy (particularly the Indian and Indonesian distillation), which makes particular sense, considering the fact that vetiver is a root covered a few meters deep in soil.
Some are woody (the Sri Lankan vetiver exemplifies that) which should’t be such a shock if recalling that patchouli oil, distilled form leaves of a plant from the mint family, is also considered woody (as well as earthy).
And some vetivers are considered green (such as the Haitian Vetiver variety), as if they were some leaves or grass – which actually is exactly what vetiver is! For whatever reason, some varieties amplify the grassy or green characteristics more than others.
The quality of vetiver all depends on the soil in which it originated from, as it soaks up many characteristics of the earth.
Vetiver is a very important perfume material, and is used in more than third of the perfumes today, and in all fragrance families.