The grown-up vanilla scents without a whiff of dessert
I heard recently from a retailer that vanilla perfumes are currently outselling florals, and it occurred to me that I’ve rarely written about the former. I love and wear lots of fragrances containing vanilla (Chanel’s Coco and Celine’s Black Tie, for two), but when vanilla is the entire point, I’m turned off by the sickly sponge batter scent.
And so I set myself the challenge of finding a more sophisticated selection of vanilla perfumes – grownup and not cloying as we enter spring, unsticky and with not a whiff of cupcake.
Let’s start with a veritable bargain I’d never before tried. Lalique Le Parfum (£31.53), a creation of the master perfumer Dominique Ropion, is an exceptionally clever vanilla, in that it circumvents the dessert trolley by adding refreshing herbs and savoury bay leaf. It’s still sweet, but more boozy than custardy, and the whole thing emerges as a very pleasant, powdery concoction not unlike spiced almonds dusted with icing sugar. Lovely.
If the sweetness deters you still, try Diptyque’s Eau Duelle (£85). What a beauty. Delicate, mellow, almost melancholic bourbon vanilla, creamy wood sap and spices against a clear, airy backdrop. It’s reminiscent of popping on a cosy cashmere jumper in sharp winds and landing at the perfect temperature. There’s nothing puddingy here and consequently I think I could very happily wear it on a warm day, should one ever make an appearance.
The G-word in Laura Mercier’s Vanillé Eau Gourmande (£55), made me brace myself for a sugar rush, and while it is undeniably sweet, its spiritual home is a Parisian patisserie, rather than a Krispy Kreme doughnut outlet. Powdery and diaphanous with an appealing hint of Play-Doh, this feels like you’re wafting through a cloud of vanilla sugar. It has a lightness (possibly too light if you like a punchy, long-lasting scent) that lends itself to layering – something a tad heavier, perhaps floral, would go well over the top for evening.
Able to hold its own at any time of day is Jo Malone’s new Vetiver & Golden Vanilla Cologne Intense (£106). I was intrigued by the idea of mixing green, earthy vetiver with sweet vanilla, and imagined I’d want to wear it. But in the end, I much preferred it on my husband. For those who like masculine fragrances, this is a joy. The vanilla is both smoky and creamy – like marshmallows toasted on a bonfire – made adult with cardamom, whisky and grapefruit. Completely delicious with zero chance of toothache.