VE­TIVER FROM SEED TO SCENT

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Beauty Bottled -

OMETIMES, NOTH­ING SMELLS QUITE AS SWEET as a suc­cess no one had thought pos­si­ble. For David and Julia Bridger of Bri­tish fra­grance brand Parterre, that some­thing is a rip­pling field of ve­tiver, the warm, woody per­fumery in­gre­di­ent tra­di­tion­ally grown in In­dia, Haiti… and now Keyne­ston Mill in Dorset. With a team of gar­den­ers and botanists, a maitre de feuil­lage (mas­ter of fo­liage) and a per­fumer from Grasse on board, Keyne­ston Mill was es­tab­lished by the Bridgers five years ago and ded­i­cated to the nur­tur­ing, har­vest­ing and dis­till­ing of aro­matic plants for the sole pur­pose of per­fumery. ‘We were driv­ing through the south of France six years ago and no­ticed Grasse on the map,’ says Julia. ‘We stopped to wan­der around the gar­dens of the per­fume mu­seum and that’s when ev­ery­thing fell into place. David’s fam­ily has a farm­ing her­itage and we’d al­ways loved per­fume and hor­ti­cul­ture. Why not grow these plants at home with the aim of mak­ing our own fra­grance?’ Ve­tiver was among the Bridgers’ first crops. ‘It’s such a fan­tas­tic smell and is used in so many won­der­ful – of­ten uni­sex – per­fumes,’ says Julia. ‘Our hor­ti­cul­ture team had no idea what it was, never hav­ing worked in the coun­tries where it’s gen­er­ally grown, but they did their re­search, tried sev­eral plots and, as it hap­pens, ve­tiver likes wet con­di­tions, so it turned out in­cred­i­bly well.’ Their next task was to turn their ve­tiver into an oil to send to Jac­ques Chabert, mas­ter per­fumer be­hind iconic fra­grances like Guer­lain Sam­sara and Chanel Christalle.

‘In­dian ve­tiver is dried in a tent known as “the sea of tran­quil­lity”. Here, we use a dry­ing room heated to 22°C – it smells fan­tas­tic,’ says David. From there the ve­tiver goes into the dis­tiller and what emerges can be any­thing from a tea­spoon of oil to a large cup. ‘And that’s two to three years’ work,’ adds David.

Once fil­tered and ma­tured, the oil was pre­sented to Parterre’s board of in­de­pen­dent chemists and scent con­sul­tants to de­cide whether it was good enough to send to Jac­ques. ‘At this stage, our ve­tiver al­most stum­bled,’ says Julia. ‘It wasn’t like the In­dian, Haitian or Ja­van va­ri­eties, but greener and less smokey, more like per­fumed hay. For­tu­nately, it was de­cided that it was def­i­nitely ve­tiver and ac­tu­ally rather lovely, so we took it to Jac­ques with the other in­gre­di­ents we’d pro­duced so he could work his magic and cre­ate our fra­grances.’

Along­side their home-grown ve­tiver, the Bridgers now have over 40 essences, in­clud­ing gera­nium, iris, jas­mine, and clary sage, and have pro­duced lim­ited-edi­tion runs of three eaux de par­fum, their aro­matic blend of ve­tiver, berg­amot, hys­sop and gin­ger among them. ‘Each bot­tle is num­bered by hand, and when they’re gone, they’re gone,’ says Julia. Un­til the next batch takes root, that is…

Parterre Root Of All Good­ness Eau de Par­fum, £160: clean and cit­russy, with warm leather and gin­ger.

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