Vetiver, a fresh and elegant ingredient

Vetiver is almost a magical plant! Having proved to be a precious help in various fields you’ll soon discover, it is especially gifted with an enchanting scented essence full of different facets.

Haitian Vetiver, is particularly woody and smoky, with subtle green and vegetal nuances as well as a surprising nutty and grapefruit facet.

It goes without saying that this exotic raw material is a must in the perfumer's organ!

Vetiver essence from Haiti is the celebrated raw material in the perfumes for women and men, Flash Back and Autoportrait!


Two fragrances from Olfactive Studio's Black Collection, Flash Back and Autoportrait, feature the delicacy of Vetiver. The first, a citrus-woody fragrance, and the second, a woody-spicy-amber one, both explore the different allures that the precious ingredient can offer.


In Flash Back, we are enveloped in a vaporous cloud of Haitian Vetiver essence (Chrysopogon zizanoide).

In this fragrance, the Vetiver is vibrant! It is preceded by an opening bursting with freshness and vitality: both sparkling with citrus notes such as the essence of Red Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), Orange (Citrus sinensis), and green notes with a Rhubarb facet that gives it a joyful, tangy, fruity note, which recalls the rhubarb pie of our childhood.

The heart of the fragrance is adorned with a cold spice with a floral and fruity facet, the essence of Pink Berries (Schinus molle). As for the base of Flash Back, it combines the essence of Vetiver with that of Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), whose smoky and woody facets are rounded off by Musks and ambery notes. The latter also brings a mineral facet.

The contrast between the humus facet of Vetiver and the woody-dry facet of Cedar reminds us of the diversity of scents that mother nature can offer us.        

A real stroll through the mists of an undergrowth!

The variety of notes in Flash Back is such that they seem to juggle under our noses, juxtaposing each other along the rhythm of its composition.




In Autoportrait we discover a tender and earthy Vetiver. In the perfume's discreet and subtle opening, we can distinguish the zesty facet of Bergamot essence (Citrus bergamia) and the peppery-fresh facet of the Elemi essence (Canarium luzonicum), a spicy raw material whose woody and resinous facets can be sensed already.

The structure of Autoportrait allows the woody-balsamic heart and base to reveal itself very quickly.

The spicy facet persists in the heart of the perfume with the Benzoin Siam (Styrax tonkinensis), which also possesses a spicy-cinnamic aspect. As for the gourmand facet of Benzoin, with its vanilla and caramel accents, it wraps us in a warm and sweet haze. We also perceive the Incense (Boswellia carterii), with its powerful woody facet, it feels resinous and reassuring.

This rich woody aspect of Autoportrait is highlighted in the base of the fragrance by several raw materials. Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) in all its naturalness with its woody-dry side reminds us of pencil lead, the elegant Vetiver brings a refined smoky note.

The Oakmoss Absolute (Evernia prunastri) with its woody-mossy facet and its earthy aspect accompanies the Cedar and Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanoide) while giving a chypre dimension to the fragrance. As for the Musks, they bring a smooth creamy effect.

Autoportrait is an elegant, deep, truly carnal fragrance with a mesmerizing trail.




From its Latin name Chrysopogon zizanoide, formerly called "Vetiveria zizanoide", itself derived from the Tamil "vettiveru", vetiver is an herb growing in clumps of about 1.5m high. We actually can only see the "tip of the iceberg" as its roots are able to go down 3 meters deep into the ground!

This raw material grows in the humid soil of tropical and subtropical lowlands, especially in swamps and flood plains. It has been widely used and appreciated since ancient times in India, where it originated, as well as in Indonesia, the Indian Ocean, Haiti, and China.

Botanically speaking, the plant is a clump of perennial grasses of the Poaceae family and the Chrysopogon genus. The species Chrysopogon zizanoide supplies the contemporary perfume industry, but other species exist such as Chrysopogon nigritanus (Southern Africa) and Chrysopogon nemoralis (South East Asia).


This woody raw material is full of surprises, as its outer roots, or rhizomes, contain a myrrh-like resin (Commiphora myrrha). These roots are harvested, processed and dried to produce Vetiver essential oil from this resin. As these harvests require turning over the soil to extract the roots, they are called "digging".

