What Does Vetiver Smell Like? [Overall Scented Guide]

Written By Nabila Lisha

In the fragrance realm, we can imagine many accords by hearing the name, such as jasmine, vanilla, and leather. But at the same time, our mind becomes perplexed whenever we see some unique elements in perfumes like vetiver.

This scent is generally used in fragrances for its magnificent aura. But the main query is what kind of smell Vetiver offers, right?what-does-vetiver-smell-like

In this write-up, I’m gonna share some amazing facts about vetiver with its actual aromatic profile that I’ve found after conducting thorough research.

So let’s dive in!

What Is Vetiver?

Vetiver is a perennial grass, known for its massive use in fragrances and ayurvedic. This plant is called Chrysopogon zizanioides, in the scientific world. Vetiver essential oil is widely famous for its amazing calming aura that is also known as the “oil of tranquility”.


Though vetiver is one kind of grass, it is not the one you see growing on your backward or at the park. It’s an especially grown grass that is famous for its exotic scented roots.

Vetiveria zizanioides has big, thick roots not vertically long, you can say it’s a massive structure of small rootlets. And the renowned vetiver oil comes from well-grown roots.

This plant takes 18 to 24 months to fully mature, and the root grows more than 15 feet long underground.

After harvesting and a proper steam distillation process, a skillful manufacturer extracts vetiver essential oil from the vertically tangled roots.

After knowing what the vetiver plant is, it’s time to explore its rich history in perfumery. So let’s take a look at the following portion:

Vetiver’s Journey in the Fragrance World

Around 400 years ago, vetiver oil stepped into the perfume realm with its incredible woody-earthy combo.

The use of vetiver started from India’s ayurvedic and spiritual treatments. Apart from the ayurvedic tradition, India also uses vetiver’s magnificent aura to make fragrances back in the early 80’s.

The name Vetiver originated from Tamil which means hatcheted up.

Over time, vetiver became one of the most iconic ingredients in the fragrance world. Its essential oil is widely used in Southeast Asia for making traditional medicines and purifying the ambiance.

Since the 17th century, in Europe, perfumers have used vetiver to make iconic male colognes. Not only that, ancient Egyptians also used this marvelous scented accord in their cosmetics and perfumes.

What does Vetiver smell like?

Vetiver has a warm, woody-earthy smell with subtle smoky, leathery undertones. Along with that, people can also sense some subtle citrusy or mild soapy notes in vetiver. Initially, this grounded accord offers a dewy soil and dry grass effect in a warm climate.

In a word, you can consider vetiver essence as a masculine scent that contains bold, erotic accords with deep earthiness.

The smell of vetiver is close to other grass notes like lemongrass and citronella. But it is much more complex and woody than them. So, it is also more valued from ancient times.vetiver-smell-like

Though it has prominent woody-earthy aromas, still you can sense a mild citrusy, flowery tint, which also perfectly blends with the other unisex accords.

Vetiver does not only have a specific scent like vanilla or citrus. It has many types; it can come as floral, woody, or smokey.

Most people say vetiver smells sharp like freshly cut grass. It has a more deep scent than that. Its complexity makes the smell unique.

When freshly cut grass mingles with the damp earthy tone, this type of aura spreads. You can experience a very similar aroma from Vetiver. This single accord plays unique roles in different types of scent formation.

Unlike the other natural essential oils, vetiver arrives with some unique combination. Because vetiver is made with several complex notes and more than 100 chemical elements.

From this massive amount of components, Khusimone (alpha-vetyvone), Vetivone (major organic compound), Nootkatone (Alaskan yellow cedar’s terpene oil), and Patchoulol (patchouli alcohol) are the most potent ones.

As these parts of the vetiver exude strong odor, not every accord combined with it instantly.

So, let’s take a look at which other accords paired perfectly with vetiver scent:

Which Accords Blends Well With Vetiver?

Due to the bold, evocative aroma of vetiver, it does not blend with every note, this sharp-dry smell only pairs with some other exotic accords.

Though vetiver is not composed of every ordinary element, whenever it pairs with something it makes the overall atmosphere phenomenal.

Here are the notable ingredients that are perfectly combined with vetiver:

Bergamot: The deep earthiness of vetiver is fascinatingly paired with the fresh citrusy aroma of bergamot, and makes the summer perfume more uplifting & energizing.

Cherry: Along with the boldness, vetiver also spreads a mild grapefruit smell, and the juicy fruitiness of cherry gently elevates a tempting vibe.

This sweet earthy combo makes a fragrance more striking and tantalizing.

Cypress: vetiver’s solid, woody-earthy combo perfectly incorporated with the warm timber smell of cypress, which presents a more polished and cozy aura in chilly weather.

