Perfume Pen Pals: M. Micallef Note Vanillee Part 2


Do you realize your pining for M. Micallef Note Vanillée lasted just over a year before you eventually bought it? Let's review the timeline of your obsession, culled from your emails:

10 Feb 2009
Have you tried M. Micallef's Note Vanillée at the Scent Bar? It's not quite an incense vanilla, but it is boozy and amber-y and licorice-y. They sent me a sample of it unsolicited and I was awfully impressed. If you like Comme des Garçons Avignon sweetened or especially Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, you need to go here next.

11 Feb 2009
I'm buying Note Vanillée next.

16 Feb 2009
I'm considering not getting Note Vanillée because I want to try Jean-Claude Ellena's new Hermessence Vanille Galante first. (Nobody needs too many vanillas.)

10 Aug 2009
Funny, I still haven't purchased Note Vanillée. Nor will I ever. I tried more Micallefs and I'm completely over that line.

19 Feb 2010
So yesterday, I perused the perfume blogs and came upon a mention of an old favorite from my wish list: M. Micallef Note Vanillée. I was nervous to learn it was no longer available at LuckyScent. Not simply "out of stock," but removed from the website altogether. I liked this one, really liked it, as you might remember from an early Perfume Pen Pal exchange. Thank goodness I found a bottle, at Four Seasons, a "bottom of the wish list" purchase suddenly made urgent because of lack of availability. I'll let you know how it goes. And, of course, send you a sample.

5 Apr 2010
Have you tried the Micallef Note Vanillée yet? (I know, you can't try a hundred things at once.) I want to hear your take on that one, even if you hate it. Or especially if you hate it. Unlike some, I'm fascinated when things I like are hated.

So Dan, while I deemed it "fuckin' lush" after a passing sniff at the Scent Bar in February 2009, I just now applied a proper spray when I came across the decant you'd sent. And my analysis? Why, it's nothing more than your dreaded "tasty little cookie out of the oven", the very thing you don't want to feel like. It's sweet, it's vanilla, it smells like baked goods. How is that not a tasty little cookie?

Sure, there's a certain boozy complexity, a bit of woodiness, but the thing's still edible. And the cookie-ness really comes out when you smell it next to By Killian Love, which is arid vanilla-licorice paper. And when you smell it next to Le Labo Vanille 44, that smoothly austere vanilla incense.

What say you?


Oh no, no, Katie, I get in after a trying day and this is the first thing I see?

What say I is this:

Vanilla perfumes are like romantic comedies, all sweet and pleasingly predictable, and I don't like being put in the position of defending any of them. Because once you start down that path, once you start parsing out scenes from a Hugh Grant movie in an effort to explain why it's not like every other rom-com, that it's smarter, more intricate, that in the end it earns its sentiment, you eventually realize you're arguing for Hugh Grant and that's just absurd.

But I'll bite. Note Vanillée is a tasty little cookie, yes, but it's more than that. First, it's a proper perfume and not one of those overly sweet Yankee Candle gourmands. It has stages and soon after that initial cookie stage, there's an unmistakably adult stage. Did you not smell this stage, when things turn slightly dark and you think of shot glasses and ashtrays?

Sure, it's not austere like Vanille 44, it's a little more sloppy and evocative of a less formal environment. Vanille 44 is a contemporary-art opening, Note Vanillée is a 1962 dinner party with the wives. And, yes, one of the wives might've baked cookies because that's what wives did in 1962, but she also had a nip of something strong before arriving, she's wearing her favorite slip, and she has a couple of filthy jokes prepared in case the party lacks pizzazz.

Note Vanillée is not only about the cookies, KP. That's just its foreground, its emblem of acceptability, a way to initially make everyone feel comfortable before things get more loosey-goosey with all its boozy, resin-y goodness. I bet it has benzoin, at least based on how you describe the smell of benzoin. And if that's the case, then call me a bunny.


Read M. Micallef Note Vanillée Part 1 here.


  1. Dan, you bit! You're defending a bakery, erm, a vanilla fragrance! But lest you think that I'm a hopeless anti-gourmand snob, I must confess to the reason for my aversion to vanillas. In my early days of fumeheadedness, I woke up one morning and realized that I might develop jaundice due to the overtaxation of my liver from massive overdoses of IPdF Vaniglia del Madagascar. Okay, not really. I woke up one morning and suddenly my vanillas made me just a bit queasy.

    So Katie, I can't even wear LL Vanille 44. I've tried. Or Guerlain SDV. I want to. Really. But I have a slight aversion. Sort of like my bunny-phobia. Nothing's sacred.

  2. Melissa, I think vanillas are truly one of those life-enhancing/disgusting perfume ingredients. In fact, I'm surprised you moved from one camp to the other. Andy Tauer cynically says that if you want to create a popular perfume, "add vanilla". But there are plenty of nilla-phobes who don't like food in their perfume.

  3. melisand61, I know, I know, and there's no defending myself. On principle, I agree with you and Andy Tauer about vanilla perfumes and yet I do own a few. And I occasionally wear them. Which I suppose makes me unprincipled. The potential for shame exists down every road. Though I skipped Hugh Grant's last movie. So there's that.

  4. Katie, I'm not a true nillaphobe. I'm a soli-nillaphobe. In fact, I like a lot of scents with a good dose of the sweet stuff in the base. But after a year or two of being in the true believer camp, I o.d.'ed. And like I said yesterday, a good Guerlain gourmand (Iris Ganache anyone?) makes me very happy indeed.

    Dan, who said perfume and principles make good bedfellows anyway?