Perfume Reviews: Montale Intense Café & Chocolate Greedy

Source: Zedge.net

Source: Zedge.net

A perfume house known for its intense, extensive line up of potent ouds seems to be doing some lovely things with gourmands as well. Last month, the Paris niche house of Montale released a new fragrance called Intense Café (or, as my head always reads it “Café Intense”), and it seems to be a great hit with everyone who has tried it. So, I decided to try it along with another Montale that always caught my eye, Chocolate Greedy.

It turned out to be an apt choice, as Intense Café feels like a cocoa-dusted vanilla latte with rose, while Chocolate Greedy is a dark, bitter chocolate ganache cake sweetened by dark fruits and a jammy rose liqueur. The two faces of a chocolate-rose Janus, if you will. Neither scent is complex, both of them carry the Montale trademark of ISO E Super to the nth degree, and, yet, they’re both quite addictive fragrances that I actually liked. If they weren’t so ISO E Super intensive, I would enjoy wearing either one. Consider me pleasantly surprised!

INTENSE CAFÉ:

Cocoa roses, via Kew Gardens at Kew.org

Cocoa roses, via Kew Gardens at Kew.org

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Montale puts Intense Café into the rose category, and describes the perfume as follows:

A truly enticing fragrance. Brillant Floral Notes reveal a surprising heart made of Delicate Rose and Sensual Coffee. This perfect duo leaves a very beautiful sillage of Vanilla, Amber and White Musk.

Fragrantica classifies the scent as an Oriental Vanilla, and lists the notes pyramid as:

Top note is floral notes; middle notes are coffee and rose; base notes are amber, vanila and white musk.

pink-roseIntense Café opens on my skin with a jammy rose and bucketfuls of ISO E Super, followed quickly by a café au lait aroma, and a creamy, warm, very rich vanilla. The ISO E Super dominates everything in its path for about 40 seconds before it retreats to skulk broodingly in the corner and around the edges of the rose. For all its name, Intense Café primarily focuses on a rose that is dark, rich, syrupy, and infused with vanilla bean concentrate.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

Though the coffee nuance is not paramount, it’s definitely noticeable, especially after 5 minutes have passed. Actually the “coffee” might be more aptly described as “cocoa beans” processed into different things. I struggle to place the note with precision because it varies so widely from minute to minute. Sometimes, it seems like actual coffee or, to be precise, milky café au lait. Frequently, I’d swear that the aroma was actually that of a vanilla milkshake. At other times, it feels like a Chai or soy latte sprinkled with white cocoa powder. Whatever it is, it’s very pretty, but not particularly strong. What’s more interesting is how it fluctuates throughout the first two hours, almost like a wave that reaches a peak, crashes on the shore, ebbs, and then returns to do it all over again. At times, the cocoa variation feels very noticeable in its own right, but, at others, it ebbs away to become a more delicate nuance to the vanilla latte.

Source: Sivmui C. on Yelp.com

Source: Sivmui C. on Yelp.com

Either way, the primary aroma of Intense Café for the first hour is variegated shades of cocoa and coffee powder dustings on a vanilla latte or milkshake. The thick, creamy vanilla is the dominant note (besides the bloody ISO E Super), and its beautifully decadent lushness sits atop a thin layer of dainty roses. Visually,the colours are all pink roses, creamy vanilla, and pale, dusky cocoa. It’s very airy bouquet, though it has Montale’s trademark potency in terms of sillage and strength. As for the prodigious amounts of ISO E Super, Montale has always worshipped at its temple, but I will say that the amount in Intense Café seems far less than in many Montales and it didn’t give me a headache. The aromachemical sometimes takes on a rubbing alcohol, astringent facade, while at other times, it’s merely peppered and synthetic in feel. Either way, since few people seem to ever detect ISO E Super, I wouldn’t worry about it unless you know you’re one of those who always gets migraines from it.

Source: eBay.com

Source: eBay.com

If you smell Intense Café from afar, it’s truly delicious. At the start of the second hour, it’s a delicious cocoa-y vanilla, but soon, the rose starts to become much more prominent. At the 90 minute mark, Intense Café is cocoa-dusted rose with vanilla and it calls to mind an extremely similar note in Serge LutensSantal Majuscule. Of course, the Lutens is supposed to be primarily about the “sandalwood,” but the most beautiful part of that fragrance for me was the chocolate-dusted rose. It’s equally lovely here, in Intense Café, only it sits cocooned and embraced by the creamiest, richest vanilla essence. At the end of the second hour, Intense Café softens, fades a little, and loses a bit of its forcefulness. By the start of the fourth hour, the fragrance is a discreet, soft cloud of sweet, dusty cocoa-infused rose with vanilla with only the barest hint of coffee. It sits right on the skin, where it proceeds to get more muted, abstract and blurry. Finally, it fades away as a nebulous, amorphous blur of sweet but dusty rosiness.

All in all, Intense Café lasted under 9.75 hours in a really distinctive manner, and about 14.25 as a whole if one counts the fact that a tiny patch on my arm continued to emit a small burst of roses. Part of the problem is that ISO E Super can create a ghostly note that seems to vanish to one’s nose due to the large size of the molecules, before it reappears. Another thing is that I applied about 2.5 large smears. As a general rule, a perfume’s strength, longevity and potency are increased by spraying (and by synthetics), and given the normally prodigious longevity of some Montales, my numbers are obviously lower than what others may experience through aerisolization. Still, the numeric votes at Fragrantica indicate that Intense Café’s duration is generally “moderate” for most people with that category receiving the largest amount of votes (5) thus far, followed by 3 for “long lasting” and 4 for “very long lasting.” 

On Fragrantica, the commentators compare Intense Café to a few other fragrances. A handful of people bring up the new Mancera perfume, Rose Vanille. Others mention Rochas Man. I haven’t tried either fragrance, so I can’t comment, but I can discuss a third reference: Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir. Quite a few Fragrantica commentators mention how the opening of Noir de Noir is very similar to that of Intense Café. I think it’s only the very jammy, beefy rose which the fragrances have in common, and not much else. On my skin, Noir de Noir opened with spices, in addition to that dark, baroque rose. There was saffron, the merest suggestion of oud, and the earthiness of black truffle. Absolutely none of that remotely resembles Intense Café!

What’s interesting to me about the Fragrantica comments is that a few people seem to think Intense Café has oud in it. It doesn’t, but almost all of Montale’s Aoud line has a blisteringly high quantity of ISO E Super in it, and I think people are so highly conditioned to that smell (or so unaware of the existence of ISO E Super) in the Aouds, that they’re confusing the two notes here. Another point that I found to be curious was the 3 or 4 references to musk in Intense Café. One chap even said that musk was the dominant note in the fragrance, and that Intense Café was not particularly distinctive from any other Montale musks. I blinked at that because, on my skin, there was no musk at all. Still, clean, white musk is listed as one of the notes, so it clearly depends on skin chemistry. 

As a whole, I liked Intense Café during in its first two hours when it was quite a rich, nuanced scent. The subsequent blur and haziness was still pretty, but a little too redolent of ISO E Super for me personally. The perfume is sweet, delicious, and obviously gourmand in nature, but it’s a lot drier than you’d expect thanks to the cocoa powder. If you’re expecting a pure coffee scent, however, you may be disappointed.

CHOCOLATE GREEDY:

Source: cakechooser.com

Source: cakechooser.com

Montale Chocolate GreedyDespite being an utterly scrumptious, decadent chocolate dessert in a bottle, Montale puts Chocolate Greedy into the vanilla category, and describes it as follows:

The delicacy of the Tonka Bean lightly toasted and flavoured with dry fruits, Orange and Vanilla.

The full notes, as compiled from Luckyscent and Fragrantica, are:

mocha bean, coffee, bitter orange, cacao cream, vanilla from Madagascar, tonka bean and dried fruits.

Molten Lava Cake. Photo & Recipe: Spicie Foodie. (Website link embedded within photo. Just click.)

Molten Lava Cake. Photo & Recipe: Spicie Foodie. (Website link embedded within photo. Just click.)

Imagine the darkest chocolate lava cake or, as it is sometimes called in Britain, chocolate fondant pudding. Now imagine slicing into it, and seeing a gush of warm, rich, oozy, thick, heated warmth that is at once bitter and sweet. A mere hint of juicy, zesty orange lurks underneath. Sweet vanilla wafts all around, like the delicious crème anglaise sauce used to go with lava cake.

That’s the opening of Chocolate Greedy on my skin. It’s lovely, quite heady, and very appealing — even to someone like myself who doesn’t normally go for gourmand fragrances. Unfortunately, as always with Montale, there is also that massive dose of ISO E Super mixed into the delicious mix. Even more unfortunate, it has a nuance of bug spray that quietly lurks underneath. Thankfully, it’s subtle and leaves after about 15 minutes.

Black Forest Torte. Photo/Recipe by Mark F. Weber at Clean Me. http://tinyurl.com/mb2j6rh

Black Forest Torte. Photo/Recipe by Mark F. Weber at Clean Me. http://tinyurl.com/mb2j6rh

What fascinates me, however, is the orange element which takes on an interesting characteristic after a few minutes. It actually smells a lot like a very jammy, fruited, syrupy rose. With every passing minute, the dark fruits grow more noticeable, creating an impression of dried cherries in some instances, and of dark rose liqueur infused with zesty orange in others. When it’s the former, it calls to mind Black Forest Cake with its rich, dark chocolate, sweetness, and candied cherries. Either way, the overall result is quite delectable.

"Bleeding Rose" by April Koehler. Source: redbubble.com

“Bleeding Rose” by April Koehler. Source: redbubble.com

The cocoa in Chocolate Greedy is equally complex and layered. At first, it’s merely dark, molten chocolate, but, later, it varies between: mocha; dusty, dark cocoa nibs with its dry, slightly bitter aroma; something more like dark fudge syrup; and expresso infused with both dark chocolate and cherry syrup. It’s beautiful, especially when the very fruited, jammy, almost plummy, rose liqueur swirls into Chocolate Greedy’s dark bitter-sweetness. Not even the final, dying whispers of bug spray chemical (just before the 15-minute mark) can ruin the heady, potent, decadently rich, delicious bouquet of dark chocolate ganache with boozy rose liqueur, dark fruits, and vanilla crème anglaise. The aroma is especially intoxicating from afar where it’s a swirl of beautiful notes. For my nose with its sensitivity to ISO E Super, it’s better not to sniff Chocolate Greedy too closely due to the aromachemical’s powerfully peppered, rubbing alcohol, facial astringent characteristics.

Like all the Montales, Chocolate Greedy is a simple fragrance without much nuance, complexity or layers. It’s linear, and continues on the same trajectory for hours and hours. But it’s a lovely, compulsively sniffable linearity. Oddly, about 3.5 hours in, Chocolate Greedy turns primarily into a rich, beefy, meaty, dark, damask rose followed by chocolate in second place. The floral element isn’t syrupy or cloying, thanks to the effects of the dry, bitter chocolate, even though it’s more like dark chocolate powder now instead of molten ganache lava cake. The rose is still also flecked by a rich vanilla essence, but it is no longer the rich warmth of vanilla custard sauce. Instead, it’s merely a background note, third in line behind the rose and chocolate twin-ship, and it soon fades away entirely. Montale may classify this fragrance as a vanilla one on its website, while placing Intense Café into the rose category, but I think the fragrances should both be in the rose group.

Source: frederickschocolaterie.com

Source: frederickschocolaterie.com

As time passes, Chocolate Greedy becomes hazier around the edges, and the notes all blur into one another. Around the fifth hour, the perfume is a nebulous, hazy, soft cloud of chocolate powder tinged by rose. The chocolate has returned to far overtake the rose element, and I really like its dusty, dark quality with a smidgen of milk chocolate mixed in. Chocolate Greedy becomes a skin scent about 6.75 hours in, creating a delicate, discreet veil that caresses you with dusky cocoa powder and florals. Eventually, hours later, it fades away to nothing more than a whisper of dark, dusty cocoa powder. All in all, it lasted a whopping 12 hours on my skin in a very noticeable way. However, like the Intense Café, those synthetics and ISO E Super’s ghostly characteristic helped create small patches on my skin where Chocolate Greedy continued to linger. On those tiny, dime-sized areas, I could detect the faint traces of Chocolate Greedy well past the 14th hour. If I had actually sprayed the fragrance, and a large amount of it, I have no idea what longevity numbers I’d get, but they’d be huge. It’s one of the benefits of Montale’s signature touch.

Unlike the brand-new Intense Café, Chocolate Greedy has been around long enough to receive quite a few reviews. On Basenotes, a lot of people really love the fragrance, with one commenting excitedly that Willy Wonka must have made it. However, there are quite a few detractors, too, though they still rate Chocolate Greedy with three stars out of five. Their primary issue seems to be that the chocolate is too sweet, and that the “sticky/thick vibe can be cloying.” I think the latter is definitely a possibility if Chocolate Greedy were sprayed in a large quantity; this is one fragrance where less is more, especially given the Montale potency.

Amour de Cacao Eau de Toilette. Source: Luckyscent

Amour de Cacao Eau de Toilette. Source: Luckyscent

On Fragrantica, 64 people said that the fragrance was similar to Comptoir Sud Pacifique‘s Amour de Cacao. I haven’t tried the fragrance, but a number of people argue that there are quite a few differences, small though they may be. For one thing, they say that the CSP has a significantly stronger orange zest note at the beginning, while Chocolate Greedy focuses on the dark chocolate. Others find the CSP doesn’t last long and has little projection (undoubtedly because it is a weak eau de toilette), but such comments are rarely said about a Montale fragrance. A few think that the CSP is milder, more linear, and less complex, while some others argue that it is better value for the money. Luckyscent certainly sells it for much less than it does the Montale, but the reviews for the fragrance there seem highly mixed with talk about how Amour de Cacao smells synthetic, resembles “cocoa puffs,” doesn’t have a good vanilla note, or doesn’t emit a lot of dark chocolate.

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad

Choco Musk perfume oil. Source: Al-Rashad

Another fragrance that is brought up by a number of people on Fragrantica is an Arab perfume oil called Choco Musk from Al-Rehab (Crown Perfumes). Apparently, it “not only smells better than this but you can find it for about $3-$5 online and in Arabic stores[.]” I’ve never tried it, but the cost issue did make me curious, so I looked it up. Yes, it really is that inexpensive. Choco Musk is sold through a supplier in Ohio and 6 ml (.2 oz) of the concentrated perfume oil costs $3.20. The three reviews on the company website are all positive, and talk about how long the fragrance lasts. As a further plus, the company also ships to Canada and worldwide, with all mailing costs dependent on weight (which can’t be much given the amount in question). In short, Choco Musk may be a definite option for those of you who are tempted by the Montale, but don’t want to spend a lot of money. I can’t vouch for the smell, and I find it hard to believe that it’s more than mere chocolate musk, just as the name states, whereas Chocolate Greedy’s nuances vary from the orange zest to the dark fruits and rose liqueur. Still, at that fabulously crazy price, the Al-Rehab is absolutely worth ordering to find out!

ALL IN ALL:

Given my prior experiences with Montale, I know it will surprise regular readers to the blog when I state that I truly enjoyed both Intense Café and Chocolate Greedy. And that actually brings me to another point. I’ve sometimes slammed Montale for having fragrances that smell extremely synthetic, and I know a few other perfume bloggers avoid the house like mad for the same reason (and, also, because the fire-extinguisher bottle). I will maintain until my death that Montale’s Aoud Lime is the perfume equivalent of Chernobyl, and should be used to exterminate cockroaches in a post-apocalyptic world. Actually, most of Montale’s Aoud line — which is how they made their name, after all — smells chemically artificial to me, and not solely due to the galloping bucketfuls of ISO E Super. Real, genuine agarwood is extremely rare these days, and a number of perfume houses use a synthetic, lab-made version of the wood to create the scent of “oud.” Guys seem to go absolutely nuts for Montale, but for me, there are better brands with more complexity and better quality ingredients.

Yet, despite all that, I think Intense Café and Chocolate Greedy are actually lovely and smell delicious. I mean it. Perhaps the inherent nature of a gourmand fragrance makes it easier to avoid the pitfalls of an Oud one. After all, how can you go wrong with chocolate and vanilla mixed with roses? Whatever the case, I think the synthetic Montale signature has been really minimized in each fragrances. (The exception is that blasted ISO E Super, but since most people can’t seem to detect it, the issue doesn’t apply.) Are Intense Café or Chocolate Greedy complex, edgy, revolutionary, or original? Of course not! How many gourmand perfumes are? Yet, if you’re looking for something very cozy, comforting, wholly unisex, and extremely versatile with a massive bang for your buck in terms of projection and duration, then you should consider Intense Café or Chocolate Greedy. The latter, in particular, has been around long enough to be offered at discounted prices on some online perfume sites as well.

Source: Cakechooser.com

Source: Cakechooser.com

For me, personally, I preferred Chocolate Greedy. The reasons are its greater layers, nuances, richness and depth. The chocolate is infinitely deeper, darker, and more interesting than the more café au lait cocoa in Intense Café. If the latter had a more noticeable, actual coffee note, as opposed to the light chocolate powder that dominated on my skin, the roles might be reversed. Or, perhaps not. I’m a sucker for dark molten chocolate, especially when mixed with dark fruits and a jammy liqueured, almost boozy rose. Chocolate Greedy was essentially like the best part of many desserts, only without the calories and weight gain. But if you’re one of those who lives at Starbucks and adores their soy lattes, then you may want to opt for the new Intense Café instead. Either way, you’ll smell delicious.

 

DETAILS:
INTENSE CAFÉ Cost & Availability: Intense Café is an eau de parfum and comes in two different sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $110; or 3.4 oz/100 ml for $160 or €100. It is available on the Montale website where a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle retails for €100. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size offered there than 100 ml, but Montale offers a free 20 ml mini-bottle of the fragrance at the time of purchase. Discount Prices: Unfortunately, the fragrance is too new for it to be available for less at the discount retailers. In the U.S.: Intense Café is available in both sizes at Luckyscent. It is offered only in the large 3.4 oz bottle at Parfums1 and MinNY (though they’re currently sold out at the time of this post). All the sites sell samples. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Intense Café is available at The Perfume Shoppe‘s Vancouver site which sells the 3.4 oz/100 ml size for US $160. Since the site is originally a U.S. vendor, you may want to contact them about Canadian pricing. In the UK, I couldn’t find any sellers. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Intense Café and ships all over the world. The price is €139, which is higher than through the Montale website. For all other locations from Italy to Bahrain, Poland, the Netherlands, even Uruguay and elsewhere, please check the Montale Distributor page. There are even more stores all over the world from Japan to Africa shown on Montale’s Store PageSamples: I obtained my sample of Intense Café from Surrender to Chance which sells 1ml vials starts at $4.49.
CHOCOLATE GREEDY Cost & Availability: Chocolate Greedy is an eau de parfum
and comes in two different sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $110; or 3.4 oz/100 ml for $160 or €80. It is available directly through the Montale website, but only in a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle that retails for €80. (They don’t offer the cost in other currency units.) There is no smaller size offered, but Montale tosses in a free 20 ml mini-bottle of Chocolate Greedy at the time of purchase. Discount Price: Chocolate Greedy is slightly discounted at Parfums Raffy which offers both sizes: the 50 ml/1.7 oz for $105, and the large bottle for $155. You may get a better deal for the latter from the Kuwaiti vendor, Universal Perfumes, which sells the same 100 ml bottle for $129.99, but shipping may take a little time. Chocolate Greedy is also discounted from LilyDirect which sells the large 100 ml bottle for $140.80 instead of $160. The site was planning to start shipping to Canada, so you may want to check to see if that has taken place. Rakuten sells the perfume for a similar price, $140.80, via LilyDirect. PennyLane has two bottles of Chocolate Greedy left for $140, with an additional 25% off taken for even greater savings. Chocolate Greedy is also discounted at Beauty Encounter which sells the large 3.4 oz size for $150. In the U.S.: Chocolate Greedy is available for normal retail price in both sizes at Luckyscent. It is also sold in the large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle at MinNY and at Parfum1 for $160. Outside the U.S.: In Canda, Chocolate Greedy is available in the large 3.4 oz size from The Perfume Shoppe for US$160. The site is the Vancouver branch of an American company, so you may want to email for Canadian prices. In the UK, I couldn’t find any sellers. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Chocolate Greedy and ships all over the world. The price is €94, which is higher than through the Montale website. Samples are also available for sale. In Russia, Chocolate Greedy is sold at Orental.ru in various sizes. For all other locations from Italy to Bahrain, Poland, the Netherlands, even Uruguay and elsewhere, please check the Montale Distributor page. There are even more stores selling Montale all over the world from Japan to Africa shown on Montale’s Store PageSamples: I obtained my sample of Chocolate Greedy from Surrender to Chance which sells 1 ml vials starts at $3.99.

Perfume Review – Parfumerie Générale (PG25) Indochine: Sweet Intoxication

Mekong River. Source: terrainfinita.es

Mekong River. Source: terrainfinita.es

Close your eyes, and imagine a pool near the Mekong River in France’s old South-East Asian colony of Indochine. The thick, sultry air swirls around you as you dive in. It’s a pool of decadent, creamy custard that is a bright egg-yellow, unctuous, thick, endlessly creamy, and sweet. As your head hits its top layer, your body is coated by dark vanilla and golden honey, but quickly you are surrounded by flecks of green. Nutty, green cardamon with its warm, toasty edge mixes with the custard. Subtle specks of dry smoky incense touch your lips, but everywhere around you is cream, cream, cream. So golden, so heady, so rich, so luxurious, you fall in deeper and deeper. A sweet milkiness swirls with the toastiness, the custard, and the nutty cardamon to create café au lait. Like a 1960s psychedelic trip, the colours have changed from golden, egg-yellow, to green, to creamy, mocha brown. You’re cocooned in warmth and sweetness, but dryness and smoke linger in the air and soon take over, until all that is left is a patina of dry, creamy, sepia-tinged vanilla that kisses your skin like the warm air of Indochine.

PG25 Indochine. Source: The Perfume Shoppe.

PG25 Indochine. Source: The Perfume Shoppe.

That is the tale of my journey with Indochine (or PG25 Indochine), the 25th creation of the French niche perfume house, Parfumerie Générale. It is an eau de toilette that is named after the former French colony in an area of South-East Asia that was once referred to as Indochina, and whose territory encompasses what is now modern Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Parfumerie Generale’s founder, Pierre Guillaume, is often known for creating gourmand fragrances, but Indochine doesn’t truly fall into that category. For all the perfume’s sweet touches, there are plenty of dry, smoky, woody notes to act as a counter-balance, creating a beautiful, addictive, compulsively sniffable fragrance that is extremely wearable, unisex, and cozy.

Parfumerie Generale’s website explains the inspiration for Indochine, its feel, and the characteristics of some of its notes:

1920 : a sepia-toned cruise following the course of  the mighty Mekong River, a kaleidoscope of ephemeral dawns shrouded in mist and glorious days of radiant sunshine.

Slow down, just enjoy the dampness and close your eyes. Beyond the riverbanks, our dreams of Indochina…

One of the sepia images that was the inspiration for Indochine. Source: CaFleureBon.

One of the sepia images that was the inspiration for Indochine. Source: CaFleureBon.

At once sweet, vanilla-scented, resinous, powdery, milky and spicy, Benzoin Siam is a resin of great olfactory richness that is rarely used as a central theme in Perfumery.

Drawing on rare notes such as Kampot Pepper, Burmese Tanakha, or Laos honey, Pierre Guillaume orchestrates a luminous, smooth and airy perfume, delicately reproducing each and every facet of the unprocessed balsam. [¶] This sepia-tinged balm infuses Indochine with the radiance of platinum…

The short summation of the perfume’s notes is as follows:

Benzoin Siam Resin, Kampot Pepper, Ceylon Cardamom, Burmese Tanakha, Laos Honey.

I think it’s impossible to understand Indochine without discussing a key ingredient that I’d never previously heard of, let alone smelled: Tanakha (or Thanaka, as it is sometimes written). I did some digging, and found a very useful explanation in CaFleurebon‘s review of Indochine:

In reading about Tanakha it is a native tree to Burma which is ground into a fragrant paste used in makeup. As a note in perfumery it shares a lot of similarity to sandalwood. It has the slight sweetness of sandalwood but it also has a hint of green quality which replaces the creamy quality of sandalwood.

Girls with Thanaka cosmetic paste. Source: netmaa.org

Girls with Thanaka cosmetic paste. Source: netmaa.org

Elsewhere, I’ve read that Thanaka paste has “a slight flowery aroma to it something akin to a fragrant light sandlewood.” It is highly popular as a cosmetic paste in South-East Asia, and a simple Google Images search brings up some wonderful photos of women or girls with beautiful, decorative, artistic swirls of Thanaka on their faces.   

Indochine blows my socks off with its stunning opening. It’s an utterly intoxicating swirl of sweetness and creaminess: rich, toasty, nutty notes mixed with vanilla and honey. Fast on their heels is a green, spicy, nutty cardamon, then a milkiness that smells a lot like the sweetened milk left in your breakfast bowl after you’ve had frosted cereal. Subtle tendrils of smoke, as light as a summer’s breeze, float at the top. Flecks of pepper with a surprisingly aromatic fragrancy dance at the edges. The combination positively makes my head spin in appreciation; I can’t stop sniffing Indochine not only because of how intoxicating it is, but also because of a quiet mysteriousness that is hard to describe.

Source: Foodival.com

Source: Foodival.com

It tugs at me, intrigues me, and leaves me scratching my head a little. I think it’s that Thanaka — which is definitely one of the more fascinating wood elements I’ve encountered — in conjunction with the other notes. To be honest, having never smelled it before, I’m not sure where the aroma of Thananka begins, where it ends, or what other factors may be responsible for what I’m smelling. Whatever the specifics, the overall result is a stunning, sweet, spicy, smoky woody creaminess. Indochine smells so warmly rich and unctuous, it’s like a custard. Yet, it is one which is infused with subtle smokiness, a green spiciness, a toasted rice and nut accord, and milky sweetness. The whole thing sits atop a rich base of Siam benzoin with its vanillic characteristics. After a few minutes, the slivers of honey melt, no longer discernible as pure honey, and become an additional layer of sweetness in that custardy richness. 

Despite all that, Indochine is not wholly gourmand in nature. I don’t like cloying dessert fragrances, and I think Indochine has an increasing dryness which helps ensure it never falls headlong into the gourmand family. The fragrance really straddles the line between that and the woody category. In large part, it’s thanks to the Thanaka wood paste which has not only a lovely dryness but, also, a slightly smoked aroma. The cardamom helps as well, even though its primary characteristic here is of toasted nuttiness subtly infused with green spiciness. 

Coconut Lime Rice Custard. Source: medifoods.co.nz -

Source: medifoods.co.nz –

Ten minutes into Indochine’s development, my primary impression is: creamy, creamy, creamy. The whole thing feels like a dessert at times, only a dry one that is surprisingly lightweight in feel. In fact, it’s almost airy, despite the fragrance’s initial headiness. Indochine is a decadent, utterly addictive, warm, sweet, rich, mellow cloud of creamy woods. A vaguely floral note dances around the edges, but what is increasingly noticeable is a milky aroma. I have no idea where it comes from, but I suspect it is yet another characteristic of the thanaka. The wood is apparently too light to be like true, creamy, Mysore sandalwood, but perhaps the more diluted aroma takes “creaminess” and translates it to “milkiness.” The Thanaka is really, really beautiful. Whether it originally smells like Mysore sandalwood, I don’t know, but the supplemental notes in Indochine have added the necessary spicy, creamy, smoky sweetness to make its aroma quite similar.

Cardamom. Source: www.kitchenheadquarters.org

Cardamom. Source: kitchenheadquarters.org

The cardamom is equally lovely. It feels simultaneously green and brown, fragrant and dry, toasted and nutty. In fact, that toasted note is an interesting characteristic, in and of itself. At first, it reminded me of toasted rice, but as the moments progress, and as Indochine grows richer, milkier, and more custardy, the note smells more like toasted rice in a milky, cardamom pudding. The whole thing is nestled in a sweet cocoon of silky smooth, soft, billowy Siam benzoin, and lightly flecked with the most subtle tendrils of dry, black smoke. The over-all effect is more than just delicious; it’s compulsively sniffable and wholly addictive.

Indochine continues like that until the end of the first hour when it becomes much drier and smokier. Some of the perfume’s richness and sweetness have receded as a result, though Indochine is still very creamy when sniffed up close. Still, the perfume feels thinner and less lushly unctuous than it did in the first 30 minutes. As a whole, the fragrance is a beautiful blend of creamy sandalwood-like woods infused with a light smokiness. A subtle cardamom nuttiness is sprinkled on top, while underneath is a delicate, thin base of milky, sweet vanilla.

Source: biggestmenu.com

Source: biggestmenu.com

As the fragrance gets drier, the visuals start to change. Two hours in, Indochine slowly begins to morph away from the custard, and into toasty, sweetened coffee. Indochine increasingly smells like a very creamy, but dry, Café au Lait sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts and vanilla. It’s an incredibly comforting, cozy, soothing scent, though it lies just a few inches above the skin. With every passing hour, Indochine fades in sweetness, strength, and projection, turning drier, woodier, and increasingly blurry in texture. By the middle of the third hour, Indochine is just a skin scent, radiating a dry, vanillic, woody sweetness that is still slightly creamy and smoky in nuance. The notes have lost any distinctive, individual form, but the abstract version of Indochine is still enormously appealing.

Indochine remains that way for the rest of its duration. In its final moments, the fragrance is nothing more than a faded trace of dry vanilla with a hint of something intangibly woody underlying it. The longevity was extremely surprising to me; I frequently thought Indochine had died on my skin, only to find it clinging on tenaciously. I was sure it had died away after the seventh hour, the eighth and the ninth, but, all in all, Indochine lasted 10.75 hours on my perfume consuming skin. The sillage was extremely low after 90-minutes, and Indochine became a skin scent shortly after the 2.25 hour mark, but apparently, it’s supposed to be that way. For one thing, it is an eau de toilette, and thus, a much weaker concentration of fragrance. For another, Pierre Guillaume seems to have intended for Indochine to be a “sepia-tinged balm,” as he puts it. CaFleureBon summed it up best:

Indochine has excellent longevity and slightly below average sillage. Indochine tends to add a perfumed coating like sepia does to photographs, subtle but striking. [Emphasis in the original.]

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

I loved Indochine, and would be utterly determined to get a bottle if it weren’t for one thing: ISO E Super. As my experience with Parfumerie Generale’s Dhjenné demonstrated, Pierre Guillaume seems to love the blasted aroma-chemical, and he used it there with frenzied abandon. It’s different in Indochine; there is nothing remotely antiseptic, medicinal or even hugely peppered in feel to the ISO E Super here. However, exactly 35 minutes in Indochine’s start, there was a noticeable woody hum to the base of the perfume. It got louder and louder, until, at the 45 minute mark, its forceful thrum was matched by a sharp throbbing at the back of my head. Soon, it turned into pounding. Then, a new characteristic arose: my eyes started to feel watery.

I am not one of those people who consistently and perpetually gets migraines from ISO E Super, but I do when a hell of a lot of it is used. To avoid a complicated, gobbledygook explanation, the basic gist is that ISO E Super has extra-large molecules that seem harder for the nose to absorb. What was interesting with Indochine is that my headache initially faded after 15 minutes, but only because I didn’t bring my arm to my nose to smell all the layers in the fragrance. However, the minute I did, it was as if a searing hot poker had been rammed straight up my eyeball to the back of my head. I tested Indochine twice, and it was an utterly brutal experience each time during the first two to three hours. The moment I brought my nose to my arm, my headache returned. Instantly. I obviously had to smell the damn perfume to detect all its underlying layers, so I persisted, but it was a painful experience. And, again, I have to emphasize, I have this reaction only when a lot of ISO E Super is used. On the plus side, at least this version of ISO E Super didn’t smell like hospital antiseptic on my skin, because it certainly has happened in the past.

Indochine is so utterly addictive that I honestly tried it the second time solely to see if I could move past that headache stage. After all, no-one said I have to actually sniff it up close if I’m just wearing it for pleasure, did they? It’s an easy, versatile, incredibly cozy, comfort scent that also happens to come in a range of sizes that are quite affordable. It’s a testament to how much I — a person who rarely likes even quasi-gourmand scents, and who loathes ISO E Super with a violent passion– loved Indochine’s opening that I was willing to contemplate almost guaranteed headaches to wear it. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I simply can’t do it. 

Most people, however, can’t detect ISO E Super if it were used to cudgel their brains out. (Lucky devils, you have no idea how much I envy you.) So, unless you’re one of those who knows they are sensitive to it (or to one of the many, many ISO E Super fragrances listed in my article), you have no need to worry. If you love sweetened sandalwood fragrances, if you’re looking for a very dry gourmand fragrance that isn’t extremely foody, or if you enjoy comfort scents, then I strongly recommend that you try Indochine.  

The lovely Suzanne of Eiderdown Press has a gorgeous, evocative, and very eloquent review of Indochine. If I could, and if it weren’t so heinously rude, I would copy it out almost in full because it really is beautifully written and moving. I’ll include the relevant parts here, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing on her site:

Parfumerie Générale Indochine—a contemplative fragrance that, for all its quietude, somehow manages to be arresting on an emotional level. The strong pull of nostalgia is what lends the light-wearing Indochine weight. Initially it smells like a sandalwood box in which photographs, letters and other precious mementos have been tucked away: poems copied in a lover’s hand, shells from a distant shore, partially burned incense sticks and dusty candles. As the scent develops, though, it goes through a subtle shift, and in its dry-down stage there is a sanded-smooth sweetness to Indochine that is so easy-wearing and comfortable, it makes one feel good about being in one’s own skin.

In the first half-hour of wear, there is a parched and incense-like quality to Indochine. It most resembles a smoky sandalwood scent at this early stage, and if I were to describe its character, I would call it exotic yet reserved. The tingly spiciness of cardamom and pepper intersecting with the light acridness of honey mimics the smell of tobacco, and the combination not only lends an air of aridity to the scent, but is one of the reasons I picture the fragrance in my mind as a sandalwood box, as every good box must have some hand-rolled cigarettes stashed inside. Indochine’s benzoin is more resinous than vanillic at this point, again contributing to that wooden trinket-box smell. […]

Eventually the benzoin does begin to smell more vanillic, and the smoky, incense-like character of Indochine fades considerably after about an hour into its wear. Though the fragrance loses its exoticism in the process, the your-skin-only-better scent that is left behind is not a bad souvenir—no, not bad at all. There is still enough woodiness in the drydown to keep Indochine interesting and to prevent it from edging over into the kind of sentimental sweetness that would take away Indochine’s backbone.

Suzanne says Indochine “makes one feel good about being in one’s own skin,” and I very much agree. My experience obviously differed somewhat from hers in the details, but then my skin tends to amplify basenotes along with sweetness. Still, we were both cleared swept away by what we smelled, and by the beauty of that sandalwood-like thanaka. So, whether you experience my smoky, milky, toasty rice, cardamom custard followed by nutty, dry café au lait, or Suzanne’s sandalwood box of treasures infused with spices, a subtle tobacco-y nuance, and parched incense, I think you’ll generally be in very good hands with Indochine. 

Source: antiquesandarts.com

Source: antiquesandarts.com

There is one exception, however, and no, it does not pertain to the ISO E Super. It has to do with the honey. People whose skin chemistry turns the ingredient into something sour, urinous, or animalic should test Indochine first. On Fragrantica, the handful of negative reviews all involve problems with honey. To quote one commentator, “Now I know what Tania Sanchez meant when she said ‘the rest of us are howling’ when she referred to Serge Lutens Miel de Bois.”

Outside of that narrow category, however, everyone else seems to adore Indochine. Fragrantica commentators alternatively described the fragrance in dessert terms, or as something darkly smoky, resinous and peppered. (I bet that some of that “pepper” note is due to the ISO E Super, but they don’t realise it.) My favorite review is from a commentator, “meama,” who seems to love food as much as I do:

Indochine is a real melting of spices, like a chocolate fondant: dry and crisp on the outside, soft and flowing in the center. And most importantly, delicious.
Its crust pepper and cardamom crackles under the nose with a little something of toast, black and dry. Then benzoin starts slowly to pour the flood of sweet resin, vanilla, powdered, soft like white sand. Already, a first contrast between dark cold spices and enveloping milky balm. Honey is slowly making its waxy and animal facet participant in turn to a new dimension of flavor, more syrupy, which evokes a black licorice slightly aniseed, such absinthe or ageless whiskey.
On the skin, Indochine takes root, its mineral and syrupy animality clings to the skin without looking tacky, with a discreet diffusion.
Like all the PG creations the longevity and the sillage is disappointing.

On my skin, the honey melted into the base, and was never a distinct part of the fragrance after the first five minutes. Indochine was also never animalic in the slightest. That said, I agree very much with the overall feel and spirit of his experience, as I do with Suzanne’s beautiful, ancient, sandalwood box infused with something akin to parched incense, and followed by sanded-smooth sweetness. Indochine is all those things. It’s not complicated, revolutionary, edgy, or complex, but it is truly lovely and intoxicating. 

As a side note, two commentators on Luckyscent said that Indochine resembled some other fragrances. One brought up Indochine’s sibling, and another Parfumerie Generale creation, Cadjmere: “it is sooooo similar to Cadjmere, slight differences, but both are gorgeous.” I’ve never tried Cadjmere, so I can’t compare. A second reviewer found Indochine to be quite close to an Ava Luxe fragrance: “This is nearly identical to Ava Luxe Bois Exotique, but I like Indochine better because it is so smooth and rounded. The Ava Luxe is a tiny bit harsher.” Again, I don’t know the fragrance, but, if you’ve tried or own either one, you may want to keep the alleged similarities in mind. My reference points are different, so what I would add is this: those of you who love Etat Libre d’Orange‘s Fils de Dieu should definitely try Indochine. I think you’d like it because it has the same sort of vibe, even though Indochine is smoky, woody, and drier. By the same token, if you didn’t have much success with the new Dries van Noten from Frederic Malle (a perfume I really dislike, by the way), and if you love gourmands, you should also look into Indochine. The aroma of the thanaka is what I expected from the Malle fragrance, and not the unpleasant, weird, ersatz “sandalwood” that I got instead.

In short, if you enjoy sweet, but dry, woody scents that are easy, uncomplicated, infinitely cozy, and just slightly tip their hat at the gourmand category, then I’d definitely urge you to give Indochine a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Indochine is an eau de toilette that comes in a 3 different sizes on the Parfumerie General website: 1 oz/30 ml, 1.7 oz/50 ml, and 3.4 oz/100 ml. The prices in Euros are, respectively: €60, €90, and  €125. In the U.S.: Indochine is available in the 1.7 oz/50 ml size from Luckyscent for $100, along with a sample. NYC’s Osswald offers Indochine in the 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $85, and in the 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $179. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the Vancouver branch of The Perfume Shoppe carries the Parfumerie Generale line, and sells Indochine for $150 for the large 100 ml size, but they are currently sold out of the fragrance at the time of this post. You may want to check back later, or email them. In the UK, Indochine is available at London’s Bloom Parfumery and Les Senteurs. Both stores offer Indochine in two sizes: the 1.7 oz/50 ml costs £81.50, while the large 100 ml goes for £117.50. Samples are also available for purchase. In Paris, the niche boutique store Sens Unique carries the full PG line, but they don’t seem to have an e-store on their website. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Indochine for €94 and €104, for 50 ml and 100 ml respective, and ships throughout the world. For all other locations from Dubai to the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and the rest of Europe, you can turn to Parfumerie Generale’s website here for a list of retailersSamples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Indochine starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Review En Bref: A Lab on Fire What We Do In Paris Is Secret

My Reviews En Bref are for fragrances that — for whatever reason — didn’t merit one of my lengthy, exhaustive, detailed assessments.

Source: A Lab on Fire's Flickr page.

Source: A Lab on Fire’s Flickr page.

Fluffy, clean, powdery, gourmand, and very young. That, in a nutshell, is the summation for A Lab on Fire‘s What We Do in Paris Is Secret. “What We Do In Paris Is Secret” is a bloody long name, so I’ll just shorten it to “What We Do in Paris” or “WWDIP.” The fragrance is an eau de parfum from the legendary perfumer, Dominique Ropion, long considered one of the most technically brilliant, talented, master perfumers. A Lab on Fire is a new niche brand, created in 2011, and, according to Now Smell This, is a sister house to S-Perfume. According to that NST article, A Lab on Fire’s mission is to create fragrances in collaboration with master perfumers, and to “emphasize the juice over the packaging (What We Do is housed in a plain lab bottle with a smear of black paint and a label, and there’s a ziploc bag instead of a box[.].” Hence, a very utilitarian, minimalistic bottle in a silver bag.

The WWDIPIS bag. Source: Fragrantica

The WWDIP bag. Source: Fragrantica

What We Do In Paris was released in 2012, and is classified on Fragrantica as a Fruity Floral. Luckyscent says the perfume notes are as follows:

Bergamot, honey, lychee, Turkish rose essence, tonka bean, vanilla, heliotrope, tolu, sandalwood, ambergris, musks.

What We Do In Paris opens on my skin with a soft, fragile rose note, infused with powder and honey. It is quickly followed by something chemical with a strong aroma of burnt plastic and a faint undertone of medical astringent. I test What We Do In Paris twice, and the same thing occurred both times. The combination is quickly joined by a light, watery, pastel, fruity note that just barely hints at being sweet lychee, but it is almost completely buried under the chemical element and by the advent of a new arrival. It’s powder. Full-blown powder, bursting on the scene, feeling girly and light, infused with vanilla and an almond note from the heliotrope. The whole thing is bound up with enormous sweetness, though it never feels like honey, and feels very airy, soft, and gauzy.

Vanilla powder and essence. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

Vanilla powder and essence. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

Within minutes, What We Do In Paris changes. The rose note recedes far to the background, the lychee vanishes completely, and the perfume is reduced to an incredibly feminine cloud of sweet powder scented with vanilla and heliotrope. There is a faint whiff of clean, sweet, light musk at the edges, but that’s about it. The notes are so sheer and minimalistic, I actually doubled the amount of my dose to see if it were a simple problem of application and amount. Nope. What We Do In Paris emphasizes two main notes, and you bloody well better like them. Occasionally, like a ghost, there will be flickers of rose from far recesses of the perfume’s depths, and that lingering trace of burnt plastic chemicals, but generally What We Do In Paris is all about the vanilla, almond-heliotrope powder.

Play-Doh set and station via Amazon.com

Play-Doh set and station via Amazon.com

In the middle of the second hour, the perfume turns warmer, softer, and just a little bit richer. It’s all highly relative for this airy, frothy, singularly limited gourmand confection. The minuscule hints of rose have vanished, and a subtle undertone of amber stirs in the base. The more almond-y nuance of the heliotrope has turned into actual Play-Doh, and the vanilla seems richer.

Around the 4.75 hour mark, What We Do In Paris gains another side. Now, there are the creamy, generic, beige woods that modern perfumery insists on pretending is “sandalwood,” but which smell absolutely nothing like the real kind from Mysore. There’s also a subtle sense of something ambered in the base, though it has no chance of competing with the dominant accords. WWDIP is now a simple blend of Play-Doh heliotrope, vanilla, sweet powder, and ersatz, fake, “sandalwood” creaminess flecked with amber. In its final moments, What We Do In Paris is merely creamy sweetness with vanillic powder. It lasted just shy of 6.25 hours on my skin, and had soft sillage.

WWDIP is far from my personal cup of tea. It’s soft, sweet, and fluffy, though I’m not sure I mean that as a compliment. It’s a pleasant enough scent that skews extremely feminine and gourmand in nature, but is also extremely simple with limited range and a total lack of depth. What We Do In Paris is not fruity or floral enough to merit a “fun and flirty” designation, but it does scream “youthful.” It seems like the perfect sort of innocuous, soft, sweet, powdery scent for a young, female, high school student. It’s so pleasantly and innocuously powdery sweet that it actually seems more like a commercial scent that you’d find at the mall, instead of a niche fragrance that costs $110.

The surfeit of sweetness and the young, safe, fluffy banality bore me, but a lot of gourmand lovers seem to adore What We Do In Paris. It’s a fragrance that has often been compared to the cult hit Luctor et Emergo from The Peoples of The Labyrinths, as well as to Kenzo‘s Amour. The drydown has even been admiringly compared to Givenchy‘s notorious Amarige. I love Amarige, own it, and don’t find a lot of similarities between its lovely, richer, deeper, more appealing amber in the drydown, and the deluge of powdered sweetness in WWDIP. I haven’t tried the other scents to know how they may compare, but Now Smell This and Freddie of Smelly Thoughts found some overlap between What We Do In Paris and other gourmand fragrances, including Serge Lutens‘ Rahat Loukoum and Louve. Like me, Freddie wasn’t bowled over by What We Do In Paris, calling it “slightly immature” and “safe and predictable.” He called it “a perfect blind buy for someone who just likes to smell good but doesn’t care of what in particular.”

If you’re a gourmand lover, however, and are looking for an uncomplicated, completely safe scent, you may want to read the glowing, gushing raves on Luckyscent where many people find WWDIP to be delicious, sweet nectar and utterly addictive. Everyone talks about the powder or Play-Doh, but they generally love it, with only a few dissenters finding the perfume to be excessively sweet or like “baby powder.” One admiring commentator said the fragrance was delicious Play-Doh in “a comforting, loving feminine role-model wearing kind of way. Reminds me of a kind pre-school teacher.” I agree with that last bit. I could definitely see a pre-school teacher wearing WWDIP as a scent that would comfort and soothe toddlers….

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: What We Do In Paris Is Secret is an eau de parfum that is most commonly available in a 60 ml bottle that costs $110 or, generally, around €110. There is also a 15 ml bottle that is sold by some vendors for €24. Both sizes are listed on the Lab on Fire website, but it doesn’t seem to have an e-store offering online purchase. In the U.S.: you can find What We Do In Paris at Luckyscent. Outside the U.S.: In France, I found the perfume in a 15 ml size bottle at Colette which sells it for €24. I couldn’t find any UK vendors, but I didn’t search exhaustively. In the Netherlands, WWDIP is sold at Skins in the 60 ml bottle for €115,85. In Germany, First in Fragrance offers What We Do In Paris for €110, and I believe they ship worldwide. For all other locations, you can turn to the Lab on Fire Stockists list on their Facebook page which lists vendors from Austria to Poland, Greece, Switzerland and elsewhere in the EU. No UK or Australian vendors are listed, however. Samples: I obtained my vial from a friend, but you can buy samples at Surrender to Chance which offers WWDIP starting at $5.99 for a 1ml vial.

Perfume Review – État Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu

He brings the sun.

etat libre d'orange fils de dieu perfume bottle and boxBringing the warm joyousness of the sun by way of a perfumed ode to the Asian tropics — an ode that sparkles with the very brightest of zingy, crisp citruses; that luxuriates in the creamy sweetness of sticky coconut Thai rice; and that strokes you with the velvety headiness of jasmine, before turning into a soft, golden, amber embrace. That is the journey offered by Fils de Dieu, a unisex eau de parfum from the whimsical, playfully avant-garde, often satirical, always provocative French perfume house, État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter just “État Libre“). The perfume’s full name is actually Fils de Dieu, Du Riz et Des Agrumes which means “Son of God, of Rice and of Citruses” and, to make matters a little more confusing, used to be called Philippine Houseboy. (Terrible name! Thank God for the change.)

Fils de Dieu was created by Ralf Schweiger, and was released in 2012 to much acclaim, landing in the Top Five of CaFleureBon‘s Best Perfumes of 2012 list. The perfume veers far outside the parameters of my usual style or preferences, but I actually like it and think it would be a great, easy, casual summer scent.

État Libre describes Fils de Dieu and its notes as follows:

He brings the sun.

Fils de dieu comes from the Philippines to spread a message of warmth and enlightenment. Here, find an innocent wisdom that points to dreams and liberation. This is the golden eye that reflects beauty and conflict, rapture and pain. Fils de dieu is an emotional fragrance, a scent that requires a sympathetic connection between the server and the served, the giver and the taker, and the willingness to exchange roles.

Composition : Ginger, coriander leaves, lime, shiso, coconut JE, rice, cardamom JE, jasmine, cinnamon, may rose, tonka bean, vetiver, musk, amber, leather, castoreum…

I have no idea what “JE” stands for, but let’s move on. What caught my attention with Fils de Dieu is how it can be many different fragrances in one. I tested it twice — once in chilly, air-conditioned temperatures, and once in muggy warmth. The first time, and with the impact of the cold, I noticed Fils de Dieu had three, distinctly separate stages that can be summed up essentially as follows:

Stage One: Almost all crisp, aromatic citrus cologne notes – about 90% citrus, 8% lemongrass-y vetiver, and 2% jasmine;

Stage Two: Primarily jasmine in nature – about 75% jasmine, 15% citrus, 5% lemongrass-y vetiver, and 5% other notes;

Stage Three: A whole other perfume — fluctuating levels of vanilla and amber for the most part, followed by spices, a dash of castoreum, and flickers of other elements.

Yet, it was an entirely different matter when I turned off the air-conditioning (which was a painful experience given where I live), and let the tropical humidity do its work. In the sort of thick, wet air that must resemble Fils de Dieu’s Philippine inspiration, the perfume bloomed to become the sort of scent it was clearly intended to be: a slightly sweet ode to Thai food, interspersed with exotic, tropical, heady jasmine, custardy vanilla, citrus, spices, and sensuous warmth.

THE FIRST TEST:

Let’s start with the first test, where Fils de Dieu bewildered me by being a crisp, citrus cologne for the entirety of its opening. The perfume starts on my skin with fresh shiso that smells minty, just lightly peppery, and incredibly fresh. Within seconds, it is joined by zesty lime and bergamot, both shining brightly with an almost translucent radiance.

Source: onlyhdwallpapers.com

Source: onlyhdwallpapers.com

Fils de Dieu quickly softens, with the citrus notes fading to slightly more muted levels, and flecked with a bright rose tonality, along with the merest hint of airy jasmine. Then, the citrus comes back, stronger and heartier than ever, only this time headed up by bergamot. As always, its main companion is the lime, which feels a wee bit bitter now. Rounding out the top three notes is vetiver which has a very lemongrass-like nuance here, instead of its more common, rooty, dark, or earthy characteristics. Five minutes later, a rice note creeps in. It’s milky, barely sweetened, and evocative of boiled jasmine. The note is so insubstantial, however, that it really takes vociferous inhalations to detect it for the brief moments that it’s there.

For the next 90 minutes, Fils de Dieu is nothing more than a masculine sort of cologne on my skin. It’s citrus, more citrus, a dash of vetiver, a few drops of jasmine, and that mysteriously vanishing rice note. There is a minute, tiny, faint hum of synthetics at the base — something I’ve noticed in all Ralf Schweiger’s fragrances to varying degrees — but there are no spices, no vanilla, and absolutely no coconut whatsoever. I actually felt a little cheated, given all that I’d heard about Fils de Dieu’s supposed resemblance to Thai Curry. Well, not on me, at least not under chilly temperatures… Over time, the strength of the main notes varies (and, sometimes, the jasmine feels much more dominant), but, ultimately, there is no escaping the citruses and the cologne impression.

Rice stalk via nsf.gov

Rice stalk via nsf.gov

Then, 2.25 hours in, Fils de Dieu changes. Parts of my arm now emit faint traces of really sweet, boiled rice infused with jasmine; another part wafts jasmine with amber and a touch of castoreum; and a third (much smaller) part is simply nothing more than lemongrass vetiver and cool lime. It’s bewildering. Clearly, Fils de Dieu is a beautifully blended, well-crafted fragrance that reflects different notes at different times. But, for the majority of this test, it was “fragrant” in the most aromatic sense of the word, as something that was primarily citrus and jasmine in nature.

Salted Caramel & Nutella Rice Krispie Treats. Source: The Mini Baker. (Click on photo for link to website and the recipe.)

Salted Caramel & Nutella Rice Krispie Treats. Source: The Mini Baker. (Click on photo for link to website and the recipe.)

The slow progression of the scent continues, morphing slowly into its third and final phase. Around the third hour, Fils de Dieu turns into jasmine fragrance with a sweet, dry vanilla that has a lightly perfumed finish and the merest hint of cinnamon. At the four-hour mark, however, the perfume has a complete metamorphosis, turning into an ambery butterfly with an almost boozy edge. It’s plush, nutty, infused with cardamon and cinnamon, and has a distinctly toffee undertone. The rice note pops up again, but this time it’s toasted; it smells a little like Rice Krispies would — if they were covered by toffee, cinnamon and amber.

Source: layoutsparks.com

Source: layoutsparks.com

The amber is beautiful here, with the sort of rich depth that you’d normally find in ambergris — but without the salty, marshy, slightly sweaty characteristics of the element. I chalk the rich depth of the note to the castoreum which definitely accounts for the subtle tinge of sweet musk lurking around Fils de Dieu’s edges. Underneath the amber is the lightest suggestion of leather that feels very smooth, supple, warm, as if it had been burnished by sweet resins. There is no longer any vanilla to distract from all the gold, bronze, umber visuals. As time passes, the perfume continued to soften and the notes turn more abstract.

A little short of 8.25 hours in, Fils de Dieu finally fades away, nothing more than musky, ambered sweetness. Its sillage was moderate at the start, continued to drop after the first hour, and then faded away to a skin scent around the middle of the fifth hour. The truly astonishing thing, though, is the degree of change. Between the spices, the languorous, castoreum-infused resins, the sweetness, and the plush richness of the scent, Fils de Dieu did a complete 180 from its opening as a crisp, citrus cologne. You couldn’t get a more drastic change — which is why I decided I needed to test the perfume under very different conditions.

SECOND TEST:

For my second test, I turned off the air-conditioning, opened the windows, and let the humidity of the muggy swamp outside invade my office. The heat wave has left, so the difference in internal temperature according to the thermostat only seems to be about 16 degrees, but the humidity is easily close to 90%. And what a difference that made to Fils de Dieu! It suddenly turned into the fragrance that it was supposed to be.

Shiso Leaf and Lime. Source: Sweetfineday.com (Link to website embedded within photo.)

Shiso Leaf & Lime. Source: Sweetfineday.com (Website link embedded within photo.)

Once again, Fils de Dieu opens as a citrus scent with the brightest of green notes. There is shiso leaf with its lightly peppered, minty aroma, followed by lemon and bergamot – both as airy, fresh and bright as a blade of grass. A quiet sweetness soon infuses the notes, turning them into something warmer, richer, and less crisp. Hints of vetiver, still with a lemongrass nuance, creep in. So do the lightest hints of vanilla and ginger (something I never detected at all in my first test).

Coconut Lime Rice Custard. Source: medifoods.co.nz -

Coconut Lime Rice Custard. Source: medifoods.co.nz –

But then, it all changes, and far more quickly than it did the first time around. No less than twenty-five minutes into the perfume’s development, Fils de Dieu turns into a scent that is primarily sweet rice boiled in coconut cream and sprinkled by a light veil of jasmine! The bergamot, lime, and light green herbs are still there, but they are mere seasoning to accentuate the main dish.

Double boiled coconut cream dessert via womenworld.org.

Double boiled coconut cream dessert via womenworld.org.

The rice note is strong, sweet and lactonic, infused by coconut that feels, simultaneously, both like the light, delicate milk, and the richer, buttery cream. At the same time, there is a strong flutter of lemon-tinged coriander leaves at the back; the ginger feels slightly sweetened; and the vanilla takes on an eggy, custard richness that’s speckled with lime. Good heavens, what a sharp contrast! Fils de Dieu remains that way for hours and hours, fluctuating only in the degree of some of its notes, but never changing its primary essence. On occasion, cinnamon will make a small appearance, but that’s about the only difference.

Coconut Lime Rice Pudding Brulee via Becks & Posh blogspot. (Click on photo for the recipe and website link.)

Coconut Lime Rice Pudding Brulee via Becks & Posh blogspot. (Click on photo for the recipe and website link.)

Then, around the end of the fourth hour, there are changes. The rice note goes from milky sweet to something that is toasted and, again, strongly calls to mind Rice Krispies. It is covered with a light toffee and with a vanilla note that is still custardy but, now, it also has a powdery aspect to it. All the notes sit atop a base of plush amber that has been enriched by the warm, light, musky, velvety aspects of castoreum, along with cardamom and cinnamon. It’s all very muted, light, soft and very sheer — and quite a contrast to the rich, heavier, deeper base of Fils de Dieu during the cold temperature test.

Clearly, the humidity sucked all the richness out of the amber marrow because the drydown never reached the same depths with the heat. Starting in the sixth hour, the perfume feels more like simple, generic, uninteresting amber with some sweetness and musk. In its final moments during the second test, as in the first, Fils de Dieu was just sweet muskiness, and nothing more. Oddly enough, the heat seemed to extend the lifespan of the scent which lasted 11.25 hours on my skin, instead of 8.25. I can’t quite understand it because it seems like it should be the reverse, unless the heat just makes the musk bloom. As for the sillage, it was even softer than usual with the heat.

OVERALL:

The differences in the test show something beyond just the impact of climate. They demonstrate just how well-blended the fragrance can be, throwing off different notes under different conditions. In all cases, however, the perfume didn’t feel wholly and completely gourmand in nature, despite the foodie resemblance to certain Asian dishes. The simple reason is that Fils de Dieu isn’t massively sweet; the citrus elements help ensure it never verges on the cloying and keep an element of freshness about the scent. And it really is a very fragrant one, in the best sense of the word.

Is Fils de Dieu revolutionary, edgy, and funky? Absolutely not! Is it cozy, comforting, incredibly easy to wear? Definitely. I don’t know how often one would normally want to smell like Fils de Dieu’s more rice-centered notes, but I think the perfume’s different personalities give one some options. Its more zesty, aromatic, citrus freshness in cold temperatures makes me think that those who want to avoid a “foodie” scent can use it in cooler weather, while those who enjoy the sweetly lactonic, rice and jasmine aspect can opt for the summer months to let it really bloom. 

There seems to be quite a bit of love for Fils de Dieu in the perfume community, but there are also plenty of people who don’t find it all that interesting. For example, Now Smell This was distinctly unimpressed, with Kevin writing:

Fils de Dieu opens with gingery lime, and “green” coriander and pungent shiso leaf. As the sprightly opening notes begin to disappear (and they disappear fast), the scent of “nutty” coconut makes a brief appearance and then…? Fils de Dieu begins to disappear. Was that IT?

Fils de Dieu is one of those scents that falters and then makes a comeback. After the opening fizzles, the comeback notes are mild jasmine, hazy vetiver, dry, tonka bean-scented rice (to my nose, this is more a toasted rice note, not steamed rice or rice pudding) and…leather (the most “background,” powdery, see-thru leather note you can imagine). Fils de Dieu’s rose note is very mild; it disappeared quickly on my skin, but I could detect it on my shirt for hours. Fils de Dieu’s base notes smell of shamefaced musk (certainly not the bold castoreum I was expecting) mingling with a light amber-y accord. […][¶]

Fils de Dieu is only semi-tropical and, for me, doesn’t conjure a houseboy, a sunny god, or the Philippines (or any Southeast Asian locale).  Fils de Dieu does remind me of old-style, lightly spiced white floral feminine French perfumes from long ago.

I wonder if he tried it with the air-conditioning on? Like him, I smelled nothing tropical in my first test either, though I did have that wonderful drydown with the chilly temperature which seems infinitely better than what he got. Oddly, CaFleureBon‘s experience seems to be a mixture of both of mine together:

The Asian vibe is accentuated right from the top notes of Fils de Dieu as a tart lime and smooth shiso leave no doubt about what part of the world your nose is located in. Ginger and coconut join in to add a tropical facet to the early going. The shiso and the coconut really are the stars in the top notes. M Schwieger chooses only one floral note for Fils de Dieu; jasmine. He surrounds the jasmine with a steamed rice accord and a spicy duo of cardamom and cinnamon. The rice accord is beautifully realized and M Schwieger uses it to add a palpable humidity to the heart of Fils de Dieu. The base notes are animalic but kept exquisitely balanced and well controlled. Leather, musk, and castoreum create a slightly sexual accord over a healthy foundation of vetiver and amber.

Over on Basenotes, the tropics and food also seem to be the main conclusions of the day — but few consider Fils de Dieu to be as nuanced or as good as CaFleureBon did. Most of the commentators talk about Thai food or curries, though one found Fils de Dieu to be primarily citruses and vanilla that turned a little coconut-y at the end to create an average, spicy oriental that, in his opinion, veered sharply from État Libre’s best. Food — and rice, in specific — are also the focus at Fragrantica where, unlike at Basenotes, the posters generally seem to adore Fils de Dieu. One commentator found the fragrance to be primarily jasmine and vanilla, but the majority experienced the full complement of notes, with a number talking about the rich, musky, amber drydown.

I don’t like very foodie scents and I cannot abide anything gourmand, but I would wear Fils de Dieu. Granted, not all that often, but it’s an easy, uncomplicated comfort scent in my opinion, and I enjoyed different parts of each of its split personalities. For me, the sweet, heady jasmine and the zesty, fresh citruses prevent the fragrance from verging too heavily into either problematic category. Once Fils de Dieu loses its purely shiso-lime-bergamot facade, the overall bouquet keeps you coming back for one more sniff. Plus, it’s thankfully not sweet enough to be a true dessert scent. And, it’s very affordable, too! That said, I would not recommend Fils de Dieu to someone who dislikes even minor foodie elements in their perfume, nor to someone looking for a highly complex, sophisticated scent. Also, I think that a man who doesn’t like sweeter floral fragrances may find Fils de Dieu to be a little feminine in nature, despite the citrus top notes. But if you’re looking for a casual, cozy, sunny fragrance, give Fils de Dieu a try. You just may want to turn decrease the air-conditioning when you do so….

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Fils de Dieu, du Riz et Des Agrumes is an eau de parfum that is most commonly available in a 1.7 ml/50 ml size, but which can also be purchased directly from Etat Libre’s website in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle as well. The prices listed there are in Euros: €69.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. In the U.S.: Fils de Dieu can be purchased from LuckyScent for $80 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, with samples for $3, and from MinNY. You can also purchase it from Parfum1 which offers free domestic shipping. (International shipping is available for a fee.) Outside the U.S.: You can purchase Fils de Dieu from Etat Libre’s new London store at 61 Redchurch Street, as well as from its Paris one located at 69, rue des Archives, 75003. Elsewhere in the UK, I found Fils de Dieu on the NkdMan site for £52.50 for the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle and with free UK delivery. It is also sold at London’s Les Senteurs for £59.50, with samples also available for purchase. In Germany, Fils de Dieu is available at First in Fragrance in the small size for €69. The site ships worldwide. In the Netherlands, I found it at ParfuMaria in the large 100 ml size for €119. In Hungary, I found it at Neroli Parfums, while in Italy, it’s available at ScentBar and in Spain, it’s sold at The Cosmeticoh. In Russia, I think it’s sold at iPerfume, but I can’t read Cyrillic to see if it’s available for online purchase. For all other locations or vendors from Canada to the Netherlands and Moscow, you can use the Store Locator listing on the company’s website. Samples: you can order a sample of Fils de Dieu from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.75 for a 1 ml vial.

Reviews en Bref: Dzing! and Dzongkha by L’Artisan Parfumeur

As always, my Reviews en Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant a full, exhaustive, detailed analysis.

DZING!

L'Artisan DzingDzing! is an eau de toilette fragrance from L’Artisan Parfumeur which seeks to evoke the circus. The woody scent was launched in 1999 and created by the highly respected perfumer, Olivia Giacobetti. The company describes it as follows:

This shockingly unique fragrance, created by Olivia Giacobetti, Dzing! is a magical evocation of a circus of dreams and imagination. Everything is soft hued and slow moving, sights and sounds rolling by in the Big Top. Everything is there, the scent of saddle leather as pretty girls on horses canter by, sawdust, the rosin on the acrobats’ hands as they arc through the air, black panther fur, fire-eaters and gasoline, the vintage canvas overhead, the caramel scent of candyfloss and toffee apples. The circus as conceived by L’Artisan Parfumeur, comforting but contrasted with the occasional roar tearing through the night.

The most complete list of notes for Dzing! (which I shall call “Dzing” for the sake of convenience) comes from Fragrantica which mentions:

leather, ginger, tonka bean, musk, white woods, caramel, saffron, toffee, candy apple and cotton candy.

Dzing opens on my skin as rubbing-alcohol, candy apple. Seconds later, it explodes into a sharply synthetic cloud of artificial notes: white cotton candy fluff; dry dust; cheap leather; cheap caramel; cloying, cheap vanilla; and amorphous, cheap, synthetic gourmand notes. I’ve smelled better things a 99 Cent Store. I cannot imagine a scenario outside of testing where I’d wear Dzing for longer than a minute without shrieking.

Surrealists' Circus. Painting by Hank Grebe, 1976

Surrealists’ Circus. Painting by Hank Grebe, 1976

The truly repellant aspect is in the revolting alcohol undertones and the cheap, pink, “Made in China” plastic aspect to all the artificial, laboratory-made notes. It’s as if the Mad Scientist infected the body of P.T. Barnum with a plan for world domination through olfactory torture. As the moments pass, the cheap Chinese, mass-produced, pink plastic note rises in prominence, as does the vanilla and the overall shrill cacophony of fakeness. This may be absolutely one of the worst things I’ve smelled in a while. I’m taken back to Tijuana, Mexico, and one of the cheap, tourist shops which sell tiny, plastic dolls, plastic shoes, and every possible hodge-podge of plastic tchotchkes. I wouldn’t object to a well-executed gourmand take on the smells of a circus, but the sheer deluge of cheap plastic and synthetics goes too far. Yes, I realise that almost every word out of my mouth includes the word “cheap” or “plastic,” but you have simply no idea how terrible Dzing smells. $145 for this? It would be easier to roll around naked on the industrial, synthetic carpeting in one of those 99 Cent stores that reek of fake vanilla, cheap apple-caramel candles, and, yes, PLASTIC.

Dzing must be a joke, right? Not a tongue-in-cheek, sweetly winking, happy, positive tease but, rather, a malicious, nefarious, completely sadistic joke created by an anti-social nihilist who intends to fumigate his victims while making a symbolic statement on the decline of Western civilisation, the corruption and decadence of capitalistic ventures like expensive perfumery, and the stupidity of those who think that the Emperor is wearing clothes. People, the Emperor is naked! NAKED! I’m not going to comment any further on this Ionesco-worthy, Absurdist, olfactory scheme to make me lose my mind.

DZONGKHA

Dzongkha is an eau de toilette fragrance created by Bertrand Duchaufour and inspired by the remote Buddhist mountain kingdom of Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas. L’Artisan describes it as follows:

Rich with aromatic influences: temple stones and incense, the sweet aroma of spiced chai tea, the heat of warm leather around fires, the heart of any temple or home in snowbound lands. Vetiver and green papyrus float through soft smoke with touches of peony, lychee and delicate iris. Dzongkha tells a special story on every skin: that of Dzongkha itself, the spiritual language of Bhutan.

l_artisan_dzongkha

On Fragrantica, Dzongkha is classified as a “woody spicy” fragrance and its notes are:

Top notes are peony, cardamom and litchi; middle notes are spices, white tea, vetiver, incense and cedar; base notes are leather, iris and papyrus.

Dzongkha opens with an unpleasant note of sharp incense. It’s not smooth, rich or soothing incense, but alcohol-like, bracing, and pungent. It is followed immediately by spices, predominantly cardamom, with what also feels like saffron, too. There are dry paper notes from the papyrus that evoke the feeling of an old book. Peony swirls in the background along with leather and tea notes.

The incense note is the key to much of Dzongkha’s early start. It is odd in its bracing bitterness and unbelievably desiccated. In combination with the papyrus, the overall effect is that of dust — whether a very old library or an abandoned church. Either way, it’s not enormously pleasant. Slowly, slowly, the cardamom heats up, warming the scent a little. Now, Dzongkha feels like cardamom-infused dust, atop a sharp, synthetic, incense note that burns a little. The whole thing is very airy, sheer and lightweight in feel, with low projection, and, yet, it is quite a strong scent in the beginning. I chalk it up to the synthetic undertone to the incense.

Thirty minutes in, Dzongkha has turned into cardamom dust with acrid incense, tea, spicy woods, and general earthy notes atop a growing base of leather. There is a light smattering of abstract florals flittering about in the background. The peony accord is muted and does little to alleviate the arid nature of the perfume. As time passes, the latter just gets worse and by the 90 minute mark, Dzongkha has turned into the most revoltingly bitter leather, vetiver and smoke fragrance. It is a veritable dust bowl of pungent, acrid dryness. At the same time, it also feels rancid and dark green — a bit like the moments in the legendary leather perfume, Bandit, from Robert Piguet with its deluge of sharply bitter, pungent galbanum and cold black leather. Yet, Dzongkha is a thousand times dryer, thanks to the incense note. I cannot believe how closely it replicates actual household dust, only in piles and heaps.

Dzongkha continues to change with time. By the start of the fourth hour, it is soapy, dark vetiver with bitter smoke, black leather and dust. It is still acrid and abrasively bitter — and I still can’t stand it. Midway into the fifth hour, the soapy element increases and takes on a sharply synthetic, dry, bitter incense accord. The combination smells extremely similar to that in another Bertrand Duchaufour incense creation for L’Artisan Parfumeur: Passage d’Enfer. I hated the latter, so I didn’t enjoy the overlap. In fact, my misery rose exponentially with every minute of Dzongkha’s sharply acrid, cloyingly soapy, painfully dust-like, and perpetually synthetic evolution. In its final moments, Dzongkha was just some amorphous soapy musk. All in all, it lasted 7 hours — all of them unpleasant, when they weren’t complete misery.

Testing Dzing and Dzongkha in the same day — even if the Dzing was only a few hours long — was an incredibly painful ordeal. For all that Dzing was mind-bogglingly terrible, it didn’t actually bring me down and make me feel low the way the incredibly unpleasant Dzongkha did. Really bad perfume experiences can feel almost oppressive, and Dzongkha certainly felt that way. I know it has its admirers, people who find its incense, spices and leather to be pleasant, even relaxing at times. All I can say is that I’m happy for you if it works. For myself, I’d like to forget this day entirely.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Dzing and Dzongkha are both eau de toilette concentrations and cost $145, €95.00, or £78.00 for a 100 ml/ 3.4 oz bottle. Dzing is available on the L’Artisan website (where you can switch currency and sites from American to European) and Luckyscent. It should be available at Barneys, but I don’t see it listed on the website. In the UK, the L’Artisan line is carried at Harrods but I don’t see Dzing listed there. In Europe, it is available at First in Fragrance for €95. As for Dzongkha, it is available at the L’Artisan website, Luckyscent, and Barneys. In the UK, it is available at Harrods which also sells the smaller 50 ml size bottle. For the rest of Europe, it is available at First in Fragrance and other retailers. You can find a list of stores from Japan to Italy carrying L’Artisan products on the company’s Store Locator site. Samples are available at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial for Dzing and Dzonghka.

Perfume Review – Tilda Swinton, Like This by État Libre d’Orange

Tilda Swinton has dreamed of a perfume.

That is how Etat Libre d’Orange (“ELDO”) starts to describe the perfume that they made in homage to (and in collaboration with) the talented, eccentric, British actress.

Not a girly juice, oh no. A radical fragrance that soothes the fire under the milky skin. A warm perfume, cooled by ginger. If this perfume was a light, it would be an orange glow. That’s what it is. Moreover, if you remove a letter Tilda Swinton Redfrom the word ‘orange’, you have orage – ‘storm’ in French – and that suits her. On the surface, the elements are rousing. On the inside, the fire is tamed, it burns gently in the fireplace of her Scottish home. The fire purrs, the ginger is crystallized, the milk is warm. The room is a sanctuary. She said: I want a cozy perfume. And I hear the word ‘Cosi’ too. Comme ça. Like This. This perfume is her offering, inspired by a poem of Rumi, Like This. And in terms of this uncommon woman, I also hear: And like nothing else. It’s like this – punctuated with a bewitching smile.

Tilda Swinton Like ThisTilda Swinton, Like This (which is also, alternatively, called “Like This,” “Like This, Tilda Swinton,” or “Like This… Tilda Swinton“) is the actress’ interpretation of her favorite Rumi poem. As she explains, she doesn’t even normally like scents in a bottle — but she adores Rumi and, now, the “cozy” comfort of her eponymous fragrance:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote : If anyone wants to know what «spirit» is, or what «God’s fragrance» means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close. Like this. […]

This is possibly my favourite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/ greenhouse my scent-sense is fed by.

The simple feelings of “home” and nature were Ms. Swinton’s precise goal in creating the perfume — and I’m emphasizing that for two reasons: 1), because this perfume won’t be for everyone as it is quite… er… unusual; and 2) because the aromas of a kitchen are fundamental to the essence of Tilda Swinton Like This:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain. I told her about a bottle of spirit, something very simple, to me : something almost indescribable, so personal it should be. The miracle is that Mathilde made it.

Like This was released in 2010, and contains the following notes:

Yellow mandarin, ginger, pumpkin accord, immortelle, Moroccan neroli, rose de Grasse, vetiver, heliotrope, and musk.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle is such a key part of this perfume (and such a hugely polarizing note) that it’s worth a brief explanation for those unfamiliar with the name. As Fragrantica explains, immortelle is a flowering plant from the Southern Mediterreanean area which has the smell of either: maple syrup, caramel, fenugreek spice, curry and/or toasted bread. The essential oil “has a strongly straw-like, fruity smell, with a honey and tea undertone.”

Immortelle. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Immortelle. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

I tested Like This three times, with slightly different outcomes for the opening and longevity. The first time, the perfume started with an airy (but strong) note of fresh, yellow citrus that almost immediately turned sweeter and more floral in nature. The overall image is that of a dry, slightly woody, yellow floral with honeyed sweetness and some dried hay undertones– which is precisely what Immortelle is like in large part. The citrus note isn’t exactly lemon, but it’s not really tangerine, either. It’s more like very honeyed lemon for the first five minutes.

Source: GumaGumalu.com Free Recipes. (Click link for a Carrot Milkshake Recipe.)

Source: GumaGumalu.com Free Recipes. (Click link for a Carrot Milkshake Recipe.)

Soon thereafter, Like This turned milky or lactonic with candied ginger, milky notes, light musk and an airy element of what felt like honey-sweetened vegetables. It wasn’t pumpkin, and it took me a little while to pinpoint it, but it turned out to be glazed carrots. I know Tilda Swinton Like This is supposed to evoke gingerbread houses and pumpkin but, to me, the note was definitely caramelized carrots. It’s actually a lot more attractive than it sounds, especially when combined with the floral elements.

Tilda Swinton Red HairLess than 30 minutes in, Tilda Swinton Like This (honestly, I’m never sure what I’m supposed to call this perfume!) becomes deeper, smokier and woodier as the immortelle starts to bloom. The milky elements fade as a slightly burnt note creeps in, along with a maple syrup accord. A little over an hour later, “Like This” turns into a complete skin scent that is the immortelle’s yellow flower, along with musk over a dry woods element and the merest dusting of maple syrup. It’s all orange-yellow and brown — and that’s about it. By the second hour, I thought it had died completely. Really. It seemed to have vanished. So, I began a test on my other arm when, to my surprise, faint traces of the scent popped up on the first arm a little later before fading away completely at the four-hour mark.

My second test started like the first with that citrus note that rapidly morphed into something sweeter and more floral. Again, the citrus was sweet and turned into tangerine around the five-minute mark, adding a soupçon of tartness under the combination of honey. Again, there were fragrant yellow flowers; candied ginger; and dry, wooded herbals that almost feel like the stems of the immortelle mixed with some hay. This time, however, there were no milky notes that evoked a sweetened, carrot chai. In contrast, there was now the definite scent of heliotrope, adding a candied violet undertone to the scent, along with very noticeable, lemon-nuanced vetiver, and the faintest hint of rose concentrate.

That rose note was a key part of both the second and third tests of Tilda Swinton Like This. It’s never a wholly distinct, individually clear note but, rather, intertwined with the carrot. I know irises can sometimes have a carrot-like undertone, but do roses or heliotrope? Perhaps it’s how the “pumpkin accord” translates to my nose when mixed in with the honeyed syrup aspects of immortelle and the roses, but I’m telling you, Tilda Swinton Like This smells of roses and yellow immortelle flowers heavily intertwined with caramelized carrots — all atop a foundation of dry woods, vetiver, and nutty, butterscotch-like, maple syrup.

Tilda SwintonI realise it all sounds terrible. I mean, honestly, what a combination! It’s as eccentrically odd and chameleon-like as Tilda Swinton herself. And, yet, in some crazy way, it actually works. Forget about the individual notes and just think of a very sweet, but simultaneously dry, honeyed floral scent of pink roses and yellow flowers. Imagine mimosas, almost, if you want. Now, try to think that underneath that, there is something that’s a little bit like warm, sweet carrots and nutty syrup (in lieu of the usual honey). But it’s not incredibly heavy or sugary, because there are some dry, hay-like notes, a woody element and a little bit of fresh green from the vetiver. That is the essence of Tilda Swinton, Like This.

The perfume remains that way for quite a while until, finally, the dry-down starts around the third hour and “Like This” morphs into light, sheer, maple syrup with musk. Whatever happened in terms of the 2-4 hour duration during my first test didn’t repeat itself the second or third time around when “Like This” lasted 9.5 hours and 8 hours, respectively. A change in the dosage was responsible. On all three occasions, however, the perfume had incredibly moderate to low sillage during the first hour, and soon thereafter becomes a skin scent. If you don’t put on a lot and if you’re anosmic to musk, it may appear to be much more fleeting in nature than it actually is. What is a little surprising is that the perfume is moderately strong despite being an airy, sheer scent that lies right on the skin.

Source: The Sweet Life at TheSweetlifeonline.com. (For Pumpkin bread pudding with maple sauce recipe, click photo. Link embedded within.)

Source: The Sweet Life at TheSweetlifeonline.com. (For Pumpkin bread pudding with maple sauce recipe, click photo. Link embedded within.)

I think your skin chemistry will greatly impact how this perfume smells on you, given the unusual combination of notes and the tricky aspect of the immortelle. On me, the flowers came to the forefront with the vegetable, ginger and syrup in the background. On others, however, particularly those commenting on Fragrantica, the situation was reversed. The vast majority talked about ginger and pumpkin up front, with the flowers nestled in the background. A good number also found the perfume to be primarily orange and/or ginger, with pumpkin not being so dominant. A few mentioned the immortelle as a floral note, (as opposed to immortelle manifesting itself as maple syrup), and a handful found that the heliotrope and vetiver were also dominant. Some of the comments may be helpful:

  • Upon first spray, the floral notes (heliotrope particularly) and spices are in equal balance, but as the perfume settles on my skin, the ginger, pumpkin, and immortelle become the stars of the show for several hours. [¶] Toward the end of the dry-down, Like This becomes a feminine, honeyed floral (yes, the floral notes re-emerge!). It is reminiscent of Annick Goutal’s Sables at this stage (an immortelle soliflore), but lighter and less syrupy. And finally, a hint of earthy, slightly leathery vetiver emerges. What a gorgeous ride this one takes you on!
  • The orange-ginger combination does give this fragrance a hint of just baked gingerbread, but dominant immortelle neutralises the sweetness and makes it too herbal to become a foodie dessert scent. I don’t get any pumpkin at all, not much rose either. Vetyver is another prominent note, along with clean musk make Like This a perfect unisex scent […]
  •  Even though I don’t pick up any of the pumpkin (which was what intrigued me from the reviews) it is absolute magic on my skin. I thought that freesia was my favorite floral, then I thought it was peony, then rose…now I’m certain it’s actually immortelle. LIKE THIS begins so incredibly with the immortelle, and as it dries down the tangerine and the heliotrope & ginger show in stunning form. I ordered a FB within minutes of putting this on.
  • Very light and grassy in a dried way, with a feeling of milky coffee in the back. I really wanted to smell pumpkin, but I don’t really detect that on my skin. The ginger and tangerine are just faintly there, as additions rather than strong presence, and overall it’s a nice but strange scent. It’s a mood almost more than a perfume.

I chose those comments to show you that Like This isn’t perhaps as gourmand as you may think from the description and notes. And, yet, there are plenty who find it very “foodie” — though they seem to be quite enamoured as well. As I said up above, it will really depend on how you feel about immortelle and how it manifests with your particular skin chemistry.

Those who shudder at the very thought of the note may want to consider The Perfume Posse‘s impressions of the scent:

it starts off a little citrus-ish, the ginger and heliotrope waves some flags to let you know it’s not gonna be like that. There’s a little bit of a tinnish feel in the open. And then the nutty pancake syrupy immortelle buzzes – not loud, soft and wafty, like a smoky tendril. The tin is gone, and it starts warming up in some fabulous ways that make my toes curl. I’m not sure I get pumpkin exactly, but there is this pulpy-ness blended into the immortelle that feels like pumpkin with some spice. Pumpkin pie, almonds and pancake syrup without the calories or sweetness. But it’s not really foody. Gourmand quality to it, but just not that. It’s warmer, richer, but completely light and wispy. I would … [never]  believe a perfume with this list of notes would be light and floaty. But it is. Warm, rich, light, floaty and a great big soft hug.

I tried Like This three times in part because I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. (Plus, what initially seemed to be a 2 hour duration in the first test made it easier.) And I’m still ambivalent. It’s definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you! I love the floral aspects of it on me, including the yellowness of the immortelle. And, honestly, that rose concentrate backed by sweet carrots is pretty damn cool! I’m less crazy about the flower’s maple syrup undertone as it manifests itself here. I know I wouldn’t wear Like This if it was primarily pumpkin, ginger, and maple syrup — but that is not what it is on me. However, that is precisely how it appears on a large number of people, so clearly this is a perfume that needs testing (on your actual skin) before purchase. For myself, I don’t think I would ever buy “Like This.” But if a decant or bottle fell into my lap, I would wear it. On occasion….

I think…

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tilda Swinton Like This is an eau de parfum that comes in two different sizes and which can be purchased directly from ELdO’s online boutique. The prices listed there are in Euros: €79.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. The company also offers two different Discovery Sample Coffrets for different prices. In the U.S., Tilda Swinton Like This can be purchased from Lucky Scent for $99 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, along with samples for $4. You can also purchase Like This from MinNewYork, or C.O. Bigelow. The larger size of the perfume (100 ml/3.4 oz) is carried at Parfum1 where it costs $149, but shipping is free. In the U.K, you can purchase Like This from Les Senteurs for £74.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; samples are also available. In Europe, Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances can be found at First in Fragrance which sells the 50 ml bottle of Like This for €79, along with samples and a Discovery Set of 10 perfumes in 10 ml vials. Samples can also be purchased from Surrender to Chance, the site where I obtained my vial. The price starts at $5.99 for 1 ml.

Perfume Review: Mona di Orio Vanille (Les Nombres d`Or Collection)

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

There is something strangely captivating about Vanille from the highly admired perfume house of Mona di Orio. Vanille is part of Les Nombres d`Or Collection, and it is not your standard vanilla at all. Actually, the best way to sum up the perfume Vanille might be through analogy to the work of the famous painter, Mark Rothko, with his “Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red) 1949.” Like that painting, the perfume starts out as blood-red orange — and I mean that quite literally. Then, it turns into orange with the merest hints of yellow, before slowly transforming into creamy custardy yellow, custardy yellow on a darker, smoky, woody base, and, finally, into the palest of cream.

I wasn’t a fan of the blood-orange phase, and found Vanille’s opening to be almost a little nauseating, but the middle to end phases captured my interest. Almost against my will, I might add. Those of you who have read me for any amount of time know that I like neither very sweet perfumes nor gourmand ones. But, again, this is not your standard vanilla perfume. You might even argue that it is an Oriental-Gourmand hybrid at times, and one which merely happens to be heavily based on raw, concentrated vanilla. In the end, and taken as a whole, Mona di Orio Vanille was not my personal cup of tea, but I would definitely recommend it to those who adore non-traditional vanilla fragrances.

Mona di OrioThe company’s website explains the inspiration and character of the perfume, with a key point about how their key note differs from that used in some other vanilla perfumes:

When composing Vanille, Mona di Orio imagined a romantic back story involving an old ship from long ago, on its way to Madagascar or the Comoros Islands, carrying precious cargo: rum barrels, oranges, vanilla beans, ylang-ylang, cloves and sandalwood …
Gourmand, smoky, and boozy with a subtle aromatic orange note lingering in the background, Vanille is one Bateau Ivre of perfectly blended notes that will derange your senses with its sensuality.Vanille opens with a shot of rum flavoured with orange rind and spiced with cloves. Amber and tonka further warm up this brew as ylang-ylang’s sharp sweetness joins with rich vanilla. Gaiac wood adds incensey smoke as woody notes from vetyver and sandalwood help to create an elegant finish.

But the real star of the show, not surprisingly, is vanilla. Instead of using ethyl vanillin, one of vanilla’s main components that can come across as powdery and sugary, di Orio used pure vanilla in this elixir. For a moment — amid this elegant orchestral arrangement of notes in the key of Vanilla — the pulpy, sensual creaminess of a split vanilla bean is right there in front of your nose. Delicious!