Musk: When the bold tone of vetiver and the soft essence of musk intertwine with each other, it feels like an aromatic festival.

The soft, creamy nuance of musk easily blends with every accord and enhances the ambiance moderately.

Vetiver smells like freshly cut grass, full of earthiness that comes from the scent of soil and roots. Like lemongrass, sometimes you will smell the citrusy touch in the smell of vetiver.

However, it has a more woody and earthy composition. It comes in a more complex version of earthy patchouli.

The Extraction Process of Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver is famous for its strong woody, smoky, earthy, herbal & zesty nuance. It’s a perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae family and is massively produced in India’s most tropical regions and southern Asia.

Over the years, people have adapted a traditional steam distillation process to extract its essential oil from its 1.5-meter root.


Besides, some manufacturers also use molecular or hydro-distillation to increase vetiverol properties.

However, most companies still apply the steam process to extract the main ingredients Khusimol and sub-elements sesquiterpenoids from the vetiver grass.

Here I’m gonna describe the traditional extraction process:

  • The vetiver roots are consciously harvested from the fully-grown Chrysopogon zizanioides plant.
  • Soon the producers wash the tufted roots with water and remove all the dust and impurities.
  • To maintain the exclusive flavor the roots must dry in natural air.
  • After completing the drying process, finely chop & shred the tangled roots.
  • Then the roots are placed in a still pot, where the vapor easily passes through.
  • As the oil-water mixed potion evaporates completely, the pure oil is collected.
  • Then the essential oil has been packed in a glass bottle or flacon with the proper sealed cap. Finally, they store the oil jar in a dark room.

What Are The Types of Vetiver in Different Regions?

Vetiver has different smells because it is grown in different parts of the world and because of the variations in climate and soil.

But, the most popular vetivers are Indonesian vetiver and Haitian vetiver. They are the most known because of their quality and blending power with other notes.

Now, I’m going to explain the different types of vetiver oil and its benefits in the fragrance realm. Let’s explore:

TypesSmells LikeUse Advantages
Haitian VetiverDeep, heavy, slightly sweet resinous with potent smoky essence.In niche & high-end branded cologne.Adds depth and intensity.
Indian VetiverEarthy, Woody with a subtle sweetness.Best used as a fixative in perfumes.Increase fragrance longevity.
Javanese vetiverLighter version of vetiver, with a mild citrusy nuance.Good for balancing fragrance accords.Soften the sharp and overpowering elements.
Martinique vetiverFresh and green aroma.Use in aromatherapy.Relaxing mind and soul.
Malaysian VetiverSweet, blossomy smell.A perfect option for base notes.Uplift and energize the ambiance.

Uses of Vetiver in Different Sectors

Over the centuries, vetiver essential oil has been used in multiple sectors including perfumery. More or less, this beneficial component marked its presence in every zone.

But in this segment, I mentioned only those areas that we can’t even imagine without the rich smell of vetiver and its extract.


Let’s take a short glimpse at those territories where vetiver is a trustworthy name:

Vetiver Essence in Healthcare & Aromatherapy

Initially, vetiver started its journey in healthcare and aromatherapy. The herbal natural essence is widely used for:

  • Vetiver oil amazingly works for calming and relaxing your nerves. Its grounding effect & woody warmth reduce anxiety, stress, and other emotional traumas.
  • The soothing earthy nuance of vetiver is a famous name among insomnia patients. Its natural herbal properties improve sleep issues and extend the timing.
  • Vetiver exudes some marvelous aura that instantly reduces your breathing problem and improves your mental health.
  • The grounded soothing component of vetiver essence helps to increase alertness. If you’re struggling to stay focused on your task, vetiver is an amazing option for that.

Vetiver Smell in Perfumery

Vetiver is one of the notable components in the fragrance world that can improve a whole composition opulently. In perfume, this single ingredient is used in different portions in different ways.

Let’s take a look at vetiver aroma uses in perfumery:

As a Fixative: Vetiver is a dense and complex scent that has enough ability to bind the other notes together.

Because of its versatile nature, and multifaceted fixative properties, it can easily hold the soft and strong element perfectly.

Closing Note: Due to the grounding timbery effect of vetiver, it notably appears on base note to increase the longevity and intensity of a cologne.

Vetiver also adds a warm depth in the final trail of a fragrance.

Balancing Factor: As vetiver has a bold yet smooth aura, it effortlessly can elevate and soften the aroma according to the subordinate elements. Perfumers often use this component to balance the overpowering essence.

