Guerlain Vetiver and Christian Dior Vetiver : Fragrance Review

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Vetiver Dior vetiver

With Vétiver, Jean-Paul Guerlain did a seemingly simple thing—he emphasized each facet of the natural raw material, vetiver oil, to create an abstract, modern fragrance. Even though Vétiver de Guerlain has been in existence since 1959 and along with Carven Vétiver engendered a whole family of classical woods, it possesses a timeless elegance that has come to define masculine perfumery. Therefore, it continues to inspire new fragrances based around the dark, green woody note of vetiver, the latest of which is Christian Dior Vétiver.

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

The beautiful quality of Vétiver de Guerlain is its blend of abstraction and classicism, of simplicity and nuance. Jean-Paul Guerlain’s style, relying on strong accents and contrasts, is evident in Vétiver de Guerlain, where the elements in the natural oil are enhanced and highlighted. The bitter grapefruit facet of vetiver is made brighter and sharper with a brilliant accord of different citrus notes and a touch of mint. The licorice undertone is likewise pushed into a sweet spicy direction, while the natural woody base of vetiver is amplified by soft woody notes and tobacco. In a sense, Jean-Paul Guerlain did with Vétiver what Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens would pursue together: starting with natural raw materials and accenting their facets to the point of complete abstraction.

While the starting point of Vétiver de Guerlain is the earthy, woody raw material, the effect of the fragrance is airy and bright. It has a beautiful floral quality that is created by the interplay of jasmine notes and clove. The smooth transition between accords gives it a wonderful softness which makes the fragrance bloom on the skin.

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Dior Vétiver, in comparison, is closer to natural vetiver, reflecting contemporary trends in niche perfumery, which favors nature-like qualities and a strong emphasis on a single raw material. Yet, its essential structure makes me think of Vétiver de Guerlain—the bright citrus and mint prelude, the spicy-smoky main accent and the smooth woody drydown. I find it to be a very classical and polished take on vetiver, but with a pleasant earthy and nutty roughness that makes vetiver so appealing. In contrast to the smoky Chanel Sycomore and the dark musky Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire, Dior Vétiver is green and citrusy, and even a dose of coffee absolute does not darken it too much. Although marketed as a masculine, like Vétiver de Guerlain, it would appeal to those women who love woods.

If Vétiver de Guerlain did not exist, Dior Vétiver would have been close to my ideal vetiver fragrance. It is a very good quality vetiver, and I enjoy wearing it. However, there is no surprise in it, no novelty, especially when we have so many interesting and unusual woody fragrances available, both in the prestige and the niche lines. It is pleasant, but to me, nonessential. By contrast, I cannot imagine my perfume wardrobe without Vétiver de Guerlain. Moreover, it is one of those classics upon which one simply cannot improve.

def: vetiver — frequently used in perfumery, vetiver oil is steam distilled from the rootlets of the grass Vetiveria Zizanoides. Classified as a woody note, it has a dark green earthy aroma, with a grapefruit bitterness and a touch of anise-like sweet spiciness. Depending on the distillation process, vetiver can have a smoky note as well.

Guerlain Vétiver includes notes of bergamot, lemon, orange, nutmeg, pepper, vetiver, tobacco, and tonka bean. Available from Guerlain boutiques and most department store masculine fragrance counters.
Dior La Collection Vétiver includes note of grapefruit, coffee, and Haitian vetiver. It is available from Dior boutiques. Both are in the woods family of fragrances.

Samples: my own acquisition

Christian Dior Vétiver

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27 Comments

  • hongkongmom: Great review and comparison. i would love to know what you think about guerlain vetiver pour elle, and also if you feel the difference in formula change in the original vetiver. Should I look for vintage vetiver? I am rather glad that the DIors are not available in HK!!!! January 25, 2011 at 4:32am Reply

