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A Tale of Two Vetivers

I am a base oil lover. Patchouli, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Frankincense, Vetiver, they are all on my favourites list. Base oils are usually the more relaxing and grounding oils, which make them a must in my day to day life. They bring you back to the earth, help with sleep, and calm nerves. In an essential oil blend they are used to give the blend depth and stamina. They are usually the most viscous oils, and take the longest to evaporate, meaning you smell them last, but the scent lingers longest.

Many base oils, with maybe the exception of Frankincense, seem to be love them or hate them oils, especially Vetiver. I have heard the smell of Vetiver described as a mix of leather and dirty socks, and also as sweet and smokey.

Vetiver is in both my Calming Massage Oil, and my Grounding Cream. I go through a lot of it. I recently ran out of Vetiver while making my massage oils, and needed to order more. I decided to order from a different company, one that I had not ordered from before. It has a really good reputation, and really good prices, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Whoa, what a scent difference! My previous Vetiver, I would say, fell into the “sweet and smokey” category, but this new one, well...lets just say dirty socks definitely came to mind! I started researching where each company sourced their Vetiver. Many things can affect the chemical make-up, and therefore the scent of an oil. Growing conditions, altitude, time of day and season picked, etc, will all affect the oil. The previous company sourced their Vetiver from Haiti, and the newer (to me) company sourced theirs from Indonesia. In this case, Country of Origin would be my best guess as to the drastic scent difference in the two oils. Unlike Eucalyptus, for example, which has many different types, all of which have a different scent, E. citriodora, E. globulus and E. Smithii, just to name a few, there is only one Vetiver, Vetiveria zizanioides.

I felt this would be a good opportunity to talk about homemade products, and how no two batches will be the same.

Before I make a product for the first time, I sit with the essential oils I have chosen to add to it, and a small blending bottle. I then add, drop by drop, each oil, until I have the scent that I want. If I am making a product to sell to the general public, I try and make a scent that I feel would be both therapeutic and popular with a wide range of people. I then use this blend in the recipe, which means next time I make the same product I will use the same blend formula. This is what I did when I made a new batch of Calming Massage Oil with the new Vetiver. I used the same blend formula, using the new Vetiver with the same ratio as the old...that was a mistake. The new Vetiver completely overpowered the whole blend. That’s all that could be smelled. If you love Vetiver, it’s not so big a deal, but if you dislike Vetiver then you would never want to use this massage oil.

The batch of massage oil in question was a bulk order for a masseuse here on the island. I told her to try it out and see if it was okay, if not I would replace it. I didn’t want to waste a big bottle of massage oil! She tried it for about a week, and she realized a definite reduction in people requesting the Calming Massage Oil. So I reformulated the blend, using the same essential oils, and replaced it, and now it smells wonderful, but not exactly the same as before.

This sort of thing happens all the time when you are working with all natural ingredients and making small batches at home, no two batches will be exactly the same. But it’s also part of what makes homemade products so special!