It takes 150 kilograms of dried roots to produce 1 kilogram of essential oil.

After steam distillation of the washed, cut and sun-dried rhizomes, its root provides a very thick resinous essence.

As for the leaves, they are used to feed animals in the rural areas of the countries forming the specie’s habitat. These are also used as thatch for the roofs on the French Island of La Reunion. This multipurpose plant is also used in agriculture as a very good fertilizer and soil fixer, which it also protects from erosion.


It is actually only in the twentieth century that Vetiver began to be exploited for its essential oil in perfumery, then in aromatherapy.

Nowadays the biggest exporters of essential oil are the island of Haiti, followed by China and the island of Java. Despite a smaller scaled production, India is also part of the main producing countries of its essence. It is not surprising that France, one of the cradles of modern perfumery, comes first in terms of demand.

In perfumery, Vetiver essence exists in several qualities, the Bourbon Vetiver being the most precious but also the rarest, and almost impossible to find nowadays. It was cultivated on the French island of La Reunion, where it was introduced in 1864, formerly known as the Bourbon Island. The delicacy of its scent with rosy, earthy and spicy facets, is highly prized by perfumers.


We already mentioned the unique scent of Haitian Vetiver, and since good things always come in threes…its cousins from Java and India each possess a particular aroma!

Vetiver Java has a powerful, very smoky scent. This last facet can be so voluminous that some even find it reminiscent of the smell of burnt!

There is also Indian Vetiver, of lesser quality. The quality of its essential oil can be measured by the clarity of its yellowish liquid, ranging from colored to dark.

Thus, the characteristic aroma of this ingredient is both delicate and complex. As a raw material, it belongs to the woody family with earthy, nutty and smoky facets.

It constitutes what is called a "base note" (a note with little volatility that develops over time and persists through the sillage), however, it still modifies the heart of the perfume.

This raw material has long been used in woody perfumes, and is still used today in the famous Vetiver "solinotes" (perfumes olfactively built around a single raw material). It also acts as an excellent fixative for top notes. It is also found in chypre and leathery notes.


Composed mainly of beta vetivenes, vetivones, khusimol and isovalencenol, researchers have managed to extract molecules from its essential oil. This is the case of vetyverols, vetiverone, as well as vetyveryl acetate, all three used as raw materials themselves in fine fragrance (the segment of perfumery to which niche brands such as Olfactive Studio belong and opposed to functional perfumery). The last molecule mentioned is a mixture of esters derived from Vetiver Haiti or Java, revealing an elegant aroma purer and more tonic than its precursor, making it more expensive!

In aromatherapy it is the sesquiterpenols, sesquiterpenes, and ketones (vetivones) contained in its essential oil that grant it immunostimulant properties as well as an arterial, venous and lymphatic tonic functions. Its essence also has fungicidal and insecticidal properties.


Many classic perfumes feature the subtility of Vetiver in their base notes. The ingredient had its age of glory and rose to become a star raw material in the twentieth century, when many Vetiver solinotes were created.


The oldest one is Vetiver de Carven, composed in 1957 by Firmenich for the brand. It was the first fragrance for men to focus on this raw material, and had a woody and delicate scent. Carven later created a feminine version. In 1959, Jean-Paul Guerlain signs one of the most famous Vetiver fragrances known until now. Vetiver de Guerlain is a woody-spicy perfume still sold on the market 80 years later!

Other brands like Givenchy, Lanvin and Le Galion followed the trend and each composed their solinote fragrance, respectively in 1959, 1964, and 1969. These three woody fragrances were also sold for men.


The first perfume for women containing its essence in its base notes is no other than Chanel n°5, a floral-aldehydic composed in 1921 by Ernest Beaux. In 1927 André Fraysse creates Arpège de Lanvin, another floral-aldehydic following the trend of Chanel n°5.


Vetiver is without a doubt a fascinating specie, whose versatile properties and unequalled scent is found in numerous famous fragrances, make it hard to forget!

Anna Grézaud-Tostain for Olfactive Studio