I went into Tokyo yesterday in order to freshly reacquaint my nose with more vanillas for this post, stupidly forgetting that January 2nd is probably the busiest day of the whole year in Japan, the heaving multitudes cramming by the thousands into department stores for the January bargain sales, not to mention an equal number of people thronging the shrines in order to pray for good fortune; an annual tradition known as hatsumode. It was practically impossible to walk on the streets it was so crowded, and as for Isetan, Shinjuku’s best department store and the only real place in Tokyo to find good niche, it was hell: sheer claustrophobia. Still, the unusual number of customers meant that the snooty, exquisitely maquillaged sales assistants were busy for a moment and I could spray to my heart’s content without that look. And spray I did…
GOURMAND COQUIN by GUERLAIN
Over Christmas and New Year I attempted to perfect the art of making mulled wine by adding my own twist of Madagascar vanilla beans to the brew along with the other spices, letting the base blend macerate for a couple of days before adding the wine, brandy, and a soupçon of Cointreau. I was thus astonished to find this effect replicated yesterday in this perfume by Guerlain, which in its initial stages smells almost identical to what I was imbibing over the holidays. Spices, rum, and dark cacao simmer sumptuously over roses and Shalimar-esque vanilla pods before settling down gently to a cheekily luscious, chocolatey vanilla that while sweet, has enough character and taste to never quite go over the edge.
VANILLE ORCHIDEE by VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Another vanilla perfume with a touch of enticing gourmandise is Vanille Orchidée by Van Cleef, a well-regarded scent that might possibly be the ideal ‘straight’ vanilla. A sherbety mandarin-lychee opening is a nostril-tickling ballet of delight, as particles of freshness dance before your eyes, edible and delicious as a cool lemon soufflé: a citric, effervescent apéritif that soon segues into a lightly floral, smooth and warm scent with delicate remembrances of the dessert trolley, bitter almond, cedar, and white musk. Perhaps a touch undaring in its coy, floral femininity, the perfume nevertheless has perfect balance, and a light, smooth, stable, vanilla base note that lasts for hours on the skin yet always remains subtle.
VANILLARY by GORILLA PERFUMES
Feral, indolic, Vanillary could hardly be a more different experience of vanilla. This all-natural creation by perfumer Simon Constantine is a very lush and overripe perfume that begins with a blast of animalic jasmine absolute and tenacious, coconutty sandalwood, over a thick meniscus of insistent vanillic sweetness and tonka bean. Like a powdery, heavy black-winged moth dragging itself slowly through the heat and viscid, dripping jungle sap, we drift along languidly in the heat but find ourselves suddenly subsumed by a giant, flesh-eating flower. All is rough; unseamless; driven – I find Vanillary to be a very erotic and id-driven perfume that will be worn to quite magnetic effect by the sultry and sexually confident, but it is to be worn with caution.
VANIGLIA by SANTA MARIA NOVELLA
This elegant, cultured, Florentine creature would simply faint, like Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With A View, in the presence of the vanilla gorilla above. The Santa Maria Novella profumi are about as far away from Anglo-Saxon literalness, or that charged, coquettish French volupté, as it is possible to be. Though sensual and rich, there is always an indefinable chastity in the monastery’s perfumes; a lack of sugar and nonsense that distinguishes them from other houses. Vaniglia is one such fragrance; liquorous, savoury, it is a frankly peculiar, but rather pleasingly idiosyncratic scent from another time that to me smells like spilled white wine and overdone crème brulée; yesterday’s sandalwood, and imperious, old fashioned, buttery musks – an unusual vanilla with a nostalgic, coppery reserve.
Editor’s Note: Don’t you adore Neil? I know that I do! His passion for perfume and his glorious way of writing make me run for my own vanilla scents every time. He agreed to continue to share is vanilla treasure chest with us for a few more posts until the end of January. I can’t wait for next Friday’s installment!