Montale's non-oud perfumes tend to get lost in the sharp medicinal fumes coming from the (far too many) ouds in the line. There are, though, several friendly gourmands (Chocolate Greedy, Sweet Oriental Dream) and vanilla fragrances that can change the way one views Montale.
Boise Vanille opens with a dramatic Beethovenesque allegro accord. The official notes allude to a tame citrus, but what I smell is rather dense and vintagy in appearance, giving the impression that this is going to be a big animalic fragrance. It doesn't quite live up to that, but it's still a fabulous adult unsweetened woody vanilla with enough patchouli and friends to make it dirty and interesting. Perhaps it's the dry iris note that gives Boise Vanille a lot of its character. Iris can be very dark and sinister (see Iris Silver Mist), and here it elevates this Montale perfume into a very adult territory.
It's tempting to try and compare Boise Vanille to Guerlain SDV, but I actually think it's more closely related to older Guerlain perfumes in their most vintage form; Shalimar and Jicky come to mind. Smoky and animalic, laden with civet, the classic perfumes had a similar sensuality and none of that cookie comfort thing often associated with vanilla. Out of the modern players in this category, I'd say that the new7 Billion Hearts by CB I Hate Perfume is in the same category. As much as I love this Montale, I have to admit that CB's creation wins. But why choose?
Notes: lemon, geranium, bergamot, lavender, cedar leaves from Canada, Jamaican pepper, iris, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean
For more reviews see Eiderdown Press, Beauty On The Outside, and The Alembicated Genie.
Montale Boisé Vanillé ($110, 50ml) is available from Min NY and Luckyscent.
Art: Illustration from The Widow's Broom by Chris Van Allsburg.