Annick Goutal Vetiver : Perfume Review

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Driftwood

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The first time I smelled Vétiver by Annick Goutal (1981), I was taken by the affinity between vetiver and marine notes. The earthy richness of the former, marked by the grapefruit bitterness complements the iodine smell of the seashore resulting in the aroma of driftwood covered with the wet shreds of seaweed.

The vetiver focused fragrances have a devout following among both men and women, with Guerlain Vétiver (1961) setting the gold standard with its elegant rendition of the balsamic root suspended between the transparent citrusy top accord and the spiced tobacco base. It maintains the Guerlinesque refinement with a glimpse of its seductive smile. …

Contrary to the classical tradition, Annick Goutal Vétiver avoids tempering the rooty vetiver with the spicy sweetness or brightening its cantankerous balsamic side. It does not move with a nonchalant gait of a dandy tilting hat at the acquaintances encountered along the way, but with a sailor’s swagger, and the salty and sweaty aspect of the composition vividly conjures such an image. The roughhewn and windblown character of Vétiver is tamed somewhat by Annick Goutal’s characteristic subtle take on the theme, but it does not detract from its unexpectedly appealing brashness.

“There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only one you,” tells Manolin to Santiago in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and this quote can be applied to Vétiver. It is hard to argue for its superiority over Guerlain Vétiver or some other vetiver renditions, however it stands out for being daring and unconventional, and these qualities are to be treasured.

A masculine fragrance, Vétiver can be easily worn by a woman, especially by those who enjoy this note without its feminine accoutrement. Annick Goutal Vetiver includes notes of Java vetiver, woods, Burmese spices, and sea salt aroma. Available from Sephora, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks5thAvenue.

Please see other Annick Goutal reviews:

Duel
Eau d’Hadrien
Petite Cherie (brief description)
Songes

Photo: Grayton Beach State Park, “Driftwood.” Photo by Colleen Braun from www.floridastateparks.org/

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26 Comments

  • Laura: What a vivid description! However, ‘swaggering,’ ‘ salty’ and ‘sweaty,’ admirable traits though they may be, are not qualities I yearn for, so I will resist the lure of AG Vetiver ;D. February 23, 2006 at 5:26am Reply

  • Anya: L, not for me, either, but heck, I collect everything for my scent library, and this sounds fascinating. On a side note, a by-marriage relative owned a parfumerie and toiletries company in Southern California many years ago. I worked there the summer I was 16. I would work for free for a week if I could just get a bottle of her “Swagger” EdP again (long discontinued after her death.) Horrible name, yet one of the most glorious juices I have ever smelled. It radiated warm aldehydes (unusual, yes, I know) and a leather skin with middle note florals that utterly raised it to the status of HG. I have never even found a reference to it on the ‘net. Sorry for the tangent, V., it’s just the swagger bit (sniff) and such a memory of a scent that is truly lost. February 23, 2006 at 7:26am Reply

  • Marina: Salty, sweaty, swaggering sailor. It worries me that such a description makes a scent sound very applealing to me 🙂 February 23, 2006 at 8:44am Reply

  • Liz: At this point in my “fragrance education,” it’s hard for me to believe that I could be tempted by (a) a vetiver fragrance or (b) an Annick Goutal fragrance, neither of which tend to light my fire. And yet I do feel tempted! Of course, if someone was going to seduce me to revisit either, it would be you, V. 🙂 Great review! February 23, 2006 at 10:22am Reply

  • Tania: Fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a treatment of vetiver quite like this. I’ll have to seek it out, since I adore vetiver. My favorite treatments of vetiver so far are Guerlain’s (obviously), Vetiver Tonka (although I find the initial tonka sort of unsettlingly sweet, it calms down into something wonderful), Habanita (in the drydown), Etro’s (paired with patchouli to smell deep and green, very nice on a man), and FM Vetiver Extraordinaire, which I like to spray on clothes and the curtains, for a wonderful waft of it all over. Seaweed and swagger, now this I’ve got to try. February 23, 2006 at 12:11pm Reply

  • freskagirl: Wow…I obviously need to try this! I love vetiver, but I have to say, Guerlain’s is not my favorite. It’s a little soapy on me. So far my favorite is Lorenzo Villoresi’s, which is nice and dry, with a good dose of woods. Thanks for the fascinating review. February 23, 2006 at 12:11pm Reply

  • marchlion: I need to go re-sniff this one. I keep forgetting about it — the local NM carries it but, you know, they have to keep the men’s and women’s frags on separate planets, practically, God forbid I should accidentally end up wearing something masculine…. given how many women buy scents for men, and vice versa, why can’t they keep them at least adjacent, like my local Nordstrom does? It seemed to me (maybe I’m remembering wrong?) when I was in the big Printemps in Paris they were all jumbled together… February 23, 2006 at 12:36pm Reply

  • helg: Hi V!

