Friday, May 30, 2008

Twin Peaks: Indult Tihota and Vanille Noire du Mexique

According to the beautiful myth in Totonac mythology, the tropical vanilla orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew. One can see how the aroma of vanilla recalls love: breast milk is known to smell of traces of vanillin, the chemical constituent of vanilla extract.
It is no wonder that it is such a popular note in perfumery that has inspired so many renditions and compositions centering on it; like a quintessential theme in art, such as a sunset or a female nude, making different generations of artists seeing it through their own eyes for our benefit.

And so, on to two vanilla-centered fragrances today, which share common traits. Share in terms of smell, because they're worlds apart in terms of cost, presentation and poise.

As we had reported in the past, "Indult" is an old french word from 1498 signifying the privileges given by the french King or the Pope to esteemed individuals. The Christian Latin "Indultum" meaning "concession, favor" is at the root. With the desire to launch something that has comparable exclusivity rights as those bestowed upon by a king, Indult the niche line is comprised by fragrances that are issued in only 999 bottles each, automatically entering you in the club able to order a refill if you have purchased a bottle. The fragrances have been developed by young talent Francis Kurkdjan, the man behind the satiny femininity of Narciso For Her, the curry-rich and individual immortelle wonder of Eau Noire by Dior, the smooth skin caressed by the sun of Aquasun by Lancaster, the sweet bestseller Le Male by Gaultier and the modern abstract rose interpretation of Rose Barbare among others.

Tihota (which means ‘sugar’ in Polynesian) is an exotic concoction of fresh vanilla pods and various musks. Like the incandescence of the sunrise that embraces the far horizon, the fragrance exudes the rich and warm sensuality of real vanilla pods, opened fresh with a knife to render their rich, darkish, bittersweet, almost loquat odour to a creme brûlée. Putting it on one can feel the skin breathe beneath: although sweet and tenacious it retains the magical touch of Kurkjdan which is to make truly modern fragrances that respect one's personal odour profile to emerge.

Comparing Tihota to other costly vanillas, such as Guerlain's Spiritueuse Double Vanille, provides a backdrop in which to appreciate its advantages and shortcomings. Although it highlights the aspects of the vanilla pod with amazing accuracy, it somwhow lacks the artistic interpretation beyond that: it acts the way those painters who paint from photographs are able to catch the finest detail and produce a total which is completely accurate in its representation, yet falls short of the defining aura that differentiates the living being from the imprint on the photographic paper. Spiritueuse Double Vanille has the genius addition of a smoky and lightly boozy veil of incense, as well as what seems like a delectable note of marjoram and oregano on my skin, which combined account for an intriguing denouement. In that regard, Spiritueuse Double Vanille defies the moniker of a vanilla scent, despite it being named after it, in contrast to Tihota which remains more simplistic.

For that reason, it was perhaps an interesting experiment to see which of the myriads of other vanilla fragrances in the market would come close to Tihota on a more approachable level. I am happy to report that although they might not be exact duplicates, Tihota and Vanille Noire du Mexique share several common threads in their stories unfolding on skin.

Vanille Noire du Mexique is forming part of the collection of vanillas from La Maison de la Vanille, a niche line with affordable prices of vanilla-laced fragrances in aluminum cans of eau de toilette.
The most arresting aspect of Vanille Noire is that despite its price it smells like real vanilla pods, succulent, rich, almost oily with a burnt sugar tinge. Vanilla orchids were initially indigenous to Mexico anyway (with the name deriving from the Spanish "vainilla", small pod), although today the majority of the world's Bourbon vanilla production is produced in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and the Reunion (formerly Île Bourbon).
In its own way Vanille Noire is faithful to its name:Vanilla sold in tourist markets around Mexico is mixed with an extract of the tonka bean, which contains coumarin.
The other vanillas in the range are also interesting, but the darkness, the oiliness and slight earthy cocoa touch of this one elevates it to my favorite in the line.

Also very close (even closer) to Tihota comes L'Occitane Vanille, but it has been discontinued for more than 2 years now. If you can locate a bottle, it might be a worthy experiment to compare side by side.

Notes for Vanille Noire du Mexique: vanilla, roses, iris, tonka beans, opoponax, patchouli and bergamot.

Notes for Tihota: vanilla pods, various musks.

Initially sampling for Tihota was reserved to French Sephora and on the Indult site. They have since relaxed their sampling policy, with options available through Luckyscent and First in Fragrance.
Tihota comes at 50ml/1.7oz Eau de Parfum bottles at 160 euros/250 $.
The bottle of Tihota is an architectural rectangle with a black rounded cap, much like the classic Chanels and encased in a beautiful pallisander wood box designed by Etienne de Suza.
More information can be had the Indult site .

Vanille Noire du Mexique comes at 50ml/1.7oz Eau de Toilette bottles at 39 euros. Available at Beautyhabit and First in Fragrance.

One sample of Tihota will be given away to a reader: Comment if you want to be eligible.

Pic of Vanilla beans via Wikipedia. Pic of Tihota bottle through Luckyscent.


  1. How lovely that you were able to try this and comment for us. I love your blog!

  2. Thanks Karin, I am very happy to hear you are enjoying it.
    And btw, you have won the sample on the previous draw (so mail is coming!) ;-)

  3. Anonymous15:02

    The only problem with reading beautiful, well crafted blogs is that it tempts me to try things I would otherwise have left on the shelf :) Latest acqusitions include Hiris, and vinateg Caleche, courtesy of ebay. Have a good weekend, Helg!



  4. Anonymous15:26

    I agree with Carole - now I have to find these and try them! Please enter me in the drawing...thx!

