One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Old Gold: CSP Vanille Amande

That's the new bottle. Couldn't find a picture of the old one. Sorry.

One more vanilla scent to finish off the month, and then we'll move on. Promise.

Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Vanille Amande was launched in 1994, discontinued, and then re-launched under a new formulation. Why do companies do this? I know that sometimes the original ingredients become unavailable due to shortages or health concerns, but there wouldn't seem to be anything in Vanille Amande that would demand a reconstructed, "improved" version. I have a feeling that the comapny was trying to muscle the scent into the endless parade of fresh scents: the new Vanille Amande contains "top notes of fresh tropical almond" which certainly aren't present in the original.

Having smelled fresh (green) almonds, I can say I don't want to smell like them, because yuck. I haven't tried the resuscitated version, but a lot of the reviews aren't so kind: "syrupy sweet", "artificial", "cloying", "synthetic". I'll take their word for it. The original, though. Mmmm. I have a big ol' bottle of the stuff. How big? I will never, ever run out, that's how big, which is a good thing, because I love it.

There's a chord of three notes: bitter almond (no sugary amaretto, no cherry-extract scent), voluptuous and slightly sweetened vanilla, and a dark, mocha-like scent which could well be mocha. That's it. It's a monolithic block of a scent. It's absolutely linear: there's no development whatever (except that the almond note fades before the others do). It's wonderful.

The lasting power is very good, at least on me; many people have noted that the new CSP scents don't last at all, but the old ones sure do. Of course, I find that's true of pretty much everything with vanilla in it.

If you've tried the newer version and didn't like it, it might be worth it to hunt down the original. Maybe it's available on eBay. Isn't everything?

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wrapped Up: Vanille Sauvage du Madagascar

Of the five Toutes Les Vanilles Du Monde scents, my favourite by a considerable margin is Vanille Sauvage du Madagascar, a liquid version of a chenille blanket.

There's no chocolate listed in the notes (mandarin, bergamot, geranium, vanilla, lavender, coriander, thyme, incense, sandalwood, and vetiver), and it doesn't smell like chocolate, exactly, but there's an almost fudgy warmth in the top notes, a prelude to the the herbs and spices that dominate in the middle. Those herbs and spices have had all their edges taken off; no one note stands out, and none of them is harsh or edgy. The vanilla, and there's a lot of it, is somewhat sweetened but not sugary, and the scent is edible--lickable, almost. It's a marvelous composition, food-oriented without being cheap or obvious. There's not much complexity to it, though it develops with time, but it has depth and character.

Scents are hard to describe in general, but this one is particularly tough after I've been doing vanilla for the last two weeks. What it boils down to is that Vanille Sauvage du Madagascar is not a seduction nor a burst of joy. It's warm and relaxing, uncomplicated, cozy. It's comforting.


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....


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.


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.


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.


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.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Flower Bomb: Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti

Except for work yesterday (I put on some reliable L'Instant du Guerlain Pour Homme), I've worn nothing but the La Maison de la Vanille scents for the last week, and here's what I want to know: why did they call this scent "Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti"--that is, "Flowery Tahitian Vanilla"--when it isn't noticeably flowery and when they already had a flower-based vanilla scent on which to bestow the name?

Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti ought to have been named Vanille Fruitée de Wherever, because the thing that distinguishes it from the other scents in the La Maison de la Vanille collection is the hot-fruit scent in the top notes. It smells of cooked mixed berries: strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, perhaps, but all very indistinct--just fruit-aldehydic--and all enrobed in vanilla cream. (The listed notes are "vanilla, bergamot, amber, fruit, cedar, ylang-ylang, tonka bean, incense". Really?)

In truth, it's the least interesting of the five Maison vanilla scents: it's a little drab, though some love it and find it comforting or sexy.

But to my nose, it just isn't very original or very compelling; if you mixed Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Mora Bella and Vanille Extreme, you'd end up with something like this, only, I think, better.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Sugar Flowers: Vanille Divine des Tropiques

If you're anything like me, there are moments when you try a new scent and formulate an opinion, and then you read what it is you're supposed to be smelling, and the disconnect is so great that you think your nose is malfunctioning.

La Maison de la Vanille's Vanille Divine des Tropiques is supposed to be an intensely floral vanilla scent. The Luckyscent description of the scent includes the phrase "An extravagant bouquet of tuberose, jasmine, heliotrope, hyacinth and gardenia perfectly complemented by luscious, delectable vanilla."

That's not what it smells like to me, though. I don't perceive a lot of floweriness in Vanille Divine des Tropiques; there's quite a bit of jasmine, but, as in Rochas Man (a jasmine-heavy men's scent), it's alchemized by all that vanilla.

I realize I said more or less the same thing about Spellbound a couple of weeks ago: though it has a lot of floral notes in the middle, it simply doesn't smell floral to me. Florid, maybe, but not floral--or at least, it's not a floral scent. I can smell floral scents: it's not some kind of very specific anosmia. If Vanille Divine des Tropiques is meant to be ultra-flowery, if other people interpret it that way--and some clearly do--then I'm willing to accept that this is how my brain interprets floral-oriental scents: the darker, sweeter notes overwhelm and fuse the floral elements.

