Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire

After reading some of the early reports on this new collection from Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire, I wasn’t expecting much. Nieman-Marcus was offering a set of samples as a freebie when you buy something else, so I was happy to get them and see for myself. The price point doesn’t make me happy, $180 for 50 mls. Is this the new price hurdle? More importantly, are the worth it?

I had intended to blast through all six of them in one post, but I think it will take longer.

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Orchidee Vanille was created by Randa Hammami. Notes of mandarin orange, litchi, bitter almond, dark chocolate, Bulgarian rose, violet, vanilla, cedar, balsamic tonka bean and white musk make up the perfume. Octavian has reviewed all of these perfumes, and if you look at the bottom of his post, there are links to the others. Like him, I was surprised. I don’t have his knowledge of the chemicals/ingredients that go into the perfumes, but this is clearly a well made perfume. I expected a much sweeter concoction, which is what you usually get if a perfumer/designer chooses to pair orchid and vanilla either in the notes or the name. This is slightly smoky, offering up the vanilla pod as the main feature, with a little bit of a booziness floating around. This isn’t the heavy gourmand vanilla scent, it floats like an evening on a tropical beach with the soft breeze blowing across your face. It reminds me a little of Le Labo’s Vanille 44. Some may complain that it’s just not strong, but it has that same wafting quality that I found in the Vanille 44. I’m a big fan of wafters, I don’t need the perfume to be completely present as I press my nose against my skin, but I do need it to gently scent the air so I smell this great echo as I walk through a room. I think it is so delicate and gorgeous. Like Octavian, if I hadn’t been told it was from Van Cleef & Arpels, I would have pegged it more for a Guerlain La Matiere scent, though a much lighter one, a more ethereal Spiriteuse Double Vanille. Spraying this perfume is essential. So if you get that little sample set from NM, get a sprayer. You’re welcome in advance.

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection ExtraordinaireVan Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Gardenia Petale has notes of green and citrus, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine and gardenia. Wow. The full smelly gardenia shows up on first spritz, but it’s tempered with the other notes so it’s not as bleu cheesey as it could be and as some are, like the Tom Ford. It just feels lush, like a fully in bloom gardenia. The gardenia always makes me think of ripe women. No, not like that. I mean, as women age, we get a softness, a decay that I’ve always thought is incredibly sexy, and the gardenia just seems to embody that change that women go through in their lives. Gardenia Petale blooms in the open, ripening until you’re thinking, oh, dear, and then it just pulls back into the lily, jasmine and tuberose. It’s not as sweetly pretty as the Isabey Gardenia, which is another gardenia that I love. I typically don’t like gardenia perfumes, Lady Day from SIP and the Isabey being two exceptions. This is another.

Okay, there you have it! I’d offer a sample set, but I’m clearly going to spray all of my little vials of this, sorry! From just the sniffing in the vial and these two, this collection clearly belongs together. I’m sniffing the Gardenia next to the Vanille, and they sit side by side beautifully. I’m pretty sure you could layer or combine most of these to create something else. I’ve heard some complaints about tenacity. These two seem to have good staying power. They aren’t muscle perfumes, flexing their little olfactory biceps all the time until you beg them to stop with soap and a scrub brush. They seem softer, but linger. The gardenia is pretty darn tenacious, though, but I expected that one to be the most tenacious of the six.

So Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire delivered with their big high-end launch for me. I’m hoping Cartier doesn’t fail me when they launch theirs. But is it too much to ask that they do a darn coffret of 1/4-1/2 ounce of all of them? I’m not sure I can answer the question if they are worth it or not. I think that price point is too much for any perfume, but I do understand when they do it because someone else has already been there. Would I pay that for at least these two? Yeah, but I’m an idiot that way (hey, Mon Precioux, I’m looking at you!)

  • Woody3D says:

    Well this ios all very heartening to hear! I am a Ma n and an Artist so I love aromathgerapy type stuff, I bought the Mugeut Blanc last week as a pillow spray and it is fantastic (with it’s close to the skin and lesser staying power it works very well on crisp white linen! I am going to Neiman tommorow to buy the Gardenia Petale’ for wearing on pulse point while sitting at the computyer animating for loong long sessions. hard work but in an exquisite environment! they should make wedding candles of these scents… I am, also buying the new (double size half the price) of TOM FORD CHAMPACA ABSOLUTE they have the 3.4oz for $260.00 now – that’s a great deal,. (relative to the original price points with only the 1.7 and the 8.3’s out. i’m sure glad I waited and sampled hard for a week. (now THIS one (Champaca) I WEAR and not just while doing my Art :)!!!

    Thanks all!

  • aubrey says:

    I wore a teensy touch of the VO yesterday and today… it’s so simple but so lovely. I’m eyeing a split on the wiki and thinking that I really must have this. Today, I can clearly make out the chocolate and the orange which are both notes that I don’t normally like but love in this particular concoction. It’s lovely.

  • well, I like wafters very much because of their light smell and also because they make environment pleasant.

