The L’Artisan Vanillas: Vanilia and Vanille Absolument

Photo is by Brook McLay of "The Family Kitchen"

Vanilla extract was the very first “perfume” I ever wore. I was 12 years old, and my wannabe Wiccan friends at summer camp assured me that vanilla was a love potion that could not fail to attract the menz. In conjunction with my hilariously awkward ear-length hair and enormous glasses, it was a lethal combination. The menz never stood a chance.

I'm on the far left. As you can see, my milkshake brought all the boys to the swing.

Despite my lack of success with vanilla’s aphrodisiac properties, I am still very fond of vanilla as a note in perfumes. Today I’ll be reviewing two vanilla fragrances by L’Artisan Parfumeurs: the discontinued Vanilia and Vanille Absolument. I was able to try both of them thanks to the generosity of a wonderful reader, matildaben.

Vanilia is one of the very few fragrances that received a five-star rating in Perfumes: The Guide. Author Luca Turin describes Vanilia as belonging to the category of “Great Vulgar”. How could I resist? We’re all about the vulgarity here at Scents of Self, and I have the Snooki bobble-head to prove it. Ultimately, however, I was disappointed by Vanilia.

Instead of the delightfully vulgar fragrance I was expecting, I found: plastic. This sugary vanilla perfume is marred by a prominent plastic note. Vanilia is not the “hilarious, unfettered, boisterous beauty” promised by The Guide; it is sweet plastic, strange and unpleasant. Now, let’s be clear: reformulations are so common in perfumery that it is entirely possible that Vanilia was once a great fragrance. But as for the version that I am smelling now, I have to say that I think L’Artisan did the right thing by discontinuing it.

Vanille Absolument (originally named “Havana Vanille”, which was a much better name for it) is a far more pleasant experience. This one smells like Mexican hot chocolate: cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon. Vanille Absolument is a delectable gourmand that never becomes too sweet.Β It is dark and rich, but maintains a lighthearted mood. This is the perfect perfume to warm and cheer a dreary winter day. I am pleased to point out that Vanille Absolument can be currently found for a very good sale price on the L’Artisan website: $60 for 50 ml.

24 thoughts on “The L’Artisan Vanillas: Vanilia and Vanille Absolument

  1. I also count myself a “card-carrying vanilla ho”, not least because my less offensive nickname at school was Vanilla Mutton. I do so agree about the strange plasticky note in Vanilia – it was a big disappointment to me too, though I have found a new love in AG Vanille Exquise instead – for straight up vanilla it is hard to beat.

    I am not wild about The Perfume Formerly Known As Havana Vanille – don’t really like the rum in it. Is there rum in it? Something boozy I think. Or maybe I am getting my cigars and my booze muddled. But it is just a tad rich for me. That’s a great price, mind.

    1. Matildaben also provided me with a sample of that Annick Goutal! I will have to try it, thank you for the recommendation! I didn’t find Havana Vanille boozy, but that may be because I almost never drink rum and am not all that familiar with the smell.
      …. How do you feel about my calling you Vanilla Mutton? Would it bring back too many traumatizing school memories?

  2. Still haven’t tried Vanilia. Still not tempted.

    I *like* Havana Vanille, which is what I continue to call it because my decant came from an early bottle. Like it, don’t love it, find it fully as rum-boozy as Vanessa says – the best part is the far far drydown, the clearest, unsweetest, most crystalline vanilla smell ever. (Favorite unplanned layering accident: far drydown of HV with Beyond Love. Wow.)

    1. Your layering accident sounds beautiful! I feel the same way: like Havana Vanille very much, doubt I’ll get a bottle (even at that great price).

  3. AG Vanille Exquise is awesome! It smells great layered with Ambre Fetiche, FYI.

    Vanilia was a disappointment for me too, but for slightly different reasons: I found it too sweet, and where you found plastic, I found bananas. I think that’s how I interpret some orchid notes, but this was ALL BANANAS, ALL THE TIME. Which is too much bananas for me.

    Vanille Absolument (I have it as HV) on the other hand… Swoon! I love the boozy rum note, and I love the spices, and I love how it lingers on my skin the way the scent of cigars permeates a humidor. Love it. And it lasts forever on my skin, which is always a plus.

    But back to you: the early years may have been tough, but your current milkshake has brought a very fine specimen in the form of Drew to the yard!

    1. Bananas! I think I would have been happier with bananas, but not as much as you’re describing. Havana Vanille strikes me as very you!

      Thank you so much for the compliment about my milkshake- I am very lucky to have Drew in my yard πŸ™‚

  4. Just thinking about Havana Vanilla/Vanille Absolument makes me shudder. To me, the “boozy rum-y” topnotes that others find so provocative registers as shrieking burning plastic. It’s the only perfume that has given me a headache, ever.

