The Vetiver of Spring : Season’s Favorites

Patricia enjoins spring to arrive faster with a selection of vetiver favorites–and a few salty woods and violets.

Spring in New England takes its time in coming. As I’m writing this, a blizzard is raging, and the blooming heather at the end of the driveway is covered in snow. But I know that the snow and ice will reluctantly give way, the earth will gradually thaw, and what is somewhat affectionately called “mud season” will begin. During the melting phase, my favorite fragrance is L’Eau d’Hiver by Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums. Creator Jean-Claude Ellena perfectly captures with transparent powdery iris, the sensation of the run off of melting snow into a cold mountain spring. Though it doesn’t last long, the musks evolve into a soft skin scent that is a pleasure to wear.

Vetivers

The vetivers, too, bring to mind the first weeks of spring and the anticipation of change. The dryness of Lalique Encre Noire with its cypress and dark woody notes suggest the raw, hard earth not yet ready to give way to new growth. Unlike L’Eau d’Hiver, it lasts a good six to eight hours, softening gently in the drydown process.

Terre d’Hermès, like its name suggests, is earthy, like the dirt under your fingernails after clearing brush out of the garden. Another Ellena fragrance, this vetiver opens with orange and spice and gradually settles into cedar and woods. Diptyque Vetyverio, with its citrus, floral and green notes, is not as dry as Encre Noire, and I find it easier to wear. The astringent quality of citrus cleans up the opening and is joined by rose, geranium and nutmeg for balance and warmth.

Hermessence Vétiver Tonka, a woody chypre with a healthy infusion of sweet tonka bean and creamy sandalwood, is the warmest of these vetiver fragrances, bringing to mind the richness of newly turned-over soil gently heated by the still-weak rays of the sun in early spring. Done in Ellena’s typical transparent style, earthy vetiver is accompanied by washes of tonka bean, hazelnut, and tobacco that serve as background but never take away center stage from the vetiver.

Salt

Sometimes I take a brisk beach walk on a blustery day in March or April. James Heeley Sel Marin reminds me of the cold salty wind and algae smell of the deserted shoreline in early spring. An aquatic fragrance, Sel Marin smells of brine, citrus, driftwood, and old beach cottages abandoned for the season. Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel is a similar fragrance, with the addition of iris and herbs. Beautifully blended, it conjures stiff sea breezes over an herb garden.

A cleaned-up version of these salty scents is Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt. The astringent grapefruit is bracing, with the softening notes of sage and sea salt serving as a counterpoint. The overall effect of this combination, even if not especially complex or challenging, is clean, polished, and very wearable. Best of all is the warm salt of one’s own sweaty skin after a lengthy beach walk. I often add some Hermès Eau des Merveilles to enhance the effect with orange and amber. Truly a “my skin but better” fragrance with its low sillage and good longevity, I’m often tempted to sneak a small spritz under my T-shirt before yoga class for personal enjoyment during “downward-facing dog” pose.

Violets

As mud season turns to real spring, I capture the soft powdery air with Guerlain Aprés l’Ondée, the olfactive representation in violet and iris of a wet garden after a rainstorm. The first soft spring breezes are tactile against the skin and in the nasal passages. The garden tools are brought out of storage, and the jacket thrown on the ground. It’s time to start planting.

What perfume says spring to you? 

Also, please take a look at these great lists by Grain de Musc :: Now Smell This :: The Non-Blonde

Photography: 1st image by Victoria, 2nd by Patricia

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71 Comments

  • Phyllis Iervello: Guerlain’s Apres l’Ondee is springtime in a bottle and Diptyque Vetyverio to me is a happy and hopeful scent. March 24, 2017 at 10:10am Reply

    • Patricia: We’ve still got snow on the ground here, so I need as much happy and hopeful as I can get! March 24, 2017 at 10:16am Reply

  • Figuier: Vetiver is just one of the brightest notes, perfect for the season. My husband wears Sycomore, which I borrow whenever I’m in need of that woody-green sparkle. But I’d be tempted to buy a bottle of Guerlain’s Vetiver, or Encre Noire, for myself… March 24, 2017 at 11:16am Reply

