Oddball Vanillas

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?

212 Comments
Rednails January 17, 2011

Funny in all these comments no one seems to have mentioned Habanita. On me it is almost all vanilla, with some powder and goat thrown in.

maidenbliss January 14, 2011

I spritzed from a 2ml spray sample. As I said above it opened w blast of cloves but dried down pretty quickly to much ado about nothing. This morning the little bit remaining on my wrist is just a hint of sandalwood, almost indefinable, maybe a trace of saffron? Rose is barely discernible. I notice a huge difference in sampling small sprays, vials and fb. I'm sure this would have been much stronger had it come from fb. Can I ask where you got the travel bottle? Like we've all said about revisiting things we were not 'taken with' - this is worthy of a few visits. Exciting about Diva. I remember those days....

maidenbliss January 13, 2011

Oh, please check back and let me know. I think Robin's right-it's almost transparent. I don't think even dousing would be enough.

maidenbliss January 13, 2011

ST has settled into a pool of charm on my wrist. No, not the Charms candy. I'd need to refresh it since there's not much left to sniff but it's a warm sweet ride. Winter scent. Not quite sexy enough for me.

maidenbliss January 13, 2011

Thank you so much *she says* for reminding me I dropped Downward Dog's leash and don't even want to look for it. :) Tree Pose is a *long standing* favorite. If you hadn't reminded me of how lazy I'm being I wouldn't feel guilty. ST opened with the sharp zing of cloves which made me run over to NST for quick check. Cloves it is. Then comes vanilla, drying down to an orange/rose powdery sweetness. Not much staying power, very feminine. I'm guessing I never retried it b/c of the clovey opening. What say you? Like it?

maidenbliss January 13, 2011

You actually think I'm going to scrub Ambra Nobile 1942 off my right wrist and Dior Eau Noire off my my left -- a risk I'll have to ponder. There's always my legs but being the NE coast is getting slammed w snow and these gams are not going to be exposed. Ok, I'll dip my fingers in ST and wait awhile. *I* can be patient, too.

maidenbliss January 13, 2011

I'm going to pull out my Safran Troublant since I don't recall any vanilla. Maybe I didn't wait for the change up. Never have I done that before. Uh huh.

Shelley January 13, 2011

Okay, this time I read through the thread--lots of new additions!--before adding my late last night "aha!" What about Safran Troublant, or Poivre Piquant? Both of those do a change up that ends up with sweetened milkish vanilla, or vanillaish milk, depending on you nose, I suppose.

Parfymerad January 13, 2011

I'm another person who cannot take straight-up vanilla on myself, although I love vanilla-extract in cake ;) The closest I get is the wonderful vanilla basenote in Songes, whether edt or edp - somehow the 'tropical' context makes the sweetness bearable.

maidenbliss January 13, 2011

Le Labo Patchouli 24...I'm smelling my arms, my wrists, my fingers. It's an oddball for sure, no patch, but what a beautiful sniff, a bit too sweet but addictive all the same. My Utopia: Patch 24/Cuir Ottoman. Whips and Dirty Sugar.

Victoria January 12, 2011

March, I so enjoy your vanilla posts! I do not understand why L'Artisan discontinued Vanilia, which used to be my favorite vanilla scent. An abstract vanilla, if you will. Then they rename Havana Vanille, which must have to do with some trademark infringement. I cannot imagine another reason why they would rename it, as it is such a great name. At any rate, I agree with you on the fragrances list you. The only one I would have added is Nicolai Vanille Tonka, but it is discontinued as well...

Wordbird January 12, 2011

What about Dior Addict? On my skin it's a huge vanilla and I (OK, I know this makes me a hussy) love it. But then, I love Black and SDV and Organza Indecence and so many others mentioned here... Vanilla harlot, that's me.

