July 18, 2012
Vanilla when used as an adjective is often used to describe something run-of-the-mill and common. Vanilla when used as a focal point for fragrance often produces something run-of-the-mill and common. It is because vanilla is such a crowd pleasing note I think it becomes too easy for an unambitious fragrance to just add it in and then stand back and watch the sales rise. Vanilla is comforting in its safety and for many fragrance wearers that comfort is paramount. It is why when our best niche perfumers take out the vanilla and think to use it as the focal point for one of their creations these vanilla fragrances become explorations into the possibilities of turning the pedestrian into something less so. Martine Micallef is one of these perfumers and her new set of four releases, for her Parfums M. Micallef label, called the Art Collection Vanille takes vanilla and creates a vanilla for every season.
Mme Micallef has made one of my very favorite vanilla fragrances in her 2007 release Note Vanillee. She created a floral boozy vanilla that showed off how versatile vanilla could be without being cloying. With the four fragrances in the Art Collection Vanille she chooses to let the vanilla work off one other dominant accord and in each case it shows off a different facet of vanilla along the way. As I tested and wore these I also realized each one was perfect for a particular season of the year and if you just rotated these fragrances from season to season you would have a mighty fine rotation.
Vanille Fleur is the simplest construction of the four fragrances. There are three ingredients peach, rose, and vanilla. Vanille Fleur is the most powerful of the four, as well. Despite the paucity of notes the concentration makes up for it. The top is a juicy peach and it roars out of the atomizer. It is such an intense opening I wondered if the rose and vanilla would ever appear. Slowly but surely they do claw their way into the picture as first the rose and then the vanilla come in. The vanilla here feels like a creamy vanilla and it combines to give a rich peaches and cream accord which provides a great foundation for the lush rose. Once all three notes are present Vanille Fleur stays balanced on that mix for hours before all fading away. Vanille Fleur is a testament to the power of vanilla and using it as a foil for the fruity floral duet of peach and rose it produces a spring like fragrance.
Vanille Marine, yeah I know the idea of ladling vanilla onto an aquatic accord does not sound good. I admit this was the one I approached with the most trepidation. Because of that wariness I think Mme Micallef caught me off guard with the most original composition of this collection. She actually makes vanilla, salt spray, and sun warmed skin go together amazingly. I stay away from vanilla during the summer because of its ability to turn too sweet; Vanille Marine is the perfect summer vanilla because it never is allowed to make the transformation into a fully sweet note instead it mostly retains its greener vanilla orchid character throughout. A sunny lemon and a bit of blackcurrant to cut the tart quality open Vanille Marine on a bright ray of sunshine. A white flower bouquet paired with the vanilla which acts as almost another white flower keeps things on the floral sweet and green side of the spectrum. Benzoin, musk, and cedarwood add a skin accord along with a bit of spray off the waves. The marine accord feels like a breeze off the water and across a bush of flowers containing the vanilla orchid. The vanilla here is delicate and does not have the strength to ever turn cloying even on the 100 degree plus days I tested this on.
One of the best dance partners vanilla can have is sandalwood. The overlap of the sweet character of both notes helps delineate the greener and woodier qualities respectively. Vanille Orient is the fragrance in the collection which uses this pair to great effect by also surrounding them with a warm animalic musk and an even warmer spicy amber. Vanilla Orient feels like a soft fleece blanket of scent to snuggle in while the temperatures begin to chill in the autumn. This time the sweet baker’s vanilla accord is in place right from the get go. The sandalwood soon arrives and in the commonality the contrasts also define themselves as the green and the wood become more pronounced. The soft musk and spicy amber add a degree of comfort to the base which just makes me go “Aaaah!”
Vanille Cuir is my favorite of the collection and the one I am most looking forward to wearing on a winter’s day instead of testing in the summer heat. Even with the heat Vanille Cuir stands out as something which will reward additional contemplation on the long nights of winter. Vanille Cuir starts with a beautifully sourced high quality lavender and it is an excellent and unusual choice. There is a bit of bergamot and mint but the opening is as mesmerizing a lavender as I’ve worn in a while. The heart continues with interesting choices as the heat of cinnamon and the strength of cumin are balanced against a fragile orange blossom. The lavender sticks around and these four notes are exquisite together. At this point I had forgotten this was supposed to be a vanilla fragrance but now the promised vanilla and leather aspects float to the top. Just as with the sandalwood vanilla duo, leather and vanilla use the sweet aspects to create a connection. The leather here is processed and refined showroom leather, soft as suede. The vanilla is equally as soft and together they create a sweetly animalic cloud to lay my head down for a winter’s nap upon.
All four of these Art Collection fragrances have overnight longevity and average sillage.
Mme Micallef has created a year’s worth of vanilla fragrances in four perfumes and there is nothing run-of-the-mill or common about that.
Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Parfums M. Micallef.
Thanks to Parfums M. Micallef we have a reader’s choice draw for A 15mL press sample of any of the Art Collection Vanille perfumes. To be eligible leave a comment naming your favorite season and which one of the Art Collection vanilla perfumes you would like to win. The Art Collection Vanille is available in the US at Luckyscent
Draw closes July 21, 2012
We announce the winners only on site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume.
-Mark Behnke, Managing Editor