In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 2

Topic of vanilla perfumes periodically circulates in the Perfumeland, and two-three years ago I could probably be observed commenting on those with the statement of not being a vanilla fan. I never seriously disliked the note, but for a long time I thought that vanilla-centric perfumes weren’t my cup of tea.

In some sense I was right: until recently the only two bottles of vanilla perfume in my perfume collection were Vanille Noire by Yves Rocher and Eau Duelle by Diptyque – a mini bottle and a travel bottle, correspondingly. But the “mystery” vanilla perfume that I came across on the last day of my Maui vacation (see the Part  1* post) has triggered my vanilla cravings. And while I was searching for that brand first and then waiting on the La Maison de la Vanille’s sample set arrival, I discovered that over the years I accumulated a wide variety of decants and samples of vanilla perfumes. So for the next month I wore and tested perfumes with the prominent vanilla note.

There are many great Guides to Vanilla Perfumes in the Blogosphere, so I won’t even attempt to write any serious comparison of the perfumes I tried. I’ll just share some personal numbers, observations and conclusions.

Diptyque Eau Duelle

During that month I sweetened the bitterness of the returning from my vacation with 22 vanilla perfumes. Only one of them – Eau Duelle doesn’t have one or the other variation of the word “vanilla” in the name. But Eau Duelle is unmistakably vanilla perfume, and I like it, especially in the heat of tropics (and that’s where I actually wore it on the onset of my vanilla kick).

Out of 22 perfumes in my experiment, I disliked 11 – so probably I wasn’t that wrong in thinking that I didn’t like vanilla perfumes. I won’t list them all, but mention just several where I have any additional comments. I confirmed to myself that Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée does not work for me, which still surprises me since I find most of their perfumes pleasant even when I do not love them. I also suspect that my sample of Vanille Absolument from L’Artisan Parfumeur is off: though I don’t know how it’s supposed to smell, I don’t think it smells right (or I’ll be extremely surprised since I read many good reviews for it).

Five perfumes I neither liked nor disliked: Montale Chypre Vanille, Van Cleef & Arpels Orchidee Vanille, Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, Jo Malone Vanila & Anise and M.Micallef Vanille Orient. They were quite nice but all of them were the type that I might wear, in principle, but having so many other great perfumes I would probably never finish even those decants/minis that I have now (Rusty didn’t care much for them either: I couldn’t persuade him to play with them for my camera).

Rusty and Vanilla Samples

That leaves us with 6 perfumes that I quite liked. None of them were new to me: they were my favorites from the previous encounters with them. In addition to the mentioned above Eau Duelle, I liked Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille. I have a decant of it but once it’s gone, I won’t pursue it. Unexpectedly I loved Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford. “Unexpectedly” – because this is one of the perfumes that I love on my vSO but I’ve never considered it for myself. Now I think that once we finish his decant, I should go for a bottle – to share, of course. I also liked Ormonde Jayne’s Vanille d’Iris though I have some uneasy feelings about it since I think I smell Iso E Super** in it. Good news: I do not smell carrot in it any longer. So I might consider getting one of the 10 ml bottles from their travel set. Or not.

By the end of this Single Note Exploration episode I got down to two contenders for the perfect vanilla title – Le Labo Vanille 44 and Mona di Orio Vanille. Thank you, hajusuuri and Suzanne (Suzanne’s Perfume Journal): if it weren’t for your generosity, with me not being a big fan of vanilla perfumes (and absolutely not a fan of Mona di Orio’s creations), I might have never actually tried these two. But I did, found both to be wonderful perfumes and decided to add one of them to my collection. Why not both? Even not talking about the price, these two fit exactly the same niche for me, and I just do not see how I would be deciding every time, which of the two to wear. So after many evenings of the parallel test runs on both wrists, as well as a couple of days of actually wearing each of them, I declared the winner: Vanille by Mona di Orio is my Perfect Vanilla.

Rusty and Mona di Orio Vanille

Now I want to “pay it forward”: I have one 5 ml decant of Mona di Orio Vanille to share. To be entered into the giveaway, let me know in your comment whether you’ve tried and liked it, or want to try it (I assume, if you didn’t like it, you won’t need more of it, but I do not mind your entering into the draw even if that’s the case). There are no other requirements. Open until 11:59 P.M. PST, December 11, 2016.

Question to everybody (not related to the giveaway): Can you name just one vanilla perfume that is hands down your favorite?


*I doubt anyone would have noticed, but I wanted to explain that usually, when I re-visit the same note in my One Note Exploration series, I name the consequent episodes “Take 2, 3, etc.” But in this case both episodes were the parts of the same tasting spree – hence Part 1 & 2.

** Recently I finally formulated how I feel about this aroma chemical: while I like it on its own (and have a bottle of Molecular 01 to prove it), and I do not mind it in perfumes, I prefer not to be able to pinpoint this ingredient in my perfumes.


Images: my own


76 thoughts on “In the Search for the Perfect Vanilla, Part 2

  1. I love vanilla in a perfume, my favorite bar none is the original Vanilla from L’ Artisan perfumer – the ylang ylang, vanilla bean, amber and sandalwood are perfectly balanced yet simple and very sexy. Runner-up is Dior Addict (original formulation)…
    Angel is also great, but in small (very small) doses…

    • I don’t remember the original formulation of Addict (though I know that I tried it back then), but I completely agree about Angel.

      I assume, you want to be entered into the draw – #1

      • Vintage Dior Addict is so good. Someone on the same floor but a different function wore this; I didn’t know what it was until I asked her. Since then, some kind NSTer send me a decant and I also swapped for a small bottle. Good stuff!

        • Ok, now I’m curious… I might dig out a manufacturer sample of this one from the old days – you know, those boxes you plan to go through one day… I need to check :)

  2. I have never tried Mona di Orio Vanille, but I love vanilla fragrances. I really, really love Mexican Black Flower (Dame fragrances). Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    • Hi Cathy!

      Black Flower Mexican Vanilla was one of those vanillas that didn’t work for me (at least this time), but I agree that it’s a nice perfume.

      You’re in! #2

  3. Thanks for the briefing on all these enticing vanillas. It’s especially helpful to know that you wore Eau Duelle in the heat, because I long to wear vanilla year-round and that’s usually hard to do. I haven’t tried Mona di Orio Vanille, but my absolute favorite is Nest Midnight Fleur, which is a very subtle oriental vanilla. Thanks for the giveaway.

    • Hi Olivia!

      I didn’t realize it myself about Eau Duelle until I smelled it on my friend (to whom I actually gifted that bottle a year earlier). Since we usually go to Hawaii together, I didn’t have a chance to wear it myself until this year when we happened to vacation separately.

      One more Dyptique’s perfume that performs unexpectedly good in hot and humid weather is Volutes.


  4. Ha! So you came to the “dark side”, so to speak :-) When you’re determined to study a note, you really go all out so kudos to your persistence in finding your perfect vanilla. If I had to choose one, and it is very difficult, my choice TODAY (because it is likely to change) is Indult Tihota – vanilla and musk, pure and simple.

    As to Spiritueuse Double Vanille, I am running low and clarissa from NST mentioned that Guerlain has a 20 mL refillable travel spray called La Goutte Parfumee and it is available in a limited number of perfumes. I requested SDV and Neroli Outrenoir from Suzan @ shopfranceinc and I am waiting for her to come back and invoice me. It is surprisingly affordable at $45 each plus shipping!

    Rusty either lwas scared of was ready to pounce on the Mona di Orio bottle. He is such a cutie!

    P.S. DNEM

    • Somehow I missed those 20 ml travel sprays in her newsletter… Not that I really need any now but… :)

      I’m really surprised that you like Tihota. A friend sent me a sample, which barely survived the trip (or maybe not). But whatever I was able to smell/test was soooo awfully sweet that I feel nauseous just thinking about it. But you like it?!! Hm…

      You have a very good eye: Rusty was hunting my hand under the bed cover (I was trying to level the bottle). In the next 5 seconds he did pounce – too bad I couldn’t take a picture of that.