Ann January 12, 2011

Hi March, so glad to see this post since you've been wanting to do it. On this snowbound day, it's really made me smile, so thanks! I am loving all the mentions on here today, since I am a dyed-in-the wool vanilla 'ho. My faves are Indult Tihota (wish it weren't so darned expensive/exclusive), Organza Indecence, Micallef's Note Vanille, Le Labo Vanille 44 and Diptyque's Eau Duelle. I also like Guerlain's Angelique Noire, Gourmand Coquin, and, SDV in small doses, when I'm in the mood for it. Also, have just tried the Ode a la Vanille, and it's not too bad on me, considering that regular Shalimar hates me. BTW, for any of you Tihota lovers, I've found that Memoire Liquid's Amour or Vanille Noir du Mexique, although not in the same class, are somewhat similar, at least on my skin.

aotearoa January 12, 2011

I think Le Labo Patchouli 24 is a really oddball vanilla - after several hours of diesel and other aromas of the mechanic's workshop I am always amazed to smell vanilla wafting up at me. I have an out of character liking for Indult's Tihota on a bleak gery rainy day in winter it's smoky vanilla - lightly applied - is perfect.

mariekel January 12, 2011

Like others here, I cannot take full-on vanilla. It is not that it induces feelings of nausea or anything, it just seems so little girl-y and out of character for me. That said, I would love to find a an off-center vanilla that would give just the right girly vibe to a concoction with one of my leathers or incenses to create the ultimate sex bomb perfume: part goth, part Lolita (my bombshell collection is currently dominated by Delrae Amoureuse and Bella Bellissima Perfect Night, which are entirely grown up fragrances).

Rowanhill January 12, 2011

Oldie, probably reformulated by now but I still have fond memories of Laura Biagiotti's Roma from the beginning of 90's.

aelily January 12, 2011

Not sure if qualifies as "oddball", but I love DSH's Coeur de Vanille!

Suzy Q January 12, 2011

What about Kenzo Amour? I don't think anyone's mentioned it and I haven't smelled it in years. Is it straight up or oddball?

FragrantWitch January 12, 2011

Shalimar freak here! :d Die- hard Guerlain fan as well. I will add to the love of Bulgari Black (kinky vanilla) and also Magazine Street. Emeraude and Organza Indecence are in there as well - though the OI is sometimes cloying, maybe hormones? My kitchen currently smells gorgeous as we have just made Buttered Rum Meltaways, with clove, cinnamon and allspice- if I could bottle the smell I would! :-)

Geordan1244 January 12, 2011

All in all, vanilla is my most-sought-after note in a fragrance. I love SDV (it's soo boozy and thick on me, I just love it), B2B, and many more. I wish I had bought Vanilia. Got a sample from my fragrance penpal (who also happens to be my evil scent twin in most things), and loved it. I just got a decant of Vanilla Gallant, and cannot, cannot, cannot abide by it. Uggh. I should have known (I think it's the florals there). I love Ode de la Vanilla and bought a bottle in a panic at Saks, because I couldn't let it go the way of the dinasaurs the way Vanilia did... Just tried Micallef Note de VAnilla, and it's wayy too sweet for me. Although Vanilla is my most used note, it's got to be balanced with something else. On the other hand, it can't be to light, or shallow in a fragrance, either. I wish Le Labo V44 had MORE vanilla in it. It starts out wonderful, then moves to almost straight incense on my skin. Creeds Sublime Vanilla is so light, it's just a "nice" vanilla, but nothing to write home about. Musks (all except Kiehls) bring out the sweet in my skin - they almost are vanilla with a bang, if that makes sense? Okay, enough of my rambling... :)

Disteza January 12, 2011

If you're looking for an upscale vanilla that's closer to the pod and less tobacco-inspired than SDV, I recommend Indult's Tihota. It's about as close to the pod as you're likely to get in perfumes, and it has excellent lasting power. It is also, sadly, ridiculously expensive.

mary January 12, 2011

Thanks for the fun post,March! You sent me.digging for my Habanita; I hadn't even realized. I was I the mood for Vanilla. Btw, it wasgranny on the Beverly Hillbillies who recommended the vanilla extract behind the ears--for courtin'! U~o)

Mals86 January 12, 2011

My sister's husband is a great fan of vanilla scents on her - he calls her "sexy cake" if she's wearing one. I find that some of my favorites have a strong vanilla presence, but they're not straight-up vanillas: vtg Emeraude, Shalimar Light, the aforementioned Smell Bent One, and PdN Vanille Tonka, which on me is not terribly vanilla, but a lot like a cocktail of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and Dr. Pepper. (If you're cringing, I don't want to know about it.) I do like Havana Vanille, but it's not what I'd call a favorite.

grizzlesnort January 12, 2011

Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies wore Vanilla Extract-- Gotta love her! I got a sample of a Hanae Mori that smells like vanilla and lemon-each good, but not together, no.

