Perfume Review- Dior Vetiver (La Collection Privée)

There are few things more terrifying to a perfumista than the word “discontinuation.” The threat of a perfume being discontinued is bad enough, but the actual thing? Ghastly. So, yesterday, when I heard that Dior was discontinuing Vetiver, I hurriedly dug up my sample to test it out. I found parts of it to be very elegant, but some of it to be less than my personal cup of tea.

Dior Vetiver via FragranticaVetiver is (or was) part of Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes (which is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance). I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website. The Privée line consists of fourteen perfumes that are exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. Vetiver was added to the line in 2010 and, from what I’ve heard, is one of the biggest sellers in the Privée line. Like the rest of its siblings, Vetiver was intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior, and was created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior.

Dior describes Vetiver in the context of its founder’s personal style:

Mr. Dior had a particular sense of elegance and dandyism. Inspired by this sophisticated and timelessly chic style, François Demachy has created a powerful, intense and raw Vetiver fragrance. A masculine raw material par excellence, Vetiver makes up more than one third of the fragrance and is combined with Coffee, a round, slightly bitter, roasted note, creating an unusual aromatic blend.” The woody aromatic features notes of grapefruit, coffee and vetiver.

The notes for the fragrance, according to Dior, are simple:

Top: Sicilian Grapefruit.

Middle: South American Robusta Coffee.

Base: Haitian Vetiver.

Vetiver opens on my skin with sweet, slightly smoky, peppered vetiver and big wallops of ISO E Super. For those unfamiliar with the aroma-chemical, you can read my full description of its pros and cons here. In a nutshell, though, it is used most frequently for two reasons: 1) as a super-floralizer which is added to expand and magnify many floral notes, along with their longevity; and 2) to amplify woody notes and add a velvety touch to the base. It seems to be particularly used in fragrances that have vetiver, with Lalique‘s L’Encre Noire being just one of the many examples. ISO E Super always smells extremely peppery and, in large doses, has an undertone that is like that of rubbing alcohol, is medicinal, and/or astringent. Some people are completely anosmic to the synthetic, while a handful of people get extreme headaches from it. I’m not one of the latter, but I cannot stand the note in large quantities and I can detect that peppered element with its rubbing alcohol base a mile away.

GrapefruitIn the case of Vetiver, it’s hard to miss the ISO E Super because the synthetic is pronounced from the start and continues for much of the perfume’s lifespan. Hidden behind its solid wall are flickers of the grapefruit which feels zesty, fresh and light, but also yellow and sweet. Subtle whiffs of dark, wet coffee grinds underscore some of the vetiver’s earthy qualities. As a whole, however, this is not a smoky, dark, rooty vetiver fragrance. Instead, it feels much brighter, crisper and lighter than many of its compatriots out there.

Five minutes in, the rubbing alcohol base of the ISO E Super softens a little, leaving more peppery notes at the top. The coffee note fades almost completely, along with much of that initial dark twist to the notes. The perfume is sweet, lightly smoky, lightly citric, and sprinkled with huge amounts of that aromachemical’s pepper. At the base is a “woody hum” — as Luca Turin once characterized the synthetic and its constant presence in Ormonde Jayne perfumes — which continues for hours. To my surprise, Vetiver gave me a headache — and that rarely happens, even from ISO E Super.

The dapper Dior on the cover of the biography by Marie-France Pochna

The dapper Dior on the cover of the biography by Marie-France Pochna

There really isn’t much more to say about Vetiver’s evolution. It is primarily sweet, crisp vetiver with pepperiness and a lightly smoky touch that eventually turns woodier. About four hours in, the ISO E Super adds a velvety feel to the woody notes and Vetiver takes on a creamy smoothness that feels quite luxurious, despite its lightness. And, thanks to its mild sweetness, the perfume actually does evoke a little of Christian Dior’s dandyism, while always remaining sophisticated, assured, and elegant. It’s not a dark, earthy, rooty scent but more of a dapper, suave one, if that makes sense. It also feels more bright and green-yellow, than something dark and smoldering. In its final hours, Vetiver turns into a simple woody fragrance with a subtle touch of musk.

