Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

When Guerlain launched a limited edition fragrance called Spiritueuse Double Vanille in 2007, it promised a rich, luscious vanilla liqueur, the ultimate vanilla fragrance. When it became a part of the permanent collection, I finally sampled it and found the perfume discordant. It has a pleasant fruity note reminiscent of Häagen-Dazs Rum Raisin ice cream and a rich balsamic base, but it all comes together to suggest vanilla in the loud and screechy manner of a candle rather than a fine fragrance.

Vanilla, along with its synthetic variants, is an important perfumery material as well as an integral part of Guerlain fragrances. It forms the main accord of Jicky and Shalimar, lends L’Heure Bleue a plush foil and softens the dark amber of Nahéma. It makes perfumery accords suave and caressing by removing any sharp edges. However, vanilla by itself is often boring. It does not have a strong character like patchouli, iris or vetiver which can play the leading role with very few supporting elements. Successful vanilla dominated compositions like Parfums de Nicolaï Vanille Tonka, Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée or Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille tend to layer this note with other strong accents to play up its luscious sweetness.

On the other hand, the vanilla of Spiritueuse Double Vanille forms a single tune, which after a brief period of time becomes monotonous. Like a more recent edition of another Guerlain uber-oriental, Tonka Impériale, Spiritueuse Double Vanille is hardly a subtle, nuanced fragrance. Its sweetness, while tempered somewhat by the smoky woods and spices, nevertheless makes the fragrance feel like a heavy draping.

I know that Spiritueuse Double Vanille has a strong fan base, and I often notice on various fragrance forums the question of what other fragrances are similar. The closest fragrance for me is Chopard Casmir, although it has a stronger candied note that gives it a vibrant, lighthearted quality. Also, the smoky and woody L’Artisan Havana Vanille / Vanille Absolument might be a good choice to consider.

Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille includes notes of pink pepper, bergamot, incense, cedarwood, rose, ylang ylang, vanilla, benzoin.

Sample: my own acquisition

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23 Comments

  • Elisa: Funny you should remark on the note “reminiscent of Häagen-Dazs Rum Raisin ice cream” — this is exactly what I like about SDV! It’s the only vanilla fragrance I know of that actually smells as boozy and heady as real vanilla extract. I get enough other notes (rose, incense, even some licorice and tobacco) to add interest and complexity to the composition. Oddly, I don’t usually fall in love vanilla-heavy compositions (such as the three “successful” ones you mention), so maybe SDV is a vanilla for people who don’t usually like vanilla in perfume? July 27, 2011 at 12:55pm Reply

  • Jen: SDV is the boozy vanilla I’ve been searching for. It’s price has kept me from buying a full bottle. If Chopard Casmir is anywhere near close to similar, I’m going to have to try it. It’s definitely got a better price point. July 27, 2011 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Judith: I first noticed Chopard in a scent strip in a magazine, I fell in love and wore it for years with many, many compliments. It was not a success, and distribution in the USA was dropped. I ordered from Canada, and even went to the Chopard store in Beverly Hills. Now, what I have is old…and I wanted to buy new…I found it is in new packaging, this not very long ago, and I have a photo on my fb photos…We are all seduced daily by new…but I find myself going back to the tried and true….what worked for me then still does! Casmir is a beautiful, Oriental, somewhat sweet fragrance, which is what I love, with Vanilla, also what I love….I ordered Spirituese, and canceled…decided to back to Casmir, thank you for verifying my instincts! July 27, 2011 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find those three to be less heady than SDV. Then again, after I made my own vanilla tincture for the first time, nothing at all in a perfume form comes close to capturing its luscious, dark fragrance. July 27, 2011 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: Casmir is definitely worth trying, although the accents are a bit different. SDV is creamier and smokier, Casmir is brighter, crisper. Still, if I have to choose between spending $225 on SDV and Casmir, I would choose Casmir. July 27, 2011 at 1:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find Casmir to be much more interesting to wear. It is not a nuanced and delicate fragrance either, but that is the beauty of these kinds of big orientals. I also get a lot of compliments on it. July 27, 2011 at 1:11pm Reply

  • Judith: Please, IF anyone is interested in Casmir, DO NOT BUY from a discounted fragrance site. It will be OLD. Call or email Chopard! I am not saying the formulation has changed, but for ME, old is old. Fragrances have a shelf life. I keep my most treasured in a dark cabinet, away from light. They do not sit out. And then, only some have lasting value through years. Please, note, this is MY observations! IF you buy it, anything, use it and adore it…do not hoard…my pleasure is in using… July 27, 2011 at 1:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is too bad that Chopard fragrances are so hard to find in the US. July 27, 2011 at 1:16pm Reply

  • HemlockSillage: Thanks for the review! I think you put your finger on exactly why I’m not loving SDV; it is the rum/raisin notes. Vanilla can be beautiful, but I like dry, smoky vanilla and incense. My vanilla HG is Le Labo’s Vanille 44.

