Loree Rodkin Gothic I Eau de Parfum: Cozy Comfort

Source: lewallpaper.com

Source: lewallpaper.com

Winter’s cold temperatures tend to bring out my appreciation for cozy scents. It is perhaps my second favorite category in general, after Orientals, but even more so in the dark gloom of December and January. There is something instinctive and biological about the tendency to hibernate that emerges in the cold, winter months, but I have a yearlong habit of curling up with simple, cozy scents at night. After a long day, there is nothing I love more than to toss on some comfortable clothing after a hot shower, put on perfume, and chill in front of the television. At those times, I reach for something that I will enjoy on an instinctive level, a scent that doesn’t require focus on all its details, but something simple, warm, soothing, and luxuriously deep.

Gothic I EDP original bottle on Luckyscent.

Gothic I EDP original bottle on Luckyscent.

I think Gothic I definitely qualifies. It is an eau de parfum from the jewellery designer, Loree Rodkin, and I spent more than a few nights last month and in the recent freezing days enjoying its rich warmth. It’s all thanks to one of my readers, “CC,” who wrote to me during my patchouli series to inquire if I had ever tried Gothic I (as in the number “1”), and who generously insisted on sending me a small decant. She thought I might be interested because Gothic I (which I’ll just simply call “Gothic“) has two kinds of patchouli in it, though it also has vanilla.

It turns out that, on my skin, Gothic is almost entirely a vanilla scent, but it’s a lovely one! Vanilla is not a category of fragrances that I generally seek out, and I most definitely avoid gourmands for my own, personal use. Yet, deep down, but I have a huge appreciation for a certain kind of vanilla: the rich, Madagascar, Bourbon extract type that feels simultaneously deep, heavy, dark, and somewhat dry. That’s essentially the broad profile of Gothic, which also has the benefit of strongly resembling Profumum Roma‘s much more expensive Dulcis in Fundo, but with a touch of patchouli.

Gothic was released in 2013 as the eau de parfum version of Ms. Rodkin’s earlier oils, and is considered the signature fragrance of her line. Its notes are as simple as the fragrance itself, which Luckyscent describes (with an inexplicable touch of the romance novel, in my opinion) as follows:

A moody vanilla shrouded in a mist of light woods and patchouli. Sensuous and unrepentant. We picture long hair whipping in the wind, a search by candlelight and a man driven half mad by love. Still, for all of its gorgeous drama, we could wear this everyday. It has the luxuriant skin-caressing softness of a vintage silk velvet cape. Worn over nothing. Voluptuous and mesmerizing.

Notes: Vanilla pod, Madagascar vanilla, spice accord, Tunisian patchouli and Indian patchouli.

Picture of vanillin crystalizing out to surface of Bourbon vanilla beans. Source: amadeusvanillabeans.com

Picture of vanillin crystallizing out onto the surface of Bourbon vanilla beans. Source: amadeusvanillabeans.com

Gothic is far from “moody,” in my opinion, and definitely doesn’t evoke any man driven half mad with love, but it’s definitely a voluptuous, luxurious scent. It opens on my skin with the richest, most buttery vanilla imaginable, as thick as if pots of butter and custard had been poured into it. Seconds later, it is infused by a momentary boozy sweetness, then a breath of warm patchouli. There is the merest hint of abstract spices dancing all around, perhaps a dash of cinnamon, with the tiniest pinch of nutmeg, and something woody. As a whole, though, Gothic is 3-parts Bourbon vanilla extract, and one-part patchouli. Perhaps a more accurate set of numbers would be 80% vanilla, and 20% patchouli, at least for the opening 30 minutes.

Source: biofarmacia.ro

Source: biofarmacia.ro

Gothic is extremely concentrated and dense in feel, but the sillage isn’t nuclear. It envelops you in a deep cloud about 3-4 inches above the skin at first. The smell is utterly delicious, but it is initially much drier and much less sweet than its very close relative, the Dulcis in Fundo. It lacks the waffle cones and caramelized sugar aspect of the Profumum fragrance, and somehow seems fractionally less gourmand in nature.

