Friday, January 3, 2014

Not So Vanilla: Roundup of My Favorite Vanilla Scents

Vanilla, as a fragrance note, is often considered bland and generic, but I think that's because it's seemingly ubiquitous. S. insists that a "perfectly done" vanilla ice cream is the best sweet treat in the entire world, and I'm inclined to agree. It's found in a lot of perfumes, but it's not always the same; sometimes it contributes sweetness, sometimes comfort and warmth, sometimes it just softens the rest of the bouquet.

I used to be a bit abashed about proclaiming my love for vanilla, but there it is - for perfumes, I often like things sweet. What can I say? I know there are many who adore vanilla scents, and many who abhor them, but today I'm going to share my list of vanilla perfumes. I'm not a real perfumista, so this is just a tiny bit of vanilla space, but maybe we'll discover a shared gem?

Most of my favorite vanillas are tempered with something odd - I love the twist of licorice in Jo Malone's breathy Vanilla & Anise, the medicinal benzoin in Prada Candy, the chilled mint in Solstice Scents' Snowshoe PassI'm not really into "frosting" vanilla, or anything that smells directly like food (I prefer to eat my cake rather than smell like one), though I admit that some of my favorites toe the gourmand line. I am not, however a fan of berry/lemon + vanilla; the combination is cloying to me and I have to experiment with cult favorites like Hanae Mori Butterfly (not really a vanilla, but meant to mimic one) very carefully.

Diptyque's Eau Duelle is a recent discovery, and I love it - it's perfectly unassuming and dries down to be what I consider the quintessential vanilla (fluttering through cardamom and tea leaves first); I'm trying to decide whether I want to spend Diptyque money on something so...vanilla, but inevitably I probably do (because dear God the bottle is pretty).

On the other hand, Atelier Cologne's Vanille Insensée is all weird powdery fuzzy rocks to me, a little bit of vanilla and a lot of oakmoss. If you like your vanilla with a healthy dose of gnarled tree, try this one. Actually, ok. It's a dark, cold vanilla scent, where the usual sweet warmth of the note only exists as a hazy smoke. As I write this, it may be growing on me. (Like a tree).

Finally, the surprise of the mix, as I usually shy away from anything "Oriental:" L'Occitane's Vanille & Narcisse. It's uh, flowery. Which is also a little different from my usual vanilla concoctions. It starts with bursts of spicy floral petals, and then dries down into a sweeter, richer vanilla froth. Spicy floral persists here and there, keeping it interesting.

I do admit that I tend toward vanilla in the colder months; I still spritz Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise in the summer, because it's lighter and, er, spritzier. I also think Eau Duelle would be just as pleasant on a warm summer night as it is right now at the tip of January, but I'll have to get back to you on that.

Of course, it wouldn't be a proper round-up without telling you my lemmings. Got any to add?

My vanilla "to-smell" list:
CB I Hate Perfumes 7 Billion Hearts (The Non-Blonde)
Hermés Hermèssence Vanille Galante (Now Smell This)
Laura Mercier Ambre Vanille (mostly because of Appu's review)
Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille (Olfactoria's review here, another equally yummy review at The Non-Blonde)
Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille (Kafkaesque's review)

For more vanilla: check out Elena's well-done Vanilla series at Perfume Shrine, and Perfume Posse's roundup.

What's your favorite vanilla perfume? Or are you an edgier kinda people?