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Amazing Vetiver, Interview with Pierre Benard

Amazing Vetiver, Interview with Pierre Benard

We continue our seria of interviews with perfumer Pierre Benard. Last time we learned many interesting facts about Jasmine. Today Pierre has prepared a story about Vetiver. Serguey Borisov: Dear Pierre! I am glad to talk to you again! Pierre Benard: Dear Sergey, I dive back into my black ink to renew our correspondence about perfumery raw materials. This time, it will be Vetiver, or Vetyver, as it was written. Serguey Borisov: First, the biology questions: the native area/country of Vetiver, typical usage, production and technologies, family and tribe, natural properties of the grass and its oil, etc. Pierre Benard: I admire this plant, called “Sunshine,” its first-named cultivar, found around the world. Its smell was born of our Earth. Its botanical group is associated with one of Cyperales or Cyperaceae, as nagarmotha with its essential oil is known to cypriol. Its family is one of the Poaceae, commonly called “grasses,” even popularized in “herbs” or “cereals.” Its genus is updated to Chrysopogon. It will be necessary to mention the Vetiveria genus, detached by botanists, including Stapf, from the Andropogon genus where it was long associated with Cymbopogon (lemongrass, gingergrass, palmarosa and Java or Ceylon citronella … ). And now, it will be renamed Vetiveria zizanoides species, the most recognized in our perfumery, by Chrysopogon vetiveria. Of course, there are other species. Twelve are listed. Chrysopogon nigrita, in Angola, is an example which gives an essential oil close to Nagarmotha. Its growing areas lie mainly in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, particularly along the riverbanks and over marshy lands—here, where there are more torrential rains—around the world between or under the tropics, traveling the South and Central American continents, Africa and Asia. Vetiver is cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Réunion, Kenya, Haiti, Brazil, and El Salvador … It’s a magical herb for farmers. By delineating their fields with hedges of vetiver, they prevent soil erosion, which retains their moisture. This herb mitigates pollution. Its roots detoxify the soil and water by a high absorption potential and tolerance for heavy metals. They are very active with a high absorption potential of nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrates … From a domestic and traditional point of view, the roots, when moistened, serve as cooling screens when hung over windows, an ancient custom in Asia. Also, it is customary to make small bundles of vetiver roots, to be deposited near the linens to repel mites and perfume the fabric. (As a household ritual, it exists in Provençal tradition. This extended to the French custom of sachets of lavender or lavendin being placed in wardrobes. Also reminiscent of the smell of clean linen: patchouli leaf. Before acquiring the olfactive and fixative notoriety in perfumery, it was known as a repellent, recognized in shipments of cashmere on the Silk Roads returning to colonial England. But, this is another story of a woody note … ) Serguey Borisov: Could you tell us the story of Vetiver in perfumery? Pierre Benard: Its story in French perfumery is marked certainly in 1957, when Robert Gonnon presents to men, traditionally perfumed by Cologne water at this time, a new fragrance family—the woody family. It’s with the Vetiver, that of Carven, that the name of this plant continues to appear even today on bottles of old perfumes, of niche perfume, even for women, with Vetiver pour elle by Guerlain. Serguey Borisov: When did its use in perfumery begin? Pierre Benard: Since 1843, a vetiver perfume called Kus Kus has been produced continuously in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1803, this scent was purchased from the perfume-loving French by the recently...

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