Ten minutes in, the perfume shifts a little. There is an odd, utterly unexpected touch of flour that creeps in. I have the strangest image of Gothic as a really rich, but dry, baked vanilla cake, dusted with patchouli, and with the faintest remnants of flour left in the buttered tin. Vanilla, patchouli, flour, and butter… none of it seems remotely “gothic” in nature, but the fragrance is also not as unctuous as those notes may suggest. There is nothing gooey or saccharine-like in the sweetness, nothing that makes me feel queasy by excess. One’s perceptions of “cloying” may depend on definition and on one’s personal yardstick, but, to me, Gothic isn’t cloying despite its richness because of the undercurrents of dry woodiness and spice created by the other elements. In any event, the flour, butter, patchouli and spice all retreat to the sidelines, less than 30 minutes into Gothic’s development.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

They continue to impart a slight, indirect touch on the fragrance which is now almost entirely rich vanilla. And, there, Gothic remains until its very end. To my surprise, at the end of the 2nd hour, hints of caramelization and waffle cones creep in. They turn the perfume into a virtual clone of Dulcis in Fundo, only Gothic has that muted, muffled whisper of patchouli floating in the background. The incredibly smooth, rich, dense vanilla lies right on the skin, though it’s very strong when smelled up close. Once in a while, a delicious trail of richness in the air would catch me by surprise, and I’d realise it was a tendril of Gothic that had followed me. Generally, Gothic turns into a true skin scent somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 hours, depending on the quantity you apply. With 3 medium-to-good sized sprays from the little atomizer, the perfume lasted almost 15 hours on my perfume consuming skin. With a lesser amount, it lasted around 12.5 hours.    

Gothic I EDP in the new, vertical bottle.

Gothic I EDP in the new, vertical bottle.

Nothing about Gothic’s scent is complicated, but sometimes simplicity has its own charms. I think that’s especially true if you’re looking for a comfort scent to curl up with on a cold winter day. The only complication that tripped me up in terms of the perfume was figuring out the bottles, prices, and various options. I was used to seeing the square bottle offered by Luckyscent for $140, and the first time I looked at Loree Rodkin’s site back in December, that was also what was shown. This week, however, the perfume appears on her website in a tall, narrow bottle shape which threw me off because Ms. Rodkin confusingly offers an identical looking thing that is labelled as a “room spray.” The perfume I tested was the 50 ml Eau de Parfum, but the “Ambiance” room spray is an large 4 oz bottle described as Eau de Cologne (for the room??) and priced significantly lower at $75. (It’s $25 less on Amazon, via Loree Rodkin herself.) Either way, the Eau de Parfum seems to have changed in its bottle shape to look extremely close to that of the “Room Spray,” so if you’re looking into the fragrance make sure you get the right version.

The Gothic I Ambiance "Room Spray" bottle. Source: Amazon.

The Gothic I Ambiance “Room Spray” bottle. Source: Amazon.

Then, there was the question of price. Gothic I is priced at $140 on Luckyscent, but numerous comments there talk about $250 a bottle. Obviously, the prices have dropped substantially, which is pretty unusual in the perfume world where things only go up and up. The pricing makes me even more intrigued by the Ambiance room spray. It can hardly be air freshener, and I assume that it is mere eau de cologne in strength, but $49.99 on Amazon for a huge 120 ml/4 oz (versus $150 for a 50 ml bottle of eau de parfum) seems like an excellent deal, even if one is getting the anorexic, Diet version.

Gothic I EDP original bottle shown on Fragrantica and Luckyscent.

Gothic I EDP original bottle shown on Fragrantica and Luckyscent.

Still, the best part of Gothic really is its enormous richness and depth. There is a great description of it on Fragrantica:

when I got my nose on this patchouli / vanilla bomb (sample from Luckyscent) I felt the earth move.

