Vetiver, for Katy

Some things are much more expensive in Japan. Essential oils (especially if imported, : Tisserand, Neal’s Yard – about three times the usual price); fruit; fish; airline tickets (rigged so you pay twice what you would pay flying from the UK ; usually it costs about $2000). Perfume. Books. Conversely, eating out is incomparable in terms of quality to most other countries and often far cheaper, so it is actually often more economical to go to restaurants than assemble your own ingredients – the reason we only really cook at weekends. Duncan eats out every single night after work, and could probably write a guide to the best Italian and Indian local restaurants, the local Japanese ‘curry rice’ joints, Chinese eateries; noodle bars and soba shops.

In terms of what I spend money on, oils are a life necessity for me. If am on a tight budget one month, I still have to factor in these as necessary purchases, for baths; general health and leg pain relief – my mood is also infinitely better when teaching as though I get an entire relaxing and tuning up of my physiognomy. We actually lost the bath plug ( I know : how?) in the summer, so it was months of showers only before we got round to buying another one. But when we did, I could hardly believe how different I would feel for the rest of the day, particularly if I had used eucalyptus or bergamot: serener, more balanced and unified. Like a different person.

As ‘luxury purchases’ for perfume, I use only the essential oils of patchouli and vetiver. Patchouli as incense, vetiver oil as skin scent. The particular vetiver I was discussing in the last post in my ‘Dirty Weekend’ — Katy, as you asked – is this 5ml of Javan origin from Japanese make Aroma Bloom – pricey perhaps at about ¥1800, but as it is so concentrated it lasts quite a while and totally wearable; AMAZING on coats and sweaters and hidden in trousers – to me this is my ‘underlay’ of vetiver scent; if I wake up feeling minimalist on a particular day I need no perfume; just nature outside and the deepening earth-wood-grassy note as it maturates on either my clothes or the body. Equally, , it goes perfectly with other perfumes ; for contrast (but perfectly complementing). I particularly enjoyed this oil the other day, with a silvery, soapy vintage Rive Gauche extrait.


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20 responses to “Vetiver, for Katy

  1. Do you generally prefer Javan vetiver, or is it more about the particular mood or what is available?

    • I have never smelled Haitian except in perfumes – probably because Indonesia and Japan are much closer and have a lot of trade. The clove and patchouli I bought the other day were both from Indonesia as well. I would LOVE to have proper access to different vetivers to compare them.
      I do know that I strongly dislike the really acrid, creosote thick tar like cheapos you can sometimes get; there needs to be a touch of citrus and green shining through. Have you had experience of many different types?

      • I have Javan, Haitian, and Bourbon vetiver essential oils. The Javan is the most pungent of the three, with a bit of burnt tarriness. The Haitian is sharper than the Bourbon, reminiscent of ginseng, and otherwise leathery, inky, and a bit like gasoline. The Bourbon is more like molasses, rounder and sweetly smoky—probably my favorite of the three.

      • Ooh you are reeling me in here and making me want all of them. Ginseng is a peculiar smell – but I do take it when I am under par (if I have it when already energetic it turns me into a maniac) , but not entirely unpleasant.

        Even if you have one particular Javan vetiver, though, it goes without saying that from essential oil company to essential oil company the precise smells vary. I try all the different aromatherapy shops and am often stunned by the variation in different bergamots, for instance. I have had vetivers I have hated – but really love this one. Best under the armpits! (SO DELIGHTFUL)

  2. Katy

    Thank you so much for this beautiful response. I have a small sample of very nice quality vetiver EO from Eden Botanicals. I would not even know about this excellent little California company if you had not mentioned them a while back. It is Haitian and in a perfume sample tube. The secret to making it more malleable and friendly is the warmth of my own hands. Of course I only discovered this by carrying it around for a little bit. So I shall be dabbing it about experimentally tomorrow. I am over the moon that my perfume hero would put my name in the tag line of this post, I am blushing and very touched. Vetiver and Rive Gauche, be still my heart.

  3. OnWingsofSaffron

    I use the German Primavera essential oils, and interestingly, they have a Bourbon vetiver from Réunion which is „aged“ (whatever…):
    It is thick, blackish, viscous, and when scraped out of the bottle with a tiny scoop it blobs into my carrier oil (almond) and has to be shaken vigorously to disperse. I then add some green mandarin and ylang-ylang and voilà, my après shower oil is completed!

