Vanilla Faves: Notes in Fragrance


Post by FeralJasmine


I’m given to understand that fetishists refer to ordinary sex as “vanilla sex.” I will not waste time in commenting about how I come to know this, except that it reflects on the peculiar nature of the people I encounter in the course of my work. To me it seems like an incongruous association in several ways. For one thing, vanilla is said to be a note that men almost invariably find sexy, making it a bit fetishistic to begin with. Then there is the nature of vanilla itself. Dark, deep, rich, complex, delicious… How did this come to be conflated with “ordinary?”

VanillaWood 123rfPhoto Stolen 123rf

Vanilla scents are anything but ordinary to me. Of all the perfume bottles in my collection, at least half contain vanilla in some form and to some degree. And never mind just how many I have; probably not as many as Portia, so go check up on her instead ;-). But even if I limit myself to the vanilla-centric scents, there are lots of options. There is probably no note that lends itself to so many different approaches. I can’t do more than list a few of my favorites, but I will try to spread them across the vanilla spectrum.

Vanilla: Notes in Fragrance

Fifty Shades of Vanilla

Tihota Indult FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

First, Indult Tihota. This one was created by Francis Kurkdjian and was recently reissued in what is supposed to be its original form, although he is no longer connected with the company. Listed notes are vanilla, florals, and spices. As an aficionado of good vanilla beans, I do not see how floral and spice notes could possibly be disconnected from vanilla. They are there naturally. This one is like rich, creamy, pure vanilla extract of the highest quality that lasts for hours. This is the one for those of us who would stuff vanilla beans in our bras if we could get away with it. (Gentle reader, kindly do not try this. Over the course of a few hours the seeds tend to end up in your cleavage, where they look very disconcerting.) When you want a shot of vanilla in all its glory, straight up, Tihota is the one to reach for.

Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille is a perfume that I used to criticize at every opportunity. I called it heavy, cloying, and unbalanced. Then I tried it on a cold winter day and had to eat my words, and also had to eat the bill for a large decant. Now, instead of heavy, I find it rich and satisfying. I suspect that, when the weather warms up, it will begin to seem cloying again and will be put away for next winter.

7 BILLION HEARTS CB I Hate PerfumePhoto Stolen CB I Hate Perfume

A profound vanilla favorite of mine is the gorgeous 7 Billion Hearts, by CB I Hate Perfume. I tried this one in late fall, bought a bottle without reckoning the cost, and wore it happily all winter. I loved the vanilla on a bed of cedar, with a smoky resiny fire in the background, and others loved it on me. Then on the first really warm day of spring, it turned on me. In fact, it drove harsh cedary fingernails right into my skin and refused to let go. I could barely smell vanilla in the pile of partially burnt pencil shavings that it turned into. Now that cold weather is back, it is cuddling up against me again, purring softly. Next spring I will put it aside without regret, knowing that come fall, all will be well between us.

Les Nombres d`Or Vanille Mona di Orio FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Finally, there is the exquisite Mona di Orio Vanille. I will not go into the famous shipwreck story that goes with it, because I don’t feel that you should need to hear a story to know whether you like the perfume or not. Bales of spices and woods, eventually giving way to as lovely a spiced vanilla as I can imagine. It also contains a subtle but highly effective use of nutmeg, a note that can be tricky to manage. Try this one, if you haven’t already.

Now, what are your favorites? I need to know what to add to my wish list.

35 comments on “Vanilla Faves: Notes in Fragrance

  1. cookie queen says:

    HI FJ

    Never found a vanilla that I love, or for that fact even like, although I would´t mind. I have a decant of the MdO but am thinking of using it in my cookie dough. Don´t know the CB one and am waiting to try the Indult. I really love Lutens Un Lys if that counts for anything.
    Val xxx

  2. FeralJasmine says:

    Hi dear Cookie Queen, you and vanilla just might not be meant to be. I’m the same way with melon notes. Even Parfum de Therese, which I’m told is a masterpiece, makes my stomach start to gather in folds and pleats. So if vanilla is not you, that still leaves you with enough potential perfume to blow your budget and your storage space. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Tara C says:

    Vanilla is a big time favorite here – Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille, Memoirs of a Trespasser, SL Un Bois Vanillé, Profumum Vanitas, Micallef Vanille Oud, the list goes on and on.