    • Patricia: Guerlain Vetiver is one that I haven’t tried but would like to. It has taken me a while to warm up to vetivers, but now I find I crave them! March 24, 2017 at 6:20pm Reply

      • Figuier: Patricia, the Guerlain one is beautiful, I think of it almost as a vetiver cologne. One to look forward to. March 24, 2017 at 6:57pm Reply

        • Patricia: Trying it is long overdue! March 24, 2017 at 7:25pm Reply

  • Figuier: Also: I tried the link for Grain de Musc’s list and it doesn’t work (links to a generic blogspot page). March 24, 2017 at 11:16am Reply

  • spe: Wonderful list of scents! I’d like all of these notes in one fragrance!

    For me, spring means green florals, aldehydes, and crisp florals. No sweetness. But those are my favorite categories year round. I’m finding Bel Respiro edp quite lovely. And for something that is low commitment and available to transition me through changes at work, Acqua di Gioia EDT. For weekends, any cologne by Francis Kurkdjian (the new Celestial is fresh and invigorating). March 24, 2017 at 11:19am Reply

    • Patricia: I’m wearing Bel Respiro today, but the edt not the edp. I hope that the edp gives a bit more longevity, as it is perfectly lovely but so fleeting. March 24, 2017 at 6:26pm Reply

    • Neva: I agree with you spe. In springtime I can bear a little more sweetness (as in YSL Paris) but normally spring is green to me, herbal, grassy: Clinique Wrappings, Weekend in Normandy – Patricia de Nicolai. Kurkdjian’s Aqua Vitae is heavenly but I still haven’t bought a bottle. I must try the Celestial that you mention. March 26, 2017 at 6:21pm Reply

  • Andy: I love all of your choices, and here in New Jersey, we’re currently in that muddy, melting phase, and vacillating between harsh cold and unseasonable warmth, which never helps matters. I also like to wear salty, earthy scents during this time. Today I chose Declaration, which I think is one of Ellena’s best creations. I wore Etro Vetiver for the first time a few days ago, and it too hit the spot.

    I love your comment about choosing a perfume to appreciate when you’re in downward dog. I love to select a perfume to wear for my yoga or meditation classes, it can really add a special dimension to my practice. March 24, 2017 at 11:45am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Andy, I think I have a mini of Declaration tucked away somewhere. I’ll try to find it to enjoy this spring. My yoga class is so crowded that it’s a challenge to spritz just enough for me to be able to smell, but not enough to be noticed by anyone else. 🙂 March 24, 2017 at 6:31pm Reply

      • Andy: My regular yoga and meditation classes are not that crowded, and very scent friendly, so I usually don’t worry about offending others. That said, I’ve found there’s nothing like a couple drops of TF Champaca Absolute to add a little extra oomph to a vinyasa class. March 26, 2017 at 7:43pm Reply

        • Patricia: Is vinyasa hot yoga? I would think that fragrance would be a requirement in that class :-).

          I do Iyengar yoga once a week and try to get an additional home practice session in. I wish I had started twenty years ago! March 28, 2017 at 8:28am Reply

  • Alysen: Great list, I love every one of these. It must be my season! March 24, 2017 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Alysen! March 24, 2017 at 6:33pm Reply

  • Denyse BEAULIEU: Patricia, I’ll chime in to say I love every one of your picks as well — but then, vetiver is one of my favorite notes. The Miller Harris was quite a discovery a couple of years ago, kind of like a bitter herbal chypre.
    Here in Paris magnolias and hyacinths are in bloom — the hyacinths have more throw, they’ve just been overtaking streets and squares. So I’d say, if I had to add something to my list, I’d put in Chamade and N°19. There’s never a bad time for them, but early spring is especially appropriate. March 24, 2017 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Patricia: Paris must be beautiful (and fragrant!) this time of year. If I had to choose to wear only one fragrance for the rest of my life, it would be No. 19 (preferably vintage edp, though I love it in all its forms). March 24, 2017 at 6:49pm Reply