    • Love the sound of that! I quite enjoy the hassle-free oil that just comes out (albeit slowly) and is immediately applicable to the skin.

      With ylang ylang and mandarin, both smells I adore, I do find though that I only like the immediate top notes, and that when those volatiles disappear, I am less enamoured with what follows. The good point about this Javan vetiver is that it goes on like a perfume – within minutes feeling totally wearable as such.

  4. Robin

    I’m inspired to go on a vetiver oil hunt now myself. Looking forward to it. Thanks Neil and Katy.

  5. When I worked for L’Occitane years ago, we sold a vetiver essential oil, and it was lovely. I used to put a drop of it on my skin with Yves Saint Laurent Nu, when I used to go out clubbing, it was a Goth/Alternative/Fetish club that I went to, so it was perfect. It would smell amazing when I would spend the night dancing and gyrating in wild abandon; Apoptygma Berzerk brings back memories of that time. I have never worn the oil on its own though. I should have.
    Which fragrance has the best vetiver note, in your opinion?


      No, for me – everyone considers vintage 19 parfum to be an iris – for me it is the perfect vetiver with a sinewy leather undertone. I think considering how inexpensive vetiver oil is, all the niche ones are basically rip offs. I do love Hermes Vetiver Tonka, though, as it presents a different facet to the basic oil; so warm and lovely. That one has become a real favourite. Otherwise, I like it in small appearances in the classics like Caleche. This is the thing; you could easily have a little vetiver essential oil in one place (providing your skin doesn’t sensitize to it), let it settle, than go out as you did with the Nu (wasn’t that a kind of spicy amber number? Seems aeons ago now, as does DANCING IN A CLUB – yesterday I couldn’t stop myself spinning around the kitchen to an entire Dead Or Alive album; I just thought fuck it, I’m DANCING) – such combinations enliven other enjoyable experiences even more.

      • Robin

        I like that image. You twirling in your kitchen.

        I’m wondering how vetiver oil might work with a Roudnitska creation like Dioressence or even Femme. Or something like Heritage. Might underscore them nicely. Or. What do you think?

      • Nu was incense and patchouli, worked well with vetiver. I do adore Calèche, maybe I’ll get some vetiver oil to go with it. N°19 is so much more than iris, especially in the parfum concentration. I will put some on later and try to pick out the vetiver.
        Isn’t Dead or Alive the perfect group to just have blasting and whirl around like a dervish to? Love it!!

      • I couldn’t resist the whole Youthquake album from start to finish ( plus it is good indoor exercise).

        When I was a teenager in art class I was always doing pastels of Pete Burns and Boy George, much to the consternation of my father. I actually went to the Dead Or Alive concert in Birmingham in 1985 : a fourteen year old complete with eye patch. He came on stage naked except for a little thong to Cake And Eat It and I LOST it

  6. David

    Like Katy, I also learned about Eden Botanicals from you. I ordered some Indian jasmine absolute from the site a while back. Very good stuff. I have been enjoying the vetiver in Cowboy Grass from D.S & Durga, a house I hadn’t had much luck with in the past. This vetiver has an oily turpentine note that I love. I combine it with Alma oil (it has an earthy note that I enjoy) and rub it all through my hair. It’s quite nice, but also a bit dirty.
    Did you mention that you like the way vetiver combines with your sweat? I love the way Antaeus combines with sweat.
    Oh, by the way, have you tried 24 Rue de L’Universite from YSL? I read that’s what Luke Evans wears, so naturally I am interested. It’s a bit pricy, so I am not sure if I should blind buy….but it’s Luke Evans’ signature scent dammit.

    • I hadn’t heard of that one but will look it up. Speaking of Cowboy Grass, ditto ; I liked the fresh astringency of that one to the point of considering a bottle ; really nice.

      You are still OBSESSED with Luke Evans

  7. How wonderful that must have been to see DoA back in 85!! That’s a fabulous memory to cherish.
    One of my favorite songs by them was Come Home with Me Baby. Absolutely brilliant tune!
    Do you still have the pastels you did back in school? They must have been great.

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