In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 1

I realized how uneventful recently my day-to-day life has been when I started questioning myself whether I was going a little overboard with a number of posts based on a single week’s vacation… It made me thinking that, as much as I enjoy my work, I should probably at least try to do something about it taking up most of the resources in my life so that I would have inspirations without having to fly two thousand miles. Meanwhile, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth and proceed with the post.

The last day of our Maui trip we spontaneously decided to go to Makawao – an old Upcountry town. A Guide book (yes, I still use a paper book despite Internet, smartphones and all other modern ways of getting useful travel information) highly praised town’s famous bakery (it was closed that day but we knew about it beforehand thanks to my iPhone) and promised “unexpected shopping finds” (not the exact quote since my book currently is traveling again with a friend).

Makawao Restaurant

Going from one small shop to the other, we agreed with the Guide: there were many interesting small boutiques selling not the usual touristy rubbish you see in most other places everywhere in Hawaii. One of the stores (Designing Wahine Emporium) surprised me by an unusual choice of perfumes. Most often in Hawaii you can find some local offerings that play on the most common ingredients – plumeria, pikake, coconut – or exploit ambience theme – Kauai or Maui Rain, Hawaiian Night Mist and so on. None of those that I’ve ever tried was good enough to come back with me even as a souvenir from the pleasant vacation. But in that store I came across a large selection from the TokyoMilk line and several Kai perfumes.

Since I’m not a big fan of either brand and I haven’t even heard about the third one I saw on the counter, I was a little skeptical about three perfumes from that unknown brand. I inspected them carpingly: the bottles reminded me of Comptoir de Sud (one more brand that has never won me over), and they had “Made in France” label but the name of the brand did not sound familiar. I smelled all three from a nozzle: they all smelled of vanilla, which wasn’t surprising since each of them had that ingredient in the name. I even liked what I smelled but there were no paper strips to try them and I was an hour drive away from the place where we stayed, so testing unknown perfumes on skin was completely out of question.

It was almost time to head back, so we left the store but decided to make a quick stop at the local coffee shop – Sip Me. If you ever get there, try their wonderful drink “Simply Coconut” – a smoothie-like blend made just from fresh coconut. As we were drinking it with vanilla shortbread cookies, I kept thinking how wonderful the cookies smelled… until I realized that the smell was coming from my fingers.

It was too late to return to the store and try to figure out which of the three perfumes transferred to my fingers; so for the last sunset of my vacation I had to satisfy my hankering for vanilla with Diptyque ‘s Eau Duelle, which was great in the warmth of Maui evening.

Maui Sunset

On the return from the vacation I spent some time looking for that brand, the name of which I completely forgot. Somehow I managed to figure it out, went to their website – and a week later I had a full set of La Maison de la Vanille‘s samples.

La Maison de la Vanille is a relatively new niche brand from France: they started in 2006. Based on how they allude to exotic locations and “distant shores” citing those as inspiration, either their perfumes do not contain specific vanillas from those destinations, or their marketing department’s not doing a great job. My money’s on the former.

Even though 10 out of 11 perfumes in the set contain vanilla, only 6 of them are vanilla-centric, so I concentrated on testing those 6 – Vanille Givree de Antilles, Vanille Noire du Mexique, Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti, Vanille Divine des Tropiques, Vanille Sauvage de Madagascar and Absolu de Vanille. I can’t say that I disliked any of the six I’ve tested.

Vanille Fleurie de Tahiti and Vanille Sauvage de Madagascar are too sweet for me to wear. Somebody who’s more tolerant to this type of sweetness might find more nuances in these two but most of the notes listed on Fragrantica are lost on me.

Vanille Noire du Mexique and Absolu de Vanille are less sweet than the previous two and have some additional facets that make them a little more interesting to wear but probably I won’t: they are just not distinct enough. But, again, your mileage…

I like Vanille Givree de Antilles: it reminds me a lot of Angel. But I already love, own and do not wear the original Angel and its Taste of Fragrance flanker, so I should probably skip this one (after I test the remaining juice in parallel with Angel – just to confirm my impression).

And Vanille Divine des Tropiques is a winner for me. I should admit: out of the promised amber, jasmine, hyacinth, tuberose, gardenia, heliotrope and vanilla I think I can smell amber, vanilla and some floral component though I fail to recognize. And if tuberose of any kind – be that the most natural or a Fracas-style one – is in there, it hides well from my tuberose-adverse nose. I’m thinking about getting the smallest bottle of Vanille Divine des Tropiques for the next time I crave vanilla or want a reminder of the great vacation I had this year.

La Maison de la Vanille Samples Set

If you like vanilla perfumes and haven’t tried this brand yet, at 10 euro for the set, including S&H, I do not see a good reason not to (if French isn’t your strong suit, I’d suggest using Chrome’s “Translate this page” functionality as I did).

Images: samples from the brand’s site; the rest – my own

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14 thoughts on “In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 1

  1. Well done on tracking down the brand. Although if anyone has the sleuthing skills, it’s you. I guess out of eleven, chances were good that one would be a winner, but you just never know.

    This line resonated with me – “But I already love, own and do not wear the original Angel”. Isn’t it funny how often we a love a fragrance but just don’t wear it for one reason or another?

  2. Glad you had such an enjoyable holiday, and that town you visited sounds like my kind of place – I love encountering genuinely quirky and interesting shops rather than the run-of-the-mill souvenir or predictable ‘stuff shops’ to use ex-Mr Bonkers’ term. Full of gifty type things that you have seen many times before from teddies to photo frames to lots of Shabby Chic bits and bobs no one really needs.

    Vanilla is my favourite note so my ears pricked up at the news of your sample set acquisition. Glad you found one that spoke to you and the price is really most affordable!

    • At some point I decided that I would never be bringing back with me as souvenirs for my friends anything that cannot be eaten, drunk or otherwise used up instead of sitting and gathering dust during the waiting period on its way to the garbage bin.

      It was a pleasant surprise to see the price for a 30 ml bottle of the perfume that I liked (and the fact of them having that 30 ml bottle was a good news also).

  3. I’m not any vanilla fan though I don’t mind it as a supporting note (which is quite common nowadays) but I’m happy that you managed to find 1 fragrance that was a winner, among the number you’ve tried.

    • Actually, I’m not a big vanilla fan myself. I just recently started enjoying several vanilla-heavy perfumes (about which I plan to write in the Part 2). Maybe one day you’ll find your perfect vanilla.

  4. Yes I second Cookie Queen on the quote-I’ll go to some lengths to find a tester-any tester-rather than my own wrist.

    The Brand is familiar to me. Think our Sephora in New Jersey carried it, but they didn’t have the whole line and the ones they had were very sweet. Sounds like the whole thing deserves a second look!

    • I think that it’s an interesting variety for the price. And even those that were too sweet for me were not even close to the worst offenders in that department that I’ve ever come across.

  5. Pingback: In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 2 – Undina's Looking Glass

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