Perfume Pen Pals: Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, Chanel Sycomore and Christian Dior Vetiver


Have you ever worn Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire? It's exactly as Luca Turin describes it in Perfumes: The Guide: vetiver with a cedar/pencil accord and a touch of lemon.

It's fuller and more sentimental than The Different Company Sel de Vétiver, which I still like but which rarely begs me to wear it. It simply sits on the shelf and gloats at how good it is. Sel de Vétiver doesn't need me, KP, not like Vétiver Extraordinaire does.



Speaking of Vétiver Extraordinaire needing you, it's interesting how, for a relationship to be successful, both parties need to feel needed by the other. And if one of them needs it too much, they become unattractively needy, which is a huge turnoff and guarantees they don't get the very thing they so desire.

I've had that problem in past relationships -- the bloke needing to be needed. Who then becomes very controlling. Which might be an alternate version of needing to be needed.



Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, his warmest film by far, concerns the need to be needed and how having a partner who needs nothing is as problematic as one who needs too much. I've experienced both, and I can never seem to get the balance right.

But, yes, the need to be needed is an anxious response and always relates to issues of control: when someone completely relies upon you, you automatically get to call all the shots. I'm sure this sort of thing can work with partners who are screwed up in opposite ways, but if you fall somewhere in the middle, the extremes will drive you batty.

The longer I wear Vétiver Extraordinaire, the less it needs me. It never quite fuses with my skin and now, several hours after application, it feels like it's circling an inch above my wrist. It's not quite my temperature, it's colder. It's like a cold dry ice mist wafting just above me. I can almost see it. Which, yes, means I can't see it at all, but I can feel it and I know it's there. What's happened is the lemon and the cedar have faded and I'm left with only vetiver. Cold, stern vetiver. And I think it's saying I'm not dignified enough for it, or sufficiently self-assured, or that I'm too casual, too irreverent, more boy than man. I don't know, KP, I can't speak vetiver! I just know Vétiver Extraordinaire doesn't like me. Do I sound needy? Speaking of vetivers, now I have my eye on Chanel Sycomore, which will probably be the next Chanel to move in with me. Dan

Dan, Funny you should bring up Sycomore. I'm about to take another stab at that one, because I've been getting a lot of YouTube requests to review it. I remember trying it when it first came out in 2008, and finding it just too "Gag on my vetiver smog, motherfuckers!" for me. Katie

Katie, Well, now I'm worried about Sycomore. I've only sampled it twice in the Chanel boutique and I found it more wearable than most vetivers. And, yes, I make that assertion as someone who has never worn it. You've tasted root beer, right? Everyone has. And it always tastes the same, like root beer. And yet there are these guys (they always seem to be guys) who obsess over the stuff, they create websites and rate their favorites, they yearn for some small brew from the 1930s that was only available in northern Vermont. And even though you and I and everyone else realizes it probably tastes just like every other root beer, these guys know better, they can parse out brands with wintergreen from those with anise, they know when there's too much sugar or when the sassafras is artificial. They're freaks. Along those lines, I wore Christian Dior Vétiver yesterday and would it surprise you if I told you it smelled exactly like every other vetiver? It's a subject of great fascination among the guys on the perfume boards (probably because vetiver falls squarely within the male domain and thus it's dignified as perfume topics go) and they'll argue all day about their favorites. And after years of smelling the stuff, I'll admit I notice some fine differences in earthiness or smokiness, but never quite enough to muster the strength to say anything. Vetiver smells like vetiver and Christian Dior Vétiver does, too. It's just another bottle of root beer. Dan

For more bitching about vetiver, please click here Dad's Root Beer via


  1. Dear Vetiver -

    Vetiver vetivering on vetting further vetiver. Vetiver, Vetiver, Vetiver! Vetiver, vetivering, "Vetiver? VetIVER!!", vetivering away. So very vetiver.


    Stever Vetiver Hat Johnsoniver

  2. Vet iv vetiver's really needed?
    Then vetiver'd be the the way to go.

  3. I love vetiver and speaking of differences I usually try to classify the vetiver based scents in two subcategories.

    One group is comosed by the more layered vetiver scents, the "wet" kind of vetiver, often paired with lemon. I would put in this group the Guerlain Vetiver and Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire.

    The second group represents the "dry" vetiver, where the scent of vetiver is more streamlined and rooty, like the Givenchy Vetyver (which I love!) or Sel De Vetiver (which is actually not meant to be just a vetiver fragrance).

    Another one I like is Etro Vetiver wich I consider standing in between the two groups (is deep, smoky and grassy).

    Vetiver Tonka by Hermes is on its own (a sweet and caressing envelope of vetiver).

    Unfortunately I haven't tried Sycomore and the Dior's yet.

    I don't know if this classification is appropriate, but doing this way I don't get lost between all the vetiver fragrances...

  4. I guess the only old school guy is me. Guerlain Vetiver is nice.Like Guerlain pour elle more! Both are really great vetiver's. Katie, I have never gotten a soapy note out of Guerlain Vetiver. Now Tauer's Vetiver Dance is a different story. I only get soap out of it. I have yet to try Sycomore.

