Sunday, March 8, 2009

Vetivert Perfume by LaValliere New Orleans

This is a photograph of vetiver growing along Southern California coast line to retard soil erosion. Vetiver grows in discrete clumps making it ideal for this purpose but traditionally it was cultivated because the root clumps made excellent thatching for rooves. Kept moist in the home, the bundles have a pleasing scent that repels insects and rodents. Along with several other "V" herbs vetiver is known for its calming and sedative properties; add valerian , verbena, vervain and violet (petals and leaves) to dried vetiver roots and you will create a potent sleep inducing sachet pillow.

Vetiver is a favorite perfumery note of mine and I've been seeking a modern day vetiver scent to suit my tastes. Many current vetivert fragrances feature the green-fresh qualities of the grass, or the salty earthiness of the roots. BBW version was the first vetiver fragrance I experienced. I loved it so that I began to search for my ultimate vetiver scent. Ultimately Frederic Malle's Vetiver Extraordinare became my favorite, an instant classic and the vetiver by which I now measure all others. But it is undeniably robust, a big fresh modern machine of a fragrance. If you like fresh and rooty style vetiver then you should try the one by Axe; they have a very fine smelling Vetiver as part of their Proximity line. It has poor lasting but it is a bargin that actually smells great. Try it as a room/car fresher, as it lasts better on fabrics than skin.
But the perfect vetiver perfume I have in mind would be just like the one pictured above: Vetivert by La Valliere. A long exitinct perfumery shop located in New Orleans, La Valliere produced perfumes between 1914-1922. This is one of their plainer bottle designs, a flared octagonal with three larger center panels and a small hexagonal stopper. But of course my main concern is the perfume contained within called simply, VETIVERT.

The juice has achieved a beautiful cherry amber color and smells extremely well preserved. Vetivert has a naturally sweet facet to it as most grasses do, but it's more grain like than candy like, with starchy/malty notes rather than the sharper, more concentrated notes imparted by honey or sugar sweetness in perfumes and without any of the associated animal or fruity tones. This perfume plays up that mild, tranquil facet of the grass beautifully. Steeped with other dry, smooth smelling greens, clary sage, clove and patchouli leaves along with cedar wood and rounded with benzoin, La Valliere Vetivert perfume is profoundly zenish and centered, a mellow, slightly exotic but laid back vetiver perfume- imagine the scent beckoning you from a fortune teller's tent.

The vetiver is still allowed to be earthy but in a delectible smooth way that suggests chocolate, pepper and toasted coffee, as well there is a leathery, sandalwood quality. Everything here is kept very dry and there is none of the watery, briney and salty notes associated with some vetiver perfumes. Oddly, I still enjoy the brisk, marine treatment of vetiver, as in Annick Goutal's ocean-side version, different than but still in a much more masculine vein just as the afore mentioned Malle version is... The one sweeter vetiver scent I have heard of but not tried is by Hermes, the one with Tonka but it sounds much more candied than the vetiver I crave. Now if only to find a chemist perfumer friend who will concoct the Fortune Teller's version for me...

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

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