Friday, December 6, 2013

Best Woody Vanilla Perfumes (Vanilla Series)

I've said it before and I'll say it again. For vanilla lovers (I mean the fragrant kind and they're legion) every little twist has the potential to make them want to sample and exhaust their repertoire. It's not enough to have dessert-like baking type vanilla fragrances while dark, smoky vanilla perfumes can be too serious and demanding sometimes. For men this presents an even greater problem: in the kakistocracy of cheap, syrupy vanillas addressed to air-headed teenagers popping bubblegums, i-Pods super-glued to the ear and slouchy PVC bags dragged above butt-crack revealing jeans, finding something that excels and is gentlemanly at the same time becomes an exercise in futility.


So, yes, a more sophisticated category playing on the register of B flat minor is apropos: appearing calm, composed, unruffled, though there is something more volatile hiding under the lid.
(If you'd like to see some E-flat minor vanillas -I feel weird just typing that, can vanillas ever be eccentric?- you have to wait for the next installment in the Vanilla Series.)


Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise: angelica and guaiacwood make this vanilla very unusual with a melancholy backdrop
Ava Luxe Vanilla Musk: though purported to be musky, this isn't funky, but rather woody, milky and with a nice coziness that is not foodie
Bvlgari Black: brawny, with rubber notes that become gentle very soon
Dior Homme Intense: a masculine vanilla, with a nice elegant background that keeps it from becoming nauseating sweet
Kiehl's Vanilla and Cedarwood: austerity meets vanilla, there you go little miss!
Korres Vanilla Freesia Lychee: don't mind the "components" on the label, this smells of chypre-woody with a slice of Coco Mademoiselle
L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzing: this is the smell of antique, used book stores, soft and animalic and very very intelligent indeed. A cult favorite composed by Olivia Giacobetti.
Le Labo Vanille 44: this Paris city exclusive is poised between a delicate French madeleine and smoky black tea
Montale Boise Vanille: many of the Montale fragrances are orientalized, but this is maybe the most approachable.
Parfumerie Generale Cadjmere: the Mediterranean woods of myrtle and cypress join Brazilian rosewood to put a decidedly sombre feel to vanilla (one of the beloved ingredients for Pierre Guillaume).
Rochas Man: a unisex take on woody vanilla with a hint of coffee, marketed to men but enjoyed by women as well, and composed by calorific "dishes" master chef Maurice Roucel
Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille: the reference woody vanilla, it infuses the woody spicy blend of Feminite du Bois with a silky veil of vanilla fondant.

Do you like woody vanillas? Which are your favorites?


  1. Anonymous13:57

    I have never heard of Boise Floral Vanille - are you sure it's from Parfumerie Generale? I thought I knew all of their fragrances. Where can I find this one?? THanks!

  2. I seem to recall this is what my long sample sent through a MUA swap read. Maybe it's Montale's Boise Vanille? Let me check.
    Parfumerie Generale has a more esoteric line, which is notoriously elusive. I have samples, not bottles of those. Therefore can't be sure on exactly names, but like I said, lemme check. ;-)

  3. Bulgari Black is almost a category unto itself. It took me several tries to appreciate, but it's one of those scents that you just crave every now and then (at least I do.)Another excellent list!

  4. Elia20:27

    I heard Rochas Man is discontinued. I wonder if I should try and get a bottle on the cheap.
    I find Un bois Vanille has an overblown coconut which is distracting.
    I've tried less that 50% of these, but of what's listed Vanille 44 appealed the most.

  5. I love woody vanilla and woody pretty much anything for that matter: sandalwood and cedarwood are just perfect for me. I want to try Dior Homme Intense, Ava Lux Vanilla, and Vanilla and Cedarwood, for sure. Un bois Vanille did not work for at all, sadly. I had high hopes and bought it unsniffed. I gave it to my cousin since on me it is way to sweet. I reckon my skin amplifies sweetness or I am just too sensitive to it. I do love Parfumerie Generale though, not everything, but Tonkamande, for instance, which I am wearing now, is rather sweet.

  6. Ellen01:04

    I don't know what kind of vanilla this is, but I really like Van Cleef & Arpels Orchidee Vanille.
    As much as I like many of Serge Lutens fragrances, I so dislike Un Bois Vanille. The coconut note is so jarring to me and so out of place. It ends up smelling like plastic or sun tan lotion. Not what I want in a perfume.

  7. Anon,

    back with an answer: I resorted to asking my swapee partner; she didn't quite remember, but she does have a bottle of the Montale. It must be that one.
    The PG I have is Cadjmere and Coze, so it can't be them (indeed I reference the former in the article).

    Some of the PG scents can be sampled at online decanters (that's where most buy off their samples of this line)

  8. A,

    glad to hear you found the list enjoyable.
    I agree that Black is very interesting, though personally I never found it challenging. It's nicely undulating between things nevertheless.

  9. Elia,

    oh noes!!!! I suppose everything is cast out chez Rochas now that they've changed their business model. The new re-issues sound honest, at the very least.

    Funnily enough, though I can't stomach coconut (apart of when paired with the very green fig leaf) and I really can't wear neither Daim Blond nor Datura Noir (which both give me a whiff of nauseating coconut), UBV is behaving well on me and to my nose. For once I can appreciate the sweetness. But it's far from being my most favorite SL fragrance all the same ;-)

    I agree that Vanille 44 is a good one, nicely tempered, though hugely overpriced!

  10. WFTG,

    thanks for sharing!

    Yes, some can be too sweet and for UBV please see my reply above to Elia; I must be picking up something that holds the coco in check in that one. Luckily for me as I wear this once or twice a year and enjoy it.

    Tonkamande is more almondy, as attested by the name, which nicely tones down the vanilla. It's usually almond in body products which turns my stomach as it can be so "plastic".

  11. Ellen,

    ha! Another hater of UBV. Maybe it's not the popular reference I thought it was. For that vanillic thing I prefer Bois Oriental in the SL line, but the sun tan lotion thing doesn't turn my stomach oddly enough in this one (I can't abide Daim Blond or Datura Noir though, so it's not like I'm immune).

    I would peg the Van Cleef as a floral powdery vanilla. Maybe a "quirky" one, it's not too vanillic. ;-)

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  13. I have both Bvlgari Black and Kiehl's Vanilla and Cedarwood. These are a great addition to my collection and I wouldn't want to be without them. Thanks again for the fantastic list.

  14. Yve Rochers Vanille Noir. It was made for me, and smells like it was 3 times more expensive.

  15. Jolene,

    as you say they make their own "space" and are indispensable. I don't own the latter, even though I'd like to at some point, but love and wear the former.


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