    • FeralJasmine says:

      I know, start naming vanilla perfumes and next thing you know, it’s past bedtime. It’s rather alarming how many of them there are. Especially if you aspire to try all of them, which I no longer do, because I need to work and sleep and things like that.

  4. Maya says:

    Vanilla never got me too excited, but my daughter loves vanilla so I get to try her perfumes. Vanille Insensée is great, but the one for me is Voodoo Love by Bourbon French Parfums. It’s a familiar type of fragrance like something from long ago that you can’t put your finger on but is really good. Thanks Azar – my daughter shared her win.

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Most interesting! I’m a Louisiana native but never knew of Bourbon French perfumes. Will have to see what they have to offer. Thanks for the tip.

      • Maya says:

        I also got to try their Oriental Rose and really like that one too. I think they’re both FBW, but Voodoo Love is #1.

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Azar, can you fill the rest of us in about your opinion of this line?

  5. Stacey says:

    I second Tara C.’s suggestions and would add Diptyque Eau Duelle in the EDP form. So many great vanillas to pick from!

    • FeralJasmine says:

      I love Eau Duelle too, and unfortunately I love Le Labo’s Vanille 44, but the price per wearing gets out of hand.

  6. Nancysg says:

    Parfume Generale’s Felanilla is my favorite metallic vanilla. Even though the silver spoon effect may seem daunting, I find it crisp and clear.

    • FeralJasmine says:

      I’m afraid that I lack the ability to wear Felanilla gracefully. I smell like an uptight, hissing cat, not a purring one. Glad you can do it justice.

  7. Esperanza says:

    Loved your article although vanilla is a favorite note tihota is too sweet for my taste. I love Shalimar Ode a la Vanille 2010 and 2012 versions and Yves Rocher Vanille Noir is pretty good as well. Have you tried it ?

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Unfortunately the Guerlain base just doesn’t work for me, so I haven’t been able to wear Shalimar or any of its flankers. Cuir Beluga is probably the closest to being wearable for me. Have you tried it?
      I used to have something called Vanille Noir but I don’t think it was Yves Rocher. Will have to hunt down that one.

  8. SallyM says:

    Yes! I’m a vanilla lover – always have been. When we had the store, vanilla anything was our best seller – candles, fragrance oils, bath/body products. I don’t know why its deemed ordinary or bland – as you say, it lends such a richness to perfumes, although I do agree, that some can be overly sweet and cloying.
    I have so many in my collection, but favs off the top of my head would be Shalimar, SDV, Un Bois Vanille, Caron Parfum Sacre, Vanille 44 …. mmmmmmmmmmm!!

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Nearly forgot about Parfum Sacre. Your comment reminds me that I haven’t worn it yet this winter. Time to dust off that bottle!

      • FeralJasmine says:

        Just as a side point, it’s amazing how many orientals have some vanilla lurking around in the base. Vanilla does add a gorgeous rounded quality to resins. Nobody would ever call vintage Opium a vanilla perfume, but sniff the drydown carefully and there it is, drawing all the exotics together.

  9. Edward G says:

    It took me a few tries to love it, but I finally fell for Vanille Absolument,equal parts rum, tabacco, & vanilla that’s not cloying on my skin even in warm weather. In cold weather, the tobacco note rises to the top. It also took me a while to “get” Vanille Insensee, but now it’s a great comfort to me-very fresh and modern. The vanilla/amber sillage lasts all day! 7 Billion Hearts is another favorite. I am confident that men would feel comfortable wearing these vanilla fragrances as they are not sweet at all.

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Hi, Ed, thanks for stopping by! I think there are lots of vanillas that are wearable by men, 7BH being a prime example. Vanille Absolument is another treasure. I hated to cut it out of this post, but Portia only allows 600 words, not the thousands that would be required to name all my vanilla loves. the Farmacia del Annunziata Vaniglia del Madagascar is a good one for men, with bracing citrus in the opening and a great long unsweetened vanilla drydown. Neil Chapman of The Black Narcissus wrote this one up, I think. He did a seven-part series on vanillas once that I recommend to everyone obsessed with the note. I’ll ask him to post a link to the series for us, because there is no better reading out there about vanilla perfumes.

      • australianperfumejunkies says:

        He he he! I think you should do a follow up vanilla piece. There are so many fabulous vanillas and yes the number crunch makes it hard. A second vanilla is definitely in order please.
        Portia xx

      • FeralJasmine says:

        Portia, hope you’re having a wonderful trip, and thanks for stopping by! There is always more to say about vanilla. Maybe a lesser-known vanillas piece? I will have to give it some thought.

