One might expect a perfume called "Vanilla & Anise" to be a thick and rich gourmand, cozy and spicy, and probably most suitable for cold weather. Then again, you have to remember we're talking about a Jo Malone fragrance. I think of Vanilla & Anise as the cool blonde interpretation on this theme. It's a lot crisper and quite sheer, often compared to Hermes Vanille Galante, though I find the similarity more in spirit than in the way they smell on skin.
Jo Malone achieved the cool atmosphere of Vanilla & Anise through the use of a very clean neroli note in the opening. This cologne-style neroli is very dry and quite long-lasting. It dictates the way the other white notes appear. None of them, not even the tuberose and frangipani, are heady or tropic. They're streamlined and tend to hold back. If there's any opulence in the composition it comes from the orchid-vanilla combination, but even then everything is pulled together precisely, understated and very (very!) tasteful.
Seriously, Jo Malone's Vanilla & Anise makes Ellena's Vanille Galante to seem dramatic and exuberant with its banana-melon note. If you ask me, Vanilla & Anise smells better and is far more pleasant to be around. The low-key dry spices in this 2009 Jo Malone perfume are interesting and offer quite a bit of depth to the breezy elegance. I think Vanilla & Anise is a lot more unisex than a Jo Malone SA would let you think. It's not a comfort scent and it's definitely not sweet or foody. Men will enjoy the citrus opening and dry base. It's a compliment-getter for all, easy to wear and doesn't require special occasion, circumstances or a season.
Notes: bergamot, neroli, wild fennel flower, star anise, oleander, tuberose, frangipani, purple vanilla orchid, clove, white amber, vetiver, vanilla bourbon absolute and tonka bean.
Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise ($55, 1oz EDP) is available at most decent department stores, Jo Malone boutiques and online.
Photo by Melvin Sokolsky for Harper's Bazaar, January 1963