Throughout the perfume’s development, the sillage was generally moderate and the longevity excellent. Vetiver’s projection isn’t huge and loud, but rather, more discreet and well-mannered. The longevity is, however, surprised me. To my disbelief, this airy, seemingly light Vetiver lasted almost 10.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin.

I am not hugely familiar with all the vetiver fragrances out there, so it won’t be easy for me to do a comparison. Based upon my memory of Guerlain‘s (vintage) Vetiver, the benchmark classic is significantly more complex, nuanced, spicy and … well, fabulous. It’s rich, layered, and deeper. Dior’s take seems intended to be a minimalistic treatment of the note, so one can hardly fault it for a job well done. It is also much lighter, in every way possible, especially in texture and feel. If it helps, you can read Bois de Jasmin‘s comparison of the two scent here. Her bottom line summation, however, is this:

If Vétiver de Guerlain did not exist, Dior Vétiver would have been close to my ideal vetiver fragrance. It is a very good quality vetiver, and I enjoy wearing it. However, there is no surprise in it, no novelty, especially when we have so many interesting and unusual woody fragrances available, both in the prestige and the niche lines. It is pleasant, but to me, nonessential. By contrast, I cannot imagine my perfume wardrobe without Vétiver de Guerlain.

christian bale as bruce wayneIn terms of comparisons to Chanel‘s Sycomore, the two fragrances are nothing alike. Sycomore is a truly mighty, intense vetiver: all darkness with mysterious smoke, earthiness and serious woods that turn into creamy sandalwood. Complete polar opposites. Where Dior’s Vetiver evokes bright greens with a dapper touch, Sycomore evokes mysterious dark woods, earthy loamy soil, rootiness, and smoke. Dior feels like a scent that Roger Sterling from Mad Men would wear. Actually, no, Christian Bale’s “Bruce Wayne” would wear it with one of his perfect suits to a social luncheon. In contrast, the Dark Knight would wear Sycomore.

There is an enormous amount of love for Dior’s Vetiver out there. On Fragrantica, people rave about how it’s a minimalistic classic that is an essential staple for their perfume collection. One actually confesses, with some reluctance, that it may actually be superior to his beloved Guerlain Vetiver. The most interesting comment, to me, was from a commentator who said that the Dior was fantastic for layering under other scents. And, you know, I think he’s absolutely right. Dior’s Vetiver is sufficiently crisp, fresh, bright and green that it really would be the perfect vetiver base. I can’t see one using the super-complex Sycomore as a base layer, or the Guerlain, but Dior’s minimalism and purer vetiver essence would definitely work.

As a side note, I think Dior’s Vetiver could easily be worn by women who love the note. It is not a shriekingly masculine scent by any means, and seems quite unisex to me. I think it’s due to the subtle sweetness underlying the bright green vetiver. Thanks to the yellow grapefruit and the lack of spices or tobacco, the perfume also feels much brighter and fresher, less dry. In contrast, I think the Guerlain or Chanel fragrances are much more masculine in nature.

If you want to order Vetiver, there are still bottles available online and, for US readers, at the Dior boutique in Las Vegas. You can read about the exact number remaining at the Las Vegas boutique (as of 5/16/13) here. Generally, Dior’s bottles are super-sized, but the price is incredibly affordable per ounce. The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz/125 ml, and costs $155. Dior’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz/450 ml which costs $230, which comes to approximately $27 an ounce. It’s a fantastic price per ounce (though it’s also enough ounces to practically bathe in).

All in all, I thought Dior’s Vetiver was very pleasant. I will be honest and say that I would have been far more enthusiastic had it not been for my hatred for ISO E Super in large amounts. But since the majority of people only read the note as a general impression of sharp “pepperiness,” I wouldn’t worry about it at all if I were you. I think Vetiver is incredibly elegant, versatile, and, perhaps more importantly, wearable on a daily basis. It has fantastic longevity and, though it may be minimalistic in nature, you can turn that to your advantage by layering it with other fragrances. If you’re a vetiver lover, I would definitely try to get your hands on it before it’s completely gone and the prices on eBay skyrocket through the roof.

