Suzanne kindly sent me a decant of this knowing that I am not a vanilla fan, because she thought it was such an unexpected vanilla. My experience with perfume has finally taught me that there is no such thing as a “bad” note, there is no ingredient I cannot tolerate anymore. There is beauty in everything and where I find a note I cannot co-exist with very easily, right next to it there is a challenge to be met.
Where Un Bois Vanille is a non-edible, almost toxic vanilla, Vanillé Boisé possesses a caustic opening. This thing has fangs and it goes right for the jugular. The opening burns the nostrils with a peppery singe that has a hot quality, like the smell of a just extinguished match. It smells hot, volatile and sticky sweet at the same time. It reminds me of chilli flavoured chocolate, not in the actual note similarity but in the contradictory effect. As the burning quiets down vanilla becomes more evident but never completely takes over. I get an oily note, much like shoe polish, that usually comes from saffron. A round, glossy citrus note exists in the heart of the composition. The inedible theme is developed further with a camphorous lavender note and a bitter almond-y overdose of tonka. I cannot say that I can pick a specific wood note, except for the smell of extinguished match, to justify the “Woody Vanillic” translation of the name. The drydown remains a mixture of vanilla, tonka, saffron and probably benzoin to heighten the sweetness of the composition.
After having tried this I regretted having used the term “toxic” for Un Bois Vanille. I spoke too soon. Boisé Vanillé is probably the scent to send all happy, romantic vanilla lovers running and screaming like Jamie Lee Curtis. The combination of sweet and bitter elements never fails to conjure images of dark forests, poisoned potions and evil queens. I got the same vibe from Vetiver Oriental. Although I am not sure I would recommend it as a vanilla centred composition, it is a dramatic vanilla. It kicks and screams and bites with power and conviction, not frantically. It is dark, deadly and morose. As I was writing these lines I had a vision of Diamanda Galás singing, mixing Greek folk tonalities and AIDS protest.
Notes from Fragrantica: lemon, bergamot, lavender, geranium, cedar, iris, patchouli, tonka bean and vanilla
Notes from my nose: pepper, extinguished match, bergamot, saffron, tonka, vanilla, magic potion