The vanilla here is not sickly, rather it is dark and seductive. The patchouli has been stripped of its crusty afghan coat and been given a good scrub up. It’s a delicious combination that purrs gently on the skin, but projects like a monster and lasts all day. It borders on gourmand but thankfully (I sold my Musc Ravageur as I didn’t want to smell like a cinnamon bun) stays out of the kitchen. If you find Serge Luten’s Un Bois Vanilla and its ilk just too sweet, this might be the one for you.

That review is from a man, and the only other review comes from a woman who had a very different experience:

I wish I could wax rhapsodic about this one, but its medicinal pungency overwhelms any vanilla tendencies. While retaining its earthiness, this is a less dank and more fresh and minty patchouli. The spices add to the medicinal quality that reminds me of old, plastic-y Band-Aid strips. I think this one might be too bright and sweet for those lovers of dark, brooding fragrances, but too earthy for those looking to graduate from cupcake vanilla scents.

I’m rather amazed by what skin chemistry can do. Clearly, she’s experiencing real, hardcore, genuine patchouli to a huge (and very green) degree, and she’s obviously not a fan. I am, but I experienced almost none of it in Gothic. It may have started at 20%, at best, but it quickly became a mere 5% on my skin, if even that.

I actually have to wonder if the commentator did not leave her review in the wrong place, because it sounds to me as though she’s really describing Gothic II. It is a scent which I’m now dying to try, and which seeks to really showcase the element in a strong, fierce way with notes that include:

cloves, incense, sandalwood, frangipani, indian patchouli, Tunisian patchouli, and madagascar vanilla. 

The more typical descriptions of Gothic (#1) talk about how the scent is dominated by vanilla. Consider this review on Australian Perfume Junkies, where the guest blogger, “Kymme CV,” writes:

Gothic I opens with an enormous sweet vanilla slap in the face, just like a vanilla custard-pie but more! This ‘vanilla’ is an exotic, deep, rich and velvety vanilla. But it’s really not that simple a fragrance. There’s a real depth to the Madagascan vanilla that comes alive once the spice starts to come through. Now we’ve got nutmeg on our vanilla pudding! The spice accords mixed with the vanilla give the fragrance a dramatic nuance.

When I first wore Gothic I hours passed before I started sensing the patchouli notes coming through. However, each time my body temperature rose a little the patchouli blend came storming through. At first I didn’t even realise it was me that I could smell! As soon as my body cooled again, back came the vanillas.

Skin chemistry is obviously responsible for how much patchouli you experience, and the posts on MakeupAlley seem to support that view. There, the assessments for Gothic are mixed, primarily because of the price of the Gothic oil, but also because of the degree of patchouli. Apparently, not everyone shares my love of actual, original true patchouli. I’m crushed…. Facetiousness and joking aside, here is a glimpse of the range of perspectives:

  •  I adore complex scents – especially woods, incense, spice, but sometimes I simply crave something sweet…like wanting a fudge brownie on occasion, but not daily. This is one of my fragrance equivalents to a fudge brownie. It’s an incredibly sultry, rich, sweet vanilla intensified with patchouli and woods. It layers gorgeously with other fragrances, softening all sharp edges. It’s in the same vein as Des Filles a la Vanille’s Vanille, but much longer lasting and deeper.
  • I adore this fragrance. It’s the nicest patchouli fragrance I ever smelled. I am also a big fan of Les Nereides Patchouli Antique. I love Gothic I more.
  •  While this one is pretty expensive, it’s also a lovely, warm, rich, Oriental vanilla with incredible lasting power. A dab on the back of a wrist lasts me well past 7 hours and then some. Sometimes a strong patchouli gives me difficulty, but this one is blended beautifully and gives the fragrance just enough backbone without being over-powering. Mostly I smell a sweet vanilla with amber/patchouli undertones and a good dose of sweet wood and benzoin. Heavenly!
  • A pleasant patchouli/vanilla oil that smells somewhat “chocolaty” and is unpleasantly overpriced and over-hyped about. Voleur de Roses smells patchy and gothic, this smells like a sweet girly girl with ponytails and a bar of chocolate candy in her hand –and NOT Gothic.