For a brief while, until it runs out, Vetiver is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. However, since it is soon being discontinued, those who want to get the few bottles that may remain should call any Dior boutique directly and buy it over the phone. In the US, it is sold only at Dior’s Las Vegas store [(702) 369-6072]. I would also try to call this Dior number — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She will be in special Dior training sessions until 5/20/13 but, if you can get a hold of her before then, she is an amazingly sweet lady who will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. As noted above, the perfume comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry some of the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, they don’t carry all of them because I think they rotate 6 at a time. I highly doubt they have Vetiver, given the discontinuation issue.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The Dior boutique closest to you should have some Vetiver bottles still available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Vetiver a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances (minus the new Gris Montaigne) in a sampler set for $35.99.

38 thoughts on “Perfume Review- Dior Vetiver (La Collection Privée)

  1. Pingback: Perfume News: Dior Discontinues Mitzah & Vetiver (La Collection Privée) | Kafkaesque

  2. I think Mitzah sounds like something I’d like but this one does not. I’ve never tried either which I’m happy about because now I won’t know what I’m missing when it disappears for good. I hate when perfumes I like get discontinued or switch to limited distribution. I suppose it is a business and they can’t keep selling all of them if they aren’t making money.

    • Yes, it’s a business where these things happen but I’m astounded that they chose *these* two since they are both very loved and, in the case of Vetiver in particular, apparently a really big seller. I think there are others in the line that are far well less known and, therefore, probably not as big sellers, so it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me. I can send you a small sample of Mitzah from my bottle, if you like and if you email me your address. I’ll try to send it soon enough so that you can smell it and try to get a bottle online if you really fall for it. My decanting supplies from Accessories for Fragrance should arrive in a day or so, so I can try to decant soon. 🙂

      • That’s so sweet of you to offer. Maybe I’ll take you up on that.
        Do you think it’s a cost thing? Perhaps the ingredients for those two are more expensive. I don’t know…

        • There seem to be hardly any ingredients in the Vetiver, so I don’t know how expensive it can be to produce. LOL. As for the Mitzah, I just got my box of decanting supplies, so please, let me send you a small sample. And I’ll include my beloved Alahine as well. They’ll be small samples (1 ml vials) but let me send you some. Email me with your address! I’ll try to have it go out by the end of the week. I truly am decanting things anyway.

  3. Thank you for your review of Dior Vetiver. As you know I have a zero-level access to Dior Privee (but I thank my friends for what they got for me! Love you!) I think I wouldn’t like Vetiver (knowing my feelings for the note) so I don’t mind it being discontinued really.

    • I think a lot of the regular readers won’t be crushed about Vetiver being discontinued but it definitely seems to be a hugely loved fragrance amongst others out there. I personally will mourn only Mitzah and thank the Gods that I have a bottle. As for you, I know vetiver isn’t your favorite note, but this one is much fresher, brighter and crisper than the dark, rooty ones that you really hate. Either way, it’s too late now. 🙁

  4. Argh, I can’t find my sample of this and now I’m wondering if STC didn’t send it when I ordered the sample set from La Collection Privée. But I don’t want to email them asking because it’s possible I lost it myself (although I don’t think so). At any rate, this sounds interesting. Not sure I’d be tempted given that I have a giant bottle of Sycomore. I adore Sycomore, but I don’t reach for it too often. I have to be in the mood. 🙂 Thanks for reviewing this one, though, I quite enjoyed it. I just wish companies would stop discontinuing stuff!

