Grown in India, vetiver is a kind of grass. The roots have been used as a source of scent for centuries. The distilled essential oil, discovered later, has its own smell, a smell unlike any other. A first sniff reveals under-ripe tropical fruit such as hard mangos or papayas. The smell is sour or, better, tangy; if it were a taste, it would be tart and acidic. Vetiver also has a green woody aspect, not unlike fresh sandalwood oil. It smells a bit of cooked sorrel (a sour herb usually served with fish). There is a hint of loam, as though walking through a forest after a rain.
Occasionally, vetiver is presented as an absolute. An absolute is prepared by extracting the root with hexane (essentially gasoline – don’t worry, it’s all evaporated off) and then boiling off the hexane at low temperature under vacuum, leaving behind the dark and syrupy concrete. The concrete is then extracted with ethyl alcohol and the alcohol in turn evaporated off, leaving a pure absolute. Vetiver absolute lacks the intense grassiness of the essential oil, but reveals what underlies the green grass aroma—the smell of old wood. It’s hard to recognize that vetiver absolute is really vetiver, but even so, the absolute is used to amplify vetiver’s woody notes and to give a certain suaveness to a blend.
Vetiver is still widely used in perfumery, but is rarely presented by itself. Like all of BPC’s scents, it is refreshingly intense. While It may seem familiar, it is impossible to identify. At first sniff, VETIVER is divinely monolithic; it is only itself, impossible to deconstruct. However, after a bit of olfactory probing, it reveals a subtle underpinning of herbs, sea, earth, minerals, and the smell of water itself. Regardless of our approach, VETIVER is one of those natural elements that make it hard to pull our noses away. We are compelled by something delicious, aromatic, and often, nostalgic. A scent not easily forgotten.