All those reviews date from 2005-2007, and the reference to an “oil” makes it clear that they are not talking about Gothic I Eau de Parfum at all, but the very expensive oil which predates it by about 8 years. For all I know, it may be quite different in smell, and with more patchouli essence.

I agree with them that the oil seems very over-priced at $110 for 7 ml, but the new 2013 eau de parfum might be worth it for those who love extremely rich vanillas with a dash of dry patchouli woodiness, and a microscopic sliver of spices. It’s $140 for 50 ml, and a little goes a long way. The Profumum may be cheaper per milliliter at $240 for 100 ml, but they’re both excellent fragrances. I personally like the Rodkin version more than the Profumum, because some patchouli is always preferable to none. Plus, Gothic is much less gourmand — relative as that may be for a fragrance devoted to the richest vanilla imaginable. It’s a dry, almost woody vanilla, not an unctuous, gooey one that drips sugar. And it’s fantastic on a cold winter’s night or as a bedtime scent.

I’ve always said that I have the best and kindest readers around, but “CC” went out of her way to seek me out with her generous offer. All because she knew of my passion for patchouli! Thanks to her, I’m definitely tempted to buy a bottle of Gothic, but the only thing stopping me is the possibility of a version that may have three times the patchouli, along with incense and spice. Unfortunately, Gothic II is not offered at Surrender to Chance, but I am on the hunt, and quite determined now. In the meantime, I shall treasure my little decant of Gothic I, and the sign of friendship that went along with it.

As for all of you, if you love rich, woody vanillas, and have some tolerance for real patchouli, do try Gothic I. Don’t expect a patchouli scent, or you’ll be sorely disappointed. In terms of vanilla fragrances, though, this is a lovely one.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Gothic I is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml bottle that costs $137 or $140. The fragrance is also available as a perfume oil in a 7 ml roll-on bottle, as well as a room fragrance called Ambiance Eau de Cologne in a 4 oz/118 ml bottle. Loree Rodkin website: Loree Rodkin sells Gothic I EDP in a tall 50 ml bottle for $137. She sells the Ambiance Eau de Cologne — which she describes as a “room spray” — for $75 for a 4 oz bottle. However, the Loree Rodkin Amazon page sells that same fragrance (which it says originally retails for $175) for $49.99. For readers in Japan, there is also a Rodkin Japan website. Other vendors: Luckyscent also sells Gothic I EDP in the original square box for $140, along with the 7 ml concentrated Gothic oil for $110. You can also buy it from Net-a-Porter. Outside the U.S.: I’ve had difficulty finding Gothic I sold at any stores outside the U.S., even though Loree Rodkin’s stuff is carried in a number of countries, from the UK to Switzerland, Greece, Austria, Taiwan, the UAE, and others. From what I’ve seen of the UK and French sites, they don’t carry her fragrances, only her jewellery. You can find the full list at her Locations page. Samples: Luckyscent sells samples, as does Surrender to Chance which offers Gothic I EDP starting at $7.99 for a 1 ml vial.
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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.

Perfume Review – Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Vanille

I’ve tried a number of tobacco fragrances lately and, to my surprise, my favorite has TF Tobacco Vanillebeen Tom Ford’s Private Blend Tobacco Vanille! It was quite unexpected, since I haven’t had a ton of luck in my prior experiences with the line and since Tom Ford fragrances can be a bit too potent even for my liking. (I usually adore powerhouse fragrances, so that says something!) Unintentionally, I seem to have started on the light end of the tobacco spectrum with Hermès‘ airy, ambered, rum and tobacco Ambre Narguilé, before working my way to the heavier, denser, more vanilla-y tobacco and rum Spiritueuse Double Vanille from Guerlain, and ending up with the richest of them all – a chocolate, tobacco and rum scent which I thought was wonderful!

Tobacco Vanille is a unisex eau de parfum which Fragrantica categorizes as “Oriental Spicy.” On his website, Tom Ford describes it as follows:

A modern take on an old world men’s club. A smooth Oriental, TOBACCO VANILLE opens immediately with opulent essences of Tobacco Leaf and aromatic spice notes. The heart unfolds with creamy Tonka Bean, Tobacco Flower, Vanilla and Cocoa, and finishes with A Dry Fruit Accord, enriched with Sweet Wood Sap.

The most complete list of notes that I’ve found was, oddly enough, on Nordstrom’s website which says Tobacco Vanille has:

ginger, tobacco leaves, anise, coriander, tobacco flower, clove, spices, fruit wood sap, benzoin, vanilla, tonka bean.

Tobacco Vanille opens on my skin exactly like a Christmas plum pudding, a sort of Christmas Plum Pudding PuddingDessertz Blogspotdark, blackened, moist-to-dry fruitcake that often is accompanied by a vanilla rum sauce. The similarity is so strong, it’s striking. The rum opening is accompanied by dark pipe tobacco, cinnamon chocolate, and spices. There is a touch of cardamom and ginger, just like in a really strong Chai tea. The subtle ginger note combined with the dark spices renders this a very different scent than Ambre Narguilé or Spiritueuse Double Vanille on my skin. The pipe tobacco is different, too. It’s not as sweet, light or fruity as it is in the other two fragrances, and there are no smoky, incense notes. Here, the tobacco is not like airy hookah smoke, but something a thousand times more dense. There is almost a chewy, black vibe to the whole thing with a faintly bitter underpinning, though I don’t know if it stems from the tobacco leaves, the fruit, or something else.

The rum note here is also different from that in the other two fragrances. It’s not as light or sugary but, rather, like a dark, sullen version. Or, perhaps, it’s just not very rum-like at all in the beginning, though that may well be the result of the amount you put on. I tried Tobacco Vanille twice, in differing concentrations, with the first time involving half my usual dosage. On that occasion, I didn’t get rum so much in the opening as some other strong alcohol. drambuieI couldn’t pinpoint which one but, for some reason, Drambuie consistently came to mind! Drambuie, for those of you who haven’t tried it, is a Scottish liqueur that is made from honey, herbs, spices and single malt whiskey. It’s very much like herbed honey with spices, whereas rum is a much more consistently sweet, dense, heavy black note in my mind. On the second try, with a lot more Tobacco Vanille on my skin, the aroma was unquestionably rum and not Drambuie.

A higher dosage of Tobacco Vanille results in yet another difference: a significantly stronger chocolate note. The more perfume I used, the stronger and darker the chocolate. In my first test, I used half the amount of perfume that I normally use because… well, frankly, one must be cautious in applying Tom Ford fragrances. They can be massive, potent, savage beasts — and I learnt the hard way after Amber Absolute that one should start with perhaps less than what one normally uses. So, using that halved dose, the cocoa note was a bit like a ghost. It popped up here, popped up there, and vanished for stretches of time, before re-emerging like a tease. In my second test, using my normal number of dabs, the chocolate was apparent from the very start. It wasn’t light, dusted cocoa powder either, but more akin to cinnamon-spiced, dark chocolate.

That the rich, dense, chocolate note combined with the slightly smoky aspects of the tobacco almost verges on a chocolate patchouli accord. Though Tobacco Vanille is often brought up in discussions of Serge LutensChergui, the opening make me think of a very different Lutens fragrance: Borneo 1834. Tobacco Vanille lacks the camphorous elements of the latter, but the rich chocolate-patchouli, spiced chai, smoky elements seem much closer to Borneo 1834 than to what I experienced with the lovely Chergui. Chergui is simply not as dense, chewy and dark as Borneo 1834 and Tobacco Vanille. It also has a predominantly honey note, with florals, hay, incense and a very different sort of smoke element. Never once did Chergui call to mind a Christmas plum pudding! I should note, however, that despite the comparison and its sweetness, Tobacco Vanille is not a gourmand fragance. I think the dryness of the tobacco and the spices prevent it from being like dessert. In other words, it’s not cloyingly sweet or diabetes in a bottle.