  • Debby: Great choices!
    I love violet scents and they are definitely a great spring choice. I must get this obsession from my mother who has always had them in her garden and loves a violet perfume too; we often swap new violet discoveries. Currently wearing Feerie, which I did mainly buy for the bottle but now realise I love it. March 24, 2017 at 12:46pm Reply

    • Patricia: How nice you share your love of violets with your mother. Thanks for your comment :-). March 24, 2017 at 6:53pm Reply

  • Richard Goller: A great round-up, Victoria. Lalique Encre Noire is a personal favourite of mine. R March 24, 2017 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Patricia: Than you, Richard. I’m hoping that my husband will help me with my huge bottle of Encre Noire! March 24, 2017 at 6:55pm Reply

  • maggiecat: Diorissimo says Spring to me, as does Hermes 24 Faubourg Eau Delicate. And Ineke’s Poet’s Jasmine. And the flowery scent outside my front door, coming from normally plain green bushes that are now filled with happy bees. March 24, 2017 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Patricia: I love Diorissimo, too. It’s such a beautiful spring fragrance. March 24, 2017 at 6:58pm Reply

  • MrsDalloway: Lovely post. I love l’Eau d’Hiver and Vétiver Tonka. Right now I’m wearing a lot of No 19 (vintage) and Heure Exquise EDP. Stocked up on Eau de Métal too. Diptyque Essences Insensées 2014 is a great beeswaxy mimosa for spring. March 24, 2017 at 3:12pm Reply

    • Patricia: You had me at beeswaxy mimosa. I must try Essences Insensée asap! Thank you for your comment 🙂 March 24, 2017 at 7:02pm Reply

  • Sandra: Must try some of these on your list
    I love Cristalle this time of year
    Jicky, Sous le Vent, Mon Précieux Nectar by Guerlain

    Since the Persian new year just passed I love the culinary smells of rose, orange blossoms and all the cardamon spices. March 24, 2017 at 3:45pm Reply

    • Patricia: Cristalle is a favorite of mine, too, Sandra. And a rose/orange blossom/cardamom combination sounds delicious and very spring appropriate. March 24, 2017 at 7:06pm Reply

  • Tijana: Lovely article, Patricia, thank you! Love L’eau d’hiver and Vetiver Tonka – very much. Also Apres L’Ondee and Eau d’Merveilles (can’t wait to try the new version)

    I am definitely in the violet camp, and have a few violets I love to wear, but I have been loving lately Dans Tes Bras.

    Also, I have been wearing Mimosa & Cardamom a lot.

    Happy spring ❤❤❤ March 24, 2017 at 5:26pm Reply

    • Patricia: Happy spring to you, too, Tijana! Dans Tes Bras is very beautiful, and I’m glad I have a small manufacturer’s sample of it to enjoy during the warmer months. March 24, 2017 at 7:19pm Reply

  • Alicia: Patricia, thank you for your post. I am in Northern California (Carmel), mild weather and rather rainy. I have been wearing iris, mostly Prada, Infusion d”iris, and Aqua de Parma, Iris Nobile. I love violets, of course. Besides Apres l”Ondee, I wear Penhaligon’s and A. Goutal violets. As for vetivers, I am old fashioned: past, present and in all likelihood future my vetiver is Guerlain’s. March 24, 2017 at 6:03pm Reply

    • Patricia: Iris Nobile edt is one of my go-to favorites year round. Thanks for your comment, Alicia 🙂 . March 24, 2017 at 7:22pm Reply

    • Tati: I’m in Carmel also! Dzongkha is my favorite for hiking above the ocean. Combination of incense, iris, and wood. March 25, 2017 at 12:39pm Reply

      • Patricia: What a great combination! March 25, 2017 at 3:30pm Reply

      • Alicia: Tati, that sounds very tempting! March 25, 2017 at 3:33pm Reply

  • MMKinPA: I’m in the Violet camp too. Today I’m wearing Goutal La Violette, I also really love Sonoma Scent Studio violets- Wood Violet, Voile de Violette and Lieu de Reves. March 24, 2017 at 7:17pm Reply