    Cantacerous indeed!!
    Although I love vetiver in fragrances , I know I can’t handle this one. It makes me physically ill , being as close as no other to pure essential oil of vetiver (which I am sure you’re familiar with ) that is so dirty and potent that it can make one faint if inhaled long enough. A dilution in a composition though brings such wonderful results as in Declaration or SL Vetiver oriental or FM Vetiver extraordinaire. (I don’t mention Vetiver Tonka , because it’s more Tonka than vetiver…)

    I think this one is a sailor that has been lying in the hold of a boat for quite some time…

    Great adherence to the true smell of the essential oil however , you’ve got to admire that. February 23, 2006 at 12:48pm Reply

  • Robin: It is a great vetiver scent, but somehow not one I want to wear. Somewhere someone once described it as inky, and I thought that was very apt. Perhaps I need to revisit it one of these days, but meanwhile I’ll stick with my Guerlain & Hermessence & Frederic Malle… February 23, 2006 at 1:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I doubt that you should like it, but as far as vetiver dominated fragrances go, it is one of the most interesting. February 23, 2006 at 1:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: A, that sounds very interesting. I have memories of some fragrances like that (fragrances that noone would reproduce ever again, no doubt). Sometimes I wonder if it is my memory (you know, the good old days…) or whether they were truly great. I would love to smell my grandmother’s White Lilac perfume again. February 23, 2006 at 1:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, it is intriguing, to say the least. I love that it is simply unlike anything out there. February 23, 2006 at 1:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I know that you are not a fan of vetiver, but there is something wonderfully rustic about this one. It manages to avoid elegant and suave, but that is what I love the most about it. February 23, 2006 at 1:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I love all of the vetiver fragrances you mentioned, other than Etro which I have not tried. Smelling AG Vetiver, I am just amazed why the affinity between vetiver and seaweed is not explored more. It is the perfume equivalent of Korean seafood stews that contain beef–great combination of ingredients that come from the sea and from the earth. February 23, 2006 at 1:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Freskagirl, you have reminded me of another excellent vetiver. I love how LV pairs the root with rosewood, leading to a really wonderful result. Like you, I love vetiver, and I am always open to trying new vetiver fragrances. February 23, 2006 at 1:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, yes, you are right! The only place where I see all AG fragrances together is Bergdorf Goodman. In most Neiman Marcus stores, they are carefully separated. AG masculines are great, from beautiful leather of Eau de Fier to the honeyed herb of Sables. February 23, 2006 at 2:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Helg, yes, the composition renders the smell of vetiver oil really well, although I can see how its potency may be overwhelming. The most interesting thing about it though is that combination of iodine seaweed note and earthy vetiver. Very unusual. February 23, 2006 at 2:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, inky is an apt description. That is how I envision seaweed, and I am fascinated by the pairing. February 23, 2006 at 2:13pm Reply

  • violetnoir: V, my dear friend, tearose, loves vetiver, so I will have to tell her about this one. I would like to smell it too, although you know I rarely wear men’s fragrances. :):)

    Hugs! February 23, 2006 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Donna: How did I miss that Annick Goutal? I thought that I tried all of them. Thank you for a great review. I am tempted to try it, sailor’s swagger or not. February 23, 2006 at 5:07pm Reply

  • co: …seasalt, fishermen…”there is only one you”….you’ve bang hit my “wild/adventurous” side.
    After reading your review all I could think of was run to the airport, hop into a plane to Northern Europe and take an endless walk on one of those fantastic hidden windswept beaches with a rough sea, strong wind and this wonderfull light of sun, clouds and this salty smell.
    Your description is reminding me how much I miss this! So if I could find AG’s vetiver here and experience only the faintest bit of this satisfaction you get from having sea, earth, wind and “rawness” around you…just by smelling this Vetiver…well then this would be ideal!
    So now I got to find it…one more on my list…
    thank you!!!! February 23, 2006 at 9:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I hope that she will enjoy it! I am shameless–I will not stick to the feminines and will plunder whatever counter I see. 🙂 February 23, 2006 at 11:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, I hope that you will enjoy it! It is quite a remarkable take on the vetiver theme. February 23, 2006 at 11:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Co, I am glad to hear this, and I hope that you will find Vetiver in HK. It indeed evokes the marine vistas for me, windblown and sunbleached rocks, sand and a murmur of the sea. I love water, and I miss the sea. Ironically, I do not live that far from the ocean, but I have not see it in ages. February 23, 2006 at 11:36pm Reply

  • co: Dear V,
    …:) I should not be complaining too much as there’s the “fragrant harbour” all around us, but it’s like a bath-tub or lake, hardly any waves and quite the opposite of iodine fresh and salty air and real waves!
    So I do miss this refreshing northern climate, the sensation of drinking and getting drunk from fresh air!
    …you’re lucky its the weekend, maybe you can free some precious hours and walk on the beach!!!
    I will share my impression on AG vetiver, should the hunt be successfull! February 24, 2006 at 1:03am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear Co, I am afraid that weekends mean more work for me than weekdays, but I will not start whining. 🙂 I would give anything for a walk along the beach, altough it simply does not happen often these days. Maybe, a bit later in the spring. I just love the sea air, and I know what you mean about the lack of it depriving you of an authentic experience. I lived in Chicago for a time being, and what I loved the most was the lake. February 24, 2006 at 11:05am Reply

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