Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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Perhaps there are still some autumn days remaining—I hope so—but winter temperatures dipped into Pennsylvania this past weekend, and on Sunday when my husband and I decided to head to the bookstore instead of outdoors for a hike, I bundled up in a wool sweater dress, tights, leather boots and a down parka. I needed a perfume that would stand up to these layers and not get lost in them—and I found it in my sample of Vanille Orient by Parfums M. Micallef. Its thick treats actually remind me of winter clothes—of being fully ensconced in sensual fabrics that trap the smells of home and hearth and nature in their weave; in its cushiony sillage I smell not only a fermented-verging-on-doughy form of vanilla that reminds me of vanilla extract, but also a distinct saffron note that, with its iodine and leather-like smell, puts a lick of sea air and sultriness into this mix. Saffron isn’t listed among the very short list of notes that Martine Micallef, perfumer and owner of the line, divulges for this scent; she lists only vanilla, sandalwood, vanilla flower, musk and amber, but to my nose the saffron note is quite prominent, and I would wager a healthy bet that it’s part of Vanille Orient’s composition. This whiff of saffron smells like the genuine article, and its inclusion is what makes this vanilla perfume smell European in spirit. Ignore the Orient that’s in its name: what is lovely and unique about this fragrance is that it’s the kind of thing you would expect to smell from a perfume company that hails from the south of France (the Micallef line makes its home in Grasse).

So, imagine that you are standing in a kitchen, in winter, in the south of France. You not only catch a whiff of boozy vanilla extract, the iodine-like smell of sea air that still clings to your hair after your morning walk, and the leather-like smell of the saffron threads that you are readying for the risotto that you’ll be cooking later, but other more flickery and nuanced odors: the cherry tobacco that emanates from the pipe your man was smoking earlier; the almond paste that will be going into the pastry dough you’re rolling out now; and an air of dirty jasmine and musk that is nowhere to be found on this day, but is a memory of the perfume you wore for him, and the hours you spent in bed together, the last time he visited and you made him this meal. To greater and lesser degrees, I smell all of these scents in Vanille Orient, and taken altogether they create a perfume that smells rustic, domestically cozy, but with a European sexiness to them. Comfort and allure need not be mutually exclusive concepts—in fact, they cuddle up quite well—is the statement that a perfume like Vanille Orient makes. It belongs to that same category of scents in which I would place Ava Luxe Café Noir, Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque and L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two. What those three perfumes do for coffee, tobacco and tea, respectively, Vanille Orient does for vanilla.

In other words, it’s not a perfume for the Urbane Sophisticate, it’s more of a comfort perfume for the Sensualist. Because vanilla is an upfront, declarative feature of Vanille Orient, I would definitely say that this perfume sways to the side of the feminine, and wearing it is like summoning your inner Giada de Laurentiis. Sweet, sexy and of European birth, Giada certainly knows her way around the kitchen, but she dresses and looks like a woman who knows that the way to a man’s heart is not just through a plate of pasta carbonara. Some of Giada’s remarks in the past about marriage—and treating her husband like he’s king of the castle—back this up, and she’s been criticized by other women as being anti-feminist. I say a woman who can hold her own on the Food Network and as a guest co-host on NBC’s Today program doesn’t deserve that flack. I wouldn’t mind emulating Giada de Laurentiis—and an easy first step is spraying on this perfume that reminds me of her, because my husband loves it. (I should also state that he’s easy; he loves any scent that features vanilla and whiffs of tobacco.) If the idea of vanilla and Giada is purely anathema to you, then I don’t have to tell you to pass on this one. But if, like me, you occasionally enjoy the thought of a perfume that speaks of the pleasures of being a domestic goddess with a home and a man who waits for you somewhere in the Provençal countryside (or in Tuscany, maybe) then by all means, this one’s for you.

M. Micallef Vanille Orient: European Cozy

November 7, 2012:

M. Micallef Vanille Orient eau de parfum can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently $145. My sample was provided to from the company, along with three others from Martine Micallef’s art collection of vanilla-based perfumes. This one was far and away my favorite.

Photo of Food Network chef Giada de Laurentiis is one of many Google images I found for her.
Bottle image for M. Micallef Vanille Orient is from LuckyScent.com.