    • Patricia: What a great list of violet fragrances! I’m going to expand my horizons and try some of them. March 24, 2017 at 7:24pm Reply

  • Maria: Here in Montréal we are still covered by snow, but days are longer and warmer (for us, which means we are not at -30C). I’m tired of my winter wardrobe, so I’m trying to find some good options for this transition, still cold but not freezy. Today I tried for the first time Après l’ondée, which I find lovely but probably inapropriate for my minimalist style of jeans and shirts. I think it could be better with a beautiful mouseline dress. I’ve also tried Eau des merveilles this week. I found it really light, but my husband can’t stand it as too strong. I was trying to figure out why this difference, and I’ve found that some bloggers say this is a very persistent perfum, with a big “sillage”, and others say this is pretty light. Is this a question of reformulation? March 24, 2017 at 8:19pm Reply

    • Patricia: I don’t know about reformulation, perhaps Victoria could help us here. But I find Eau des Merveilles to be, as you said, a very persistent perfume that lasts on the skin all day. Perhaps try to wear it as I do with only a small spritz under your clothes?

      Jeans and a shirt make such a classic outfit, I think any perfume goes with them! March 25, 2017 at 9:16am Reply

      • Maria: That’s a good advice! I will try with only one spritz. And Apres l’ondée is definitely a charming fragance. I think I’m slowly falling in love with it, and in my experience, perfumes which I learn to love, instead of loving at the first sight, are those who stay with me for years 🙂 March 25, 2017 at 11:55am Reply

        • Patricia: I agree with you, Maria, that those perfumes whose charms slowly creep us on us are those that remain with us, like old friends, for many years. March 25, 2017 at 3:33pm Reply

  • SilverMoon: Hello Patricia, vetiver is one of those notes I really enjoy in the background. Rarely do I love it as a main note. Now MH Fleurs de Sel is one of my favourites. Love the floral salty breezey scent. March 25, 2017 at 6:58am Reply

    • Patricia: I moved into vetivers slowly, first wearing Diptyque’s Vetyverio before moving into some of the more challenging ones. Sadly now discontinued, Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle with its floral notes was also a favorite. If you can find some, it’s worth trying. March 25, 2017 at 9:25am Reply

      • SilverMoon: I have tried the diptyque vetiver, but was not too impressed. I don’t know the other one, but will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, i agree some perfumes need time before one loves them, but others are simply never going to be. Oddly, I don’t mind when vetiver is one of the background notes- indeed it often is what makes the perfume “better”. March 25, 2017 at 3:15pm Reply

        • Patricia: It’s a perfect grounding note, isn’t it? Like adding a pinch of salt to a sweet cake batter. March 25, 2017 at 3:36pm Reply

          • SilverMoon: Patricia, exactly so! I couldn’t have put it better. March 25, 2017 at 4:58pm Reply

  • Connie: Vetiver absolutely takes over when it’s on my skin, which would be fine except that I’m not very fond of it.
    But I did make a list of a few favorite spring florals yesterday (https://listmimsy.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/a-handful-of-spring-perfumes-sneaking-into-my-icy-winter-heart/).
    It’s a group that isn’t well represented in my collection- but I think we’re all feeling a bit worn out with heavy winter scents. March 25, 2017 at 7:41am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Connie, for sharing your spring selections via link. The ad copy was some of the most over the top I’ve ever read! March 25, 2017 at 9:33am Reply

  • McRuggles: One vote for Hermes’ Caleche! I started wearing Caleche, after one particularly long, grey winter in NYC when I felt as if spring had decided to skip its annual appearance. Caleche smelled lovelier even after I got caught in spring rains (because re-wetted?) and has been filed as a ‘spring’ scent in my brain ever since.

