There are lots of fragrances I like, they are loved and cherished, talked to (yeah, well…) and nowadays blogged about; there are those I do not like at all, that leave me a bit disappointed, as I might have had high hopes for them but are easily dismissed, and have the added benefit of money saved.
But then there are fragrances that don’t easily fit in the love/hate category, the ones I can’t seem to make up my mind about.
My husband has only two responses to a scent: “Get that away from me now!” or “Hmm, it’s good. I guess”. That philosophy works for him and lets him be loyal to one scent (appointed by me) for years. That being no option for a bona fide perfume nut like me – I experiment.
Those “on the fence” scents draw me in time and again. I sniff them, wear them, try to form some kind of opinion, come to some conclusion, get frustrated and throw them in the back of my samples drawer, then, a few days later, I start over. They have aspects I love and aspects I can’t stand, neither being enough to firmly settle the fragrance in one category.
One such perfume is Annick Goutal’s Vanille Exquise. It is named innocently enough, one expects a straightforward gourmand fragrance, but that is is not.
From the beginning two notes fight for supremacy, angelica (together with smoky, incensy benzoin) and vanilla.
That is where the dilemma starts, vanilla I love, angelica – well, not so much (there are exceptions, F. Malle’s Angeliques sous la Pluies comes to mind or Guerlain’s Angelique Noire). Vanille Exquise shifts those two notes around forever. Angelica as a fleeting topnote I could take, if the vanilla gets a chance to shine later, but it never goes away completely, at times vanilla seems to win, then it is gone again, angelica and benzoin still omnipresent.
These notes keep me from getting my comforting, warm vanilla fix, they are a constant jarring presence, like a draft in a cozy room or a badly tuned instrument in an ensemble. So why not just let it go, giving in to not liking it, writing it off and moving on? Because it holds me in thrall! It challenges me, it is not quite what I want it to be and does not apologize for it. Ultimately it turns out to be much more interesting, than plain, old vanilla could ever be, if left to its own devices.
In the end I’d rather be challenged by a scent, than have something that is “Hmm, good. I guess.”