One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Grown Up: Vanille Givrée des Antilles


The other day when I said that I couldn't figure out why they'd called Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti that...I wasn't serious, right? I mean, the point is still there, but I really do know why they called it what they called it. Various vanillas are said (by people with better noses than I, no doubt) to have different characteristics, and one of the characteristics of Tahitian vanilla is its flowery character (and "fleurie" is the French word for "flowery"). La Maison de la Vanille has taken five of the world's vanillas and built a scent around each, theoretically exploiting its unique olfactory properties.

Vanille Givrée des Antilles is named after a vanilla considered to be inferior in flavour to most others: it isn't much used in food. In perfumery, though, it has its place because of its floral aroma. ("Givrée" means "frosted", a reference to the crystals of pure vanillin which form on the outside of the vanilla pod after fermentation.)

More than any of the other Toutes Les Vanilles Du Monde scents, Vanille Givreé des Antilles is an oriental scent. They're all orientals, because of the concentration of vanilla; this one, however, really pours on the lush oriental base notes--opoponax and tonka bean--to give it the expected warmth and richness. As well, to add complexity there are floral notes in the middle (rose and tuberose), but they're relatively minor players: you wouldn't call this a floral scent. And finally, there is patchouli.

The patchouli plus the vanilla suggest Angel, which invented the now-inescapable "sweet gourmand plus buckets of patchouli" oriental scent. Vanille Givrée des Antilles is mellower than Angel, thank goodness, a more sophisticated and adult, less dramatic scent; because the patchouli isn't there by the bucketful but by the teaspoon, it doesn't have that choking intensity. In fact, it's remarkably soft, subtle, and beautiful, probably the second-best of the five scents. Or the third-best: it's hard to choose, and Vanille Noire du Mexique is pretty wonderful. But I saved the best for last....

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