  5. Hello darling! You’ve been brave to venture out of your comfort zone by wearing only vanilla themed perfumes for basically a month! Very impressive indeed.
    I smiled when I read til the end and found out you managed to discover your perfect vanilla, that’s great! Bravo you!
    Enjoy that bottle of Mona di Orio.

    I’ll skip the giveaway, I know the perfume and didn’t care for it much…

    My favorite vanilla is 1725 by Histoires de Parfums. Even though if comes with assistance of lavender, almonds and spices I get lots of custardy vanilla from it and I love it

  6. Hi Undina! MdO’s Vanille falls into my “Bizarre Perfumista Behaviour” category. I have a bottle. The original one, now several years old. I have been through about a third of it, and yet never worn it properly. I only ever spray it on my wrist, and then spend the next 12 hours trying to decided if I like it or not. It really is quite time I got over myself and went for The Full Monty. I will do it this week. It is nuclear on me, perhaps that it why I am hesitant, and not because I’m crazy. 💜

    • Val, I can’t believe that there is perfume, from which you shy away! I think it’s your red lipstick that makes me think that you can pull off any perfume. That and the fact that all vero profumo’s perfumes work for you :)
      In my mind, MdO’s Vanille is a winter perfume. So maybe if it’s cool enough where you live it’ll work for you this time.

  7. I had a tinny sample of Mona’s Vanille and liked it a lot. would be happy to be able to spend more time with it. Thank you for the draw

  8. Hello Undina! I love Vanilla in perfumes and own many, MdO Vanilla is one of my favorites and most worn together with Shalimar and some look alikes. You don’t have to put me on the list for a decant. Glad you enjoy this MdO as well. Great pics of Rusty 🐱

  9. I love reading about vanilla perfumes because it’s one of my favorite winter notes. I didn’t like Vanille Absolumente but I do love Vanilia by L’Artisan and luckily still have some left in my bottle as it seems that one is no longer in production although I think it was available for a while.
    I’d love to be entered for MdO Vanilla, I’m pretty sure I tried it and had a decant but for the life of me I can’t find it anymore (or remember how it smelled).
    My last vanilla addition was Jeroboam Insulo – I really love the darkness of that perfume.

  10. Lovely post, thank you. Your relationship with vanille resembles mine, and my break through and still number one favourite is Mona di Orio’s Vanille. I came across the roller ball travelset for a good price and was instantly smitten. I also really enjoy Hiram Green’s Voyage which has a vanille note. And I love Yves Rocher Vanille Bourbon showeroil, cheapest of thrills, better than Vanille Noir. No need for Mona as I have a while to go with my current supply.

    • Thank you, Hamamelis. I’m glad we have a favorite in common. Do you like any other perfumes from that travel set?
      I should check out that shower oil – it has been a while since I ordered anything from YR.

      • Yes, very much. Eau Absolue which I adore, Rose Etoile, which is a sister scent to Nahema, and Ambre which is a very soft powdery amber. Vanille and Eau Absolue are my favourites.

        • I need to find and test Ambre: I remember liking it when I smelled it in MinNY several years ago, but I was so overwhelmed at that time that I never actually tried it on skin – and since then I didn’t come across this line.

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed your vanilla exploration, Undina. It’s fun to go on one of those and you found your favourite!
    Unfortunately the grassy note in Vanille bothered me too much. I found Vanille Insensée masculine for some reason. I didn’t like Vanille Absolument,, being rather thin with an unpleasantly sour tobacco note.
    My favourite so far is Vanilla Smoke by Aftelier Perfumes. I’ve always hankered after a smoky, rubbery vanilla but never clicked with Bvlgari’s Black.
    DNEM, thanks.

  12. Someone over at NST commented that you were doing this vanilla series and as I too am on a vanilla hunt, I jumped over. (I apologize that I didn’t realize that you blogged! You are now bookmarked though.)
    In my case, it’s because my bottle of SDV is gone (bought in 2007 when it first came out) and I’m exploring to see if I want to replace it or if there is something I like better. So far nothing has come close (lots of vanilla extract of no interest or worse, cotton candy). I’ll try your suggestions and some of the others mentioned here.
    Thanks, great post!