  • Tara C says:

    Okay, it looks like I’m the lone dissenting voice so far – I sniffed these at Neiman Marcus last week and found them to be meh. Of course, that probably has more to do with my personal taste in fumes than the quality of this particular launch. I am heavy into spices, incense, and killer orientals, so these didn’t do it for me at all. Too light, nondescript and generic for my nose… but I am going to re-sniff anyway, due to all the great reviews. Maybe on a day when I haven’t been wearing Pure Oud or Wazamba. 🙂

    • Patty says:

      Oh, I think if you like the heavy things, these wouldn’t work at all for you! So dissenting is good, they don’t sound like they fit your taste!

  • Maura says:

    Thanks Patty, now intrigued by Orchidee Vanille. I love fragrances that create an aura and have *waftage* 😉 I can’t help but think of Hermes Vanille Galante from your description. This has a slightly smoky opening on me and sounds like it has the same feel as the VC&A…light and ethereal. I really only have room for one more vanilla in my collection and will now have to consider this along with the much anticipated Havana Vanille. 🙂

    • Patty says:

      There’s a bit of the Vanille Galante feel to it, but not the lily. I do like the direction of Vanilla perfumes lately. For so long, it was all the heavy, sugar-coated crap, but with the Hermes, the L’Artisan, Le Labo’s and this, I’m pretty happy with all of those and find myself wearing them a lot.

  • aubrey says:

    Yay! Someone with a BPB (big perfume blog) finally did a review about these!! Everyone should try them!

    I had my first visit to a Neiman Marcus store last month, and I tried these at the counter and WAS FLOORED. Like you, I didn’t have very high hopes— but I really loved the Muguet Blanche, Orchidee Vanille and Cologne Noire. I can’t really afford them at this point, but I am really impressed by the quality and the lasting power. I too would be conflicted (disappointed and excited) to see them hit the discounters. They deserve better fanfare and a huge following.

    QUESTION: I tried First, and while it was nice, it wasn’t really my thing. Are the other/original VC&A as high quality as these?

    • carmencanada says:

      Aubrey, the other VC&A are quite different from this line. First is probably the last great aldehydic fragrance (it goes back to 1976), Jean-Claude Ellena’s first big commission; VC&A pour Homme is an excellent big-shouldered leather chypre. I wore both back in the days… I’d say that if you enjoyed the new collection’s style, you might not enjoy the older ones. But they’re good.

    • Patty says:

      What CC said.

      hey, we had the same reaction! I always if my low expectations impact that? Naw, they really are beautifully made, which I’m pretty content to get these days.

      I do think they’re 75 mls for the 185? Not sure now.

  • Musette says:

    Well! I am sur-prized! I haven’t had much interest in trying anything lately (probably a combo of exhaustion and allergies) but this gardenia sounds lush, as does the muguet. I’m in for a sniff – will check them out when next in civilization!

    And I know exactly what you mean about ‘ripe’ women. I’m fully in that phase and at first was gonna try to resist but the Borg are right – Resistance is Futile. This ‘time’ is great for lush perfumes like Femme – and this Gardenia Petale sounds like a contender as well. Can’t wait to try it!

    xo >-)

    • Patty says:

      Hey, I’m embracing my ripeness. 🙂

      Do try them. I don’t know if they’ll be your style, the gardenia one is the most likely, though I still haven’t sniffed the rest.

  • mals86 says:

    I wasn’t interested in these (spendy, jewelry-designer collection stuff? budget says NO!) until now… lovely reviews, by the way. And both vanilla and tuberose seem to linger on my usually-scent-eating skin. Sigh. Curses. Will have to test these now.

    • Patty says:

      Sorry!!! The good news is you can put aside the new Tom ford musk things, don’t even worry about those, and just head straight for these.

      I’m really afraid that the Cartiers will be good too, and they have a similar price point. Tragic, seriously, for my budget.

      I think they’re really stunningly pretty. Not huge groundbreaking avante garde stuff, just beautifully crafted perfumes that smell amazing.

  • carmencanada says:

    I’m also feeling the love for these. They’re not out yet here in Paris, so you have to ask for the hidden testers, which means I couldn’t do real tests of the collection, except for the Gardenia. But I find them quite lovely, very well made, and the iris made me blurt out “Oh, that’s beautiful” (and I’m not a big iris person).

    I can only second your take on the gardenia — but now I’ll have to find other similes to review it!

    • Patty says:

      Were you surprised? Maybe I’m the only person that had really low expectations, but mine are pretty low for almost everything now, so it takes less to clear my hurdle of at least bringing out something good to smell.

      I haven’t read the Luca Turin interview, just saw part of the discussion on BN, but he talked about not updating the Guide anymore because so many perfumes suck and aren’t masterpieces, etc. It’s gotten me to thinking, do we really expect perfumes to be masterpieces? I think of all the clothing/jewelry/shoes/lipstick/eyeshadow made, and most are just an update of something else, or made cheaper or better or in a different color. I’m wondering if we are holding our perfumers to some ridiculous standard to wow us over and over again.