    I just realized that rum in fragrance rather is a turn off for me–my only rum noted love is BK’s Strait to Heaven. It has so many other things going on from patchouli, amber and cedar, that I’m easily distracted from the rum. I’d be curious to try the Chopard, and will, if I run across it. Thanks for your thoughtful reviews! Be well. July 27, 2011 at 1:37pm Reply

  • HemlockSillage: Sorry I can’t spell today. . .Straight to Heaven is the title of the By Killian fragrance. I waffled on smoky, too 😀 Sigh. Fingers engage faster than brain. July 27, 2011 at 1:41pm Reply

  • karin: I also did not care for SDV. I don’t get any of the other notes in it. It smells like vanilla extract to me – nothing more. I don’t want to smell like vanilla extract…though I know others love it.

    I wore Casmir years ago. It’s still available? Wow. Thought it was long gone. Quite a heady, rich scent as I remember. July 27, 2011 at 4:53pm Reply

  • Kym: So nice to know I’m not the only person who does not admire this scent. I sprayed it on my shoulder while wearing a sleeveless shirt (closer to the nose) and actually wanted to rip my arm off to get the smell away from me! Oddly, it reminded me of kalamata olives… July 27, 2011 at 6:20pm Reply

  • Cait: This one polluted a file cabinet after I exiled it to the garage. Out with the rubbish! Not to put too fine a point on it. A damn shame when vanilla is such the core of the Guerlain story to do it this way. Hmph. July 27, 2011 at 7:43pm Reply

  • Ines: He, he, I’d be happy to take all those unloved bottles and decants of SDV. 😉
    I love the fact that it’s boozy and it makes me feel comfortable and warm.
    I do wish though that the price was more reasonable… July 28, 2011 at 4:08am Reply

  • Zazie: SDV, like Bois d’Arménie and Tonka Impériale, have been huge disappointments for me. As a Guerlain fangirl, I lusted after these very exclusive releases, devoured reviews and planned trips, but when I finally tried the fragrances on skin I discovered ordinary, tooth-achingly sweet chunky accords. I totally get your “candle” reference. In addition, for a reason or another, each fragrance made my stomach turn: you might smile and think I am exaggerating, but (happily for my wallet) I’m not! 😉
    I acknowledge that they are different species, and appreciate the fact that BDA does recreate somehow the scent of the famous paper strips, but for me they fail as prestige perfumes on oh-so- many levels. SDV is regressively and disgustingly sweet, at least for my tastes. I should disclose that I am not the “ ‘gimme straight vanilla” type – I appreciate Havana Vanille (also the Jo Malone Vanilla and anise was surprisingly nice), and absolutely love Shalimar, Jicky, and all the family…but my circle of admissible vanilla acquaintances decidedly ends there! July 28, 2011 at 4:47am Reply

  • Suzanna: I bought a bottle of this, sent 10 ML to a friend, and have never worn it. Looking back, SDV was in a run-off with Bois d’Armenie and Tonka Imperiale and by virtue of winning that fairly close race became the “winner” and therefore the one I purchased.

    As you point out, it is candle-like. It’s that particular flat vanilla that is hallmark to every vanilla candle known to man, gummed up with a fruitiness and a bushel of rum-soaked wood.

    Have just revisited Casmir. I never liked it much, but now things have changed. In very small doses it is enjoyable (and a lot cheaper than SDV). July 28, 2011 at 7:37am Reply

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: I very much appreciated this review. Something happened in my relationship with SDV. To begin with I was in love but then I began noticing that I didn’t get the smokiness and incense others did and it bugged me. Now all I smell is your rum raisin ice cream and whilst I love to eat that stuff I do not want to smell of it! I’m interested in the Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensee (please forgive lack of accents)as my favourite vanilla is Le Labo’s Vanille 44 (and I also like the vanilla in Le Labo Patchouli 24). Nicola July 28, 2011 at 8:11am Reply

  • Carrie Meredith: I’m a big fan of SDV, but then I love Iris Ganache, Toka Imperiale- toothache inducing stuff. Thierry Wasser makes me dessert every day and my skin gobbles it up and asks for more.

    I think a good, less expensive alternative to SDV is Diptyque Eau Duelle. I can’t really wear Eau Duelle or SDV in the hot weather, but I definitely crave them when it’s cold. July 28, 2011 at 10:54am Reply

  • Victoria: I love that ice cream flavor, but I certainly do not want to smell of it. 🙂 In general, some rummy notes like davana are wonderful, but in this particular fragrance, they seem so heavy to me. July 28, 2011 at 11:54am Reply

  • Victoria: It happens to all of us! 🙂 July 28, 2011 at 11:54am Reply

  • dleep: I actually like this scent and wish I could afford a full bottle. Tried some dupes but they were just not the same. July 28, 2011 at 12:05pm Reply

  • violetnoir: Really,V? I love this fragrance. It is rich and heavy, but I find it perfect for a cold winter day. I like its boozy effect, too!

    Hugs and love! July 28, 2011 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Casmir has a yummy mango/cocoanut scent that makes me think of a trropical vacation in winter… it’s a bit heavy for summer in the city, though. Victoria, wiould you do a column sometime on the connection between perfume and jewelry? Some jewelry houses like Bulgari are so successful as perfumers, that people are often surprised that they are also jewelers! July 28, 2011 at 7:20pm Reply

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