You’re most likely reading this from the comfort of your over-air-conditioned office or cubicle (or picnic table as I like to call the new “open plan” arrangements taking over the world), dreaming of the outside, summer-splashed world and all it has to delight the senses: blue skies, a gentle breeze, and scents to yearn for all year.
I keep a rolodex of perfumes on my desk to revive me mid-day—for a hit of sandy shoreline, I go for the incomparable Maison Margiela Replica Beach Walk ($125; barneys.com), and for a fancy ocean spritz it's Tom Ford Neroli Portofino ($140; sephora.com). But the summeriest type of smell, for me, comes in the form of vetiver, a grass that’s native to places like Haiti and India, and that’s far from super-green, fresh-cut-lawn. It’s earthy, dirty and unbelievably sexy, and reminds of lying, eyes closed, in a sun-drenched field, heat radiating, with absolutely nothing on my mind. Warning: it can be intoxicating and heavy, so apply in small doses. And then, when fall arrives, mist with (almost) abandon to get an effect more akin to smoky fire pit. These four iterations couldn’t be more different, but they’re each so very satisfying.
Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire Eau de Parfum (pictured above)
My first ever vetiver-laced perfume, it’s potent—the fresher notes of bergamot and bitter orange only slightly lessen the intense power of the vetiver mixed with sandalwood cedar and oak moss. I wore this exclusively on a trip to Amsterdam, and now, whenever I wear it, it reminds me of meandering along the canals. ($190; fredericmalle.com)
Chantecaille Vetyver Eau de Parfum
Although vetiver is used in a lot of unisex and men’s fragrances, this is the perfect, feminine interpretation. The fresh-squeezed lemon top notes calm the headiness of the nutmeg, sandalwood and vetiver. It reminds me of some tall cocktail you’d get at a rooftop bar that has a bunch of ingredients in it you’d never think would go together (like absinthe and…anything), but blend together seamlessly to make something exquisite. ($175; nordstrom.com)
Carven Vétiver Eau de Toilette
A reissue of 1957 classic (which the design house Carven claims to be the first vetiver fragrance ever), the lavender and citrus at the top makes it a surprisingly clean—and masculine—vetiver concoction. This is what my dream man—an odd combination of Christian Bale and Zach Galifianakis—smells like after a shower. ($80; saks.com)
Heeley Vetiver Veritas Eau de Parfum
This is composed entirely of natural (as in not synthetic) ingredients, which is seriously rare in modern perfumery. And it also disproves the theory that natural fragrances disappear quickly on your skin—this one lasts all day. Mint, lavender and grapefruit brighten the vetiver up, but it’s got unapologetic, raw earthiness. ($195; luckyscent.com)