One evening as I was preparing my cologne bath after a long day I accidentally poured a decant of The Different Company Sel de Vétiver instead of 4711 into the water. The explosion of scent–green woods, licorice and grapefruit–was so exhilarating and relaxing that I immediately felt refreshed. Since then, vetiver scented baths have become my favorite way to wind down.
Vetiver is a tropical grass that has intensely aromatic roots. In India, where vetiver roots are woven into screens, it is known as “oil of tranquillity” for its relaxing, calming properties. A bath is one of the best anti-stress rituals, but when it’s accompanied by a scent, the effect is even stronger. Using Sel de Vétiver for a bath is not cost efficient, so I’ve experimented with vetiver essential oil and discovered that it produces a much more potent result. Vetiver has such incredible complexity that it can be diluted in an unscented carrier oil or alcohol and used as perfume. It’s the smell of a late fall garden and a winter beach rolled into one–driftwood, crushed hazelnut shells and damp leaves.
Every year as I prepare my holiday presents, I try to include some handmade gifts for close friends and family. The holiday season is thoroughly commercialized, and I find that people appreciate the thought that goes into a handmade present. Bath salts are easy to prepare, and you can vary the presentation and scents to your liking. Even plain sea salt mixed with lavender blossoms or rose petals makes for a beautiful gift and a great bath experience.
Essential oils are derived from plants by steam distillation, or in the case of citrus, expression. Essences called absolutes are produced by solvent extraction, and this method is frequently used on delicate flowers like jasmine and tuberose that can’t withstand the heat of steam. Vetiver can be treated in various ways, but in all cases, the perfume of vetiver essence is concentrated and rich, which is why you should exercise caution when dosing it. “Less is more” is a motto to follow.
I predict that if you make these bath salts for a gift, you will be tempted to make a batch for yourself. So feel free to double or triple my suggested quantities.
Sel de Vétiver Bath Salts
The amount of vetiver oil you add depends on the quality of oil you have. Some varieties are milder than others. Add oil drop by drop and stop when the mixture has a rich scent. Lavender flowers are optional; they added an aromatic top note to vetiver and look beautiful in the blend.
You can experiment with other essential oils. My favorites are lavender, rosemary, sage and–the most luxurious of oils, rose. Whenever you use essential oils in a beauty preparation, remember that they should never be applied on skin undiluted. Store them away from light and sources of heat.
Alternatively, add 1/2 cup of almond oil to the salt mixture and turn it into a luxurious scrub.
1 cup coarse sea salt
4-10 drops vetiver essential oil
1 Tablespoon dried lavender flowers (optional)
Wash the jar with baking soda, rinse well and bake for 20 minutes at 250F/120C.
Place salt in a large bowl, add vetiver essential oil one drop at a time and mix well with a wooden spoon before each addition. Add lavender flowers, if using, mix again and pack into clean lidded jar. The salts can be used right away, but the perfume will be more rounded and richer if the mixture is left to macerate for 3 days to a week.
Store in cool, dark place. Use 2-3 Tablespoons in your bath.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin