CB I Hate Perfume 7 Billion Hearts is a vanilla perfume, which perhaps sounds simple and not incredibly original. Those of us who thought the late Mona di Orio has created the vanilla to end all vanillas and nothing new can be added to that particular theme were wrong. Brosius doesn't reveal much about what's in his 7 Billion Hearts beyond saying that it's
"blended from very fine Vanilla absolutes from Tahiti and Madagascar with a base composed of smoky resinous notes. As the perfume warms on the skin, the vanilla slowly emerges through a veil of smoke. The effect is enticing, warm and delicious."
CB I Hate Perfume 7 Billion Hearts plays in the same field as Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille but leaves it far behind. I always thought that SDV's abundant booziness is overdone and takes away from the smoky vanilla. If there's any liquor in 7 Billion Hearts it's just a drop of the finest stuff. It's darker and better than vanilla bean steeped in vodka; perhaps this is aged whiskey, which explains why the first impression is as far from a girly vanilla as can be.
I don't think I ever encountered such a thick and concentrated perfect vanilla as I found in CB's perfume absolute. Most of us think that we know vanilla; my own collection is pretty rich in vanillic fragrances, but this is probably as close as I'll ever get to rolling in the best vanilla beans the way my Sophie rolls in our organic homegrown catnip. I think we have the same expression on our faces as we both indulge.
The beans are not just enriched with some wonderful liquid and a faint hint of spice, but are also smoked. The smoke here is not nostril singeing at all. It's much more subtle than I've encountered in CB's other work and in his smoky accords. Compared to other smoky fragrances, we're talking about the difference between a burnt toast to gourmet food prepared with a smoke infusion.
All of the above creates a wonderfully complex and sensual fragrance. It's warm and offers a certain comfort, but without gorging on frosted cupcakes. The comfort comes from the way 7 Billion Hearts interacts with the skin, enveloping it in warmth and... love, I guess. There's something about the way this vanilla smells that is not exactly animalic but alive, human and good. It wants our skin as much as we crave its scent. The fragrance moves with the body the way a perfect flattering garment does, flattering and enhancing without restriction or overpowering the wearer. It's only distracting if your nose (or that of a loved one) is very very close, tracking it/you like a wild animal. As long as personal space is respected the wafts are mellow and almost easygoing. The potential for trouble is there, though. Just get close enough, close your eyes and let go.
CB I Hate Perfume 7 Billion Hearts (Reinvention Series #205) is available at the Williamsburg gallery and online (cbihateperfume.com, $30, 2ml perfume absolute that will last for a long long time or live dangerously and get the gorgeous 15ml for $225).
Art: La Dormeuse by Tamara de Lempicka, 1932.