Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Vanilla, rum, tobacco, woods… Was Bertrand Duchaufour trying to follow in the footsteps of Molinard Habanita with his Havana Vanille created for L’Artisan Parfumeur. If so, the references are vague at best, and Havana Vanille (recently renamed Vanille Absolument to avoid a trademark infringement) is a composition that toys with the fantasy of an oriental bazaar much more than with the decadent glamor of Havana.
Despite its name, Vanille Absolument is not all about vanilla. While there is an initial sparkling orange top note, Vanille Absolument soon hits its stride with a luscious, warm orchestration that is more leathery-ambery than gourmand. The core of the composition is formed by vanilla, incense and tobacco, a dark, sweet accord. The oriental balsamic notes and tonka bean lend it a pleasant richness, while an Indian temple incense accord gives the composition an exotic twist. Dry amber and crisp woods—a classical Duchaufour fingerprint—underpin the heady vanilla note, attenuating its sweetness and conveying a surprising moody darkness.
In contrast to the discontinued Vanilia, which delightfully alternated between a dark vanilla pod and wet cardboard, Vanille Absolument is a more classical oriental take. It exists in the universe of Givenchy Organza, Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille and Parfums de Nicolaï Vanille Tonka, vanilla fragrances that reinforce vanilla with traditional oriental notes and leather. It may not please those who love mouthwatering crème brûlée vanillas like Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille and Chopard Casmir.
While I would not call Vanille Absolument a complex fragrance, it is very cleverly put together and enjoyable to wear. It has a marvelous sillage, despite the fact that Vanille Absolument is not a loud fragrance. I have been wearing it side by side with Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée, an ambery vanilla composition that I find very compelling. In comparison, Vanille Absolument is plusher and warmer, with a stronger vanilla presence. Nevertheless, like Vanille Insensée, it would also work for both women and men, since its wood and incense notes remain pronounced as the fragrance develops. Even if it does not speak to me of Havana, I find the story of Vanille Absolument to be quite compelling.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Vanille Absolument includes notes of vanilla, rum and tobacco. The L’Artisan line is available from Aedes, Beautycafe, Beautyhabit, and Luckyscent, as well as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus.
Sample: my own acquisition