Guerlain Vetiver & Vetiver Pour Elle

Guerlain Vetiver fragrance advertGuerlain Vetiver Pour Elle

Guerlain Vetiver was the first solo fragrance effort by Jean Paul Guerlain, the great grandson of Guerlain founder Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain. Reportedly created for the South American market, the fragrance was released in 1959 and relaunched in 2000. I never smelled the original version, so I cannot say to what extent it was reformulated at that time, but according to the reviewers on basenotes, this is not your father's Vetiver. It has notes of orange, lemon, bergamot, pepper, coriander, nutmeg, oakmoss, tobacco, and tonka bean.

Vetiver starts with a bright, almost aggressive burst of citrus. There is a dusty buzz of spices which eventually settles into recognizable notes of pepper and nutmeg, and they last right through the dry down. There is also vetiver, and oakmoss, and in the far dry down, quite a bit of tobacco. There is said to be carnation, and possibly other floral notes, but they are not in the least noticeable to my nose.

Of all of the vetivers I have tried, Guerlain's strikes the best balance between fresh and earthy notes. It feels clean and fresh, but without resorting to any of the ozonic or marine notes that characterize clean in modern perfumery. And it is beautifully earthy and mossy, but it is not the uncompromising, take-no-prisoners earthiness of say, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Route du Vetiver.

It is classy, sexy, and a perfect fragrance for hot summer weather. I suppose it is masculine, maybe even quintessentially masculine, but all the same I have never felt out of bounds wearing it, and I do have my limits; M7 I wear only in the privacy of my own home. It is available only as an Eau de Toilette. There is also a limited edition Vetiver Eau Glacee/Frozen version, but I have not tried it.

Like Dior's Eau Sauvage, Vetiver has long been "borrowed" by the ladies, so it is rather surprising that Guerlain waited until last year to release a feminine version. Vetiver Pour Elle was released as a limited edition in duty free, and there, sadly, it remains. It features bergamot, orange blossom, honeysuckle, muguet, nutmeg, vetiver, and tonka bean.

Vetiver Pour Elle is less aggressively citric at the start, and considerably more floral — e.g., more conventionally feminine. The top notes smell like those advertised: orange blossom, lily of the valley, and a touch of honeysuckle, after the top notes fade, it smells like orange blossom and jasmine. The spices are much lighter and the tonka bean, which I do not really notice in the men's version, is more pronounced.

It is a pleasant enough fragance, but worn next to the men's, it smells rather wimpy and insubstantial. Perhaps that is how many women would prefer it? What is missing, besides the pepper and tobacco, is the vetiver. I can smell some vetiver, mind you, but it would be straining to call this an earthy fragrance until the flowers have just about faded away entirely.

It is certainly worth a try if you find the men's too much, but otherwise, I would think you would do better to stick to the regular, or layer it with a light floral. Another option, especially if you can't get your hands on the Pour Elle, is to try a more unisex vetiver like Creed Original Vetiver.

The men's version of Vetiver can be purchased just about anywhere. Vetiver Pour Elle, as I mentioned, is stuck in duty free, and in limited distribution at that. If you know where to get it, please tell!

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45 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    R, great reviews as always. I tried Vetiver Pour Elle recently, and like you I found it so timid and limpid, especially in comparison with original, which I really like and wear. Vetiver has become one of my favourite notes at one point, and Guerlain is definitely one of the favourites (along with SL Vetiver Oriental). I do not find it particularly masculine, but then again, I wear it in small quantities and it melds beautifully into my skin. It smells of mosses and roots touched by sun.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi V, I tried a month ago and then set it aside (which is a warning in itself), but it wasn't until I wore it next to the men's that I realized how much they had “feminized” this one. Wonder if it is stuck in duty free limbo just because it isn't selling well?

  3. Anonymous says:

    That is very likely. Of course, I do not know how to judge sales from duty stores in terms of the appeal. When I spotted it at the duty free, every single time they did not even have testers available!

  4. Anonymous says:

    V, I hate it when there are no testers.