Robin January 12, 2011

I wonder if Vanilia ran afoul of IFRA and they didn't want to reformulate it? But still puzzled about Havana Vanille -- it was a great name. And they particularly wrote to me to ask me to change the name, but it still says Havana Vanille on their own website. Weird.

DinaC January 12, 2011

Vanilla, when it's the centerpiece of a scent, is not my favorite note. I like it best when it's a part of the orchestra instead of a soloist. Here are three examples: 1. Vol de Nuit Evasion -- a nice floral with a bit of that classic Guerlain vanilla drydown. Lovely and not gourmand, which I loathe. 2. Kenzo Amour -- rice steam, spices, and vanilla. A comfort scent for me, and as close to a gourmand as I'll ever get. 3. Belle en Rykiel -- lavender and vanilla, well blended with a hint of coffee, too. Those are my idea of good vanilla scents.

Heather B January 12, 2011

What about Smell bents One- vanilla and musty books. I'm so glad I got a bottle before it disappeared.

OperaFan January 12, 2011

I agree with Karin and Rappleyea above on their choices of PdN's Vanille Intense and Angelique Noir. VI is a beautiful smoked, carmelized sugared creme brule on me and Angelique Noir with that touch of fresh green (I guess it's the angelica) that persists to the drydown is just exquisite. Hate the bulb atomizer bottle, though. When I began wearing Guerlain in the '90s (Chamade was my first) I had no idea that vanilla was used in perfume. Of course, as all the Guerlain die-hards profess, you cannot love Guerlain and not love vanilla. My contribution for oddballs: Montale's Chypre Vanille, which opens with a strange, plasticky, pencil-like vanilla, but on good days, warms into a rich oriental that makes me think of a classic Guerlain. Wore it yesterday and loved every minute....

Francesca January 12, 2011

I have a few vanillas, but I wouldn't know which ones to characterize as oddball. But in any event, this post sent me running to Un Bois Vanille as my SotD.

Rappleyea January 12, 2011

I'm firmly in the SDV camp, which presents different faces to me on different days. Some days it's wood and tobacco with the vanilla, and other days it's more rose and wood. But I don't necessarily think of SDV as an "oddball" vanilla. It seems pretty straight up to me. In the oddball category, I'd nominate another Guerlain - Angelique Noir. An opening blast of angelica always makes a scent an oddball one in my book.

Cheryl January 12, 2011

Strange Invisible Perfumes has an "odd" vanilla called Magazine Street. It's vanilla paired with vetiver. And there's magnolia too. This is a very sultry vanilla...quite unique....

donanicola January 12, 2011

Le Labo Vanille 44! Totally my favourite vanilla. I think of myself as a House of Guerlain ho (HoG ho! hhaaaha) but after a brief love affair with SDV I realised it was all extract and no incense on me. I keep trying it again waiting for the incense but it stubbornly refuses to surface. And I respect Shalimar and its variations but hardly ever want to wear them. So it's back to Vanille 44 and its cool incensey base and my other favourite vanilla, Bulgari Black. This post is so coincidental for me as today I'm wearing said V44 and also a new purchase (for compare and contrast purposes), the bargain L'Occitane Honey and Vanilla which I like alot. It is more gourmand than V44 with smokey, burnt caramel notes but its not tooth-achingly sweet.

Suzy Q January 12, 2011

Diptyque Eau Duelle--I get...pickles! Eww. I've tried this several times and always get the same result. Is it the juniper? I don't own a plain vanilla either, March, unless you count Tocade, but I'm zeroing in on Havana Vanille. When HV was first released I was disappointed: where are the fat cigars and sweaty guys? But when I retried it six months later without any preconceptions it smelled amazing, a vanilla skin scent. A decant is on the way to my mailbox.