    • Welcome, Rappleyea (and you’re welcome :)).

      If you’re looking for a new vanilla, you should definitely try the set that I featured in the Part 1: it’s very affordable and has many different vanillas in one set. Or, if you do not find anything better than your favorite SDV, you could try getting a 20 ml travel bottle of it (if you decide to do it, ask me or hajusuuri for the contact of the person who brings it from France to the U.S.).


  13. I have not tried Vanille but on your recommendation I will seek it out for a sniff, and Tobacco Vanille as well. Thank you for sharing your musings, they are fascinating glimpses into your thoughts.

    I find vanilla wonderful in fragrance as I adore scents that smell delicious but not edible. It’s a fine line. One scent that works like this for me is Vanille Galante. It smells very vanilla to me, and delicious, but does not smell like food. It is funny that when I’ve asked friends and family to smell Vanille Galante then tell me about it I get responses like booze, tobacco, lilies, flower shop, and even cupcake.

    • Now, when you mentioned it, I’m surprised I do not have Vanille Galante sample… Have I even tried it? I need to correct that oversight!

      Vanille and Tobacco Vanille are very different, so you might end up liking one and hating the other. But you should definitely try to smell both. Meanwhile, you’re in the draw – #8.

  14. My dear…Vanilla has not really been my friend. Maybe it’s because I associate with cold weather. I used to own Spiriteuse Vanilla, but sold it as it started to become really cloying on me. I actually don’t have any vanilla in my collection…but Hiram’s Arbole Arbole may make it there. And you know I love me some Rusty!!!! xoxoxo

    • Well, Steve, maybe you’ll change your mind once you retire to somewhere warm ;) MdO’s Vanille is much less sweet than SDV. I’ll include you into the draw (#9), and you can always forgo the prize.

      I hope to test Arbole soon: everybody’s raving about it.

      Rusty is happy with the treat in your name ;)

  15. I used to be obsessed with finding a vanilla perfume. My favorite is probably Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise. Super easy to wear. I haven’t tried either of your favorites!

    • I tried Vanille Esquise many years ago, and back then it didn’t leave any impression. I wonder how I’d feel about it today. Is it even in production? (Unfortunately, our local stores carry an extremely limited line-up from the brand.


  16. I am a card carrying vanilla lover and my favourite vanilla is Felanilla by PG. I have tried the MdO one at the latest Perfume Lovers London meet, and liked it reluctantly. :) The Eau Duelle I remember from a sniff at SpaceNK, but that was years ago, and I will give it another try.
    Please do not include me in the draw.

  17. Oh wow, I am so excited to hear that MdO Vanille won you over in your search for the perfect vanilla! Your bottle is beautiful, and I’m a bit envious, because while I like the original bottle (which is what I own), the newer MdO bottles are much more elegant. (And yours looks especially so with Rusty fixing his mesmerizing stare upon it.) :-)

    One of your commenters who mentioned Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise as a favorite reminds me that another vanilla favorite of mine is Annick Goutal Vanille Charnelle (though I think it is priced rather steeply … it is a far more simple perfume than MdO Vanille, at least in terms of smell).

    • Suzanne, thank you once again – I love-love-love this perfume (and plan to re-use your beautiful atomizer as a purse spray – not that it really requires re-application). And I agree that the new bottle looks more elegant than the original one (thought I admit that the original one was also very interesting). I was very impressed with the quality of the bottle when I got it. I wish though they would make a smaller size as well: even 50 ml would have been much more practical (and a 30 ml bottle would be extremely cute!).

      I see that you can get Vanille Charnelle for $133 online – which is practically free nowadays! Too bad shops in SF do not carry most of AG’s perfumes. But maybe I’ll break my no-buy rule and get a couple of AG’s samples – thank you for the recommendations.

      I guess you do not want to be entered into the draw, but once your bottle is empty, please come back – and I’ll return the “leased” 5 ml, maybe even with interest ;)

  18. Oh missed this, as am away at the moment, but vanilla is hands down my favourite note. I do like Vanille, though it is quite far along the ‘treacly spectrum’ so I have to be in the mood for it, typically in winter. I would put Angelique Noire in that category too and that’s a fave. Another vote for Vanille Galante, Felanilla and Vanille Exquise, Black Mexican Flower, and Bvlgari Black. I am wearing DSH Cimabue a lot out here in freezing cold Germany, and I think I appreciate the vanilla in that.

