Vanilla. That most comforting of notes. I’ve felt an urgent need for it recently, a yearning for sweetness and creaminess in which to bury myself. I’ve mainly been wanting to stuff myself with fresh croissants and ice cream, the scent of vanilla on my skin had, until now, felt a bit unsatisfactory. It was my gluttony that was craving, not my olfactive sense.
I find it fascinating that a scent can be delicious to a person if it is meant for the taste buds, yet repulsive if it is applied to skin. Some would be obvious; a paper cone of piping hot chips, covered in salt and vinegar and fresh out of the fryer is heavenly as you anticipate the first bite. That smell carried home on your clothes is quite a different thing.
Gourmand notes in fragrance can be tricky. I made the mistake once of buying my mum a whole basket of vanilla scented toiletries and perfume, thinking that she would love it because she’s always said that vanilla is one of her favourite tastes. It turns out that washing in it made her feel a bit sick, like she was smearing custard all over herself. That there can be this huge a division within something as closely linked as taste and smell, even with something as friendly as vanilla, continues to baffle and intrigue me. I have the same sort of issue with violet scented things and Parma Violets, Turkish delight and sweet rose perfumes. Somehow I cannot distinguish between taste and sense of smell with these notes. I end up feeling the sensation of the perfume on my tongue and it’s not particularly pleasant.
Luckily this doesn’t happen to me when it comes to vanilla. Now that my gluttony has subsided I feel more able to satisfy my cravings with scent. My favourite type of vanilla perfumes tend to be blended with woods and booze. Frapin 1270 is an absolute winner for me; it’s the cognac and candied pineapple, blended with smooth vanilla bean and a slight dry floral that really pushes my buttons. Mona Di Orio Vanille is my latest crush and a scent that I’ve been waiting to write about for a few weeks now. It wasn’t quite right on my skin in the really hot weather but now there’s a cool breeze this perfume is singing quite beautifully.
There is something of the Gypsy caravan about this fragrance. It is deep and smoky, slickly juiced with orange yet somehow slightly rough in texture; like well worn boards under leather boots. The Mona Di Orio website states;
“When composing Vanille, Mona di Orio imagined a romantic back story involving an old ship from long ago, on its way to Madagascar or the Comoros Islands, carrying precious cargo: rum barrels, oranges, vanilla beans, ylang-ylang, cloves and sandalwood …”
This imagery does seem rather fitting, however I sense a deep earthiness folded within the shadows of Vanille, a kind of whispered intent. It is not a vanilla scent that one sinks gratefully into, fluffed up and sugared like a candy eiderdown. Rather it is a spiced and drunken juice full of split pods, intoxicating and languidly enticing. A pirate ship would make an effective stage upon which Vanille could perform, but it’s the smoke in this perfume that anchors it to the earth for me…
Smoke from campfires and drifting in ribbons from the smouldering embers of dark resin. Shadowy men and woman, draped in shawls patterned in rich reds and blacks shot through with gold. They sit closely around their fires, speaking in low tones as the horses munch and shuffle next to the caravans and carts, loaded with spices for trade…
Vanille opens with a splash of rum, sweetly alcoholic; a straight up hit from a bottle dusted with powdered clove. It’s a heady concoction quickly followed by an orange that slips between candied, freshly squeezed and flowering, as if the whole essence of the plant has been poured slowly into the rum. White orange blossoms float atop this dark brew, releasing scent into the air above the molten bronze liquid.
Developing sumptuously around this is the vanilla, of a quality that few perfumes I have tried could top. This isn’t a soft, fuzzy yellow vanillin fragrance. This is sticky black beans, split and smeared, tiny seeds grainy against the skin; a pure vanilla extract. It’s far deeper, boozy even without the rum that sloshes all around. And the smoke begins to impregnate everything now, a fragrant, drifting thing that brings with it a different texture, dimming the light. It’s almost leathered, not intensely animalic but somehow tethered to the earth by a long leash. There is a hint of saddles and belt straps, but the sweet smoke is prevalent.
Vanille isn’t a shapeshifter, once the spiced orange rum, vanilla and smoke arrive they stay for the duration. I feel hushed when I wear this perfume, like being wide awake as the last strip of sunlight disappears from the sky, anticipating the coming night. It is intense when sniffed at close range yet I’ve found that it doesn’t have an immense or loud presence, quite the opposite if that is possible. It has more of a slow, brooding nature, rolling steadily forth in deep tones of amber, bronze and pitch.
I also feel unable to pick apart the different components after the initial opening, it’s more of a textural change in the dry down; syrupy rum receding to let the dry sandalwood and gritty vanilla bean take over fully. At the very end Vanille gets creamy and lighter in tone, the rum popping up again with a candied edge. It’s a wonderful scent to sleep in I have found, but I would be just as happy to wear it in anticipation of anything I hoped might be pleasurable, at any time of day.
I find Vanille rather hedonistic in that I feel dead sexy when I wear it. It’s rolling dark smoke, all sweet and intoxicating, come hither without the cliché. I want to swish my black skirts to reveal red petticoats and sit with my bare feet buried in the ashes around the campfire, the nape of my neck exposed to the night’s chill. This is a appetite quencher in a different kind of way, I don’t feel remotely in need of a sweet pastry while I’m doused in this.