    I keep reading that duty free is now the “test marketing” of choice for the big houses, but it seems an odd strategy to me.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh, yeah, buying fragrance at duty-free happens because 1) you are jetlagged and are not responsible for your actions; 2)you have a long layover and nothing better to do with your time. That is a representative buying strategy for sure! lol Well, I do not recall any of GUerlain duty-free only making it on the regular shelves.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Butting in (and, I must admit that I have a big butt to do it! lol!), but I did see With Love at Sephora last year. Guess that one escaped duty free purgatory, but I have not seen Precious Heart in the stores at all. :):)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this review! I'm a fan of Guerlain Vetiver, and was curious about the VPE, but not so much now. I want *more* vetiver, not less (and I love pepper and tobacco, the missing notes).

    I've become vetiver-obsessed lately, and my absolute favorite is LV's, which is woodsier and less citrusy than Guerlain's. I also like the sweeter SL Vetiver Oriental.

    I want to explore this note more, so I'll have to try the Creed one of these days, too.

  8. Anonymous says:

    R, as you know, my dh did not like Vetiver. /at all! He kept complaining that it smelled like soap! On the other hand, dd and I really liked it on him. Go figure! He does, however, like Eau Savage.

    For some reason I can't bring myself to wear a “man's” fragrance. It just does not interest me.

    I love how you wear M7 “only in the privacy of your own home.” I visualize you slinking around the house in beautiful Chinese style pajamas with your hair in a french twist. The shades are drawn, and it is dark and cool inside. :):)

    Have a great weekend! Hugs!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Oh yes, With Love, I forgot about that one!

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Creed is “fizzier” than the Guerlain, and woodier, but the Guerlain is heavier on the vetiver.

    When I tried them together, it really made the Guerlain smell like soap. I know many people find the Guerlain soapy, but I don't usually notice it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Fizzier sounds good to me! :)

    I haven't noticed soapiness in the Guerlain, either, and I'm usually sensitive to that.

  12. Anonymous says:

    R, My dh loves it, but he also says it smells like soap, and I really do notice the soapiness on him. On me, I don't notice it at all.

    Your vision sounds so lovely! But more likely I'm scrounging around in my PJs, drinking tea & trying to get my son to clean up his legos. And he is saying: you smell like yuck, Mom.

    You have a great weekend too dear!

  13. Anonymous says:

    R, I know you love vetiver so it breaks my heart to say this, but I just can not get a handle on vetiver. I thought I would love it and I still feel like I should, but I've tried nearly every vetiver fragrance I can get my hands on, and none of them work. CSP Vetiver Haiti, Etro Palais Jamais, Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, L'Artisan Timbuktu, L'Artisan Vetiver, Lorenzo Villoresi Vetiver, Miller Harris Terre de Bois, MPG Route du Vetiver, Patyka Fougére, Santa Maria Novella Vetiver… I've tried them all, and the general effect on me is always sharp and sour, not grassy or earthy. The worst of all was Guerlain Vetiver, which went so sour on me as to smell an awful lot like that liquid that comes out of humans several times a day that no one wants to smell like (trying to be respectful of the refined aura of your blog here). The only vetiver fragrance I can wear is Jo Malone Black Vetyver Café which, let's face it, smells nothing like its middle name. I'm so disappointed. Am I not earthy? I am a child of the earth!

  14. Anonymous says:

    K, Wow, you have made a very impressive effort, and I think you should be excused from all future attempts to like vetiver. I feel about the same about patchouli. I keep trying, it just doesn't work for me. I can't help it if it doesn't smell good, right?

  15. Anonymous says:

    The Guerlain Vetiver is one of the scents my dad wears. He's tweedy and golfs so it fits him like a glove. It smells great on him.

    I'm going to Vancouver in August so will check out the Vetivert pour Elle in the city's duty free block. I will try to judge it for what it is, but IMO, Vetiver, like Russian leather, is one of those notes that resist being feminized, if you're going to use it as the major note in a perfume. It seems like if you tailor Vetiver for women you're just going to end up with a green floral, as you describe above, not something that is unmistakably a vetiver.

