Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Different Company: Vetiver Proud and Sel de Vétiver

Oddly enough, it is the root of the Vetiver plant, not its leaves that are distilled and ultimately used in perfumery. Vetiver is dry, dusty, and reminiscent of earth that is parched. It is rooty, if you will and twiggy like the root that it comes from. Vetiver is a basenote that helps create depth in a fragrance, and at the same time its dry woody character has a way of rising to the top of fragrance. Surprisingly, it has a menthol component to it that's spicy and green. When left to linger on the blotter I captured smokiness and a slight petrol note that was quite perplexing.

The Different Company's Sel de Vétiver is much more intriguing than perplexing. I can feel the hand of the perfumer as I experience this perfume. At first, I imagine the many hues of grey that you can see when you look at a black and white photograph. So yes, if Sel de Vétiver was a color it would be grey, a purposeful and almost  shimmering grey, not a pale or shy grey. The hit of Vetiver is immediate, but I am also taken by Sel's lushness that is salty and almost briny. I picture a hazy day at the beach, the grey clouds are hanging low and the humidity is heavy in the air and without you knowing it the atmosphere settles on the skin, perhaps you take a swim in the sea and as the saltwater dries on your skin it leaves a delicately laced crystal pattern on the skin. At the heart of Sel de Vétiver is Ylang Ylang, a soft white floral that lovingly hovers and lends a ethereal quality to the juice. The drydown comes alive with a Grapefruit note that cuts through the Vetiver in a magic Houdini moment. I thought citrus was a topnote, how did she do that. With one last inhalation I feel my vertebrae stack up tall and I feel, well, proud.

In Chandler Burr's book, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York, Céline Ellena talks about growing up with her father and grandfather and the subtle and not so subtle ways that family knowledge, culture, and beliefs, are handed down from generation to generation. Her beautiful description of all that went into making Sel de Vétiver continues to resonate; She clearly states that Sel is not a marine or ozonic fragrance, rather it's a fragrance about the skin, specifically the taste of salt on the skin. 

She captured this and much more.     

Photo: Harriet Andersson in Summer with Monika                                                                                                                                                                     


  1. That picture captures what you are writing about beautifully.

  2. Harriet Andersson is alarmingly present in this still and somehow, although I'm forgetting the sequence now, if the photo influenced my writing or if I found my way to it after the post was complete-I think it was a little of both. I had been thinking about her for a while. At any rate, thanks for seeing this and saying so. Here's a quote from an interview that I found, that furthers ( I think) the notion of skin.....

    "It was such a fun production, and Harriet and I fell in love. It was a kind of fascination with exteriors. And it influenced the filming as well. In a way it's–I still think it holds its own."
    – Ingmar Bergman