Thirty minutes in, in my first test at a lesser dosage, the spice notes started to unfurl even more. There is a lovely light note of coriander with its lemony undertones, some candied ginger, and a soupçon of anise. There is also an almost milky accord which makes me think of thick, sweetened tea. The lemony note to the coriander adds to that mental impression of a dark black tea with milk and a sliver of lemon. In conjunction with the dark fruit, spices and tobacco notes, I feel transported to a British gentlemen’s club in Mayfair where High Tea has been served in one corner of a wood-paneled library and where members quietly smoke cheroots or pipes. It’s very masculine, very proper and, yet, simultaneously, for reasons that I can’t quite pinpoint or put into words, it’s also none of those things.

St. James Hotel's Library Bar, Paris. Source: Oyster.com

St. James Hotel’s Library Bar, Paris.
Source: Oyster.com

At a higher dosage, the impression of lemony, thickened, sweetened, dark tea goes away. The gentleman’s library is now serving pure rum, expensive dark chocolates filled with liqueur, and slightly fruited pipe tobacco. A butler brings in Christmas Plum Pudding with a white rum sauce that he sets discreetly to the side, as the gentlemen talk business and smoke away in their club chairs. It’s utterly lovely, either way.

Other perfume bloggers haven’t had quite the same mental association and imagery with Tobacco Vanille as I did. Scent Bound likened it to “loud frat boy” as compared to Spiritueuse Double Vanille‘s “beautiful and constrained young librarian,” though he has often stated that he really likes Tobacco Vanille and wears it when he wants to stand out.

Scent Hound, in contrast, seemed much less enthused about it. He found it to be “very much a 1980s fragrance, sophisticated, big and maybe a bit dated.” Interestingly, Mr. Hound noted: “[t]he first time I wore this, I liked it better than the 2nd time I wore it which made me feel a bit like I was walking around with a ‘Yankee Candle Company’ candle hanging from my neck. For those of you not in the US, that’s not a good thing.” That Yankee Candle Plum Puddingwas an extremely astute observation and dead on. At times, Tobacco Vanille really does evoke a Yankee Candle! Frankly, I rather wish I hadn’t read that comparison because it’s hard to shake the mental association once you’ve noticed it. It’s even harder when you Google “Yankee Candle Plum Pudding” out of morbid curiosity and find that, yes, they actually had such a scent for a limited time!

Despite all that, I find myself really enjoying the perfume, especially in smaller doses where it seems to have more layers and complexity. In my normal, regular dosage for perfumes (3 to 4 large-ish dabs on each arm), it’s a lot more linear and soon ends up as a predominantly rum and tobacco, plum pudding scent, especially in its dry-down.

I should note that dosage may not be the only contributing factor for why I had a slightly different experience than my fellow bloggers. It makes a big difference if one sprays on a Tom Ford scent, as opposed to merely dabbing it on from a vial. Perfume is usually milder or softer when dabbed on, as opposed to when it is aerosolized (if there is such a word). In my case, dabbing on Tobacco Vanille may explain why I didn’t find it to be quite as brash, aggressive and bullying as others have.

Then again, maybe not. After all, I dabbed on Amber Absolute and was well-nigh assaulted by its notes. It was such an 800-pound gorilla that I found it almost unbearable at times. Noir de Noir was also very potent on me (though never anything remotely close to Amber Absolute), as were others like Neroli Portofino and Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. No, the bottom line is that, on my skin, Tobacco Vanille was surprisingly gentlemanly for a Tom Ford fragrance and far from a brute. It had great projection, but not a beastly amount. The real surprise was the longevity which, even by the standards of my voracious, perfume-consuming skin, was much less than for other Tom Ford fragrances. All in all, it lasted about 8 hours on me. On normal human beings, you can easily double and, in some cases, triple that number.

Tobacco Vanille is, thus far, my favorite Tom Ford Private Blend fragrance. I think it’s cozy, comforting, richly heady, almost compulsively sniffable, and completely unisex. I definitely recommend it.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tobacco Vanille is an eau de parfum. It is available on the Tom Ford website where it sells for: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, $280 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. In the US, you can also find it at fine retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth AvenueBergdorf Goodman, and others. In the UK, you can find it at Harrods where it sells for £135.00 or £195.00, depending on size. Elsewhere, Tom Ford fragrances are carried in numerous different countries; hopefully, you can find one near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website.
Samples: If you are intrigued, but are also sane enough not to want to spend such a large amount without testing it out first, I suggest stopping by one of the stores listed above for a free sniff. However, given the potency of Tom Ford’s perfumes as whole, you may want to ordering a sample to see how it develops on your skin. You can find them starting at $3 on Surrender to Chance, or on other decant/sample sites like The Perfumed Court. I think Surrender to Chance has the best shipping: $2.95 for any order, no matter the size, within the U.S., and $12.95 for most orders going overseas. (It’s a wee bit higher if your order is over $150.) International shipping has leaped up in price (from $5.95) due to the U.S. Postal Service’s recently increased prices.

Review En Bref: Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille

As always with my Reviews En Bref, I’ll give you a summary of my impressions of a perfume that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant a full, exhaustive review.

Guerlain SDVSpiritueuse Double Vanille (“SDV”) from Guerlain is a lovely, cozy fragrance. Created by Jean-Paul Guerlain and released in 2007, it was once part of Guerlain’s “Exclusive” range but is now available outside of Guerlain stores. It is an extremely unisex fragrance, despite being labeled as a perfume “for women.”  

On its website, Guerlain describes the scent through a quote from Jean-Paul Guerlain:

If a colour or fragrance were to be associated with each day, like the planets were in ancient times, sandalwood would be the Sun, saffron would be Jupiter, and without doubt vanilla would be Venus.

Guerlain SDV 2The notes in the perfume are:

  • Head: Pink Peppercorn, Bergamot, Incense

  • Heart: Cedar, Bulgarian Rose, Ylang-Ylang

  • Base: Vanilla Bean, Benzoin

Spiritueuse Double Vanille opens on me in a way that is really true to its notes. There is an immediate burst of rose, bergamot and incense, followed quickly by pink peppercorn. The bergamot isn’t like Earl Grey tea but, rather, more like petitgrain: the woody-citric distillation of twigs from a citrus tree. The rose is heady, sweet, rich and dark. A definite damask rose.

There is obvious vanilla throughout, strongly evoking long, freshly sliced Madagascar beans or concentrated vanilla extract. It leads to a very boozy smell, tinged with florals and some incense notes. The latter is particularly lovely, as the smoke is not bitter or smoky. Rather, it’s sweet and rounded. It’s a perfect counterbalance to the rose.

Ten minutes in, the rose fades just a little, leaving a definite impression of an apple pie soaked in vanilla ice-cream with rum sauce. Twenty minutes in, a subtle, quiet cedar note emerges. It’s not camphorous, but fresh and dry, like a new cedar chest of drawers. Despite the subtle wood note, the overwhelming impression is of apple pie and hookahs (or water pipes).

