Vanilla Fiesta: 11 Mini Reviews

Magpie had a enough of vanilla... | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

Magpie had enough of vanilla… | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

To tell the truth, I haven’t been a big fan of vanilla fragrances. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the smell of vanilla itself. I have a whole bunch of vanilla beans that I brought back from Zanzibar stashed in my kitchen cupboard and I sometimes open the jar just to enjoy their heavenly sweet smell. But I like vanilla in something edible, not in something I put on. I don’t enjoy smelling like a little cupcake.

Recently when I was digging through my perfume samples, I discovered that I had quite a few un-sniffed ones with vanilla as an important part of their compositions; they were all lying at the bottom of my sample boxes, buried and forgotten under the other little vials. I suddenly felt kind of pity for them. Whether I was feeling mellow in the recent cooler weather or merely trying to escape from my workload, I gathered them around and decided to have a good vanilla sniffing session. People say that life will never give you more than you can handle. Well, I certainly survived through it and managed to find a few vanilla fragrances I could wear.


So here we go, the list and mini reviews of vanillas I tried:

Love – don’t be shy – by By Kilian

Peppery Orange Vanilla
This is a seriously sweet fragrance, peppery nonetheless. You’ve got to love gourmands to enjoy wearing this one. Very strong orange blossom and neroli, and a touch of jasmine and rose with a blast of sugar and vanilla. It is pretty, not beautiful, and it has an amazing lasting power. I don’t hate it but I won’t be able to wear it. I think you need to be twenty-something & bubbly to get away with this.

Nose: Calice Becker
Released in 2007.
50ml EDP | $260 from By Kilian.

Back to Black – aphrodisiac – by By Kilian

Moody Vanilla
First of all, I like smoky and powdery fragrances. Back to Black is sweet, smoky, powdery and yummy, all at the same time. I’m not too keen on its opening with raspberry but the smoky drydown is rather attractive. I quite enjoyed the honeyed gingerbread notes in this one. Yes, it’s sweet but I can wear this in winter. I don’t love it but I like it. Some people suggest that it smells like Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford and Hedonist by Viktoria Minya but I didn’t find it so.

Nose: Calice Becker
Released in 2009.
50ml EDP | $260 from By Kilian.

Amour Liquide by Memoire Liquide

Milky Vanilla
This is a sugary vanilla that you will either love or hate. The vanilla itself smells quite authentic but it’s all about vanilla and nothing else. There are three notes listed in this one; vanilla, tonka, and incense. I was hoping to smell more of the incense note but it was very weak and completely overpowered by the sweet notes. If you are very careful, you might be able to catch a whiff of it. There is something woody-musky smell in the background, like sandalwood, and it adds to the milky-ness of this fragrance. Great longevity. This is too “edible” for me to wear.

Nose: Ilias Ermenidis
Released in 2009.
50ml EDP | $95 from Memoire Liquide.

Seven Veils by Byredo

Country Kitchen Vanilla
It’s nothing like other fragrances I’ve ever smelled in my life. The opening is a mixture of slightly bitter wisteria and orchid, soon taken over by vanilla, carrot seeds, and pink pepper, then it settles straight into sweet and tangy spiciness. It smells like a lovely country kitchen with a wooden spice cupboard on the wall, occasionally catching a whiff of flowers through the open windows. The vanilla is prominent but it isn’t in your face. I don’t love it but I somehow appreciate it. I might wear it on a golden autumn day.

Nose: Jerome Epinette
Released in 2011.
50ml EDP | €95 from Byredo.

Vanille Insensee by Atelier Cologne

Edgy Vanilla
Like other Atelier Colognes, it is clean and very wearable. The mixture of woody incense, amber, and vanilla is fairly cozy but there is a sort of edginess to it.  It’s not a cute vanilla fragrance, more for the grown-ups. The citrus notes at the beginning don’t last long; it soon reveals vanilla and exotic coriander with velvety vetiver and amber in the background. It might work in the spring to summer seasons.

Nose: Ralf Schwieger
Released in 2011.
30ml Pure Perfume | €65 from Atelier Cologne.

Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens

Dark Vanilla
Another woody vanilla but totally different to Vanille Insensee. It is much darker and deeper. I was a little bit worried about trying this one at first because of the coconut and liquorice notes. Actually they coordinate with each other very well and it didn’t give me the choking effect that I was concerned about. Vanilla is on the sweeter side but the strong wood note keeps holding it back. There is a strange plasticky smell in it and it disturbed me a little. I can probably wear this, maybe in late autumn to winter.

Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Released in 2003.
50ml EDP | €90 from Serge Lutens.