  • Andrea Marques: Dear Victoria!
    Thank you for the lovely post!
    Guerlain’s Vétiver has been one of my all-time favourites. Still love it to bits, but have ran out of it unfortunately, :D.
    My family comes from Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon. Guerlain’s airy vétiver always reminds me of those sachets they bring from there, to scent linen and clothes. An adorable fragrance, which is a mix of vétiver and patchouli. All very earthy and rooty, but at the same time very fresh and clean.
    I have some other vétiver at the moment, which is L’Artisan Parfumeur’s one – but completely different from Guerlain’s. This one is nothing but airy. Smells like prickly roots drenched in rain water and buried on tropical soil. If Guerlain is all Air and Water, this is Earth and Fire. Alas, it’s now discontinued it seems.
    Another Vétiver I favour is the Andy Tauer’s one. Indeed it seems to really “dance” between these two elemental worlds, like a little green fairy after the rain.
    At any rate, coming from a tropical country, I always associate the smell of vétiver to that smell that’s in the air before and after it rains, a smell that I miss so much nowadays.
    Now, I just have to try Vétiveryo! Do you think I might like it? January 25, 2011 at 6:05am Reply

  • Olfactoria: Aside from the Guerlain, with which I unfortunately associate a rather unpleasant person from my past, I only really like Malle’s vetiver rendition, it gives me a great sense of calm and is not as “typical” as many other vetiver dominated perfumes can be. Thank you for this comparison!
    Do you have an absolute favorite in the Dior collection by now? Is there a must have for you in the line up? January 25, 2011 at 7:42am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you for asking these question. I debated including Vetiver pour Elle too, but the review was getting rather long. Plus, it is a favorite of mine, a green, jasmine enhanced vetiver. Very elegant and more floral than the original Vetiver. I also love how beautiful its vetiver note is–very smooth, but still earthy and hazelnut-like.

    Vetiver has had many reformulations, from what I know, and if compare my 70s, 80s and 90s bottles, I see differences in all. To review Vetiver, I picked up a sample at Bergdorf last week, so I could get a sense of how the newest batch smells. It is overall lighter and thinner, but still excellent. January 25, 2011 at 8:49am Reply

  • Victoria: I also loved that original L'Artisan Vetiver, which was so dark aand earthy… Have you tried Maitre Gantier et Parfumeur Route de Vetiver? Another very dark, very earthy vetiver.
    Vetyverio is very light, sheer vetiver, closer to Vetiver pour Elle and CdG Vettiveru. I really like it. January 25, 2011 at 8:53am Reply

  • Victoria: Frederic Malle vetiver is definitely atypical and quite unusual.
    The only one fragrance from Dior I would buy for myself is Mitzah. Leather Oud is probably my favorite though in terms of its character. The rest just leave me indifferent. I like Vetiver, but it does not tempt it enough to buy a full bottle. January 25, 2011 at 8:58am Reply

  • Fernando: Thanks for the review. I’ve been curious about the new Diors, and the comparison with Guerlain is very helpful. I have a bunch of these vetivers now, which I guess means I don’t need the Dior. I find the lightness of the Guerlain interesting, but my preferences really go to the darker, smokier ones. I guess because I so often have to stand in front of a class and speak, I appreciate a perfume that sits in the back and growls. January 25, 2011 at 9:57am Reply

  • Marina: I agree, a perfectly nice rendition, but no surprise, no novelty… January 25, 2011 at 10:25am Reply

  • ScentScelf: The Dior Vetiver struck me as a very nice “straight up” vetiver; exactly what it says (‘vetiver’), no suprises, no cutting corners. If I had a generous full “bar” of fragrances, with a selection of vetivers, it would have a spot on the shelf.

    Even for the home bar enthusiast with limited space, if one has not yet invested in a gin–erm, vetiver–this one would be a good choice. An “honest” choice, as they sometimes say. But if one has a limit to their shelf space, and already has a vetiver they like, well…perhaps best to keep the Dior in mind for possibly rotating in once the current bottle is empty. January 25, 2011 at 11:31am Reply

