One of you mentioned on here not too long ago that somebody – Nigella Lawson? – dabbed vanilla extract behind her ears. So I tried it; why not? Yes, I wore vanilla extract behind my ears and on my wrists for a day, some decent-quality stuff. The sillage isn’t great, and the lasting power is pretty minimal, but while it’s on there it’s nice enough. I totally understand why men are supposed to find it arousing. It’s edible and familiar and uncomplicated.
I love the smell of vanilla extract. We go through it fairly quickly in my house, not because I’m wearing it but because we bake a lot of sweets, particularly in the winter.
So if I love the smell of vanilla so much, why don’t I own any plain-Jane vanilla scents by now, although I tried quite a few again recently? I don’t really know. I think it’s partly because I’ve always felt that by the time a perfume was reduced to that simple a concept, I might as well just go ahead and wear some vanilla extract. The closest thing I own and wear to a plain vanilla is my oft-mentioned big-mini dab-on of Demeter Egg Nog, which sounds awful but smells great – not egg-noggy at all, really, but a warm, lightly spicy, not gaggingly sweet vanilla.
Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille starts off almost vanilla-extract, with a nice touch of smoke, but unfortunately on my skin dries down to a honey-tobacco, which is lovely, but if I’m swinging that way I’d rather have the Kilian Back to Black. For some more smokey-vanilla ideas, here’s a link to a previous post on the subject.
Leaving us with a very short list of two oddball vanillas I own a bottle of and wear:
L’Artisan Vanilia – ylang, vanilla, sandalwood. This one has been discontinued, which shocks me, as I think it was relatively popular, and one of their oldest scents. It was replaced by last year’s Havana Vanille in the lineup, which, in a weird plot twist, Robin at NST has reported will be renamed Vanille Absolument, I’m not sure what that’s about.
Vanilia is the one LT gives five stars to in The Guide and clearly adores, calling it a “candyfloss vanilla” and “so totally devoid of chic it has become the reference holiday from propriety and convention … there will always be time for refinement later.” He says, and he should know, that its huge, weird candy wallop comes from ethylmaltol. All I know is it’s loads of fun, a trashy, synthetic-smelling thing that thrills me the same way the (equally trashy, possibly even more strident) Gucci Rush thrills me. It’s about as far away from a “natural” vanilla smell as you can get, while still being something I very much want to wear, and just dark (burnt?) enough that it’s not cloying, which is a problem I have with regular vanilla scents in the first place. I’m not sure how old my bottle is but it’s old enough to have the lovely old-style cap, and it has some nice sandalwood in it as well.
Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise – angelica, almond, vanilla, musk, sandalwood and guaiac wood. One of the reviews in The Guide I totally disagree with. TS dislikes it and says it smells like burning hair. I admit I was a bit taken aback the first time I smelled it. It’s odder, in its way, than Vanilia. You have to search out the vanilla, which is woven into a scent that smells heavily of woody-incense and a bit of bread. To me it’s a great example (like Shalimar) of a vanilla scent that has been stretched toward loftier ambitions, which in my book Vanille Exquise achieves. Folks who like sweeter, resiny incense scents and are willing to push their boundaries might find this worth a sniff.
No list of oddball vanillas would be complete without a mention of Hermes Vanille Galante and Guerlain Shalimar, neither of which I care for or have anything nice to say about, so I’ll give it a rest, except to say that you Shalimar freaks really ought to think hard about getting your hands on a few ml of the Shalimar Ode de La Vanille, which throws more of the focus on the vanilla end of things. It’s still quite recognizably Shalimar, unlike the dreadful new Opium flanker. I can’t say I like Ode, which is probably as it should be, but the drydown’s stunning. And while I’m at it I’ll throw Givenchy Organza Indecence on here, a niche-frag perennial favorite that often doesn’t even have vanilla listed in the notes but smells nicely spicy-vanillic to me, and has comforted me through many a dark January day.
Okay, your turn – what have I forgotten from the oddball vanilla list?