• Ingredients

Ingredient Spotlight: Fresh Vetiver Fragrances For Men & Women

creed original vetiver fragrance

Vetiver (derived from the Tamil word vettiveru – vetti suggesting ‘to tear up’, ver meaning ‘root’) has many names including Chrysopogon zizanioides in Latin and khus grass in its native India. The amber-brown liquid known to perfumers – the essence of the plant’s roots – has been called ‘the oil of tranquillity’ and ‘the fragrance of the soil’.

Each of these names adds a thread to vetiver’s story, the tale of an ingredient that has travelled to many lands and scented many skins. In its continent-crossing past, the plant has stitched fable and reality together, bleeding through religious texts and voodoo practices, offering economic value and mass-market appeal.

Sought after by perfumers across the globe, vetiver can today be found nestled into the ingredients of around 20 per cent of all male fragrances and 40 per cent of women’s fragrances.

A signature ingredient used across The House of Creed perfume collection, we’re taking a deep dive into the history of vetiver fragrances, where the ingredient is sourced from for Creed fragrances and a glance at how it is used in some of our most iconic vetiver-infused fragrances for men and women.

The History Of Vétiver

In the narrow streets of the northern Indian city of Kannauj, the air is heavy with scent. Perfume stills have been bubbling away in the country’s ancient perfume capital for more than 400 years, centuries before the perfumers of Grasse began honing their olfactory skills. Seeking to bottle the elusive scents of India’s landscapes, the master perfumers create oil-based natural perfumes from botanical sources.

The roots and stems of vetiver grass have been used for hundreds of years in India: in the home, in Ayurvedic rituals, and, because of its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, in medicines to treat burns, snakebites and scorpion stings.

Hindu scriptures record that vetiver oil was offered up as a gift to the gods and used in ancient times to cool kings struggling with the unbearable heat. Vetiver roots are also woven into mats or screens which, when hung damp in an open window, provide a sweet, cooling scent as the wind catches the fragrance.

Vetiver in perfumery can be dated back as far as the early 19th Century. For hundreds of years, perfume houses across the globe have been carefully distilling and subtly diluting vetiver as they attempt to capture the essence of a sultry evening with smoky notes of oud, or the mysterious petrichor (the earthy scent arising when rain falls on dry soil).

Today, vetiver has become one of the most treasured resources in modern perfumery.

Characteristics of Vétiver Fragrances

As an oil, vetiver has a dry muskiness, with moments of leather and a few nutty notes. Perfumer and scent archivist, Jean Kerléo, once described it as smelling like ‘a sack of potatoes’, which is more romantic than it first implies. Strangely fresh, suitably smoky, a complex fragrance that has enticed perfumers with its versatility. The oil’s scent profile depends on the soil in which the grass is grown; oil from Java is darker in colour and richer on the nose, while that harvested from Réunion (now sadly a thing of rarity) offers a warmer, softer fragrance.

For the creators of perfume, it is vetiver's fixative powers that attract. Less overpowering than sandalwood, it provides longevity to perfumes - The ghost of the fragrance can last days. Traditionally, it is only this fixative essential oil from the roots that goes into the making of a vetiver fragrance.

However, master perfumer Olivier Creed has challenged this notion and taken vetiver scent-making a step further – for Original Vétiver, launched in 2004, Olivier made use not only of the root essence but also of the plant’s leaves and aromatic heart, weaving fresh, green notes through sensual woody base layers. It is the fresh, green notes taken from the vetiver leaves, the rich heart and woody and earthy notes extracted from the roots that you will find across many fragrances from The House of Creed today.

The Origin Of Vétiver In Creed Fragrances

Vetiver can be located anywhere from India, Sri Lanka and Malayasia, to Haiti, Indonesia and Kenya, amongst many other spots across the globe. The vetiver found in Creed fragrances is almost always sourced from Haiti.

