Brooks Otterlake and the Quest for Vanilla

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
So, in the past year, I embarked on something of a vanilla quest.

It was mostly frustrating. Vanilla-forward scents often end up with bog-standard, waxy vanillin (not my favorite effect) or foody stuff like cake batter or creme brulee.

The closest I've come thus far to finding *the* vanilla is Lalique Le Parfum (2005, Dominique Ropion), which is gorgeous. It isn't foody, but is still intoxicating, with a deep booziness contrasted with medicinal bay leaf.

The caveat there is that Lalique Le Parfum has that sort of baby/makeup powder note (ala Shalimar or Jaïpur Homme), which I'm not crazy about.

So will you help me on this fool's errand?

I'm looking for a vanilla that
  • has a dramatic, boozy or smoky feeling
  • is not foody (no cake batter or pudding vibes ala Indult Tihota, please)
  • is not tonka-centric (tonka is its own thing and I have plenty of stuff with tonka already)
  • is not waxy/rubbery

If it doesn't exist, then it doesn't exist! But you knowledgeable folks may yet help me find it.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Maybe l’artisan Vanille Absolument? It’s boozy, spicy and cigar smoke goodness. It’s discontinued but worth chasing down.
I've sampled it and it's nice (the rum note gives it a slight plasticky thing, but I don't mind that much), but a bottle is hard to find.

Guerlain SDV is usually mentioned as THE vanilla but i don't get it.
Yeah, I don't love SDV the way many folks do.
 

ascentofdreams

Well-known member
May 18, 2021
have you tried Mona di Orio’s Vanille? Not foody, this one is a spicy, some described it as boozy though on my skin I don’t get that. one of my favorite vanillas.
Vanille Absolutement by L’Artisan is on point but very difficult to find.
I haven’t personally tried this but Aftelier Vanilla Smoke sounds like something you might want to try by name and description, from what I’ve read.
Since someone mentioned SDV - I’m going to throw two others in the ring which are not strictly vanilla but have similar vibes to SDV, but more interesting, in my opinion - Hermès Ambre Narguile and Tauer’s Sundowner.
 

mrcologneguy

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Jan 2, 2009
Perry Ellis Oud Black Vanilla Absolute is a nice one, similar to SDV. Formerly known as a budget version of SDV, it seems to have been discontinued, and now commands high prices. I liked it better when it could be found for less than $50 online. I think I paid around $35.

L’Artisan Havana Vanille — I sniffed it once on a fragrance safari in Chicago, had it stuck in my brain that it was a must-have, finally tracked down a bottle — and found I didn’t like it so much. I get a strange cardboard-ish note. Kind of ruins it for me. I wonder if I got a bad bottle. Haven’t sniffed it since it’s been rechristened Vanille Absolument.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with tracking down the two vanilla Shalimar flankers, Madagascar and Mexique. I cling to the naive notion that I’ll magically stumble across them at original retail prices in an old, out-of-the-way store somewhere. It’s compelling stuff like this that keeps me in the fragrance game. I know it’s out there somewhere, just waiting to find a good home in my collection.
 

Ken_Russell

Well-known member
Jan 21, 2006
Also adding to a very limited extent, Siwa by Memo Paris.
A fairly dramatic niche boozy vanilla (in a positive, beneficial show stopping, trend setting way) with non foody, non tonka but still a spicy creamy but yet again little to no waxy feel to it, far more on the marginally smoky, incense like side as well.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Have you tried Cologne of the Missions by Le Couvent Maison de Parfum? A nicely smoky vanilla that might be worth a gander.
I have. It's well made but it's an example of what I'm trying to avoid. It's very foody to my nose - goes very "cake batter" in the drydown.

I prefer the fairly similar Mercedes-Benz Club Black, which I own, because it goes incense-y rather than cookie/cake in the drydown.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Vanille Noire by Les Senteurs Gourmandes
Interesting suggestion, Hednic.
Fahrenheit Parfum.
Is this really a vanilla-first fragrance?
i found Blue Vanille by HJ pretty good

Sounds intriguing but seems hard to get ahold of here in the USA.
have you tried Mona di Orio’s Vanille? Not foody, this one is a spicy, some described it as boozy though on my skin I don’t get that. one of my favorite vanillas.
Vanille Absolutement by L’Artisan is on point but very difficult to find.
I haven’t personally tried this but Aftelier Vanilla Smoke sounds like something you might want to try by name and description, from what I’ve read.
Since someone mentioned SDV - I’m going to throw two others in the ring which are not strictly vanilla but have similar vibes to SDV, but more interesting, in my opinion - Hermès Ambre Narguile and Tauer’s Sundowner.
Mono di Orio is nice but doesn't have that rich, boozy theatricality I'm looking for.

Aftelier Vanilla Smoke is great and I'd snag it if I didn't already have Bvlgari Black.
Perry Ellis Oud Black Vanilla Absolute is a nice one, similar to SDV. Formerly known as a budget version of SDV, it seems to have been discontinued, and now commands high prices. I liked it better when it could be found for less than $50 online. I think I paid around $35.
Yeah, I have its spiritual successor, Club Black.
 

Sheik Yerbouti

oakmoss fiend
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2017
I have. It's well made but it's an example of what I'm trying to avoid. It's very foody to my nose - goes very "cake batter" in the drydown.

I prefer the fairly similar Mercedes-Benz Club Black, which I own, because it goes incense-y rather than cookie/cake in the drydown.

Fair enough.

I think I would find vanilla a tricky note to not associate with food, when it is first, especially when I’ve smelled it my entire life. You start adding in other notes and it begins to not feel like a vanilla. You have your work cut out for you me thinks, but you’ve come to the right asylum where we all seem to be on those same fool’s errands for these exactly nuanced perfect versions of x, y or z.
 

StylinLA

Well-known member
Aug 9, 2009
Look forward to the results here.

I've only dabbled a bit with vanilla.

Eau Duelle was not bad. Pretty prominent vanilla and sort of woody. Wore it a few times and sold it.

Creed Sublime Vanille is really awesome vanilla note. But not suited for me to wear. More like a great scent for a stripper.

The SDV was nice, but a bit boozy/medicinal to me. A few of the vanillas I've tried sort of mix in a boozy rum note which almost gags me. I know many like that combo, but it doesn't work for me.

Tobacco Vanille has a pretty prominent vanilla note.

Odori Tobacco had a great vanilla note. Wish I would have kept it.
 

Toxicon

Well-known member
May 29, 2021
I'm not at all versed in this corner of the fragrance world, but I'll just throw out my two favorite vanilla scents, which may or may not fall into the buckets you're trying to avoid: Imaginary Authors Memoirs of a Trespasser (big, smoky, woody vanilla with guaicwood, myrrh, and cognac) and L'Occitane's classic Eau des Baux (less big but still rather woody take on vanilla, with cypress, pepper, and cardamom, albeit alongside some tonka). EdB is insanely easy to wear but so common I assume you're well aware of it and probably not interested. MoaT took me a while to warm to, as it's much stronger and very persistent, but I wound up loving this one too.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
I'm not at all versed in this corner of the fragrance world, but I'll just throw out my two favorite vanilla scents, which may or may not fall into the buckets you're trying to avoid: Imaginary Authors Memoirs of a Trespasser (big, smoky, woody vanilla with guaicwood, myrrh, and cognac) and L'Occitane's classic Eau des Baux (less big but still rather woody take on vanilla, with cypress, pepper, and cardamom, albeit alongside some tonka). EdB is insanely easy to wear but so common I assume you're well aware of it and probably not interested. MoaT took me a while to warm to, as it's much stronger and very persistent, but I wound up loving this one too.
Memoirs of a Trespasser is nice, but it stays dry and gaiac-y, so it doesn't quite have that intoxicating boozy depth that Lalique Le Parfum manages. (A recommendation in that same space that I think is just as good: Dame Perfumery Dark Horse. A dark floral vanilla with with a lovely gaiac overdose.)

Eau des Baux is a modern classic, justly beloved, but it's more about tonka to me than vanilla.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Tough call! I mostly steer clear of vanilla scents for the reasons you list, despite absolutely loving the smell in its pure form.

Will follow suggestions here with interest.
Have you tried Lalique Le Parfum? It's so beautiful, it may well be that I go through all this effort and just end up settling for it. It makes me think a bit of your beloved Bottega Veneta, not because they're similar, but because they'd be worn by the same kind of person.
 