Eau Duelle by Diptyque

Well Behaved Vanilla
Surprisingly, I liked this one as soon as I opened the vial. It is resiny and earthy vanilla with a touch of greenness. I was so sure that I could smell floral note in it but it’s not listed. It is delicious but not in a cakey way. It is one of the most inoffensive vanillas I’ve tried. Actual vanilla in this one is very rounded and not too sweet. I think this one works all year round.

Nose: Fabrice Pellegrin
Released in 2010.
75ml EDP | €105 from Diptyque.

Shalimar Souffle de Parfum by Guerlain

Lemon Meringue Vanilla
Shalimar Souffle opens with bright citrus notes. It is a delicious vanilla fragrance with the bitterness of citrus peels and a fraction of white florals. Somehow it’s a little ozonic too. It’s decidedly sweet but not sugary. As so many people already suggested, Shalimar Souffle smells like a lemon meringue pie and makes me feel hungry. Very light weight and airy for a vanilla fragrance.

Nose: Thierry Wasser
Released in 2014.
50ml EDP | around $100. More information: Guerlain

Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford

Smoky Vanilla
Tobacco Vanille is a spicy and smoky vanilla fragrance. I usually enjoy tobacco fragrances but, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure about this one at all. I kept smelling something tart and ripe besides rich tobacco, vanilla and spice mixture and it was a little unnerving. But after 15 minutes or so, it turned into more luscious sweet tobacco fragrance and I could enjoy it better then. Towards the end, sweetness of vanilla intensified a lot and it was a bit like a combination of ice cream, cigar, and Pepsi. I quite liked it.

Nose: Olivier Gillotin
Released in 2007.
50ml EDP | $220 from Tom Ford.

The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. IMHO by 4160 Tuesdays

Spicy Vanilla
It doesn’t match with my idea of sexy scent but it’s not bad at all. The vanilla wasn’t sugary sweet and merged well with the citrus note. Also the woodiness of this fragrance was down to earth and comforting. It’s not listed but I could smell something like patchouli and strong peppery/spicy notes – could there be ISO E Super or something similar in this fragrance? Whatever it is, it’s nicely blended into it and gives warmth to it. Definitely an autumn to winter fragrance.

Nose: Sarah McCartney
Released in 2013.
50ml EDP | £60 from 4160 Tuesdays.

Baiser Vole Essence de Parfum by Cartier

Flowery Vanilla
A flower shop right next to a patisserie; loads of lily, loads of vanilla. You’ve got to love the smell of luxurious lily and gourmand vanilla to appreciate this fragrance. There is something green and spicy in this fragrance, like fresh juice seeping out of the cut carnation stem. The vanilla is sweet and strong but it’s a proper vanilla pod smell. At first it was too intense for me to enjoy fully but the combination turned creamy and a little bit woody after a while. If I can manage to stand the initial stage, I might be able to wear this one. I’ll try again.

Nose: Mathilde Laurent
Released in 2011.
40ml |around €50. More information: Cartier


Eleven Vanilla Fragrances | Photo Collage by The Perfume Magpie

Eleven Vanilla Fragrances | Photo Collage by The Perfume Magpie

Now I can feel approaching autumn in the air, I long for something evocative and snuggly to wear. Vanilla certainly has those qualities – warm, cuddly and nostalgic – and it would be pretty appealing in the cool autumn days.

After experiencing the different takes on vanilla by ten perfumers, I came to the conclusion; I don’t hate vanilla fragrances, I just prefer the vanilla to be in the background and not on the main stage. A whispering level would be nice. I’ll be re-trying some of the fragrances again in the coming seasons when I swap my sandals and summer dresses for boots and jumpers.

Do you like vanilla in fragrance? What is your favourite?

21 thoughts on “Vanilla Fiesta: 11 Mini Reviews

    • Nice to see you here! Dame Perfumery is one of those perfume houses that I’ve been thinking about exploring more. Black Flower Mexican Vanilla has been in my mind for a while but haven’t had a chance to try… Yes, it’s all because of my prejudice against vanilla. Now I’m a little bit more open to the vanilla fragrances, I’m willing to give it a sniff. “Dark” part is very appealing. 😉

  1. This was fun – am glad you have bonded with vanilla perfumes, in moderation at least. Vanilla is my favourite note in perfumery and I like it in most of its forms except very dark and treacly – or boozy. You have reviewed four that I have never come across, and of the others Eau Duelle would be my favourite and I have a bottle of it!

    Other big vanilla loves are Vanigla di Madascar, Vanille Galante and Mona di Orio Vanille. But there are many more that will occur to me presently.