  5. I like Federico's classification system, but it leaves out another strange vetiver. PdN's Vetyver, which combines vetiver and cumin. Odd, but compelling. And that one melds with skin, rather than hovering above. So Federico, how about a third group which includes the Hermes and the PdN: the "On Their Own Vetivers". Although I have heard some people comment that Sycamore smells like cannabis on their skin. But that wouldn't prevent anyone from tossing it into the On Their Own category.

    If I say vetiver one more time in this post, I'm going to have to write a letter like Stefush's.

  6. As a chick who prides herself on her ability to rock a good number of "pour homme" scents, I must hang my head and admit that I had to break up with Vetiver a long time ago.

    It was an unhealthy relationship- like a mousy librarian in "love" with a biker dude.
    Vetiver was bossy and demanding in a real in-yer-face "I smell like an ashtray- Deal with it!" kind of way.
    But, co-dependent that I was, I believed I could somehow be enough or do enough to suit Monsieur Vetiver. For some reason I wanted to make it work...

    Thank God I woke up and began dating other basenotes. I'm currently going steady with Sandalwood. And he's treating me well. =]

  7. Oh yes! You must review Sycamore! First time I sampled, my eyes literally bugged out as I thought, "What IS this?" I didn't love it, didn't hate it, but became so curious that I could not stop sniffing myself...which I'm sure adds to the 'there goes that crazy mom' comments when I pick the kids up from school....

  8. melisand61 thanks for the advice, cumin+vetiver seems really interesting, maybe a sweaty-vetyver? I'll look forward to try it!

  9. ^^ Yep, I want my armpits to smell like this:-)

  10. Okay everyone, once again you've dazzled with your assortment of witty and insightful comments. "Sweatyver" takes the (hash) cake.


    Thanks for offering a way to break down the plethora of vetivers. It was all very clear-cut and easy to follow until rebel vetivers busted out of your 2 neat subcategories and formed their own vetiver kingdoms with their own vetiver rules.

    As melisand61 indicated, "hashish" vetivers can include Sycomore, as well as Etro Vetiver and Nasomatto Black Afgano. And let's officially recognize the nation of "sweet" vetivers, which incorporate Hermes Vetiver Tonka and Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental.

    melisand61's sweaty PdN Vetyver is currently stateless.

  11. Gojira,

    Guerlain Vetiver pour Elle is an easy-breezy pleasure to wear. Like Tina, I find vetiver "soliflores" too harsh to enjoy wearing personally, but I can handle the lovely vetiver blends of that Guerlain, Etro Shaal Nur and TDC Sel de Vétiver.


    Sandalwood is a great guy. He's got his own friends and a backbone, but he loves alone time with you -- and the odd shoe-shopping excursion.

    Vetiverly yours,

    Ms. Puckrikver

  12. Well, the vetivers from Haiti are completely different from India and also from Indonesia.

    It's almost like they are different oils altogether.

  13. Paul,

    And then to further scramble order in the various vetiver kingdoms, clever aroma chemists tease out different aspects of natural vetivers and slice & dice 'em into Frankenvetivers.

  14. Hmmm. There's a lot of sussing going on here. Good to see such careful vetting of vetiver.

    To add my own something to the hashing out of things, I'm going to sink a hook into Dan's root beer. And bring up Ayala Moriel's Vetiver Racinettes, which was a wonderful rooty vetiver which oddly enough at one point conjured--you knew it, right?--root beer.

    By which I mean to reference root beer, and not sarsaparilla.

  15. Wearing vetiver all alone is like lying in wait for an ambush. You forget you're even wearing it and then all of a sudden, you turn your head quickly, and WHAM! The sharp edge of vetiver pierces your sinuses all the way to your brain. That doesn't stop me from wearing Vetiver Extraordinaire -- the first two-thirds are too delectable to let the last third ruin it.

  16. ScentScelf,

    The puns are piling up! And thanks for introducing a whole "circle of life" element with the mention of Vetiver Racinettes.


    It's official: vetiver is out to get us.

  17. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean it isn't out to vet you....

  18. I must jump in in defense of vetiver too.

    I liberally sprayed Sycomore on my armpits (both skin and shirt) last summer, and that carried me through the sticky Washingtonian season. Looking forward to liberally apply Breath of God as well in the coming summer. No sweativers here!


  19. Love to hear your thoughts on Sycamore. I found it sooo smokey that I coughed when I sprayed it. I have a decant, but am honestly afraid to try it again...

  20. cacio,

    I know well the sweltering, airless hell of DC summers, and am intrigued by your "hair of the dog" approach to wearing something as smoky and burnt as Sycomore in those months. (Although I've been known to wear Lutens' Ambre Sultan on 100-degree desert days, so I should talk.)

    However, as I've been wearing my Sycomore sample over the past few days, I can appreciate the refreshing aspect of it, too. You sound like you're onto something!


    I have shared your fear of Sycomore....

  21. Needy/needing to be needed reminds me of:

  22. Great piece. And while I do love Vet Extra and Sycomore, both, I have often said that many vetivers smell JUST THE SAME as any other vetiver.

    Exceptions are when they're taken in different directions, like Sel de Vetiver or Serge Vet Oriental.