    I still laugh at the giant 8 ounce bottles. They are a seriously good price (and it would be AWESOME to split into two or three bottles), but it’s so comically large. Now that I have 8.5 ounces of Lagerfeld, I see how absurdly big the bottle is. And I thought Chanel’s 6.8 ounces was excessive! 🙂

    • Did you look at your receipt from StC to see if they had perhaps circled that Sample Set as missing the Vetiver? When I ordered my Vero Profumo trio, they did that and wrote in that Rubj was out but that they would send it to me later. They are very professional so I doubt they would forget to include one, unless the complete madness of that Special Sale got to them. But you ordered very early in that period, so I’m baffled. I wonder what happened to the Vetiver??!

      As for this one, I think it’s a lot more versatile than something like Sycomore but I also don’t think you’d be wow’d by its straightforwardness and its lack of serious complexity. It’s a toss-up; it makes it more useful in some ways, especially as a layering perfume, but it’s not a WOW scent. It’s a solid staple perfume, if that makes sense.

  5. In January I was at the Dior store in New York City, and they carry the Privee line. I have no idea what their stock is, but it might be worth a call if you are searching for the Vetiver or Mitzah.

    • I know from someone else that they don’t have any more Mitzah, except as a used sample tester hidden away in a drawer, but you’re right that it may be worth checking for the Vetiver. I doubt they’ll have it, though. 🙁

  6. I’m mourning that I have never tried Mitzah and Vetiver. When I hear about the greats of old I mourn but its more of a theoretical mourning. Ah well, I think, that was before my time. But now I feel like I am late to a party I should have been on time for. I’v tried Oud Isaphan and it is on my list of ‘to buy’. I’m thinking about calling the Las Vegas boutique and purchasing that and asking for Mitzah in the 5 ml freebie. is that a good idea? Thanks for the phone numbers and for recording this sad moment in perfume history.

  7. Well, I did it. Because Karina was unavailable I spoke with Macielle (sp?) and she was very kind. I have the Oud Isaphan I have been wanting and a mini Mitzah on the way. I also requester a vial of the Vetiver.

    • Oh I’m so glad, Mridula! I’ve heard lovely things about the Oud Ispahan, though I haven’t gotten around to testing it myself. I hope you’ll let me know what you think of the Mitzah and if it tempts you to get a full bottle while you still can! I’m so thrilled for you though that you got the Oud that you’d always wanted. 😀

  8. I’m less upset about the Vetiver discontinuation than about Mitzah’s but still. I find Vetiver very pleasant but if I want my vetiver I can still go with Vetiver Tonka from Hermess. It’s slightly sweeter than Dior’s Vetiver but, for my nose, that much different.

    • Yeah, I’m not crushed about Vetiver’s discontinuation, but then I’m not a die-hard vetiver fan in general. The news of the Mitzah, in contrast, actually made my hands shake. I was SO upset, you have no idea!

  9. FYI there are some Neiman Marcus stores that carry the Priveé line as well – the SF store has it. You might call and see if they still have Mitzah.

    • Thank you, Tama. That’s an excellent idea. I did note in the Details section “Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry some of the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, they don’t carry all of them because I think they rotate 6 at a time. I highly doubt they have Vetiver, given the discontinuation issue.” I know that the NY Dior store didn’t have Mitzah when someone checked a few weeks ago, except as a hidden tester, and I believe some Florida Neiman Marcus stores were also out. But it is an excellent idea for people to call any stores near them to just double check. 🙂

  10. Good news and bad news. Good news…I loved LOVED your review. Bad news… another of the Collection Privee hits the dust! I want them all of course so a shopping I do go. I have it on good authority that Dior Gris will be the replacement for Mitzah. I wonder what will replace Vetiver.

    • Thank you, Lanier. I think Gris Montaigne is already out, no? As for being a replacement for Mitzah, I heard they had seriously considered pulling Grand Bal instead. Either way, the Gris Montaigne had to have been planned for, produced, and created far before they seemed to decide whether to discontinue anything at all — Mitzah or Grand Bal — so I’m not sure that theory holds up. Are you going to buy the Mitzah before it’s gone? I know how much you love it. 🙂

  11. The Dior Privee line is available all over here in Dubai. It is even at Sephora (so much for exclusive…). I was at a discount perfume shop today and they had the 250 mL tester bottle of Vetiver for less than $200. If it had been Mitzah I would have snapped it up but, Vetiver has never been my favorite scent.