    Actually, Jean Couturier's Coriandre is a glamorous, ballsy, Vetiver-ish perfume marketed to women, but can certainly pass as a men's perfume too. I've smelled it at Nordstrom occasionally. A lot of patchouli, though!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Coriandre was my signature scent for many years, but I have been afraid to smell it again for fear it won't be the same. I'll cave & buy a bottle at TJ Maxx one of these days. But — patchouli?? My memory must be terrible, I honestly don't remember it smelling like patchouli, which I usually detest.

  17. Anonymous says:

    (sorry to butt in…) My mom wore Coriandre and I don't remember it smelling like patchouli, either. But woodcock's post has made me think that my vetiver-love may be genetic. (Mom loves the Villoresi Vetiver, too.)

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well, looks like I'll have to buy it and see. Back when I wore it, I am sure I had never heard of vetiver, and probably only vaguely knew what patchouli was for that matter.

    I am sure it has been reformulated though. *sobs*

  19. Anonymous says:

    You might have reason to be afraid, because I did detect quite a bit of patchouli when I tried Coriandre last December. It seemed to work with it, though, and was not there to “sex it up.” Coriandre still smelled aristocratic to me.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Robin/(and Woodcock): UPDATE: I called the Vancouver BC Duty Free again yesterday and got yet another “version” of the Vetiver Pour Elle *Saga*. The BC Duty Free DID order it…but it did not arrive. I feel like a fool at this point..and one who can be swayed by a few words on any perfume subject (in this case LT's rave of Vetiver Pour Elle on his blog that sent me into a tizzy to acquire it!). Anyway, even the Guerlain/Givenchy rep in NYC told me that Vetiver Pour Elle did “not exist.” HAHA! Such is the secrecy about this scent. I finally got on the ball and reached the company called Aelia in Paris. They have free-standing shops at French airports, on the French side of the Chunnel and on the EuroStar Gare du Nord. THEY commissioned this scent from Guerlain and THEY and THEY alone can sell it at their shops. So if you like it…bribe a friend who is traveling thru France this summer. I asked the Aelia customer service person if I could buy a bottle of VPE by calling one of their shops and having it shipped to me. He said: “non.” But now that I've read Robin's review I'm in no hurry to sample it. I'm heading to Turkey this fall and will go thru Paris…I'll wait till then I guess. R: Thanks for reviewing these!

    Vetiver (Frozen) is no longer sold…thus said a helpful salesperson in NYC. Apparently it was “sold out”…cases bought by individuals who were horrified it would be discontinued. I know two friends who bought it and I did smell it…limp, light, evaporated quickly.

    Vetiver by Guerlain is one of the handful of scents I restock over and over and over again…for the last 15 years. Unusual for me. And Original Vetiver by Creed is a more sprightly offering — bubbly, soda-pop-py on me, but I like it.

    OK, enough already!….Kevin

  21. Anonymous says:

    Goodness, I wore Coriandre for years, and had no idea it had vetiver, never mind patchouli! I fished out my old bottle the other day, and thought 'This is really nice!' – so have no fear, R…go sniff.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Wow, thanks for the news. Above and beyond the call of duty, Detective Vetiver! You've saved the perfume salesladies off Robson St. from being pecked by the Woodcock.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Oh well, now I'm very curious. Of course, it is probably not going to turn up in TJ Maxx now for months, by which time I'll have lost interest, LOL!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Dear Woodcock…don't speak so soon! Those

    sales ladies are NOT safe…they drove me CRAZY as I asked about VPE…even laughing at me..and in one case, hanging up the phone! I think speaking Cantonese would have helped me considerably. K

  25. Anonymous says:

    Gracious, Kevin, what a lot of bother! Truly, I will be surprised if you end up liking it enough to be worth all the trouble, but who knows. Obviously Luca Turin did, and he knows considerably more about fragrance than I do.

    Vetiver Frozen is still listed on the Guerlain website, not that it necessarily means anything. Vetiver Pour Elle was never listed there that I saw.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Ah! Now I might end up ordering this online before the weekend is out…

  27. Anonymous says:

    HA! I may just get a bottle of VPE as a TROPHY! Spotlight it on my mantle for awhile!