    • You didn’t! Two days – isn’t an age for my posts, considering how infrequently I’m posting them :)
      Since you’re not protesting, I’ll assign you #12.
      I should definitely wear Bvlgari Black tomorrow! I planned to but then got distracted and went with vintage Miss Dior parfum: it’s great but I think I would have felt even better in something “warmer” – it’s chilly here as well.

  19. I love how dubious Rusty looks about vanilla perfumes. This is actually a tough one, I do own Bvlgari Black and wear it on occasion, along with Shalimar (but not at the same time). If I could stretch my wallet a bit, I’d love to have a decant of Vanille 44 :) So I guess my answer is, no, I clearly don’t have one hands-down favorite vanilla. I have not tried the MdO yet, but I’d love to give it a sniff!

    • Nemo, you’ll be the lucky #13 :)

      Rusty was very excited: I let him into the bedroom (the only place where it was enough light to take a picture of my new bottle). Seconds after this picture was taken he jumped trying to catch an invisible pray (my hand) under the cover.

  20. I do not yet have a favorite vanilla scent! I know I’ve tried a lot of so-so vanillas. I’m dying to try that Couvent des Minimes scent that’s supposed to be a dead ringer for Guerlain SDV. But I’ve also been eager to try a Mona di Orio scent, so I’d love to try this :) Thanks! (Also, I’m not a cat person, but I’m awfully fond of Rusty.)

    • Koyel, welcome. You’re #14.

      I wouldn’t be too hopeful about Couvent des Minimes: I haven’t tried (or even heard about) it but at that price range just there’s no chance it’ll be really close to SDV. So try it if you get a chance to do it for free but do not spend money on a blind buy.

      I’ll give Rusty a treat in your name :)

      • How is it that I’ve never sent you the Couvent des Minimes Eau de Missions? I would not necessarily call it a deadringer for SDV but it is close, especially the portion that have had a chance to get aerated and become more concentrated.

        • Haha :) You’ve sent me so many other wonderful scents that I can easily see that one slipping your mind! I’ve been sorely to get the massive bottle from Amazon, but as Undina says, that would be really stupid to do blind >.<

  21. I had blindly bought a bottle of Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille two years ago and while I didn’t dislike it I didn’t love it either, so I kept neglecting that bottle. That up until a couple months ago that I decided to spray it on. It was nothing like I remembered (a very bland vanilla) it was the most amazing smoky vanilla scent I’ve ever smelled! I have no idea if this is because the perfume has aged beautifully or my nose has changed but I know I love it now! As of the Mona di Orio Vanille, it’s something that I’ve been wanting to try.

    • It might be any number of things. First of all, blind buy based on reviews and/or list of notes are just a recipe for a disaster: in our head we create a picture of perfume that is almost impossible to top by real scent. And the disappointment from the scent that didn’t meet your expectations is so strong that it stays with you for a while. But since this time you approached it without any expectations, and there was nowhere “lower” to go, from this point any positive feeling would carry a much more positive energy. Then, of course, your nose kept developing through these couple of years, and you can better detect nuances of the scent. I’m not sure about the aging playing a positive role in perfumes, so I won’t know one way or the other. But I want to add one more possible factor: weather. The temperature and humidity might make the same perfume both behave and smell differently.

      You’re in! #16.

      • You made a point about expectations that I’ve never had considered before and you are so very right! I’m not in the habit of blind buying perfume often but that one seamed a safe choice and I was eager to smell it. I was wrong obviously but still it ended up a good choice after all, it just took a while!

    • I heard many good things about Plus Que Jamais but it was gone before I found any Guerlain perfumes to love so I missed my chance to test it while it was still around. Vanilla Smoke is nice but I still think I like another perfume, of which it reminds me, more – I need to do one more parallel testing :)

  22. Pingback: Hitting On All Sixes – Undina's Looking Glass

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