    I live in Florida now and find that I’m drawn to more less purely floral, scents now. Maybe because my notion of spring as a season is backwards now? Or because, which I half-suspect, spending time on sailboats, with the myriad usual ‘boaty’ smells of salt-water vessels (old woods, teak oils, canvas, waxes, ‘salt’ air, metal polish, ever-developing mildew, corrosion and salt damage and diesel), has overwhelmed my olfactory sense, if that’s possible. [But I love boat smells too.] March 25, 2017 at 8:12am Reply

    • Patricia: After reading your comment, I had to put on some Caleche which I’ve never thought of before for spring. Such a lovely, classic choice for a rainy day in early spring!

      I also like the Eau Délicate version, though it is nothing like the original. And even though it has tons of fans, I’ve never cared for Kelly Caleche. I think it was designed with a younger demographic in mind. March 25, 2017 at 9:51am Reply

  • Tati: My favorite spring scent is Ostara, which I found here on Bois de Jasmin. My nose has evolved in the last two years of perfume obsession and now I absolutely crave No 19 in all its iterations. Also love Prada Infusion d”Iris, EDT and Absolue. March 25, 2017 at 12:43pm Reply

    • SilverMoon: hi Tati, I also find Ostara beautiful in spring. it somehow gets spring exactly right (at least an English spring). What a shame that they decided to discontinue it. March 25, 2017 at 3:23pm Reply

      • Tati: Okay, I’ll confess… I bought 3 backup bottles. Love it so much. March 25, 2017 at 3:55pm Reply

        • SilverMoon: I have one open bottle and bought a backup when i heard they were discontinuing it. We do crazy things sometimes!😀 March 25, 2017 at 4:56pm Reply

        • Lily: I also bought back-ups when it went to $30 LOL March 26, 2017 at 10:42am Reply

          • Tati: Why do they discontinue a scent with such a great following? A mystery. March 26, 2017 at 3:44pm Reply

    • Patricia: Those are some of my favorites as well, Tati. DelRae Parfums Wit, a bright citrusy floral, is also perfect for this time of year. March 25, 2017 at 3:28pm Reply

  • Lily: Vetiver is a note that dominates if it is a detectable note, not sure if it is something my skin does or just a scent that my nose registers more strongly. And it is not a note I enjoy on myself. I enjoy it on others but not me.

    My spring scent explorations have confirmed that Cristalle is not for me (something in it registers as fecal and I can’t move my nose past that).

    But I have discovered Diorissimo and Odalisque (I made my son’s Nana a LOTV sampler for her bday and of course tried them all…those two I had to get samples for myself after!).

    Violet is a note I like but have not found the right frame for yet. Balenciaga Paris is close but something in the drydown turns me off. I will probably wait till next spring to explore it, though, kind of sampled out at the moment and just enjoying things I have fallen for.

    My spring go-tos so far have been Ostara (bc is IS the scent of spring), L’Eau de Chloe (the sparkliest and happiest scent I have encountered), Silences (for the rainy days).

    I have a few linden and magnolia perfume samples to explore this spring, as well.

    I actually feel gipped over my heavy winter fragrances, as I am in the part of the US south that literally had 3 days of winter. I win from my fall wardrobe straight to early spring 🙁 March 26, 2017 at 10:39am Reply

    • Lily: *went from

      My dislike of cold thinks it was a win maybe, but my nose does not! March 26, 2017 at 10:41am Reply

    • Patricia: Odalisque is so beautiful and just perfect for spring. It is one of my favorites.

      It sounds as if you are all set for samples for the time being, but if you like the combination of violet and rose, Misia by Chanel, Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle, and Flower by Kenzo would all be worth a try. March 26, 2017 at 3:51pm Reply

      • Lily: I have looked at Misia before, lol. Would have sampled by now except they no longer sell at decanters and I have not made the effort to find one elsewhere…too many others that are easier to access.

        I will put all 3 on my mental list to sample when i can.

        I will say that writing this comment inspired me to pull out my Balenciaga Paris sample again (tried several times last spring, then again last fall) and whatever was off-putting in it no longer hits me. So maybe it will be my violet, after all. It is definitely a quiet scent, but I find it quite unique. It has…something. An allure. A depth, without either bitterness or indoles, and more than one facet if you pay attention. Like a violet in the shadowed woods, which is where they grow (at least around my parents’ house). I am glad that note doesn’t bother me anymore, because I always found its opening beautiful.