VDdT does smell like a rich, sweet vanilla scent. It bears a certain resemblance to Aquolina Pink Sugar, though it's not self-consciously girly: the vanilla is quite sweet, and it has a cooked, caramelized-sugar scent which is very attractive. (Near the end, the cooked-sugar scent takes on an almost burnt tinge: at that point, it reminds me of dry toast.)

As nearly all oriental scents do, the La Maison de la Vanille scents last quite a long time on my skin: they don't have the lasting power of a really high-end oriental, but they're good for six or eight hours, and at that price ($32 US for the set, $36 US for a 100-mL bottle), you wouldn't mind reapplying.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Deep Dish: Vanille Noire du Mexique

Last year I ordered a bunch of stuff from Luckyscent, and I can happily recommend their service to anyone; they promptly sent just what I ordered, plus a little batch of well-considered samples, just the sort of thing I'd have chosen for myself. One of the things I ordered was the set of five vanilla scents from La Maison de la Vanille*, and, typically for me, I only just opened it yesterday, which means I'll be talking about vanilla for the next couple of weeks. That's okay with you, right? Good. Let's get started.

I left the Maison de la Vanille box on the dresser yesterday and Jim naturally enough opened it. (He hadn't seen it before: it had been nestled in the drawer in which I keep the things I haven't opened yet. He normally steers clear of all my scents, but he couldn't tell what was in it from the outside of the box.) The atomizer wasn't in the box, so he asked me what was supposed to go there. When I told him, he said, "Oh! They're scents! I thought they were different kinds of vanilla!" Which, of course, they are. I just wouldn't cook with them.

Vanille Noire du Mexique opens with a bright, sunshiny rose-vanilla accord, with the ray of sunshine provided by bergamot. It's enchanting, fresh and vivid. It calls to mind another rose-vanilla scent, Tocade by Rochas, but where I found that loud and insistent and gloppily sweet, VNdM is cheerfully understated. At this point the name of the scent is baffling. The vanilla may be black, but the scent itself isn't dark in any way.

However, in fairly short order, the bergamot whispers away, the rose note (bolstered, in classic fashion, by jasmine), dims and vanishes, and what's left is deliciously dark: a deep, only slightly sweetened vanilla with a faint chocolate nimbus (bestowed by tonka bean). It's edible--not sugary, not patisserie, but gourmand for all that. It's still not the masculine rose scent I eternally search for--not because it's feminine, but because the rose isn't the focus of the composition--but it'll do, for now.

* Every company should do this, by the way. If I had a choice between a box of, say, 5- or 10-mL sprays of all Guerlain's men's scents versus one full size for the same price, I'd buy the box, as I'm betting most people would, and then, who knows? I'd probably buy a full-sized bottle of my favourite when that ran out. You'd think it would make good business sense to give people a chance to sample everything a fragrance division makes; if they like even one of them, they're probably going to buy the big bottle, and the ones they don't like are going to be given away to friends, who'll probably buy big bottles of their own. Instead of five or six dozen full-sized bottles, I'd have several hundred smaller ones, the perfume companies would have made the same amount of money from me, plus the promise of more later, and I'd be happier. Win-win!


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hot: Spellbound by Estee Lauder

Well, let's play the game of Read The Fragrance Notes and see what happens.

Top: fruit notes, coriander, pimento, orange blossom.
Middle: rosewood, rose, carnation, muguet, jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose, heliotrope.
Base: amber, musk, opoponax, civet, cedar, vanilla.

You read the list of ingredients for Spellbound and you think you know what you're going to be smelling. You think it actually sounds a lot like Chanel Coco (mandarin, pimento and coriander: rose, carnation, orange blossom and cinnamon: amber, vanilla, opoponax and honey) or a little like Dior Poison (orange blossom, pimento, fruit notes: coriander, tuberose, ylang-ylang: ambergris, opoponax, labdanum) and there are resemblances, to be sure. You're thinking sultry floral-oriental. And you are right, and wrong.

The opening of Spellbound is fresh and spicy, with a note lasting well into the middle which reminds me of a dry cleaner's shop, in the best possible way--that zingy, modern smell of solvents and cleanliness.

The middle is dark: it's an oriental, no doubt about it. It ought to smell of flowers, but it doesn't, not in any concrete way. It's not a bouquet; there aren't wafting notes of rose and carnation and lily. It's not prettified. It certainly isn't feminine.

In fact, from the middle through the drydown, the primary scent of Spellbound is, intoxicatingly, hot skin. It smells as if you've been sitting by a fireplace. Let me spell that out so I can emphasize just how amazing it is: Spellbound doesn't smell like plants, food, ozone, or animal secretions, it smells like you after you've been doing something for a while.

It's hypnotizing.