Olfacta January 12, 2011

To me "vanillas" are favorite sleep scents -- Tocade is one. And Barbara Bui, which may not be vanilla at all but to me is a white scent, like white bedsheets. Also the original Givenchy Organza. Keep meaning to try the new Shalimar vanilla, but I just haven't yet -- of course, we're still locked up in the house due to all the ice!

karin January 12, 2011

I can't stomach the straight-on extract vanillas, like SDV (all extract, no smoke or tobacco on me) and Havana Vanille (I get no tobacco from this either). Also have a huge bottle of Noire du Mexique (an unsniffed cheap purchase) - so cloying. And Shalimar - ugh. Definitely not my thing. But there are a few vanillas I like. I'd throw Nicolai's Vanille Intense in the oddball vanilla camp. No vanilla mentioned in the list of notes (and BTW - newsflash! Nicolai just changed their website!!?? Though none of the fragrances are listed yet that I can tell). I also love Vanilia, and recently purchased Un Bois Vanille. Not crazy about the beginning stages of UBV, but love the drydown. Dzing! may also qualify as an oddball vanilla? And I like L de Lolita Lempicka.

waftbyCarol January 12, 2011

I'm with you March , I just don't own any vanilla-centric frags , even tho I keep trying . I just recieved a sample of indie perfumer Jane Cate's soon-to-be-released scent , Muse . Notes listed are vanilla , lime , linden blossom , rose and rosewood . She says it dries down to an almost violet ....sounds oddball doesn't it ? She sells in her Etsy shop , www.wingandprayerperfume.etsy.com She created a perfume for the outlaw project called Notoriety which I love ! I'd love to share the sample of Muse with someone who wants to try it....anybody ?

Sherri M. January 12, 2011

March, Thank you for this post! I'm with Fiordiligi in the "die-hard" Guerlain vanilla fan camp! My favorite vanilla is easily SDV. I remember the SA at NM telling me it was good for layering. This morning I'm trying it with Rose Barbare (found an old sample), and it's actually making the rose, which I normally detest, softer and richer. I'll have to try it over some of the classics. I did try it over Amande Orientale the other day and it was a complete fail. The SDV is so rich it made AO, which I normally find quite pleasant, cheap in comparison. My favorite Guerlain "vanillas" are Angelique Noire and Cuir Beluga, which need no additional vanilla and are great for this snowy cold weather. Also Gourmande Coquin. I suppose it would be my "cheap thrill" category (funny how everything after Guerlain falls into "cheap thrill"!), I like Pilar and Lucy Exact Friction of the Stars. Smells like a new Barbie to me...lol..and who isn't happy with a new Barbie?! And how about Alessandro? Or it that too much an almond?

Carla January 12, 2011

Tocade is my vanilla. Vanilla is usually loud. But I find Vanilia quiet, not trashy at all. I was so surprised by Turin's Vanilia review when I first read The Guide. Maybe if you do wear vanilla in hot weather it comes across as more fun and "trashy"? Like suntan oil? I tend to wear it in cold weather for comfort, and that's how my idea of Vanilia was formed. You can still buy Vanilia in Europe. The only Lutens export line I really can't get into is Un Bois Vanille. Doesn't feel upmarket like the other Lutens at all.

Louise January 12, 2011

I'm with Hongkongmom on the UBV-such a fabulous vanilla with woody and licorice notes. Another oddball Serge is Fourreau Noir-which starts with a blast of lavender, and dries to a smokey vanillic When I want sweet, the Vanille Noir du Mexique is nice, with a touch of smoke. I love my Ode, and vintage Shalimar with the really growly animalics. Vanille Galante was a real surprise for me-it should not work, but it does, and makes me happy. And, um, BBW Vanilla Noir is lovely-sweet of course, but with some floral and something a bit bitter. One of the best BBWs, up there with the Brown Sugar/Figgie Thingie. I think L'Aromarine does a great basic vanilla, for about three pennies-a touch sweet, but pretty close to vanilla extract, and great for bedtime.

