What is Vetiver? The Ultimate Guide

Vetiver has long brought a unique scent to men's fragrances. But what does Vetiver smell like?  And what is it, exactly? These are the two questions we address in this guide. 

Vetiver, also known as Chrysopogon zizanioides in Latin or Vetyver, is an extremely popular green scent. It is estimated that it is included in roughly 20% of men's colognes currently on the market. And it doesn't look like it will slow down anytime soon, since the vetiver smell brings a unique greenness to men's fragrances

What is Vetiver?

It's a perennial tropical grass originally from India which has been used in perfumes since ancient times. It can grow up to 1.5 meters high with long, thin, flexible leaves.

When the plant is 18-24 months old, the roots are harvested and used to create the fragrant vetiver essential oil for soaps, creams and fragrances. It also has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties that make it good for topical skin applications as well. 

The beauty industry uses an estimated 250 tons of vetiver roots per year. The rest of the plant is used as a fiber or feed for livestock.

Currently it is grown for fragrance in India, Haiti, Indonesia and Réunion. Réunion is considered to have the highest quality vetiver oil, sometimes referred to as “bourbon vetiver.”

What Does Vetiver Smell Like?

The grass is closely related to other fragrant grasses such as lemongrass and citronella. It is a complex earthy, woody scent which has been valued for its aroma since ancient times. The vetiver smell has been compared to the sharp smell of uncut grass on a warm day. 

It's also a chief component in what many refer to as an old-time barbershop​ smell.

It's a complex oil with over 100 known components. Due to the complexity of the scent, there's currently no synthetic substitute.

5 Best Vetiver Fragrances for Men

Fragrances with Vetiver are a staple in most men's cologne collections. There's something undeniably earthy and appealingly masculine about the scent. Here are reviews of the five of the best vetiver colognes we’ve encountered:

Best Modern Vetiver

Tom Ford Grey Vetiver Eau De Parfume Spray for Men a modern, sophisticated interpretation of a classic. Its light, clean fragrance is perfect for work or casual use.

Best Budget Vetiver

Guerlain Vetiver Eau De Toilette Spray for Men features heart notes of vetiver. An affordable cologne which has an old-school barbershop feel in the best way.

Classic Vetiver

Eau Sauvage By Christian Dior for Men Edt Spray was first launched in 1966. This fragrance is just as luxurious now as it was then.

Most Distinctive

Lalique Encre Noire Pour Homme EDT Spray is a bold and distinctive take on vetiver. It’s an outspoken, unique fragrance that isn’t afraid to turn heads.

Sweet and Floral Vetiver

Aramis 900 By Aramis For Men. Herbal Cologne Spray, Packaging May Vary 3.4 Oz. is another classic fragrance from the 70s but this time with a slightly sweet, floral side as well.

Best Overall Vetiver

Creed Creed Original Vetiver Men Millesime Spray, 4 Ounce features heart notes of  Haitian vetiver. It’s sensual, unisex fragrance that balances vetiver with citrus and spice. It’s also one of the few colognes that uses the leaves of the vetiver plant for a unique effect.


There are a wide variety mens fragrances that use vetiver as a heart note. It is a very versatile and popular scent which could find a welcome place in most fragrance collections.