    1. How awful! I’m so sorry that you had such an unpleasant experience with Havana Vanille. Most scents give me headaches (and rashes). I suppose one must suffer for art…

  5. I only tried Vanilia briefly in store, back when Niemans carried L’Artisan. I recall I didn’t like it, was there licorice in it? Anyway, it wasn’t a proper wearing, so I can’t say. Havana Vanille was my very first split purchase. I remember all the hype before it came out, the waiting for the release, and I was convinced it would be my HG – I love rum, I love vanilla, it must be mine! I was thoroughly underwhelmed, but it could have been my expectations were just too high. I just got a boring powdery vanilla – mind you, I am one of those people that thinks everything is powdery and I do not like powder in fragrance, wither the cosmetic or baby variety. I still have it – maybe will give it a spritz tomorrow!

    1. Awwww, what a shame! Havana Vanille is fairly subtle to me, especially compared to other L’Artisan rum scents like L’Eau du Navigateur (which terrified me). I can definitely see how it would come across as boring. If you do end up trying it tomorrow, please let us know what you think!

  6. Vanilla seems to be a common “teen” or “tween” note. Wish we’d go back to that instead of fruity floral Justin Bieber fragrances. I remember when I was around that age, Coty Vanilla Fields was a popular one.

    Haven’t tried either of the ones you review here… most tempted by the Havana Vanille.

    1. I would prefer vanilla fragrances over all this fruit punch too. I really don’t understand their appeal- what’s alluring about fruit punch? Vanilla scents were popular in my high school, too, in the form of Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar. Much nicer than the other popular scent at the time, B&BW Sweet Pea.

  7. Oh, puberty. That was a rough time in my life, and I actively try to forget what I was like then, but I remember that I wore vanilla too. My perfume of choice was Coty’s Vanilla Musk, and I loved it. I still love vanilla fragrances, to me they are the olfactory equivalent of a cream cable knit sweater– classic, cozy, and polished. I am intrigued by the rum/vanilla combination, though. It sounds like the perfect combination for the 10 degree weather we’re having.

    I did order L de Lolita Lempicka off Amazon the other day, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. The main problem with online shopping is that by the time I hit “place order” I wanted the thing about yesterday. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I get it.

    1. I’m so happy that you went for L de Lolita! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

      Vanilla is the ultimate comfort scent to me. Interestingly, vanilla rarely seems to have the same associations with comfort to non-Americans.

  8. I don’t know if it’s coincidence: since I’m reader of this blog I’m getting the hang of vanilla note, and I’m getting addicted!
    I think maybe I had a hidden desire to be a vanillaphilic (a favorite flavour of mine), and that’s an extra reason why I continued to read your reviews, Ari.
    I consider your interests and tastes on perfume very genuine and consequent.
    You’re my ‘VANILLARY’ top reference! πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you so much, Gemma! I probably own two perfumes that don’t have a vanilla note, lol. It is too delicious! Do you read Bonkers About Perfume? She describes herself as a “vanilla ho”, too!

  9. Cool review, but I have to disagree with it. I might have a different version of Vanilia, but to me it’s a sweet, smoky, suntanned wonder that deserves all five of the stars Turin gave it.

    Vanille Absolument smelled like rum to me. It’s an interesting take on vanilla, but is too much like the extract for me.

    Ever smelled Serge Lutens’ Un Bois Vanille or Givenchy’s Organza Indecence? Those are great vanillas too, imo.

    1. Your disagreement is welcome, Joan! I would love to smell your version of Vanilia, it sounds delicious. I own and love Un Bois Vanille, but have had a harder time finding Organza Indecence!

  10. Yup, I have tried some Vanilia from Matildaben’s bottle too (if you’re reading, thanks, Mats — I remember!). I suspect there was a reformulation along the way somewhere, because the sample that captivated me was not the same. The one I smelled was an unsweet woody vanilla, more woody and resiny than actually vanilla, and not sweet.

    Funny, I did not like Havana Vanille — again, was too sweet and just not enough me.

    Cool reviews and thanks for a chuckle about the wickan wannabees and menz who had no chance.

    1. How generous of her! And I’m glad you got a chuckle out of it- I had a few friends who were truly practicing Wiccans, but I had even more who were just looking to be “dark”, and Wicca was the fastest way to get that reputation at a Jewish high school!

  11. Lol @ ‘menz’

    We’re totally on the same page with these two, Vanilia isn’t as great as I thought it would be and Vanille Absolument is just awesome.

    I have been looking for a good vanilla for ages, I have lots of perfumes with vanilla but not a ‘vanilla’. I picked up a bottle of Vanille Absolument in the sale a few weeks ago and I’m pretty convinced that I have found ‘my vanilla’. Love it.

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