  28. Anonymous says:

    LOL — I know the feeling! I have a question for you, can you email me when you get a chance? nowsmellthis at comcast dot net

  29. Anonymous says:

    Please let me know if it has been reformulated after you try it again. I am very curious about it.

  30. Anonymous says:

    My dear, I am with you. I was reading somewhere that one of the Classic (capital “C”) men's scent is G. Vetiver and I went to Sephora with the full intention of spritzing it liberally on me despite the weirded-out looks from the shop attendants. That didn't happen. Is “earthy” synonymous with “sweat”? I just can't dig it, yo.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I bought the original Vetiver at Marshalls for $9.99. I like to wear it during the summer, especially when it's incredibly hot outside. My Dad also wears it and it smells wonderful on him, it's his favorite fragrance of all the ones I've given him.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I passed up that deal at TJ Maxx myself, and have been kicking myself ever since. It is one of my summertime favorites, and somehow I thought it would always be at TJ Maxx. Nope, never seen it there again!

  33. Anonymous says:

    I haven't smelled the Pour Elle version of this, but I do have the male version of it and absolutely love it to bits. It's one of those fragrances you wear which lasts all day which you get a whiff of and think, God someone smells fantastic – oh yeah, it's me!

    It starts with a top note fanfare that heralds the arrival of one of the most effortlessly classy men's fragrances to your skin. It dries down smoothly reveling peppery notes and an enduring Vetiver.

    I feel fantastic when I wear this and I fully understand why it has a massive fanbase, it's so much more distinctive than the endless procession of Armanis and Calvin Kleins out there.

    I do understand that it might not be for everyone, but hey, we live in a world where some people actually like A*Men by Thierry Mugler…

  34. Anonymous says:

    LOL — even I like A*Men, but then, I love Guerlain Vetiver too, and agree with “effortlessly classy”.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Robin, I'm still after a summer fragrance. I've tried Paestum Rose like you suggested but wasn't that impressed (reminded me of Sushi Imperiale). I love L'Eau D'hiver but it has a warmth to it that I prefer not to wear on really hot days. I was thinking maybe TM Cologne – the “skin scent” comments are tempting but am afraid of it being too citrusy. What about Guerlain Vetiver I wonder? I happily wear unisex fragrances but is still weary weather this would be a little too masculine?

  36. Anonymous says:

    LOL at weather. I meant whether! :)

  37. Anonymous says:

    I would try the Mugler if you haven't, it really is wonderful. And anyone can wear Guerlain Vetiver! If you want something lighter, try Paul Smith Story.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Oh oh oh! I'm stuck in a dilemma – my department store has the 100ml on clearance for just AU$65! Isn't that a bargain? I'm loving the drydown on my skin, but the initial “bright, almost aggressive burst of citrus” and “dusty buzz of spices” was almost enough to put me off when I first smelt it. What oh what should I do…

  39. Anonymous says:

    Buy it and hope the top notes will grow on you? Or try another with a lighter citrus note, like Paul Smith Story?

  40. Anonymous says:

    I was immensely disappointed with Story – it smelt just awful on my skin before fading away to nothing.

    I must practise some self-restraint… *chants*

  41. Anonymous says:

    Then I'm sorry to say that you need that Sycomore!

  42. Anonymous says:

    I,too, saw this discounted here in Sydney and bought it immediately. The woman who sold it to me was French and she was wearing it…it smelled incredibly warm and rich on her not like the first spritz which is citrusy in a classy kind of way. She said it is definitely unisex and lots of women wear it in Europe. I'm was a little soapy on me (but a very expensive soap!) before it settled into a warmer , earthier smell (which I do love).

  43. Anonymous says:

    Are you talking about the Guerlain or the Sycomore? I'm assuming the Guerlain since the Sycomore was not likely to be discounted! Glad you love it :-)

  44. Anonymous says:

    The Guerlain…it is half price in DJs and there are a few bottles of Shalimar also discounted for those who love it….I did when I was younger but find it too powdery now.

    Second day of the Vetiver and still loving it. The Chanel counter here in Sydney doesn't have Sycamore so I haven't tried it.

  45. Anonymous says:

    50% off — good for you! Hope you'll keep loving the Vetiver.

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