  • Andrea Marques: Hi Dear,
    No I havent’s tried the MPG yet! In my list already! Thank you for the hint.
    I might love Vetyverio then, since I am a bit “lighter” in my tastes at the moment. Believe it or not, I still did not manage to get “Vetiver por Elle” to try? Seems way to hard to find it – and being in Ireland doesn’t help, he he!
    At any rate, I might knock on George’s door for some CDG and Diptyque!
    Thank you so much and have a fab week,
    a. January 25, 2011 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hmm, you are right, Vetiver pour Elle has a rather limited distribution. I see it only at the Guerlain boutiques and stores that have Guerlain boutiques inside.
    If you are in the mood for lighter and airier, then you will find Vetyverio lovely. It is among my favorite light vetivers.
    Have a great Tuesday! :) January 25, 2011 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Victoria: Fernando, I read your comment and thought how much I would have loved one of my own professors to be so sophisticated in their choice of fragrance. :)
    Which are your favorite dark, smoky vetivers? January 25, 2011 at 1:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is enjoyable, that I will not deny. A vetiver fiend will find it necessary, as S. says below. January 25, 2011 at 1:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: S, you’ve summed it up perfectly! Someone who loves vetiver and wants more fragrances with a true, clear vetiver note, should definitely try Dior. I bought a little decant only, and I know that I will enjoy wearing it. After all, the vetiver note here is very good. January 25, 2011 at 1:18pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: Thanks so much Victoria! Your answers have been very helpful! January 25, 2011 at 9:18pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: I bought my DH vetyverio and really like the smell… my 13 yr old shows “preference” for it too and I see the bottle hopping from his room, to our bathroom!! January 25, 2011 at 9:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! The topic of vetiver fragrances is inexhaustible. :) January 25, 2011 at 10:19pm Reply

  • Victoria: That's the best compliment on fragrance, the appropriation of a perfume. :) Vetyverio is so airy, gossamer, but it has a great sillage. Another perfume that I can add to my collection of little black dress fragrances. January 25, 2011 at 10:23pm Reply

  • Rita: Great comparison-review! So helpful, V! I really love vetiver, so sounds that I need to try Dior’s too. I’m ok with traditional, as long as it’s a good, earthy vetiver. I was so disappointed with the new one from L’Artisan that doesn’t even smell of vetiver to me. Too clean. January 26, 2011 at 9:13am Reply

  • Victoria: Rita, it is traditional, but if you like vetiver, I think that it is definitely worth smelling. It is a very good quality vetiver. January 26, 2011 at 9:54am Reply

  • Andrea Marques: Now ladies! You’ve convinced me! Will get it as soon as I can! Thank you so much, Victoria and Hongkongmom! Have you all a great Wed!
    a. January 26, 2011 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: Andrea, you are welcome! I think that you will enjoy it. January 26, 2011 at 5:22pm Reply

  • Ret: I’ve been wearing Guerlain’s vetiver for more than 16 years. I really like that scent… I mean, the original scent. Unfortunately I had to go through all the different modifications they’ve done to this perfume and I’m not happy with the current formula. (Why have they done that!?)
    Is there a perfume that better resembles the original Guerlain’s Vetiver? I’ve read a forum post suggesting the add of some oakmoss absolute to the current juice to get those smoky, earthy dark notes now missing. I’ve tried that but it’s still not the same (though not bad).

    Any suggestion?

    Great blog! Than you! February 25, 2011 at 6:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ret, with the current regulations restricting the usage of oakmoss absolute, it is just not possible to get that effect. Vetiver used to have more than just the oakmoss, it had a stronger leather and spice notes, plus animalic materials. All of them have been replaced or reduced.

    My suggestion is perhaps to try Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, which is one of the richer, darker vetivers available, Annick Goutal Vetiver, and Dior Vetiver, which is actually quite good and much darker than the current version of Guerlain. They are not one for one replacements of what you have lost with the reformulations of the original Vetiver de GUerlain, but perhaps, they might offer interesting experiences nonetheless. February 26, 2011 at 8:42am Reply

  • Ret: Thanks Victoria for your suggestions!
    Unfortunately those vetivers that you recommend are somewhat difficult to find in regular stores (More so because I’m in Argentina).

    I wonder why they have those safety regulations on those “allergenic” ingredients like oakmoss absolute. They should let consumers decide if they want to purchase such “dangerous” items (Cigarettes comes to my mind).

    During travels I always keep an eye (or nose) on perfume stores. Hope I can find those you suggest!
    Thanks again! March 1, 2011 at 3:39pm Reply

  • Victoria: I hear you! Unfortunately, the industry thinks differently. People have been using oakmoss for centuries (in some parts of the world, it is even eaten,) with no ill effects.
    Good luck on your vetiver quest. Oh, here is another suggestion, maybe it can be easier to find–Lalique Encre Noire, another very good vetiver. March 1, 2011 at 3:49pm Reply

  • eminere: I have just acquired (unsniffed) a bottle of Dior’s Vetiver and am looking very much forward to trying it. Hopefully it works out on my skin.

    I know Guerlain’s Vetiver has legendary and iconic status but unfortunately it just does not sit well with me. :( December 7, 2012 at 3:19am Reply

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