L’Artisan Havana Vanille / Vanille Absolument : Perfume Review

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India

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

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17 Comments

  • Olfactoria: I love this one very much, it was one of my first niche perfumes. It’ll always have a fond place in my heart and nose. Wonderful review. 🙂 April 18, 2011 at 4:05am Reply

  • Le critique de parfum: Vanille Absolument is a solid addition to the line and Bertrand Duchaufour is an amazing perfumer, but I’m still disappointed by L’Artisan’s recent recent lack of originality and humor. A vanilla, an oud, what’s next? Another amber? April 18, 2011 at 6:05am Reply

  • Suzanna: I’ve always loved the “ball of vanilla and powder” that is central to this fragrance. You know how you can’t really tell how something smells from a list of notes? Well, here you can; it is exactly the smell of a “ball of vanilla and powder,” a creamy, non-gourmand, vanilla cold cream smell. There is also gourmand vanilla (pod), but that “ball” is one of the cleverest and most succinct descriptions yet. April 18, 2011 at 10:42am Reply

  • Suzy Q: Oh, but what about Nuit de Tubereuse? Very original and exciting. April 18, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • Skilletlicker: I sampled this Havana Vanille at Fred Segal’s a few months ago and really didn’t like it. It’s the only L’Artisan scent I have raced home to scrub off. You’re right about it’s perseverance because it seemed to linger for days. A big disappointment especially since I almost would have purchased it, scent un-smelled, based on my love of L’artisan fragrances and the enticement of the Havana angle. I wonder went wrong for me. April 18, 2011 at 2:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is a very comforting scent, but yet, it has some unusual twists. April 18, 2011 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: I think that they are all in line with what L’Artisan has already done, very much in its style. Another well-done amber is never a bad thing. April 18, 2011 at 2:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: Agreed on NdT! Very original and memorable fragrance. April 18, 2011 at 2:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: I like that although vanilla is an important facet in this fragrance, it nevertheless manages to avoid the cloying, opaque sensation that is common to many vanilla rich fragrance. I think of it as vanilla incense. April 18, 2011 at 2:34pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, I can see that–if you dislike Havana Vanille, it will haunt you for ages! It has some very tenacious woody-ambery basenotes. April 18, 2011 at 2:34pm Reply

  • dee: HV is the scent that changed my mind about vanilla, and is one of only two L’Artisan full-bottles in my collection (which says a lot, because I love the collection, and have quite a few in decant form!).

    Lovely review of a lovely fragrance; interestingly, this was my hubby’s SOTD yesterday! 🙂 April 19, 2011 at 12:29pm Reply

  • dee: Comforting, but not boring! 🙂 April 19, 2011 at 12:30pm Reply

  • minette: enjoy havana vanille much more than vanilia, which i always find dull after its initial opening (always want to add another scent to it, which i translate as dull, but maybe it’s just lacking a certain something that would make it feel complete). anyhoo, this one is fun – i really dig the blast of cooking vanilla in the first few moments.

    regarding l’artisan – i’d like to see what they (or is simply BD these days?) would do with a solo musk. we have the lovely mure et muscs, but i’m always in the market for a great musk solo act. (as i pretend my cartier l’heure promise is about the musk and not the iris and sandalwood). April 19, 2011 at 2:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: Exactly! That's rare to find. April 19, 2011 at 2:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also love many fragrances from L'Artisan, but I don't own that many full bottles either. I find that many are just not dramatic enough for my taste. April 19, 2011 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree on Vanilia. I admire it, but it is boring in wear.
    Now, I love your idea of a solo musk fragrance. I also would have liked to see something like this. April 19, 2011 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Hildegerd: I liked this perfume, but prefered Yve Rochers Vanilla Noir and bought a FB. Cheaper too. December 6, 2013 at 1:08pm Reply

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