Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Images: (top of page) detail of artist Kay Nielsen's (1886-1957) illustration from the limited edition book, In Powder and Crinoline, Old Fairy Tales Retold; the full illustration is directly above this text. (He was an incredible artist in terms of detail!)

Photo of Montale Boise Vanille bottle is from the shopping website I ended up purchasing a bottle of this fragrance (from, a fragrance boutique I really trust), I loved it so much.

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Having gotten caught up in the recent excitement over Havana Vanille (see Fragrance Bouquet's fabulous review), the new fragrance from L’Artisan Parfumeur that is scheduled to launch in October, I decided to dig up my sample of Montale Boisé Vanillé, which I remembered as being particularly good—but, oh my, I’d forgotten just how good!  It’s gorgeous—a vanilla that is refined and elegant, but with a deep current of sensuality that smolders beneath the surface of the scent at all times.

The scent is perhaps most lusty at its start, where the candied citrus top notes, tangy and honeyed in the same breath, remind me of the opening notes in vintage Lanvin My Sin extrait, though a bit less sharp. A cool little tendril of lavender keeps the lustiness in check, managing to do so in a subtle way. This is such a quiet lavender that it doesn’t fully register as lavender unless you are in the process of trying to parse out the notes. To my great enjoyment, Boisé Vanillé’s top notes are of the lingering sort: I can smell them for a good twenty minutes before the scent enters its next stage, where the vanilla becomes more detectable, but, if it makes any sense, less sweet. This is a rogue vanilla fragrance, if ever there was one: the farthest thing from foody-vanilla that you can get; almost like a vanilla that has been given a chypre treatment, or undergoes a chypre stage, before it rounds out and becomes more ambery in its drydown. 

In its second stage, the vanilla meets cedar, pepper, iris and patchouli, so that what emerges is a softly woodsy, slightly spicy and powdery vanilla, the epitome of elegance. The sillage is now crinoline-like, billowing softly but buoyantly with every little movement I make. The overlying impression it makes is one of charismatic presence and poise, but underneath it all a sultriness is building. Patchouli does some heavy breathing, becoming more smoky and resinous as it exhales into the sweet bosom of balsamic tonka bean. (The bittersweet resins that underscore the base of this fragrance had me guessing that labdanum might me included in the notes, but no, it’s not listed.) If the top notes of this fragrance reminded me of My Sin, the drydown reminds me of something entirely different—the drydown of Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque: a tobacco-like finish that has been made richer by the golden sweetness of vanilla, but also drier by the presence of cedarwood (in the case of Boisé Vanillé, while in the case of Fumerie Turque it is leather). It’s the kind of drydown that makes you think you could actually crawl inside it and live there within its depths. 

Boisé Vanillé enjoys the kind of mysterious beauty that makes no claims on gender. Half of the time while I was sampling this, I pictured actor Gary Oldman, all dapper in his role as Dracula in the scenes where he was pursuing Mina in the streets of London. The other half of the time, I imagined this scent on a courtesan of olden times, dressed in her finery and headed to a ball. In either case, I guess I see this as being a more formal fragrance than a casual one, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be equally dishy with a pair of tailored jeans and a cashmere sweater (I’m sure it would).  But because it’s such a distinctively elegant vanilla scent—the kind you don’t find too often—I like to think of it as the very thing you’d include in your arsenal when dressing for seduction.

Montale Boisé Vanillé: elegant, enigmatic and seductive

Fragrance notes for Montale Boisé Vanillé:
Lemon, geranium, bergamot, lavender, cedar, pepper, iris, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean.

July 24, 2009:

Montale Boisé Vanillé is available from and, $95 for 50 ml or $135 for 100 ml.