Parfums M. Micallef is a line of French perfumes that bills itself as “a brand of love” and which has recently issued a quartet of vanilla-themed fragrances it calls “Art Collection Vanille.” Vanilla aficionados may remember Micallef’s excellent Note Vanillee, a cult vanilla that disappeared from production only to make a brief reappearance before disappearing again. Don’t go looking to replace Note Vanillee in the new Art Collection; the house strikes out in new directions with this “four movement symphony…written to fulfill individual desires.”
Individual desires aside, one cannot escape the hard fact that vanilla collections are so Nineties. Three words: Comptoir Sud Pacifique. In quick succession, Molinard had one, Victoria’s Secret had one, Bath and Body Works had one, Henri Bendel had one. Micallef’s range of olfactory expression extends no further than these earlier lines: Vanilla Flower, Vanilla Leather, Vanilla Orient, and Vanilla Marine are upscale, more complex variants of their mall-housed predecessors, priced accordingly.
Vanilla Flower is a deceptively named fragrance based more upon fruit than the named flower. The peach note is so enormous that it makes the given flower—rose—seem more like an imaginary olfactive friend than a discernible note. It didn’t develop so much as it did balloon, with the peach concealing the rest of the composition, including the vanilla (which latently turned out to be a high-grade, dry and woody one). The peach note has a fresh and airy effect after it settles that had it nicely drifting over wood notes. I am of two minds about this fragrance. I enjoyed wearing it and would call my experience with it pleasurable. However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’d have been very happy to pay $24.95 for it in Bath and Body Works, circa 1996. Should this have been priced today in the vicinity of forty dollars, I’d snap it up. How perturbing.
Vanilla Leather was the least leathery fragrance that calls itself leather that I’ve encountered. That’s good news for me and bad news for you leather lovers out there. Vanilla Leather is a lavender vanilla that comes up gently powdery and sweet, with very minor traces of cinnamon and cumin spice wormed around the edges. The base notes of wood and dry vanilla pod enchanted me as does normally happen with this type of mix and I used up the sample immediately. And wanted more, but this is the pitfall of testing fragrance. Thanks to the clever use of herbal lavender and a sweet, clear orange blossom over a damp, mildly earthy base, Vanilla Leather is likely the star of the collection and something that would be ideal in the winter.
I’d like to say that Vanilla Orient is a less-expensive variant of Guerlain’s woody, boozy Spiritueuse Double Vanille except that it isn’t really all that less expensive while reading as a definite cognate of the popular Guerlain scent. The resemblance is immediate to my nose, although Vanilla Orient is somewhat lighter. Both seem to reflect a core composition of rose, vanilla, sandalwood, and amber in an intellectual vanilla exercise. I also thought there might be a touch of oud somewhere in the mix. Vanlla Orient would smell new to anyone who hasn’t tried the Guerlain, but it goes without saying that it might not excite anyone who is already familiar with Spiritueuse Double Vanille.
And here is the part where I tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed the salt water taffy, ocean spray, and lemon sherbet amusement park that is Vanilla Marine. Yes, it’s pretty routine stuff—didn’t Molinard make a Vanille Marine once upon a time? Vanilla Marine made me realize that I am tired of maladjusted fragrances or fragrances that are so futuristically synthetic that I wish they would create Space Age anosmia. I hadn’t realized I was looking for a lemony vanilla marine scent, but I guess I was. Despite the semi-gourmand notes, Vanilla Marine is the most unisex of the collection with a faint whiff of men’s cologne (the marine note) embracing the fruity gourmand element.
Collection Vanille’s four scents are pleasing, and that’s not damning with faint praise. I don’t really need a kick in the pants to spur my interest in a fragrance. In fact, often the opposite is required. If vanilla was the chosen flavor of the turn of the century, then it has never really gone away, as this collection proves.
$145.00 for 50 ml; $225.00 for 100 ml