One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Object Lessons: L'Artisan Parfumeur Havana Vanille

Lesson 1: Be organized.

I don't know why--maybe its name came up in one of the many and varied scent blogs I read--but a few days ago I was idly thinking about L'Artisan's Havana Vanille, which was launched in mid-2009 and which was pretty obviously the sort of thing that I would love: vanilla, of course, but also tobacco and rum and tonka and and spices and a great many other things that bring me pleasure. Even though I have vowed to not buy any scents this year (a vow which I am going to break in a couple of months, about more which anon), I put it on my list of samples to order on January 1st, 2012. Later that day I was digging through a shoebox full of samples looking for something interesting to write about, and to my shock--I think my jaw fell--there was a vial of Havana Vanille which I have had for certainly a year and didn't know I owned.

Lesson 2: Don't buy more of something than you can reasonably use.

I went through a phase where I was ordering lots of tempting samples from The Perfumed Court and Luckyscent. In fact, just last week I had to stop myself from buying the newest Luckyscent sample pack, eight vials from a line called SoOud, many of which sound gorgeous. But I have got at least a hundred vials that I haven't even tried yet (see Lesson 1), and there is no way I can justify spending a single cent on more fragrances, so I exhibited an uncharacteristic strength of will and closed the web page.

Lesson 3: Don't buy full bottles of scents unsniffed (unless they're really cheap and you can live with the possibility of making a mistake).

So I put a big healthy glug of Havana Vanille on my skin and kind of hated it. I gave it some time, and my dislike was not much diminished. Imagine if I had gone by the list of notes and bought the bottle online!

Havana Vanille--already renamed Vanille Absolument--smells, obviously, like vanilla, like blond tobacco crushed together with vanilla beans in spiced rum, and even though that is a peck of glorious scents right there, it's all too much, big and heavy and sweet in a damning, overbearing way. There is a floralcy to the middle and a dusky woodiness at the base, and when you've gotten to that point the sweetness has tapered off somewhat, but it really is far too late by then: the thing has outstayed its welcome for hours. I note that some other people find Havana Vanille relatively light, and fine, everybody's nose is different, but that to me is incomprehensible: I own some fairly heavy, strong, and/or sweet scents, and Havana Vanille is right up there with them in weight and texture.

Lesson 4: Nothing lasts forever.

Vanille Absolument is replacing Vanilia, which I own, have worn for at least 15 years, and still adore (I wore it just last week, and it has never palled over the years). That's vanilla done right: stylish, graceful, perfectly unisex, a luminous concoction of vanilla pod, vanilla orchid (officially ylang-ylang, but orchidaceous to my nose), and spice, wreathed in feathery smoke. Vanilia is discontinued and is no longer on the company's website, but some online retailers still have it (you may have to hunt around), as does The Perfume Shoppe. If you love Vanilia or you just adore amazing vanilla scents (and can ignore Lesson 3), I'd snap it up if I were you.

Regarding Lessons 2 and 3, I am taking a little trip to New York in June and I am determined that the latest Serge Lutens export, Jeux de Peau, will be mine; it's meant to smell like buttered toast, and the list of notes ("Bread note, spices, licorice, apricot, immortelle, sandalwood, woody notes, amber", says Luckyscent) suggests that I will not be able to live without it, since Lutens is my obsession of obsessions. I will smell it first, just in case. But I'll do so with my credit card in my hand.

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  • You're SO right. But then, it takes years to arrive at this point of perfumes "enlightment": "I have enough, I don't need more, please don't give me any more samples, please, I won't try them all out if I had ten lives to live"
    It's odd how they played the whole Havana Vanille plot: Change of name in one year's lapse. Substituting a best-seller. Strange....

    By Blogger Perfumeshrine, at 3:53 PM  

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