Clarissochka

Well-known member
Jul 1, 2015
I am impartial to Vanilla notes and have gone thru quite a few iterations. Couple of suggestions
Loree Rodin Gothic I. Kafka did amazing review. Might be too foodie for you - every time I wear it, fams is looking for baking goods or assumes I am baking something
Providence Provanilla - very boozy. It is discounting thou :(
Rising Phoenix Sicilian Vanilla - both in attar and EDP formulation
I also have been debating doing a custom fragrance with vanilla to get exactly what I am looking for. While I have a bunch of vanilla in my collection - a lot of them already mentioned, I am looking for something that you described as well and nothing hits the spot 100% so far
 

Andy the frenchy

Well-known member
Sep 16, 2018
[...]

I'm looking for a vanilla that
  • has a dramatic, boozy or smoky feeling
  • is not foody (no cake batter or pudding vibes ala Indult Tihota, please)
  • is not tonka-centric (tonka is its own thing and I have plenty of stuff with tonka already)
  • is not waxy/rubbery
[...]
And comes Andy... always suggesting the same things....
Tiziana Terenzi Dionisio, Armani Myrrhe Imperiale and Zegna Passion (that you already own) :D

Ok... a few other ones that could fit your needs:
Tiziana Terenzi - Laudano Nero
Cale' - Mistero
Zegna - Golden Myrrh (recently released)

You might also want to have a look at the house of Kerosene, in particular Copper Skies and Broken Theories (since you love smoke).
Also one that is often cited as a dark vanilla is Vanille by Mona di Orio.
 

CuddleCat

It smells so good in here
Moderator
Basenotes Plus
Aug 20, 2009
Have you tried Fleur Cachée by Anatole Lebreton. It's a smoky, savoury vanilla with fenugreek. I love fenugreek as a perfume note but it is probably a love or hate note. The vanilla isn't rich, creamy or buttery. Notes: timut pepper, turmeric, fenugreek, sandalwood, texas cedarwood, peru balsam, madagascan vanilla

Another one that may be worth trying is Eau Duelle in the EDT not the EDP. I get cool spices and the resins/incense aroma have a greenish feel to them with a vanilla note. It's not buttery, pudding like or super rich smelling on me but I think it will depend on whether you get the cool spices and incense notes. There isn't any booze or smoke in this scent, it's more like unlit incense.
Fragrance notes: Cardamom, bourbon vanilla, elemi resin, olibanum, bergamot, pink pepper, junpier berry, saffron, black tea, musk and ambergris.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
One with no tonka and not foody is Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée.
I tried that one, found the vanilla note a bit on the plastic-y side (which is how highly processed vanillin tends to read unless very carefully accented by other notes).

I should probably test it again, though.
I remember Tauer vanilla flash along the lines you describe, and non-foody. But I smelled it during a heavy smelling session, so memory could be at fault here.

cacio
I need to try this one at some point.
And comes Andy... always suggesting the same things....
Tiziana Terenzi Dionisio, Armani Myrrhe Imperiale and Zegna Passion (that you already own) :D

Ok... a few other ones that could fit your needs:
Tiziana Terenzi - Laudano Nero
Cale' - Mistero
Zegna - Golden Myrrh (recently released)

You might also want to have a look at the house of Kerosene, in particular Copper Skies and Broken Theories (since you love smoke).
Also one that is often cited as a dark vanilla is Vanille by Mona di Orio.
Dionisio is a very interesting spin on the vanilla-forward genre. I do get an edible pudding effect before the ambergris takes over and pulls it in a different direction.

Mistero and Golden Myrrh sound like things I'd enjoy, but don't sound vanilla-centric. (This is true of Laudano Nero, too, but I don't enjoy Laudano Nero at all.)

