Created in 2004 for the French duty free market, Vetiver Pour Elle could perhaps be termed a flanker and was created by Jean-Paul Guerlain to accompany his masculine fragrance, Vetiver, created in 1959. Over the years Vetiver had amassed a female fan base. Although a feminine version of the masculine classic had long been on request, rumour tells that it wasn’t until a business trip to Shanghai in 2004 that the perfumer was able to realize his vision of how a feminine Vetiver would materialize. Discussing his general inspirations, Jean-Paul Guerlain said that his grandfather taught him to create perfume for “women with whom you are in love”. With his Casanova reputation, I wonder what experience he had in Shanghai that inspired him to create this delicate piece of work? The fragrance has now found its way into the range of feminine Les Parisiennes. It sits amongst the exclusive Guerlain scents housed in the maison’s luxurious bee bottles. My discovery of the scent was due to Luca Turin’s review of it in his book with Tania Sanchez, Perfumes The Guide. As a fan of the original I thought it obligatory to seek out a bottle. After some searching I found a bottle at a Guerlain counter here in Australia. To be honest, my first attempts to fall in love with the fragrance failed. I think this may be because I was expecting something more ‘vetiver’. It wasn’t until a kind Guerlain employee filled a small bottle for me to take away that I began to appreciate its beauty. If you have ever felt the same way about Vetiver Pour Elle try to sample the fragrance on skin instead of paper. I find the fragrance opens up so much more on skin. And if your Guerlain counter manager is generous, request a small sample bottle so that you can enjoy the perfume’s fully story, which takes time to unfold, note after note on skin.
This feminine version features a restrained vetiver, not too dissimilar to the masculine original. What has been added to the green top note is a delicate floral that replaces most of the men’s citrus accord. With notes of jasmine, muguet, honeysuckle and orange blossom, Vetiver Pour Elle feels innocent, virginal and pure. This angelic theme is further reflected in the juice’s sheer green colour. No sooner have the friendly floral accords acquainted themselves with their wearer do they begin to depart, one by one, making way for the familiar Guerlain vetiver theme. Jean-Paul Guerlain conceals parts of Vetiver’s anatomy so that at times you feel like this is an entirely separate creation. At other points in the perfume’s life it feels safely familiar, “oh there it is”, you think to yourself, recognizing the Vetiver you have come to know and love. At the back end of the fragrance are lush powdery musks that hold an air of femininity. So just how much of a relationship should exist between a men’s and women’s perfume that share the same name? If you consider the loose connection existing between Guerlain’s Chamade and Chamade Pour Homme you get the feeling that Guerlain do not feel that such pairings need to be identical siblings. This is the case with Vetiver. The original men’s Vetiver takes after its father, the grass to which it owes its name. Vetiver Pour Elle is much more like her mother, pretty, radiant and elegant. Look deep enough into her face and you will see she has her father’s smile.
Vetiver for her, worn by him? Sounds confusing? If you consider women were wearing men’s Vetiver for decades, I think it’s only fair men should wear Vetiver Pour Elle. The green vetiver notes give the fragrance masculinity. If you are a man who does not shy away from flowers with a dash of musk, this version of Vetiver could be of interest to you. Although it was created in 2004, it feels reminiscent of women’s perfumes from the 1970s, like a bouquet of pastel flowers presented in a chypre box. Guys, I say go for it!
Perfumer: Jean-Paul Guerlain
Bottle designer: Guerlain studio, L’Atelier de Florence (original)
Release date: 2007 (2004)
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods