Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Top Twelve Vanilla Perfumes

When it comes to vanilla perfumes I almost want to say that I'll have one of each and be done with it, but it's never that simple even for a vanilla lover. This magic pod has different facets that can be enhanced and used in various ways, from the more floral through booze to pudding. Add its cousin and companion, tonka bean, and you get some serious complexity. As it happens, I'm a bit low brow about my vanilla fragrances. The sophisticated ones that lean on orchid and lily and make the vanilla float in a sheer floral cloud are completely unwearable for me. I can't deal with Vanille Galante (Hermes Hermessence) nor with the discontinued classic L'Artisan Vanilia. Just give me the dessert spoon and step back slowly.

How could I even start the selection? This list is first and foremost personal, based on my preferences and how often I wear these vanilla fragrances. If they make me happy they're on the list. Then there's the issue of this note's ubiquity. Vanilla is in a huge number of fragrances, but it doesn't make them vanilla perfumes. With the exception of Shalimar, these are all truly about vanilla. Shalimar is obviously more than that, but this grand dame of oriental perfumes is also more or less centered around this note, so it had to have a place here.

In no particular order:

CB I Hate Perfumes-7 Billion Hearts. Dark and smoky. Perhaps Christpher Brosius' finest work to date.

Serge Lutens- Un Bois Vanille. Dulce de leche, anise, and coconut. Often a getaway to Lutens' work and still my happy place after all these years.

Guerlain- Shalimar (vintage) and Shalimar Light (discontinued). The former is sultry, the latter is a lemon meringue pie, both are true love.

Fragonard- Vanille (discontinued). The simplest and purest little thing, like high quality vanilla extract. No idea why it was offed and replaced with the more floral version currently on the market (Fleur de Vanille).

DSH Perfumes- Vanille Botanique. Probably the best answer to anyone who thinks the use of synthetics has improved the perfume industry.

Parfums de Nicolai- Tonka Vanille. Not a hint of cupcake. Spicy and incensy, a vanilla perfume for people who think they dislike this note.

L'Artisan- Havana Vanille/Vanille Absolument. Dry and smoky, yet with just enough booze to make it wicked.

Tom Ford Private Blend- Tobacco Vanille. There's nothing subtle about this one with its bold and sweet big honey-vanilla-tobacco. Dangerously addictive all the same.

Van Cleef & Arpels- Orchidee Vanille. Could easily be mistaken for a Guerlain, and I mean it in the best possible way.

Parfumerie Generale- Felanilla. Deserves an award for the name alone, but it's also a spectacular fragrance.

Le Labo- Vanille 44. This one grew on me slowly and stealthily  I still think it's overpriced, but I adore this fuzzy and fizzy incense-vanilla combo.

Mona di Orio Les Nombres d'Or- Vanille. Some people believe this is the best vanilla perfume in the universe. I'm not going to argue.

Honorable Mention: Guerlain Angelique Noire (not technically about vanilla but chock full of it), Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille (doesn't work on my skin but smells wonderful on just about everyone else. Highly recommended for men), Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Ylang-Vanille (discontinued and somewhat simplistic, but satisfying as a snuggly bedtime scent), By Kilian Love (pink marshmallow and a bubbly personality), Jo Malone Vanilla Anise (clean musk and sunshine, perfect for a summer day), Montale Chypre Vanille and Boise Vanille (highly satisfying).


  1. Ooh. I approve of the dessert spoon approach; I've been searching for my perfect vanilla, and keep being startled at the utterly-non-food notes in so many, as I realize over and over that, yes, I'm looking for something that smells edible.

    (My perfect vanilla used to be Indult Tihota, but in a combination of good and bad, it (1) went away before I bought a bottle and (2) I don't like it as much as I used to.)

  2. I can't wait to try the Vanille Absolument! I ordered a bottle yesterday unsniffed during the L'Artisan sale.

    Totally agree with you in Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille. One of my faves. :)

    ~Dawn D.

  3. Vanilla is one of my favorite notes in perfumery, Angelique Noire and Shalimar are my favorites from Guerlain, next is the original Vanilla from L' Artisan, the mix of vanilla, amber and ylang yang is sensual and smooth, perfect for mixing with a touch of MKK or Kiehl's Musk, UBV from Uncle Serge is a must-have and Mona di Orio's Vanille IS the most amazing vanilla on the planet. Love at first whiff for me.

  4. I love vanilla, if it's not sickeningly sweet. Lutens UBV is a staple for me. I'm eyeing Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille next!

  5. Guerlain Shalimar is absolute superstar for me from the list ;)


  6. I recently received Atelier's Vanilla Insensee, which I found to be a very different take on vanilla. It's definitely not a dessert vanilla, but is growing on me.

  7. I thought I hated vanilla scents...and then I met 7Bill. Christopher Brosius snatched my soul right out of my body with that one!


  8. Great list! Vanilla is one of my fovorite notes and I need to give a sniff to many you listed. Happy New Year!

  9. This is a wonderful post, thank you for sharing! I have to ask since you know far more about perfume than I do if you could recommend scents similar to VC&A Vanille Orchidee as its the love of my life.
    Thank you so much

  10. I love literally every perfume on this list that I have tried, which means it is an excellent list! ;)

  11. Great list! I'd add that it's hard to beat the rose vanilla of Rochas Tocade. Also, to me, Havana Vanille/Vanille Absolutement is the daytime version of Frapin 1697; speaking of dessert, 1697 is like enjoying a perfect creme brulee with a fine cognac (I have the original absolute; there is also an EdP version). ~~nozknoz

  12. Fabulous list G. Vanille Botanique is one of my faves by DSH. I love your comment regarding Dawn's creation BTW, I couldn't agree more :-)

    I also adore Spiritueuse Double Vanille and am now eager to try 7 Billion Hearts!

    Hope you are well and Happy New Year!


  13. oooooh, YAY! Thank you so much for posting this!

  14. Thank you for this!! I have been working my way through the vanilla's, and this was not only a great inspiration, but a helpful guide. Love your blog!

  15. No Vanilia (L'Artisan)? Sacrilege : ) Only reason I can think of is because it's discontinued....nothing wrong with giving people something to track down and strive for.

  16. P.S. I think you're really amazing by the way.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


I love comments and appreciate the time you take to connect with me, but please do not insert links to your blog or store. Those will be deleted. The comment feature is not intended to provide an advertising venue for your blog or your commercial site.

Related Posts Widget