I've tried the Kerosenes briefly in store but can't call them to mind. The Mono di Orio is nice and polished but isn't the rich experience I'm seeking.
Have you tried Fleur Cachée by Anatole Lebreton. It's a smoky, savoury vanilla with fenugreek. I love fenugreek as a perfume note but it is probably a love or hate note. The vanilla isn't rich, creamy or buttery. Notes: timut pepper, turmeric, fenugreek, sandalwood, texas cedarwood, peru balsam, madagascan vanilla

Another one that may be worth trying is Eau Duelle in the EDT not the EDP. I get cool spices and the resins/incense aroma have a greenish feel to them with a vanilla note. It's not buttery, pudding like or super rich smelling on me but I think it will depend on whether you get the cool spices and incense notes. There isn't any booze or smoke in this scent, it's more like unlit incense.
Fragrance notes: Cardamom, bourbon vanilla, elemi resin, olibanum, bergamot, pink pepper, junpier berry, saffron, black tea, musk and ambergris.
I've tried Eau Duelle, but I can't remember which concentration.

Fleur Cachée sounds intriguing!
 

naylor

Well-known member
Oct 24, 2011
I'm not a huge vanilla fan in general, but I do enjoy a darker, boozy, spicy, less sweet vanilla on occasion. These would be my two favorites by a long shot:

Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille
Mona di Orio Vanille
 

SubUmbra

Well-known member
Jul 9, 2018
I think I am looking for the same thing, but I am curious: could you define what you mean by “rich?” I typically associate that word with sweet, cake-y, or buttery things, which neither of us seem to want in a vanilla fragrance. Your choice of “theatricality” is also interesting; could you shed some light on what you mean by that as well?

I completely agree that there’s lots of vanilla out there that many cherish, but absolutely repel me. Indult Tihota is always described as “the perfect vanilla,” but to me it smelled like any generic body spray one might smell outside a mall store. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I’m looking for, either.

As a side note, I do think vanilla and other spices are able to demonstrate a “cool” side, despite the fact that we always associate them with “warming” blends/sensations. For example, even the coolest, breeziest perfume I can think of, Geranium Pour Monsieur, has some hints of cinnamon (something you’d otherwise only typically find in rich gourmands). I’d love to find a perfume with vanilla paired with metallic notes or dark patchouli, black pepper, and/or other “cool” notes.
 
Nov 26, 2006
Maybe Arquiste's The Architects Club? I have it, like it, but wouldn't pay full price for it. I've seen it compared elsewhere to Eau Duelle, but I recall not liking Eau Duelle when I tried it. It is similar to Memoirs of a Trespasser, which I've owned in the past, but I think it has more vanilla and smoke, less guaiac, and is less woody overall.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
I think I am looking for the same thing, but I am curious: could you define what you mean by “rich?” I typically associate that word with sweet, cake-y, or buttery things, which neither of us seem to want in a vanilla fragrance. Your choice of “theatricality” is also interesting; could you shed some light on what you mean by that as well?
By "rich," I'm trying to describe something that's not thin or airy, but has some weight and depth to it, as well as a kind of voluptuousness or sensuality.

By "theatricality," I'm suggesting that this should be a bit statement-making.

Have you tried Patchouli 24?
I have! I own Menardo's quasi-sequel to it, Memory Motel.

Maybe Arquiste's The Architects Club? I have it, like it, but wouldn't pay full price for it. I've seen it compared elsewhere to Eau Duelle, but I recall not liking Eau Duelle when I tried it. It is similar to Memoirs of a Trespasser, which I've owned in the past, but I think it has more vanilla and smoke, less guaiac, and is less woody overall.
I quite like Architects Club, but the price is high for what it is. I recall it having a very nice "vanilla bean" feeling.
 

naylor

Well-known member
Oct 24, 2011
I enjoy Mona Di Orio Vanille.
billions-showtime.gif
 

Andy the frenchy

Well-known member
Sep 16, 2018
[...] Mistero and Golden Myrrh sound like things I'd enjoy, but don't sound vanilla-centric. [...]
Mistero reminded me of Amouage Epic in the top, and Zegna Passion and TT LN in the base. No indeed not fully vanilla-centric.
At that point you might want to try Nishane Ani. I'm not a fan, but it's definitely vanilla-centric.

Or maybe look for some vanillic guaiacwood, here are a few suggestions:

Ossuary by La Curie
Lignum Vitae by Beaufort (that one is foody, but weirdly not ultra sweet... more like vanilla coookies)
Bois Sikar by AdO (the top is all about a fire pit, but the base is simply an amazing vanillic guaiac.
 

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