Fiordiligi January 12, 2011

Well, you can't be a diehard "proper Guerlain" fan like me and not love vanilla! Shalimar is right up there for me. I wore Ode a la Vanille for a week when we did the challenge recently and, sad to say, it did absolutely nothing on me - just completely linear. I haven't touched it since then. Having said that I am a "proper Guerlain" fan I do love SDV which is quite a masterpiece. I love bourbon vanilla, basically, not ethyl maltol!

hongkongmom January 12, 2011

how about bois de vanille...dear uncle serge...on its own or layered with others from the family...chene, santal blanc.rousee....and so on

carmencanada (Grain de Musc) January 12, 2011

I'm afraid I have to side with Tania Sanchez on Goutal's Vanille Exquise, I get the burnt hair note as well, which is what kept me from buying it a couple of years ago when I decided I wanted a vanilla. Never ended up getting anything: it's really not my preferred solinote. Like Masha above I worship at the altar of Bulgari Black but that's not enough of a vanilla for me to qualify. Mine is Havana Vanille, because it's a vanilla pod trying to morph into a cigar, and there's no cloyingness about it. (the name had to be changed for legal reasons: the city of Havana threatened to sue, apparently).

Masha January 12, 2011

Menardo's Bvlgari Black is the only vanilla I wear. It's not a sweet, cloying vanilla, and definitely not a cookie (unless it's a vanilla cookie wearing rubber fetish gear ;-) I love the smell of vanilla absolute, but don't particularly like to wear just soli-vanillas, and I can't stand ethyl maltol. So apart from Black, vanillas aren't in my collection at all.

dinazad January 12, 2011

Montales' Amandes Orientales smells of vanilla to me. Not "let's make it vanilla so mom, dad AND the babies will like it" vanilla, but vanilla the spice, vanilla the orchid, a sharp-toothed, dangerous, straight-from-the-jungle vanilla. Love it. (It also fits the tiger pee note in Amandes Orientales...)

Tara January 12, 2011

I adore Shalimar, but I think I might like Ode a la Vanille even better! It's amazing and you are right March, the dry down is truly stunning. Just yesterday I wore Ode a la Vanille and then threw on some Kilian Pure Oud. I was in heaven. Organza Indecence is the only perfume for which I routinely receive unsolicited compliments from people I don't know. I can't believe that SDV drys down to Back to Black on you. For me, while I love SDV for about the first hour, it never really goes anywhere and I feel like I am walking around smelling like a giant vat of vanilla extract. I keep hoping for the incense, but it never arrives. I have not tried either the Vanilia or the Goutal, but think a trip to the perfumed court is in my future. Have a great day..Don't get too much snow. They are forecasting 18-20 inches here (suburb of NYC) ...Good day to focus on vanilla perfumes!

Occhineri January 12, 2011

Felanilla, of course! Love, love, love it. :)

SaraK January 12, 2011

My favorite vanilla scent is actually from L'Occitane - Honey and Lemon. Yep, no mention of vanilla, but vanilla cake is the resulting smell on me. While it is sweet, I don't find it cloying -- and I got the best compliment from my friend's little son... "You smell like birthday cake!".

dissed January 12, 2011

I smell vanilla in No. 5, and maybe a bit more in No. 5 Eau Premiere. I like Vanille Exquise and Organza Indecence, but rarely use them. Too sweet. I still haven't found what I want, a smoky, unsweet, vanilla-bean-pod scent. Don't think there is one.

Tiara January 12, 2011

I love vanilla and Micallef's Note Vanillée is my favorite. Quite boozy at the beginning, but settles into a smooth vanilla with a touch of for most of the day. PdN's Vanille Tonka is another. More spicy but it doesn't last as long as NV. Favorite cheap vanilla thrill is Giselle. More of a caramel feel to the vanilla but quite nice for the price.

(Ms.)Christian January 12, 2011

Shoot me if you will but (vintage) Chanel No. 5 is my oddball vanilla. Vanilla is a stomach turner for me and I have tried most all of the vanillas, from low (extract) to high end (Guerlain, L'Artisan, PdN and so on), looking for something weareable. The hunt has been a long, miserable and unpleasant endeavour. My skin brings out the roundest, deepest, smoothest cloud of good, just a skinch sweet vanilla when I apply my very, very old No. 5s. I have no desire to try the current versions. I am happy with my unbakery-like but toothsome Chanel vanilla. It never fails to make me think of vanilla pods in all their seeded dark mystery.