    • Not a strong bond yet but this has been a huge step forward. 😉 I’m not surprised about Eau Duelle being your favourite; it was my instant “like”, which was a pretty amazing thing for someone who had been avoiding vanilla. I actually like boozy fragrance, I might explore into the boozy vanilla array. Since you mentioned it, I’m kinda drawn to Vanille Galante. This is one of few Hermes fragrances I haven’t tried but the list of notes seems enticing.

  2. Like you I don’t care much for foody, cupcake vanilla fragrances. My favourites: Lartisan Vanillia, which is dC’ed but smells a lot like Fleurs de Commores (sp?) by MPG, Metallica, Ambre et Vanille by Coudray and SDV. Of the ones you mention only Un Bois Vanille, made me think I really should get that, but then again, the last time I had it I parted with it, so I probably shouldn’t 😉 What a lovely drawing, it really made me giggle. (Death by vanilla)

    • It really was a death by vanilla. 😀 But, you know, the experience stretched my world of fragrance a little bit broader. Despite my love for Guerlain, I haven’t tried Metallica yet, it’s all because of vanilla listed as a main note. I’m willing to have a sniff of it now. Ambre et Vanille sounds quite nice. Check! I’m a bit scared of black currant in Fleur des Comores. How is it?

  3. Not a vanilla fan here as well, but I discovered several that work nicely on my skin and wear them from time to time. From those you’ve mentioned, I like Eau Duelle for me and Tobacco Vanille for my vSO. Mdo”s Vanille is another favorite of mine. Black Flower Mexican Vanilla is an absolute must try: it’s a very high quality perfume for a more than moderate price. And if you get a chance, try Yves Rocher’s Vanille Noire: it’s much better than could be expected from such brand and costs next to nothing if you check eBay or their own site during one of the sales.
    Other than that, I also prefer vanilla in a supporting role.

      • Thank you Undina! Another vote for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla! I must try this one. Eau Duelle was definitely the one I liked, I still can’t commit myself to a full bottle but I wouldn’t mind having a decant. I think some of Yves Rochers are pretty good for the price, I’ll test Vanilla Noire next time when I’m in Yves Rocher store. 🙂

  4. Great post. Particularly loved your description of Tobacco Vanille as “ice cream, cigar and Pepsi”.
    I’m sure there is Iso E Super in The Sexiest Scent. Seven Veils sounds interesting.
    I’m another who struggles with vanilla perfumes and don’t own a single one. I’ve haven’t given up all hope though. The closest I came was the super spendy 7 Billion Hearts by CB I Hate Perfumes though the plasticky start put me off.

    • Thank you, Tara! Seven Veils is unique, or even weird. It will never be a full bottle candidate for me but it possesses a strange magnetism. I’m quite surprised that you mentioned 7 Billion Hearts. I had an opportunity to acquire it for a dead cheap price but I let the chance slip away because of the notes listed. I didn’t think I would like so much vanilla… If it comes around my way again, I’ll certainly give it a sniff.

  5. Sorry I’m late to tell you so, but I very much enjoyed your vanilla mini-reviews (and your accompanying Magpie drawing!!). My favorite thing: now knowing I’m not alone in smelling something oddly plastic in Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, which is the vanilla perfume that seems to get the most love among perfumistas. It just goes wrong on me.

    My tastes in vanilla largely mirror your own and most of your commenters; I really like certain perfumes that have a rich vanilla-and-sandalwood base (such as Yosh Ginger Ciao or Le Labo Poivre 23), but as deliciously vanillic as they are, they work for me precisely because they’re base accords rather than the main event. Of the vanilla fragrances I’ve tried where vanilla is the highlighted note, I like Mona d’Orio Vanille, Montale’s Boise Vanille, Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille and Micallef Vanille Orient.

    • I’ve been travelling and come back to you late as well! I haven’t tried most of the vanilla fragrances you listed, I’ve got to try them sometime. It’s getting more autumnal day by day here, finally I should say, I think I can enjoy vanilla more now. Talking about sandalwood and vanilla combination, I do love wearing Samsara, the original one. 😉

  6. Arrived late here but I never feel attracted by vanilla fragrances. Exception is Bois de Vanille to which I was introduced thanks to Suzanne. I find it brilliantly done as it downplays everything gourmand about vanilla.

    One I would suggest is DSH Vanille Botanique which is thick, almost bitter and smells like the richest real vanilla extract you can imagine

    • Thank you for popping in, Christos. I wore Bois de Vanille just a few days ago and I really liked it. It fitted so nicely with the cold late autumn day scene. I must admit, I was tempted to get a full bottle.
      Vanille Botanique sounds like a must try Vanilla. I admire a lot of Dawn’s work, I should get my hands on a sample. After I published this blog post, I discovered a Vanilla perfume I actually fell in love with; Vanille d’Iris by Ormonde Jayne. This is just so elegant and beautiful!

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