        To Elisa’s current column…this is why we try perfumes again and again lol March 28, 2017 at 7:13pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Hi Patricia and perfume lovers,

    Early spring is such a magical year of time for me. After the long, cold, dark winter, scents finally start to come back and fill the air. On my walks I sniff around as a hound-dog, my deprived nose is happy to smell life again.
    On most days I use green scents like Silences, No. 19. , light musky florals (Narciso Rodriguez for her EDT and Roses Musk by Montale) and delicate floral fumes like Diorissimo, Apres l’Ondee or La chasse aux papillons.
    I recently fell in love with Fracas that tried to lure me for a long time before I gave in 😉 It can be a heady scent but I like to keep it light by spraying thrice in the air and walk through the mist. This way it keeps me on my toes instead of knocking me out. In the local niche store I was told that it became less popular because of all the new releases so one more reason for me to give her the love she deserves. March 27, 2017 at 9:22am Reply

    • Patricia: Love your hound dog analogy! I also like your method for taming the beast in Fracas. It can seem a bit much when sprayed straight on.

      La Chase is another great spring scent that I don’t believe has been mentioned yet. Although fleeting, it holds a special place in my heart because my daughter gave it to me for Mother’s Day. March 28, 2017 at 8:22am Reply

      • Patricia*: *Chasse
        Darned autocorrect! March 29, 2017 at 7:35pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I have been craving colognes this week. Spring has very much arrived in the Netherlands with very mild weather and an abundance of daffodils.
    I was thinking of Givenchy Vetyver after reading your post. It’s a very light, airy and elegant rendition of the note, and very much worth a try.
    Loved your post and I hope your snow will disappear soon! March 28, 2017 at 2:59pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, austenfan. I will try Givenchy Vetyver, as light, airy, and elegant is exactly what I’m looking for in a vetiver.

      My younger daughter and her husband are heading to the Netherlands in a week, so I will have to experience Spring vicariously for the time being. We expect another nor’easter here this weekend! March 29, 2017 at 7:34pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Oh, what fun. Where do they intend to visit? And ‘bon courage’ for the NorthEaster! March 30, 2017 at 11:59am Reply

        • Patricia: Hi austenfan, I had to let you know that I found some Givenchy Vetyver and that it’s well on its way to becoming my favorite vetiver fragrance. It’s truly lovely in its simplicity. April 5, 2017 at 1:19pm Reply

          • Austenfan: It’s a stunner! I’m so glad I recommended it. Thanks for letting me know. April 11, 2017 at 2:37am Reply

  • Deb Hemley: Lovely piece! Wonderful suggestions. Have been loving the Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt. You’ve provided some enticing scents to try–as we hobble our way into spring here in New England! April 5, 2017 at 7:13am Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks, Deb! Glad you enjoyed it. Spring has to arrive here one of these days. I just sent my older daughter a sample of Wood, Sage & Sea Salt as I think she’ll enjoy it as well! April 5, 2017 at 1:17pm Reply

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Karen A in Cherry Blossom Haiku: Mine too! They are such wonderful shrubs/small trees. Yes, except the Burkwoodi is a pale pink, but the others are all native to this region. April 27, 2017 at 4:04pm

  • ana in Recommend Me a Perfume April 2017: Oh, thank you, the vetivers sound very, very good — I’m going to have to find myself a better-paying job soon! 🙂 April 27, 2017 at 4:00pm

  • Aurora in Cherry Blossom Haiku: I enjoyed this mix of poetry and humour, Victoria, and well done on the gardening, but take good care of your back! Lilacs across the street are in bloom, purple… April 27, 2017 at 3:03pm

  • Maria in Three Ultimate Iris Perfumes: It really is a nice iris!! I also like the Absolue and Iris-cedre versions, but the on and off effect is better done,for me, in the original Infusion d’iris 🙂 April 27, 2017 at 1:27pm

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