      I guess that’s why I’m so darn happy when they do, but I just figure very few things will really wow me, nor do I think it’s their duty to do that when most perfumes that sell a ton aren’t that, they’re more bland but pretty and therefore more acceptable to the public.

      Okay, I meandered. This is more one of those discussions one should have in Paris with you over espresso or wine. Hey! That’s a great idea!

      • carmencanada says:

        Hey, I’m getting pretty jaded/saturated myself, and it’s a rare thing that makes me exclaim “that’s beautiful” right at the first sniff. It still happens — off the bat, I could name Eau Première, Beige, Pure Oud and Vanille Galante in recent releases, A Scent warranting “oh, that’s really nice”. Not a bad track record, really: say half a dozen launches that still have me swooning.
        But, no, I’m not expecting masterpieces all the time: I just want not to be taken for a sucker. Really well made, lovely, wearable and somehow unpretentious scents like the VC&A make me quite happy. Much as I love my masterpieces (mostly vintage), they’re not what I reach for in the morning.
        And the first thing I heard the morning when I wore Gardenia Pétale was “You smell beautiful”. I did, I knew it and what more could I ask for?

    • Patty says:

      BTW, did I ever tell you how much Harry liked you when he met you in January? Harry likes everyone for the most part, but it is very rare for him to comment on how much he enjoyed anyone’s company, he’s a hard kid to impress.

  • bryan says:

    I was really hoping these would be great and I got some samples thanks to Jeff in the Las Vegas Neiman’s…he’s amazing…and hot…but I digress…I then honestly fell hard for them.
    Usually florals (my loves) don’t have the tenacity I crave. But these, with the possible exception of the Muguet, all seem to stick around and evolve. I particularly adore the gardenia…not too sweet, not too green. And not a tuberose dressed up in gardenia clothing (not that I’d mind).
    I will revisit the Orchidee, but my initial was that it’s too sweet. Maybe I should try again.
    The Lys was gorgeous too. I was really pleasantly surprised I liked almost all of them.
    Kudos to VCetA….they can pick a great perfumer (or five) and seem to back them budget wise.

    • Patty says:

      Agree, Bryan. My expectations were a lot lower, just because it seemed like they were jumping on the same Chanel/Tom Ford upscale perfume thing. I was taken aback at how great they are. No whacky names, no fancy packaging, no big media hype, just beautifully made perfumes. Figures from VC&A, it fits their image.

      Much as I agree with VioletNoir, I’d love to see them come to discounters, it will also make me sad because these deserve more love than TF and Chanel for quality alone, but I don’t think they’ve got the media machine or name power that those two have. And they are better perfumes by far.

  • Melissa says:

    I tried the Gardenia Petale the other day and found it to be oh-so-tempting, but not quite at that price. I loved the lightly sweet tuberose drydown. My skin eats fragrance, but it lasted for hours, if a litte close to the skin. I like waft that whooses from body to nose every few minutes!

    I sniffed the Orchidee Vanille on paper only, but your description fits my impression pretty closely. Definitely gourmand, it made me think of a whipped dessert rather than a pastry, with some light floral notes floating around. I look forward to trying this on skin.

    The other one that I tried on skin was the Muguet Blanc. This is my favorite so far. I’ll await your review before I attempt to wax poetic.

    • Patty says:

      Okay, now I’m really anxious to try the Muguet Blanc!!!

      I do wish they were maybe $120 or so. That just seems more in line, but they are so well done, more so than most of the Tom Fords, which also sell at that price point, so they shouldn’t be selling for less than what he charges for his high-end fragrances.

      I can’t believe I said that.

  • violetnoir says:

    Yeah, I agree. These six are very well done. I did not test the Gardenia (dern, wish I had based on what you and Octavian wrote!), but the Orchidee Vanille, Muguet Blanche (is it?), the lys one, and the cologne were all very lovely. I think of those four I liked the muguet the best, but it may have been the lys that I liked. And the cologne was pretty heavenly, too. I could see my husband wearing that one.

    Maybe these will get to the discounters at some point soon? I was shocked by how quickly Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blance and the PR got to Parfum1.

    Hugs, rsj

    • Patty says:

      I’m so anxious to smell the others! But I just wanted to take my time with them and enjoy each of them. you must try the gardenia, it’s just lovely and feminine, and it’s still on my skin this morning

  • carter says:

    Oh, the gardenia sounds nice. Gardenia is hard. I am so lemming some Lady Day.

  • Francesca says:

    I don’t know these frags at all, but I loved what you wrote: “I’m a big fan of wafters, I don’t need the perfume to be completely present as I press my nose against my skin, but I do need it to gently scent the air so I smell this great echo as I walk through a room.”

    • carter says:

      Second that. That’s what L’Animatiere does on me and is precisely why it knocks me out.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, thanks. I think these are worth a sniff, to be sure, despite the price tag that I don’t like so much. But they are ones that you have to spend a skosk of time with one at a time, which is why it’s a shame when they bring out six at once. Two would have been good. Maybe three.