    • You make me want to go back for a visit to Dubai, if only to go perfume shopping!! But then, I remember the heat…… *shudder* And I’m already dying enough as it is *here,* so the thought of the UAE’s temperatures overcomes all thought of the amazing perfumes and deals you guys seem to get. 😛

      Do you have Mitzah? Will you try to hunt it down in one of the Sephoras? (I can’t believe UAE Sephoras carry such perfumes! The ones here carry Lady Gaga and Jennifer Anniston!!) I agree on Dior’s Vetiver. It wasn’t overwhelming or very special to me, but it’s a good staple scent, I think, for someone who really loves vetiver.

      • I’ll keep an eye out for Mitzah at the discount places. It is still around at the regular stores but, prices here are a lot more than the US. The small bottles are over $200. The problem with Dubai is that pret much everything is more expensive than the US or Europe (even though there is no tax). Amouage is one exception, it is much cheaper here. And our Sephoras still have plenty of junk, not to worry :-). You should definitely visit, I lived in Houston for 10 years before here and it is pretty much the same heat and humidity wise. You just learn to stay in the AC as much as possible 🙂

        • Ha, I currently live in Houston! Our summer began a while ago, while everyone else was complaining about the lack of Spring. I’m sure you can remember what that’s like! Were you here for the hottest summer in 50 years, just 2 years ago, or had you already moved by then? It was truly horrific. As for Dubai perfume prices….. ouch!!

          • Wow, that is great! I didn’t know you were in Houston. I come back at least once a year since I work for one of the big oilfield service companies and we have yearly training in Houston. Fortunately, I have been here for over five years so I missed the bad summer. But, that is probably like normal summer over here. While the weather is similar it definitely is hotter here. People don’t realize how bad 120 F and 80% humidity feels (I know I didn’t). I kept my house there for a long time until I got tired of paying for hurricane damage 🙂

  12. The mere word “discontinuation” makes me shudder. It’s also the most effective way for an sales person to make me buy something right then and there 🙂

    That being said, it’s sometimes a relief to try something you know is discontinued and not love it. For example, I recently came across a pile of Aromatics Elixir Perfumer’s Reserve for the bargain basement price of $35 a bottle. Did I try? Yes. Did I think it was great? Oh yes. But AE has never been for me and I own so many chypres, that I can’t really absorb another one right now.

    • It’s certainly easier on the wallet given all the perfume choices out there. But the word “discontinuation” still makes me sad for a perfume of this quality, my personal issues with ISO E Super notwithstanding.

  13. Pingback: Perfume Review- Dior Gris Montaigne (La Collection Privée) | Kafkaesque

  14. Very disappointed Vetiver is going. The fabled drawer backs are what makes it special to me: simplicity.
    The fact that it is not over complex makes it perfect for what I want from a daily wear. I actually bought the Guerlain but returned it before leaving the shop as it just didn’t sit right. I soon bought Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver but despite being a parfum it’s longevity is terrible and I don’t think it’s as sophisticated as the aforementioned marques…kinda young persons vibe. I feel Dior has it just right, so I was glad to have negotiated a great price on ebay yesterday on a brand new sealed 4.2oz and have the elegant bottle in front of me as I type.
    Question is do I actively seek out another given prices will only go north from here?

    • Hi Noble Savage. Welcome to the blog. Given what you’ve described, I think you should get another bottle if you find one that doesn’t cost a fortune. The Dior sounds like Goldilock’s perfect porridge, not too youthful or short-lived like the Tom Ford, not like the Guerlain either. More importantly, it is a scent you can wear daily, as opposed to one limited to special occasions, so you’d get a lot of wear out of each bottle. I hope you find another one. Good luck!

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