A staple in the fragrance industry for its earthy scent, vetiver has been used for centuries for everything from cooling window coverings to treating health conditions.
Vetiver is a tropical plant that’s grown around the globe. Referred to as khus in its native India, vetiver is a tall grass from the Poaceae family – the same family as lemongrass and citronella. Tall is putting it mildly… the leaves of this grassy plant can reach nearly ten feet tall. But the real gold lies in vetiver’s abundant, fragrant roots which grow straight down reaching lengths of 6 ½ to more than 16 feet!
Vetiver’s Multidimensional Uses
Vetiver is a versatile plant that has served many capacities throughout history. Many of these are still in use today. Vetiver’s uses include agriculture, home furnishings, health, and our favorite, fragrance.
Thanks to its deep fibrous roots and dense ground-level foliage, vetiver is perfect for controlling wind and water erosion. Used as a mulch, vetiver’s leaves form a thick mat to control weeds in coffee, tea, and cocoa plants. Their fuzzy leaves offer the added benefit of repelling pests.
In the home vetiver grass and roots are used to make thatched roofs and woven or braided to create floor coverings or rugs, baskets, curtains, and other crafts and home goods. In India, roots are woven into window curtains and then sprayed with water to cool and freshen the hot air as it blows through from the outside.
The root can even be made into a loofah-type “sponge” that, when used for bathing, exfoliates the skin and stimulates circulation.
Health and Ayurvedic
It’s not every grass that can be turned into a delicious beverage. In India, vetiver (khus) is made into a syrup with sugar, water, and citric acid. In Ayurvedic health teachings, vetiver is said to be cooling, so the syrup is used to make refreshing, cooling beverages – especially khus sharbat – and as a dessert topping.
Vetiver essential oil is touted as having numerous health benefits. It is an antioxidant which may help reduce the signs of aging. It can help improve concentration, and its aroma is grounding and calming making it good for massage and reducing stress.
Perhaps the most popular present day use of vetiver is in perfumery. Although its scent is more commonly found in men’s fragrances, vetiver is widely used in the perfume industry. In addition to offering woody, smoky notes, vetiver acts as a fixative. A fixative allows the whole fragrance to stay on the skin longer rather than having parts of the fragrance evaporate more quickly than others.
What Does Vetiver Smell Like?
Part of the mystery of vetiver is that although its fragrant oil is extracted from the roots of the plant, vetiver smells like a wood. The smell of vetiver can be described as earthy, smoky, woody, sweet, and balsamic.
For the perfumer, vetiver is difficult to work with compared to other ingredients. It’s so unique, unlike vanilla which is universally liked and easy to incorporate, or patchouli which goes well in just about every type of fragrance composition. Vetiver is fickle and doesn’t blend with just any ingredient. Many trials and errors are needed to achieve the right balance.
To make vetiver oil, the roots are harvested, dried, and aged like a fine wine. They are then distilled, and the oil is collected. The process is slightly different for perfume grade oils as compared to consumer grade essential oils.
The grades and crops of vetiver can vary from season to season and place to place. So in addition to the harvesting and aging process, its quality is largely dependent on soil and climate conditions.
When selecting a vetiver source for Provision’s Maitri fragrance, founder, Sherri Sebastian tested and tried vetiver oil from multiple suppliers and sources before settling on the Madagascan vetiver used in her formulation. Compared to the other grades tested, it adapts more naturally and has a much smoother finish on skin… less earthy, more soft and sophisticated.
“I love the way it adapted to my own skin chemistry in a natural way. Very clean, yet sensual and intriguing and elegant. The most “wearable” grade I’ve tried.” ~ Sherri Sebastian
Vetiver is not for the person who is looking for instant gratification. It is not a trendy scent. In fact, a well-known American bath and candle retailer launched a short-lived Indian vetiver fragrance that has since been discontinued.
The scent of vetiver is rather for someone who seeks to become involved in a deeper unfolding mystery. It’s for someone who wants to enjoy one of the most precious and unique essential oils on the market.
Vetiver has been better received in European audiences over the years than in the U.S. The most notable vetiver-centered fragrance is Guerlain’s Vetiver which has been on the market since 1959. More recently, we’re seeing it in the U.S. market with Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver and a few other niche fragrance brands.
Provision’s Maitri eau de parfum was inspired, in part, by the classic European vetiver fragrances. The eco-certified Madagascan vetiver hints of amber, offering a smooth, sophisticated scent. It infuses fresh Italian bergamot, Mandarin musk accord, and oakmoss for just the right blend of brightness and depth.
Another delightful way to relish in the scent of vetiver is with Maitri Charcoal and Amla Oil Bath Soap. Expertly formulated and uniquely fragranced with the same Madagascan vetiver and mandarin, it offers an indulgent bathing experience like no other.
If you are intrigued and want to smell this ingredient, Provision will include a blotter scented with pure vetiver with all online orders through the end of June.