One Thousand Scents

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Essence: L'Artisan Parfumeur Vanilia

I'm taking a breather from the La Maison line. There are two left, both very good: I'll get to those next week.

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Today I popped into The Body Shop (click here to see what else I did at the mall) and discovered that the Invent Your Scent line has been completely made over. Five of the scents (Altaro, Minteva, Zinzibar, Beleaf, and Citrella) have been discontinued, and in their place are two new scents, Rougeberry (a fruity floral--imagine that) and Zestini, which replaces Citrella with something even more citrusy.

I was a little disappointed, because I would have liked to have had a bottle of Altaro. The nice gentleman said they had a few of the discontinued bottles left, and opened a drawer: there were a few bottles of Minteva, Beleaf, and Citrella in there ($6 each until they're gone, he said), but all that was left of Altaro was the tester, half-full. "You can have it if you want it," he said as peeled off the red "Try Me" label. And I did want it! So that was nice. Free things are always nice. I didn't buy a bottle of Amorito ("They wouldn't discontinue that--it's the best seller!" said the salesman), but I'm happy to know that I still can. And almost certainly will.

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Camel, the cigarette brand, has launched a line, Camel No. 9, directed at the ladies. If the name weren't a clue that a package of cigarettes was being positioned as if it were perfume, the pack is a dead giveaway: the box, despite its colouration, is plainly intended to recall the classic Chanel No. 5 box, as you can see.


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It's funny how "vanilla" has come to mean "boring, safe, predictable". Real vanilla--good vanilla--is anything but. It's a gorgeously complicated scent which adds a lustrous, burnished depth to anything it touches; no wonder it's in practically every scent that's been launched in the last ten years.

The best vanilla scent I have ever smelled and will probably ever smell is Vanilia by L'Artisan Parfumeur. It's simplicity itself, but such a dark, nuanced simplicity it is!

Vanilia opens all at once, like a flower: you get an orchidaceous note (fittingly enough, because vanilla is the seed-pod of a species of orchid), a cloud of smoked vanilla, and a potent whiff of spices. Nothing sweet about it at all, except the natural sweetness of an orchid: it's as far from a gourmand vanilla scent as you can envision.

That's it, really. It doesn't change over time, but the scent is tinctured with smoke, like a hazy memory, and the spices--completely anonymous--take the scent from a mere vanillic floral into something fierce and otherworldly. The ending is more vanilla, plus a glaze of ambergris--finally, a little of that sweetness you may have been craving. It is strange and ferocious and astoundingly beautiful.

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