Le Labo Vanille 44

...not the Caligulan smell orgy you might expect.

I’m one of those simple souls who is easily manipulated by concepts of exclusivity and finite shopping time. For me, these conditions trigger an adrenalin surge and heightened anxiety, spiced with a dollop of mild hysteria.

London Heathrow Terminal 3 is often the setting for such wig-outs. The excitement of never-before-seen Duty Free crap combined with the panic of practically missing my plane provides an almost intolerably delicious frisson.

After a last-minute scramble for rare perfumes and foreign magazines, chocolate and potato chips, I burst through the just-closing airplane cabin door, wild-eyed and sweating before rows of calmly seated passengers.

What a rush, man.

Le Labo are doing a Terminal 3 on me with the limited worldwide availability of their “city exclusives” perfumes. Until December 1st, the six fragrances normally found only in Tokyo, London, Paris, New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles are for sale in Le Labo outlets everywhere.

Even if London’s Poivre 23 is a pepper mill overkill, and Dallas’ Aldehyde 44 is so high-pitched that dogs come running when you spray it, the fact that in a few days, I won’t even have the option to buy them without slapping the price of a plane ticket on top gives me pause to reconsider them.

(And please factor in that while the yippiness of P23 and A44 is not to my personal taste, they are both tasty little numbers within their genres.)

But there is one city exclusive that’s really kicking off my Pavlovian response to finite shopping time: Paris’s Vanille 44. Vanille 44 was produced by supernose Alberto Morillas, creator of many blockbusters including Kenzo Flower, Calvin Klein cK One and Marc Jacobs Daisy.

Looks like the Parisians got lucky with their local Le Labo offering. Vanille 44 is muted woody vanilla with incense. It’s a sheer and clear treatment of notes - vanilla bourbon, gaiac wood, amber, incense - that are usually glooped into perfumes like a Caligulan orgy of smells.

I’m not one to shy away from a Caligulan smell orgy, but I am fascinated by the cleanness of V44. You might’ve expected a fuzzy heat from this eau de parfum, but instead, this is high-defroom-temperature” scent that works winter or summer, night or day.

Vanilla can be a chameleon, smelling like a cake at one end of the Vanil-o-meter, and a bale of fresh paper at the other. V44 scores solidly on the paper side of the spectrum. This crisp, dry vanilla is palely sweet, but not foody.

There’s an airy, not-quite-ozonic quality to it. It’s just enough to emphasize V44’s clarity, rather than to hit you with a schnozzful of chemical air. The incense gives it a crisp, menthol lift, without being spiky or smoky.

V44 lingers close to the skin, with a hushed quality. Wearing it is like smelling Comme des Garçons Avignon on your shirt a week after spraying it. It’s subtle, for sure, but distinctive. It’s modern without being weird.

Vanilla-phobes can approach V44 without trepidation, since the focus is more on the woods than the ‘nilla. I think it's a superb, non-yicky vanilla, particularly for menfolk who don’t fancy smelling like a bakery.

If Vanille 44 vaguely sounds like something you’d enjoy wearing, you should grab it before the only place you can find it is in Paris. I’m sweating already. Anyone care to join me on my ramp-up to wild-eyed?

Vanille 44 is available from Le Labo

Image from altphotos.com


  1. I'm a beauty product junkie. MAC always gets me with their limited release items. It's not quite the same as "Paris exclusive," but the timeline thing makes me bite my nails.

    I am a marketer's wet dream.

  2. Aw, don't sell yourself short, teresa! I'm sure you're plenty of people's wet dream.

  3. I totally hear ya on the pulse-pounding limited-time only offers. My brain kicks into a hyperdrive of "Do I want this? Do I 'need this? Is the word 'need' even relevant at such a crossroad? Buy! Buy! Buy!"

    And, "The excitement of never-before-seen Duty Free crap combined with the panic of practically missing my plane provides an almost intolerably delicious frisson" -- is probably the sharpest, most hilarous sentence I've read on your site so far.

    Btw: I picked up a bottle of their Poivre 23. I'm a big fan of its pepper mill overkill. Did you manage to snag a full bottle of the Vanille before the time ran out?

  4. Thanks for the plaudits, Nathan. And no, I didn't have to go for a bottle of Vanille 44 myself, because I piggy-backed on my Perfume Pen Pal Dan's seemingly reckless purchase of it. He sent me a generous decant, and insists that THIS time, he hasn't made a mistake spending so much dough on something unsniffed. Apparently Dan and V44 are as thick as thieves.

  5. Oh, Nathan! The 'want' vs. 'need' quandary, indeed! Go for the gusto, I say.

  6. WOW! I never thought that I would become a one scent person, I can't stop wearing this all the time. The mandarin, incense, gaiac opening is incredible, the vanilla smells like the real thing, not syrupy or cloying. Perfected ease in a bottle. luckily, I splurged for the 100ml bottle, the refills are 350. and available at any Le Labo. I also Love Gaiac10. maybe a two scent person?

    1. Well masc musc, even if you are a two scent person, at least they're both conveniently from one shop.