The exact notes are as follows:

Bitter Orange from Brazil, Rhum Absolute, Petitgrain, Clove, Vanilla from Madagascar, Tolu [Balsam, a resin], Gaiac Wood, Vetyver, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang, Tonka Bean, Leather, Musk, Amber.

"The Orange Album - Abstract Art, Custom Painting, Imagery" by Bob Shelley at CustomMade.com

“The Orange Album – Abstract Art, Custom Painting, Imagery” by Bob Shelley at CustomMade.com

Vanille opens on my skin with a veritable explosion of orange in every form and variation possible. There is what feels like the most concentrated form of floral orange blossom, along with loads of highly sweetened blood orange, browned and very bitter petitgrain, and rummy Bourbon. This is orange to the Nth degree — sometimes blood-red in nature; heavily dark twig-brown; sometimes rum-like orange-brown, and always sweet. So, so sweet. Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed.

Orange blossom is not listed in the notes but it is one of the most prominent notes to my nose during those opening minutes. Mona di Orio Vanille doesn’t feel like pulpy, orange or citrus fruits, but more like a combination of neroli and petitgrain. It has an oddly buttery feel to it — and I’m talking about actual melted butter. There are also touches of gaiac wood, the merest suggestion of cloves, and strong vetiver, all over a dry, smoky, vanilla base with cups of bitter petitgrain, and galloping gallons of Bourbon.

Bourbon is an American type of whiskey that is extremely sweet, and tinged with the wood from the charred-oak caskets in which it is aged. The alcohol note in Vanille has been compared to rum but, to me, it’s more akin to the woody, smoked aspect of sweet Bourbon. And it is such a huge part of the opening that the only way to really describe it all is to coin a new word: Bourbon-ized. Every note in the perfume is coated with Bourbon, but the main thrust is bourbonized orange blossom.

Vanilla BeansAfter about 5 minutes, the perfume starts to shift a little. Vanilla starts to rise to the surface. It is just like a freshly sliced vanilla pod; rich, raw, custardy, and potent. It immediately impacts the other notes, softening the orange blossom and taming the bitter petitgrain to something a little less sharp. It serves to alleviate some of the heavier aspects of the perfume that were, to me, unbearably cloying. And, with every passing moment, the sweetness drops — matched by a converse rise in the fragrance’s dry notes.

Less than fifteen minutes into the perfume’s development, Mona di Orio Vanille begins to turn into something much more nuanced and balanced. The pepper, smoke and woody notes appear (much to my relief) in a more individually distinct form. The gaiac wood is backed by the merest suggestion of cloves and earthy vetiver, but it is the slow, quiet, almost muted suggestion of smokiness in the background that I prefer. The perfume is still incredibly potent, rich and heavy, but it is not a cupcake sugariness or something that is purely gourmand. However, it is still far, far too rich for those who like airy, gauzy, sheer perfumes.

Clarified butter.

Clarified butter. Source: Sodahead.com

The note which perplexes me is something that definitely evokes the aroma of melted, clarified butter. I cannot explain it, but it is inescapable. I’ll tell you a brief story of my experience the other day. I planned to test the perfume, opened the vial to give it a sniff, but, then, suddenly, realised the time and that I had to go to my book club meeting. Unbeknownst to me, I must have gotten faint traces of Vanille on my fingers. Well, for the next two hours, I kept asking my hostess, “What is that smell of melted butter and vanilla?” She looked at me blankly, especially as I kept sniffing the air, my shirt, and parts of her kitchen like some sort of crazy person. I thought it may have been one of her hot, very buttered rolls that she had out, but it didn’t smell anything like the aroma that was haunting me. Finally, I realised that the scent came from two of my fingers. It was Mona di Orio’s Vanille. And, I’m telling you, it was just like the most concentrated form of highly sweetened, pure vanilla extract in a saucepan of bright yellow, sweet cream, Bourbon butter, with a touch of orange petitgrain. The note was there during both of my two, full tests of the perfume — and I really didn’t like it. Something about it called to mind the large canisters of cloying, heavy, butter oil that American movie cinemas use on popcorn.

Forty minutes into the development of the perfume, Mona di Orio Vanille is a strong vanilla custard with buttered Bourbon, followed by orange blossom, and muted hints of smoke and wood. On me, both the clove note and the dry, wood, smoke combination are significantly less than what others on Fragrantica and elsewhere have reported. Then, things start to get interesting. There is the merest whiff of ylang-ylang which just grows stronger as the time passes.

Less than 90 minutes in, the perfume becomes a wonderfully balanced, mellow, smooth, floral vanilla custard. The vanilla is still the dominant note, but it is tinged with airy ylang-ylang. The creaminess of the vanilla is perfectly complemented by the custardy, banana-like aspects of the flower which is, itself, balanced by its sheerness and lightness. Underneath it all, there are whispers of orange blossom, woods and vetiver. The buttery note is much more muted now (thank God), and the perfume feels significantly less opaque, gooey and unctuously sweet. In fact, even the sillage has dropped to a perfect amount, projecting in such a small cloud around you.

I started to smile and sniff my arm with some enthusiasm exactly two and a half hours in, when the sandalwood appeared. Creamy, soft, luxurious, rich sandalwood was intertwined sinuously with the vanilla, creating a silky, smooth, wonderfully blended scent. There were some mysteriously tantalizing hints of smoke and woodiness in the background that made Vanille seem a little more like an Oriental/Gourmand hybrid than a purely gourmand one. It’s almost as if there is some incense note but, like the clove one before it, it’s far from prominent on my skin. I still wouldn’t go so far as to call Vanille an incense-vanilla fragrance the way so many others do, but it is a lovely, subtle touch at this stage.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, Mona di Orio Vanille makes me think of Serge LutensUn Bois Vanillé which I like quite a bit. It’s a peculiar thought as they actually aren’t very alike. Mona di Orio’s perfume is monumentally richer, stronger, deeper, thicker, and more Oriental with its floral and smoky touches. The Lutens is milkier, creamier, with almond, licorice, light coconut, and honey. No flowers or buttered Bourbon at all. And the vanilla never feels raw, like concentrated pod paste as it does here with the Mona di Orio. However, Un Bois Vanillé does share the guaiac wood and sandalwood notes which combine with the vanilla to create a definitely smoky, woody, vanilla feel at certain stages — even if it is substantially lighter and milder. Perhaps the similarity in my mind stems from the fact that I haven’t encountered a lot of woody vanilla-sandalwood fragrances, as opposed to purely dessert and cupcake ones (which I despise).

Mark Rothko. "No. 14-10 Yellow Greens."

Mark Rothko. “No. 14-10 Yellow Greens.”

As the perfume starts the dry-down phase, a little over six hours later, Mona di Orio Vanille turns into a tonka vanilla perfume with sandalwood, quiet amber, a touch of wood, and subtle orange notes lurking in the background. It’s sheer, soft, and pleasant. In its final moments, about 9.5 hours, it’s really just simple tonka with some amorphous, lightly musked, woody note. All in all, Vanille lasted just short of 10 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It was a strong perfume throughout much of its early development, but the sillage went from heavy to moderate by the second hour, then dropped further as the perfume progressed. It became a skin scent around the fifth hour.

The comments on Fragrantica are all over the place for Mona di Orio Vanille. The majority absolutely love it, calling it a well-balanced, smoky vanilla with lots of wood. A number find the opening to be unpleasant; a large number call the fragrance a dirty, complex vanilla that is their favorite; some compare the vanilla note to that in Dior‘s Addict; and a handful comment on how it is essentially “Rum, rum, rum. I hope you like rum, because…rum.” There are scattered statements here or there on how parts of the perfume are stomach-churning or “nearly nauseating.” I would bet you anything that it’s the Bourbonized butter and orange combination that the commentators are finding to be excessively cloying. I certainly felt queasy myself.

Yet, one of the bloggers whom I respect — The Non-Blonde — really adored this fragrance and you may find parts of her review to be instructive:

Vanille is reasonably sweet and somewhat ambery, but the main thing that’s amplified on my skin and tales me on some serious ride is sandalwood. Sandalwood like I haven’t smelled in ages: deep exotic and spicy as well as creamy. It’s a very posh cousin of the chai-sandalwood blend from Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant.

Vanille progresses from slightly boozy and intoxicating to smooth and mysterious. There’s no question about sex-appeal: this would get you sniffed and followed around. The vanilla is woven into every stage of the development and belongs there, be it as part of hot toddy, a treasured spice in a craved wooden box or a rare incense that sends you off on a fantasy journey. 

If I had experienced as much sandalwood and incense on my skin as she seems to have done, I may have been a little more bowled over by the fragrance. I am certain, however, that I would still have enormous difficulty with the opening two hours. I’ve got some more of the Vanille (yet again) on my arm as we speak, and I simply cannot handle the Bourbon butter.

How you feel about Mona di Orio Vanille will really depend on how you feel about the main note, and gourmand fragrances as a whole. Those who love truly sweet, fully dessert-like fragrances may find it not to be sweet enough. This is no simple, uncomplicated Bath & Body Works vanilla. Those who enjoy the note in conjunction with other things may really appreciate this non-traditional, smoky woods and orange version of things. And those who are like me — who love spiced Orientals or super-charged florals, who wouldn’t go out of their way to experience a vanilla scent, and who eschew sweetness in any significant degree — may enjoy parts of the Mona di Orio, but not the whole. I definitely can’t see them being wow’ed enough by the overall experience to want a full bottle of it, especially as it costs $230. There are, however, different sizes and pricing options that may make Mona di Orio Vanille more accessible for those who adore their vanilla.

As a side note, this fragrance is absolutely nothing like Guerlain‘s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. Two very different kettles of fish. It’s been a long time since I smelled Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise, but, going on my memory of it, I don’t think the Goutal is similar, either. Despite deploying an incense twist on vanilla, it’s not as rich as the Mona di Orio, has much less concentrated vanilla, and includes quite a bit of bitter angelica. I believe Montale has a woody, boozy vanilla fragrance amongst its vast line, but I haven’t tried it. Lastly, Mona di Orio Vanille has absolutely nothing in common with Tom Ford‘s Private Blend Tobacco Vanille. The latter has dried tobacco leaves that occasionally create an impression of Christmas plum pudding. No part of Mona di Orio’s notes replicate the predominantly tobacco-woods or the spices in the Tom Ford. Furthermore, the type of vanilla and the fundamental nature of the fragrances are very different, too.

All in all, if you adore rich, sophisticated, boozy, vanilla fragrances with a non-traditional twist, you may want to give Mona di Orio’s Vanille a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost, Sizes, Sets & Availability: Les Nombres d`Or Vanille is an eau de parfum, and comes in a variety of different options and sizes. The full bottle is 3.4 oz/100 ml and costs $230. It is available world-wide on the Mona di Orio website. In the U.S., you can find it at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and MinNewYork (which also offers free shipping within the US). There is also a Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml roll-on bottles of the entire Nombres d’Or collection which Mona di Orio sells for €90, and Luckyscent/ Parfum1 for $145. MinNY discounts the set for $5 off, pricing it at $140. Mona di Orio also offers a Travel Set of just the Vanille perfume in 3 bottles of 10 ml each, with the whole set priced at €85 (or about $110 with today’s currency conversion rate). That set is not offered at Luckyscent or Parfum1. In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe carries its own sort of “Discovery Set” of 4 perfumes in the Nombres d’Or collection, one of which is Vanille. It retails for CAD$100. Oddly, I don’t see the full bottle on their website when searching by brand name, but I found it via a Google search listed here and marked as “available.” It’s also marked as selling for $170, which I don’t understand at all. So, you may want to drop them an email. In the UK, you can find Vanille at Les Senteurs which sells it for £135.00 and which also carries a sample vial for sale. The perfume is also carried on Roullier White in the UK. In Paris, I see Mona di Orio listed on the Marie Antoinette Paris website but can’t find prices or individual perfumes for the line. For the rest of Europe, you can turn to Germany’s First in Fragrance which carries the perfume for €160.00, along with a Travel Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles for €85, and a smaller sample for purchase. For all other countries from Russia to Netherlands to the UAE/Dubai, you can use the Store Locator guide on the company website. Samples: I obtained mine from Surrender to Chance which sells them starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. Of course, you can also find samples at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and many of the European retailers linked to above.