Etro Vetiver: Dry Vermouth or Sweet Vetiver?

Vetiver infused Vermouth

Looking at my Note Cloud at the bottom of this page I realized that my posts about vetiver fragrances are disproportionate to my love of this ingredient. I love vetiver because it represents the power of earth and the fragility of vegetation depending on how you play it. Many perfumistas find it boring and one-dimensional and I must admit that there are many vetiver prominent fragrances out there that feel repetitive and redundant. I have done a lot of sampling and I think it is time to speak about the Colours of Vetiver, as I have done with the Colours of Iris.

Etro Vetiver is a fragrance that is rarely talked about. And this is really a pity because not only it is unique inside the vetiver family but also because many fragrances that were released in the recent years have worked on its theme: a gourmand vetiver. Etro Vetiver opens with a strong medicinal vetiver note (forgive me for the constant repetition of the word but the unimaginative name-giving does not help) and a dried raisin note hand in hand. At this stage the yin and yang of bitter and sweet is like a swirl spinning in my nose. Quickly both extremes stop fighting and balance in a beautiful sticky, rubbery, smoky green herbal vetiver accord. Think of it as a boiled down version of Vetiver Tonka. I use the culinary term “boil down” because the composition is full of gourmand notes. The dry raisin note stays throughout the development. A slight caramelized coffee note gives warmth and depth. A hint of immortelle balances the smokiness in a way that never lets it become prominent like it is in Vetiver Extraordinaire. Cypress adds its high-pitched green dimension. In the middle of its development Etro Vetiver smells like an almost empty glass of Noilly Prat Vermouth forgotten on the table from last night’s party. The alcohol has evaporated and the herbal qualities of the drink are amplified, the fruity notes are heightened and  the hidden caramel and coffee notes become evident. It feels like standing inside an oak vat where the drink has been maturing. This is the most flamboyant stage of Etro Vetiver and the most satisfying. Beautifully composed and well balanced. The drydown is drier, woodier and smoky. Although it lacks in lasting power and thickness, it reminds me a lot of the fragrant herbal tobacco of Fougère Bengale.

Kevin of NowSmellThis places Etro Vetiver together with Route du Vetiver at the top of his vetiver rating scale and I feel that this fragrance deserves all the rare accolades it gets. My impression is based on a vintage bottle of this and I do not know how the repackaging and reformulation have affected it. Some old bottles can be found online at ridiculously low prices so next time you stumble upon one of them do consider it for a blind buy. Totally worth it!

Notes from NST: artemisia, clary sage, cypress, cedar, tobacco and Bourbon vetiver.

Notes from my nose: smoke, raisins, coffee, immortelle, tobacco, vetiver, Noilly Prat

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

15 comments

  1. I’ve discovered recently that I like vetiver note in perfumes so I will definitely try this one when I have a chance but I wanted to mention that I hate that many brands name their perfumes “Vetiver this” and “Vetiver that”: I would have preferred to test a perfume (or at least read notes) and discover my favorite note being prominent in there other than being told by the name from the start what it’s all about (unless it’s a Le Labo creation since there it’s almost as an abstract name ;) ).

    • For some reason vetiver has the reputation of being a perfume on its own so it is the most common ingredient to lend its name to “soliflore” compositions. This is strange however because it has so many variations. I don’t think for instance that there is a lot in common between Guerlain and Etro Vetivers

  2. I feel wonderfully tipsy just reading your review of this, Christos. (And I don’t even care for Vermouth, except in regard to cooking with it, as it carmelizes meats so nicely. But the idea of a vetiver perfume that has the complexity of a vermouth is heavenly sounding and the bottle you have is beautiful.)

    I meant to tell you earlier that I am familiar with one Etro: I have a decant of Etro Palais Jamais that someone gave me probably three or four years ago. I like it very much but can never get worked up enough to write a review, so I guess it’s not really in the category of “compelling” for me. Are you familiar with it?

    • Thank you Suzanne. I have smelled Palais Jamais briefly but not enough to have formed an impression. I plan to visit the shop carrying Etro in Athens soon and I will make sure I try it. I will also make sure I try the current Vetiver juice. I have seen photos of the new bottle and the color of the liquid is alarmingly lighter…

  3. This sounds like another I should try. I will watch for one of those inexpensive bottles you mention! Your review makes this sound just great; I love your application of the culinary term to describe the way the gourmand notes are handled. Very evocative.

  4. I will have to try this now for two reasons:
    I have not explored any of the Etro line!
    And I am the type of “perfumista” who falls into the category of “Vetiver is boring and one dimensional”.
    I have really been trying in my recent posts to explore vetiver after shudding it off for so long and have tried what are considered some of the best on the market – it’s been one long disappointing ride so I’m open to ideas :)
    I am only just discovering the iris which you have explored so well, It’s fascinating :D

  5. hedonist222

    This is an overlooked gem.
    I too have an older formula.
    Coincidentally it is the only perfume that reminds me of Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1.

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  7. Peter

    Before I started dating Guerlain’s version, I had a long affair with Vetiver by L’Artisan du Parfumeur. Until they stopped for some obscure reason.
    Very sad indeed…..
    Has anyone tried Blenheim Bouquet by Penhaligon?
    Absolutely wonderful and so subtle.

  8. I did blind buy this as well, due to many great reviews by people whose tastes I relate. And I wasn’t disappointed. Having a few other vetiver fragrances already (Encre Noire, Jovoy Private Label, Chopard Noble Vetiver), it is a little peculiar. Not quite what I expected. But your title… “dry vermouth or sweet vetiver”.. spot on! That’s it. It has sweet and dry qualities. I’m very glad I took the chance. It’s a bit disappointing on longevity, though.

    • I am wondering if your bottle is the newer version with the more minimal label. I notice that the juice in current bottles is less strongly coloured and I cannot help but wonder is this reflects in longevity as well. I have never smelled the current version. Keep in mind though that Etro was probably the first house to encourage layering their “soliflores”, so longevity issues may be attributed to a deliberate layering versatility. I have this issue with Etro Sandalo.

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