  5. Anonymous15:26

    I agree with Carole - now I have to find these and try them! Please enter me in the drawing...thx!

  6. Dear Carole, make me blush. And God forbid if I incite overspending!:-O

    Seriously, the Twin Peaks feature was initially conceived to find some alternatives that are either more approachable or more afforable to other fragrances that have some hype (deserved or not) attached.
    I hope you get to try both and report back your impressions, Carole :-)

    I've included you in the draw!

  7. HVS,

    of course you're in and best of luck!
    As far as vanillas go (and I am not a vanilla fanatic, so you know they have to have something to make me like them) they're pretty good.

  8. Ah, Vanilla Noire du Mexique the first niche fragrance I ever bought myself (I remember when this was all the rage over at Luckyscent, seems so long ago...). Interesting I remember being at a French Sephora and smelling the tester of Tihota and thinking: cupcakes! Wasn't that impressed, but please enter me in the drawing. By the way do you know what Kurkdjan fragrance Mexique layers gorgeously with? Narciso Rodriguez edt, really quite gorgeous.

  9. Anonymous16:00

    I do not like the «usual suspects» vanillas as I find them sweet, artificial, cloying. But your post has definitely made me interested in sampling Vanilla Noire du Mexique!

  10. Anonymous16:19

    I would like to be eligible to receive this sample , please !
    As a lover of all things vanilla- nd perfums with a vanilla base - this article is a welcome read. I treasure my Guerlain Spirituese Vanille - I am curious about these vanilla scents . thank You for highlighting them !

  11. J,

    and now Tihota is all the rage over there!
    I don't think it's the one to all fragrances but it is well-made.
    And your first niche was a good one.

    Interesting combination, thanks: should try it at some point!

  12. Sylvia,

    I agree with you: vanillas are all too often confectionary and bad confectionary at that too. Those two though are quite nice!

  13. Dear Madelyn,

    thank you for your kind words and I hope I did them justice.
    You're of course in and good luck!
    Nothing wrong with being fond of vanillic scents and the Guerlain one is certainly very interesting indeed!

  14. Anonymous19:01

    I love vanilla! Please include me in the draw. Thanks.

  15. You're in of course! Good luck!

  16. Anonymous23:02

    I agree with the comments above! Your blog is really among the most beautiful around, and reading it makes it even more tempting to smell the diversity of perfumes. Please add me in the draw!
    (happy writing this, at least in nice warm weather with sandaled feet, in Uppsala these days. Linné's town, and just now with the air dense with the scents from flowering trees :)

  17. Yet another great blog entry! It's a pity I cannot wear Noire du Mexique, since many tonka bean notes turn to halitosis on my skin. So of all the LMDVs, Sauvage de Madagascar is the one I wear and love.

    All told, though, my favorite vanilla ever is (of course) backordered from the manufacturer: La Ligne St Barth Vanille, the original formula in the trapezoidal bottle.

  18. Dear S,

    your words will go to my head; it makes me so happy to hear you say so and it is of course a pleasure to have friends here discussing perfume with :-)
    You're of course in!

    Finally! Good weather! And flowering trees!
    Sandaled feet is one of the most exquisite pleasures of life IMHO. I can't tell you how much I enjoy releasing my feet as soon as the weather warms.

  19. Thank you Risa!

    Sauvage de Madagascar is probably my second choice of the line.
    I also like the somewhat more citrusy, lighter I Profumi di Firenze Vaniglia del Madagascar.
    Have you tried that one?

    The StBarth gets lots of good word of mouth, so I should probably revisit. (*mental note*)

  20. I have bits, decants, vials, and full bottles of many of these, and I am fond of Tihota- but returned the bottle, as the 'fancy box' was poorly made and didn't merit that HUGE outlay.
    [It was literally coming unglued, cheap and shoddy]

    I like to layer I Profumi's with their Ambra del Nepal, or Muschio Bello.

  21. Really, dear I? What a shame!! For those prices you'd think that they would pay attention to such things!:-(
    {There's a certain pleasure in having decants in some of these: to defy such a policy of rip-off!}

    Yes, the two IpDF are very nice and would be lovely layered.
    Haven't tried the Muschio Bello yet.

  22. I love just about anything vanilla, and I have not had the pleasure of sampling Tihota, so please include me in the drawing. Many thanks! :-)

  23. Hi Claudia!
    So happy to see you here :-)

    Of course you're included in the draw! I will announce the winner on Monday.
    Good luck!

  24. I love Vanille by L'Artisan - I wonder how Tihota would compare. There are so many vanilla fragrances out there it's amazing that they can also all be so different.

    Please include me in the draw.

  25. You're in, Mark.

    Vanilia by L'artisan is a bit smokier and more playful overall, less pods than burnt sugar compared to Tihota. It's a great vanilla scent, to be sure!

    The vanilla range is awesome to contemplate and a little intimidating: there are sooooo many!

  26. The draw is now officially closed, although if anyone has a comment, they may still do so, of course.

    Random pick was Mark42: please mail me with particulars so I can send this out to you :-)

  27. I'm really exited to try this vanilla. It's first incarnation was before I became a slave to perfume! I hope to get a sample from Luckyscent but I would love to win one- woo hoo! Thanks for the great review. Very much appreciated. I'll love my Maison de Vanille fragrances even more now.

  28. This sounds great- thanks for the wonderful review!

  29. Thank you for your comments Ricky!

    This is indeed a good vanilla rendition and the MdlV scents are pretty nice too (especially the "darker" ones).

    Hope you enjoy! :-)


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