  10. Donelle Talintyre says:

    Hi FJ, Speaking of all things vanillic, I have just walked home from the local post office with a precious package and possibly my purchase of the year – Micallef’s Note Vanillee which has been discontinued, regrettably. The supplier Feeling sexy Perfumes in Victoria, Australia sold me what I think was the last bottle. The other M Micallef free samples in the box were a lovely bonus. Note Vanillee has a floral opening a truly gorgeous scent with top notes of tangerine and hesperide; middle notes of jasmine and honey; and base notes of sandalwood, amber, bourbon vanilla, cognac and rum. Probably the best vanilla fragrance I have tried – along with I Profumi di Firenze Vanilla de Madagascar & SL Un Bois Vanille and a new fave Xerjoff Mamluk. I don’t think it hurts to have a few different vanilla perfumes in one’s wardrobe, and attracting our husbands needs no explanation 🙂

    • FeralJasmine says:

      I have never even heard of this particular Micallef. The notes sound beautiful. Why am I always learning of lovely things that have just been discontinued? I have heard of the Mamluk but haven’t tried it. Perfume Queen Patty of the Perfume Posse called Mamluk ” the first ever skanky vanilla.” That makes it sound worth trying, doesn’t it?

      • Donelle Talintyre says:

        Yes it is very disappointing when we miss out on discontinued things, I have missed out on a few things such as Parfum de Nicolai – Sacrebleu, just can’t take to the reformulation at all, the sample I had was very plasticky on me. I have learned my lesson now and have decided if there is something I cannot possibly live without then I will try to buy it the next year or so. Unfortunately when something is discontinued the price is then set at a premium. So then I have think about alternatives to the perfume, if there is already something similar which I have or that is readily available, then I will tell myself you don’t need it. If it is truly unique, I am finding eBay to be such a boon in these situations. Living in Australia a lot of the good stuff is not available for shipping to us so having a myUS account really helps. [it has allayed a few perfume anxieties, I must say :)]
        I am putting Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille on my samples to buy list after your recommendation. Anything from CB I Hate Perfume is hideously expensive to send to Australia so one day I may explore that House a bit further. Though the falling AUD is putting a lot of things out of reach.

  11. Neil Chapman says:

    Gorgeous to read. I love vanilla more than any other note, and HAVE to smell the Indult.
    In fact, someone has just put a drop or two in the post for me and I am desperate to smell it.
    Neil Chapman recently posted…Teardrops, raindrops: EN PASSANT by EDITIONS DE PARFUMS (2000)My Profile

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Neil, so happy to have you drop by, but so sorry to have you learn that I once put vanilla beans in my bra! I was hoping that it would be longer before you understood how peculiar I really am. I hasten to add that the smell was delicious, and I only did it once. Let’s not tell Dandy.

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Also, dear Ginza, could you post a link to your seven-part vanilla series? I think we have some vanilla fiends here who would love to acquire more lemmings.

  12. Kandice says:

    For the longest time, I didn’t “get” vanilla at all. I know it’s supposed to be sexy, but really why would I want to smell like a bakery item? But recently I tried Vanillary by Gorilla Perfumes for Lush and became somewhat obsessed. It starts out strongly vanilla with a little bit of a boozy undertone and a hint of florals. After the dry-down, it just smells like warm vanilla. (And it’s cheap!) So now I’m on a mission to find other vanillas I like and will definitely have to try the Indult. Thanks to you and other commentators for giving me some additional ideas in this category that’s new to me 🙂

  13. Laurels says:

    Oh, they all sound so nice, especially the Mona di Orio. I love nutmeg.

    In addition to the Yves Rocher Vanille Noire, other affordable but interesting vanillas include the La Maison de Vanille range (I’m partial to Vanille Noire du Mexique), and Alkemia Perfumes has some nice vanilla-centered oils.

  14. Daisy says:

    Wonderful post! Tihota IS wonderful and I am the happy, happy owner of an fb! However, I would have never thought to turn to CB I Hate Perfume for a vanilla. How interesting! On the to-sniff list it goes!

    • FeralJasmine says:

      Daisy, test before splurging, but 7 Billion Hearts contains some of the best vanilla essences I’ve sniffed. And give it a fair chance; sample it in cold weather.

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