And that is why this is such a short review. I feel as though I’ve been down this road before: Spiritueuse Double Vanille reminds me almost exactly of Hermès‘ 2004 Ambre Narguilé. There are a few, very small, extremely minor differences but, all in all, I feel as though I could essentially just repeat large chunks of my review of Ambre Narguilé here, and be done with it. They are both incredibly boozy, rich scents with fruity tobacco and swirling incense, smoke notes that evoke a hookah. I’m hardly the only one who has noted the incredibly strong similarity. Birgit from Olfactoria’s Travels said the same thing, and there are numerous Basenotes threads comparing the two (along with Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille).

There are some differences, though they are subtle. The Guerlain is slightly denser and richer, and a tiny bit less airy than the Jean-Claude Ellena concoction for Hermès. The latter has faintly more fruity undertones, especially to the tobacco, while the Guerlain is more fruity-floral. Also, the tobacco in the Guerlain fragrance turns from that of sweet pipe tobacco into something a bit dryer, earthier, in its dry-down, more akin to actual tobacco leaves. The Hermès perfume screams out “rum, rum raisin, rum, more rum, and amber,” while the Guerlain’s chant might be “rum, vanilla, rum raisin, vanilla, rum and vanilla, and vanilla.” Honestly, though, those nuances are not strong enough to warrant buying bottles of both. If you have one, you don’t really need the other. (That said, when has actual “need” ever figured into perfume purchases?)

As noted up above, Spiritueuse Double Vanille is often compared to Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. I have not yet tried the latter (though it is becoming increasingly apparent that I need to move my sample up on my list of things to review), but, again, there are supposed to be differences. This time, however, the differences are said to be quite stark. From what I’ve read on Basenotes and elsewhere, Tom Ford’s perfume is supposed to be brash and assertive — Spiritueuse Double Vanille on steroids, if you will. Guerlain’s perfume is said to be perfect for those who find the Tom Ford to be too much. As a side note, I’ve also read of a third perfume to which the Guerlain can be compared: Bond No. 9‘s New Haarlem. I have no familiarity with that one, either, but, if you’re interested, you can read a discussion comparing all four scents on Basenotes.

Luca Turin gave Spiritueuse Double Vanille a less than stellar review in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Calling it “bad vanilla,” his snarling two-star review is as follows:

Anyone who has bought vanilla in pods knows that they do not smell very good up close, with dissonant fruity, rum-like notes that make you feel like skipping lunch. Guerlain obligingly magnifies all the negative traits of vanilla in this pointless, loud, and misconceived confection.

(As a point of comparison, Luca Turin gives Ambre Narguilé a three-star review that is slightly more flattering and positive.)

On Fragrantica, the criticisms of Spiritueuse Double Vanille seem to fall into two, related camps. First, that it is a linear scent of simple, boozy, vanilla extract. Second, that it is too expensive for what it is. Spiritueuse Double Vanille comes in only one size (2.5 oz/75 ml) and costs $250. I think price is, ultimately, a very subjective, personal thing, so I won’t comment on that. With regard to the other criticism, I don’t think SDV is a one-note scent and, on me, it’s certainly more than just plain vanilla extract. But, even if it were, I believe linearity is only a bad thing if you absolutely hate the note(s) in question.

The sillage and longevity of Spiritueuse Double Vanille is impressive. There was a scent bubble for about four hours, after which it became closer to the skin. All in all, it lasted about 8.5 hours on me. On others, it is said to last all day, though it is not the “beast” that is Tobacco Vanille.

If you like comforting, warm, sweet and boozy scents, I think you should give Spiritueuse Double Vanille a try. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is very cozy and I suspect some may find it wholly addictive.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Spiritueuse Double Vanille costs $250 for 2.5 fl. oz/75 ml. It is available at Guerlain boutiques, and on its websiteIt is also available on the Nordstrom website and, apparently, in the store. It is shown on the Neiman Marcus website (where it is priced at $225), but there is a note saying that it is not available; the same story applies to Bergdorf Goodman. (I don’t know if it is available within the stores themselves.) For all other countries, you can use Guerlain’s Store Locator on its website. If you’d like to give SDV a test sniff, you can get a sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for half of a 1 ml vial.