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.
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).