I’ve done this long enough to not really experience anything truly different. Over a hundred years of modern perfumery has left little space for unique. As I’ve mentioned in the past if there is a place where some empty space remains it is around the gourmand style of perfume. As perfumers are given the chance to explore within that area it has resulted in my smelling something I haven’t before. When I received my sample of L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille it was something new to my nose.
Current trends have seen the rise of the floral gourmand which I have enjoyed. What makes Couleur Vanille different is it goes for a style I’ve rarely encountered by meshing the aquatic with gourmand. Perfumer Alienor Massenet wanted to capture the duality of the Madagascar source of the vanilla through the strong sea-breezes which blow through the plantation. It is achieved with a remarkable contrast of two styles which shouldn’t play well together. Mme Massenet finds the beauty within these olfactory opposites that I wouldn’t have expected were there.
This contrast blossoms right away. Mme Massenet marries her fleur de sel accord with the sustainably harvested vanilla orchid. By using the botanical source in place of the synthetic there is a vegetal tint to the sweetness. One of the things Mme Massenet does all the way through it to use the other ingredients to keep the vanilla from spiraling out into a confectionary tooth ache. The salty accord takes the first shift. I used to enjoy standing next to a stand of jasmine growing near the beach as a storm was coming. The waves were crashing with chilly spray catching the jasmine up in the sea spray. Mme Massenet does the same with the vanilla. The salt acts like an ingredient which adds expansiveness. It makes the vanilla opaquer in effect thus holding it back. It is a precise unique push and pull between the salt and vanilla. It gets better as immortelle gives the salt an assist. This is immortelle at its rugged best. I don’t know if it grows indigenously in Madagascar, but it is easy to imagine it does. These three ingredients form the heart of Vanille Couleur. It lingers like this for hours before eventually allowing the vanilla to slip its leash. It becomes a warm creamy version as benzoin and tolu balsam are present to give it its more typical scent profile for the final moments.
Couleur Vanille has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Couleur Vanille succeeds in its combination of aquatic and gourmand. It should have been a mess. It should have been unwearable. Instead it is one of the best perfumes of this year.
Disclosure: this review is based on a press sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.