Vetiver Essential Oil in Skincare & Cosmetics

After aromatherapy and fragrance, skincare is the most common sector where vetiver oil is often used.

  • Vetiver has antibacterial properties which can reduce your acne tendencies. This oil is good for cleaning dust and other harmful ingredients from your skin.
  • The natural herbal properties of this dark brown vetiver oil can improve your sunburn and redness instantly.
  • The high-nutrition vetiver oil helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. So, it’s better to use vetiver essential oil including products for young-looking skin and body.
  • For a good facial & body massage, mixed vetiver oil and lotion are outstanding options.

Basically, these are the main factors that day by day increase vetiver enthusiasts and it’s mainly popular among young and trendy ladies.

Apart from these, vetiver’s essence, oil, and extract are potently used in house cleaning and the agriculture sector.

Many people use vetiver extract as a home purifier. The smooth grounding smell works as a relaxing element in daily life.

The amount of vetiver roots used in cosmetics and fragrances today is estimated to reach 250 tons annually. The remainder of the plant is utilized as a fiber or as animal feed.

What Are The Top Vetiver-Based Colognes?

Nowadays, vetiver is also used by modern women and unisex fragrances. The aroma goes really well with gourmand and sensual scents.


Here are 3 most known perfumes and colognes with vetiver:

Les Parfums Mythiques – Vetyver Givenchy

Les Parfums Mythiques – Vetyve by Givenchy is the best example of vetiver cologne that has appeared in the market so far.

From top to bottom, you will find the strong woody-earthy vetiver essence that shines uniquely in different phases.

In this single composition, you can experience the versatile attributes of vetiver.

To be more specific, at the top, when vetiver mingles with bergamot it spreads an uplifting citrusy smell that converts into a spicy aroma in the middle. Finally, it finishes off with earthy, woody boldness.

And because of its grounding components, it has amazing longevity and perfume sillage.

Tom Ford Grey Vetiver

If you like vetiver in your perfumes, Tom Ford Grey Vetiver should be in your collection. It has a posh modern vetiver essence.

The bottle looks very cool and classy just like its smell. This cologne is strong and masculine. It can provide you with 7 to 8 hours of longevity.

Grey Vetiver opens with a mouthwatering grapefruit aroma. As the beautiful citrusy aroma fades away, then you will just receive fresh vetiver and a tiny bit of spiciness from the nutmeg.

The overall formulation of Grey Vetiver is pretty direct and simple, yet it manages to become one of the most elegant colognes I have smelt on men. Due to its massive fanbase, several perfumers also produce numerous colognes similar to Tom Ford Grey Vetiver.

Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver Hermès

Last but not least, now I’m gonna introduce a vetiver cologne from Hermès called Terre D’Hermes Eau Intense Vetiver.

In this high-end fragrance, the vetiver arrives at the base tone but the vetiver’s woody, aromatic earthy notes exude strongly and last a maximum time on your skin.

Not only that, this woody aroma is amazingly intertwined with the citrusy and spicy accords and uplifts the whole composition.

Though the deep earthiness appears at the closing moment, you can sense the soft woodsy warmth of fresh vetiver from the very first sniff. This exotic element also enhances the fragrance’s longevity.


Is vetiver the same as sandalwood?

No, vetiver smells slightly drier and leathery than the sandalwood. Even though vetiver & sandalwood both ingredients belong to the same woody family, they smell differently.

Why is vetiver so expensive?

After the thorough extraction process, the manufacturer only collected a few amounts of oil, which is comparatively minimal depending on the demand.

What essential oil is closest to vetiver?

All the natural essential oils smell differently. Yet, if you want the closest one to vetiver, I would say, Myrrh & Sandalwood oil has a similar type of aroma.

Can you put vetiver oil directly on the skin?

If you don’t have any allergic issues with the vetiver plant, you can use this oil on your body directly. However, for safety purposes, I suggest blending vetiver oil with the other carrier oil before applying it to your face.

Is vetiver a manly scent?

There is no declaration about Vetiver’s gender specification. But the woody-earthy, smoky aroma of vetiver suits masculine attributes better.


Vetiver has a complex and seductive aroma that works as a calming and comforting element in fragrances and aromatherapy.

After knowing each fact about vetiver you can also enrich your perfume closet with some elegant vetiver-based colognes. That’s all for the vetiver story.

If you have any further queries, please feel free to ask them in the comment section, and I would be happy to answer them.

About The Author
Hello, I’m Nabila Lisha, an avid perfume enthusiast, and a devoted fragrance reviewer. I’m trying to pen content about branded perfumes on a regular basis because I’m fascinated by fragrances. I don’t write for perfumes as a hobby, they are something I’m truly passionate about.

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