Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
I love the playfulness of Vanille Insensée, which cannot decide whether it wants to be a vanilla or an amber, and while oscillating between luscious sweetness and dark richness, it manages to beguile with its complex, nuanced character. The contrasted nature of this fragrance created by perfumer Ralf Schwieger for Atelier Cologne not only makes it exciting to wear, but also gives it a beautiful signature.
Vanilla is a fascinating raw material, which is able to smooth out the roughest accords and lend them an incredible softness. Yet, just like sugar in cooking, vanilla does not have its own strong character; it simply makes everything else sweet. The interesting aspect of Vanille Insensée is that while vanilla is its main theme, it avoids the predictable vanilla custard sweetness of many vanilla dominated fragrances. The strong moss and amber accord provides a resinous darkness, into which the sweetness of vanilla dissolves. The woody notes, reminiscent of freshly shaved cedarwood curls and wet pine branches, further tone down the gourmand sweetness of vanilla. As the fragrance dries down, a surprising twist of citrus and vetiver sets the decadent vanilla alight, giving it an effervescent, luminous quality.
Like all Atelier Cologne fragrances, Vanille Insensée is meant to be worn by both men and women, and there is nothing in the composition that would make either group uncomfortable. The only qualm I have with Vanille Insensée is its relatively sharp amber note, which initially feels a bit aggressive. Yet, overall, it is an excellent composition, with a bold woody-ambery character. While occupying the territory of Guerlain Shalimar and Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan—classical oriental and classical amber, Vanille Insensée beautifully bridges the two accords with oakmoss. The end result is a memorable and unique composition. While it has an alluring aura, Vanille Insensée is a fragrance for seducing oneself, first and foremost. Wearing it, I find myself feeling perfectly content, with the scent enveloping me like the veil of warm silk. On most days, this is exactly what I crave.
Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée includes notes of lime, cedrat, coriander, jasmine, oak moss, vetiver, vanilla, oak and amber. Available from Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Luckyscent. All Atelier Cologne fragrances have 15% concentration of perfume oil. (30ml is $60, 200 ml is $170.)