To optically pair Vanille 44 by niche brand Le Labo with Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou (1928) is a natural: The fragrance is illusory and surreal, like a razor slashing the eye ball that never actually happens. It's sexy too, in that perverted way of Buñuel's young novice about to take her vows led astray by her widowed uncle. How can a childhood aroma like vanilla do this stuff? Is there nothing sacred? Read on.
Le Labo's Vanille 44 is an atypical vanilla hidden beneath layers of other essences, veils of Salome, with a pronounced woody-musky trail (muscenone is a musk molecule) that would never have small children or those "too nice" co-workers with scrunchies on their hair atop bulky mohair sweaters to exclaim "you smell nice!". It's not that Vanille 44 doesn't smell nice, it's that it's not the instantly familiar sweet, cozy, foody vanilla these target groups are accustomed to. On the other hand, I don't know whether that super sophisticated group, who upturn their noses upon hearing your mother still likes Calvin Klein Eternity (which you faithfully buy for her every Christmas), would love it either. It's good stuff, created by one of the very best, perfumer Alberto Morillas (who has given us mega-hits from Kenzo Flower to Aqua di Gio for men for Armani) but is it that uncommon to warrant the huge price (500$ for 100ml)? I believe Lutens, Montale and Guerlain have already set foot in the smoky, woody or boozy vanilla territory respectively and not come back with losses. Vanille 44 is a good, mysterious fragrance, an oddball vanilla fragrance for adults of both sexes, but you need to forget about the name as it's as close to vanilla pods as Falco would be to the real Amadeus.
Le Labo presents it thus: "We all know that Paris is the city of love (and hence sex). But Paris is also the city of Vanille 44! We also know by now that our Rose 31 does not smell of only rose, that our Iris 39 does not smell of just iris, and that the number is as important (if not more) than the name of ingredient to the left of it (I am not a number !). Well our Vanille 44 does not smell of just Vanilla. At least it doesn’t smell of vanilla straight away. We could say that this theme is a subtle ambery incensy woody sexy note that once acquainted with your premium pashmina sweater will release the finest of the vanilla bourbons that you’ve experienced. It’s vanilla disguised."
You can say that again.
Notes for Vanille 44 by Le Labo:
Natural bergamot, incense, mandarin, gaiac, vanille bourbon, muscenone, pipol, hedione
Le Labo Vanille 44 is a Paris city-exclusive (available at Colette), retailing at $290 for 50ml, but only for the month of November it is globally available at Luckyscent and on the official Le Labo site.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Le Labo reviews & news ,Vanilla fragrances reviews
In the interests of disclosure, the review is based on a sample vial sent to me by the company.