Haiti now grows the bulk of the vetiver harvest used by the perfume industry, providing a resinous, slightly sweet variation of the oil. After coffee and mangoes, vetiver is the island’s largest export, with more than 70 tons of oil produced a year. Growing the crop is easy, but harvesting it proves more challenging. The section of the roots holding the most essential oil can sit around 40cm deep in the soil, with the tangled tentacles gripping the earth tightly.

It’s this staying power that also makes vetiver a popular choice for conservationists attempting to prevent soil erosion. However, if vetiver is planted on hillsides that encourage horizontal rather than vertical root spread, it can cause irreversible damage to farmland. In Java, where acres of vetiver are grown in loose volcanic soil, the production has caused catastrophic erosion.

Take a trip to the city of Les Cayes in the west of Haiti and you’ll be falling over vetiver roots – quite literally. Under a syrupy fog of earthy fragrance, the streets are packed with trucks carrying dirty root bundles to city distilleries. The bulging folds of the land around the city display the plant’s tufted manes. It takes some 150kg of dried vetiver roots to produce 1kg of essential oil, which can be sold for around £250.

How is Vétiver oil extracted fragrances?

Vetiver is grown for up to a year before bundles of its roots are taken to be distilled, a process that lasts more than 24 hours. It doesn’t give up its essence easily: the oil must diffuse from the plant’s inner tissues towards the surface, and the most valuable oil has a high boiling point, so it won’t pass through the condenser until late in the distillation process.

The essential oil can be extracted by steam distillation or, as in Java and Indonesia, using high-pressure steam extraction. In this method, steam under high pressure is injected into a still filled with the grass to release the plant’s aromatic molecules and turn them into a vapour. The vapour is then condensed, turning it back into a liquid, in which the aromatic oil floats on top of the water, ready to be collected.

Explore our Vétiver fragrances
Original Vétiver

Olivier Creed created Original Vétiver in 2004. True to its name, Original Vétiver dramatically reinvented the traditional vetiver scent: Previously, only one part of the vetiver plant was used in a fragrance. Olivier, however, infused all three parts of the plant: the earthy root, the verdant leaves and the rich heart to freshen the blend. The House of Creed are the only perfume house to do this and that’s why the fragrance has a standout fresh and original smell.

In a spritz, the wearer can be immersed in the history of vetiver: its vivacious growth and its complex roots. Grassy, citric notes dance over pepper before diving into the depths of the damp soil, conjuring up a lingering summer – a truly addictive and contemporary men’s fragrance to add to your fragrance wardrobe collection.

Vétiver Géranium

A wholeheartedly adored fragrance from the Acqua Originale collection, Vétiver Géranium captures the majestic landscape of Indonesia’s vetiver adorned mountains.

Conjuring up both the ethereal freshness that exudes from the vetiver plant and the woody and earthy characteristics of the roots, Vétiver Géranium introduces citric notes, geranium, rose, cedarwood and Creed’s signature ambergris to complement the vetiver found in the base and strengthen the fresh and aromatic offering of this woody fragrance.

Viking Cologne

The latest addition to The House of Creed, Viking Cologne  finds the rich, woody notes of vetiver nestled into the base of this crisp and aromatic fougère fragrance. Recreating the energising freshness of a classic cologne, this striking and universal eau de parfum draws upon zesty citrus notes, pink pepper and warming herbals for its invigorating opening but it is its rich, woody base that provides a striking point of difference from traditional Eau de Colognes. Sandalwood, frankincense, patchouli and cedarwood mingle with vetiver to create a lasting depth and strength to Viking Cologne.

Bois Du Portugal

A charming and elegant men’s fragrance, Bois du Portugal takes its inspiration from a stroll through the forests of the Iberian Peninsula, capturing the aromas that exude from the shaded forest floor in the height of summer.

Bottling the rich, woody and earthy air, Olivier Creed leans on vetiver, combined with sandalwood and cedarwood, within the base to transport the senses and provide an intensified natural sensuality. Citrus top notes spiral together with dry spices to provide an uplifting crisp opening to this otherwise rich and warm fragrance for him.