L’Artisan Parfumeur is the second niche line I fell for, when I sniffed their gorgeous fruity musk scent, Mure et Musc Extreme in 1998 while shopping in New York. There was something so transparent and “different” about the line, and the scents seemed so odd compared to the standard commercial releases. The added novelty of shopping at Barney’s and just being in New York City no doubt shaped my impression of the line, and for that, I am grateful. I have beautiful associations with a beautiful perfume line.
I was already a full fledged perfume junkie and had an overflowing dresser full of bottles from almost all the mainstream lines. At the time I worked for an agent promoting new releases of many lines of perfumes from our humble Canadian Alfred Sung to all the Italian houses (D&G, Versace, Bulgari, Ungaro, etc) as well as Byblos, La Perla and some other more obscure but still mostly mainstream lines. I had OD’d on the 90s powerhouse scents like Mugler Angel, Chanel Allure & Christian Dior Dolce Vita after working in environments where they were being launched, meaning sprayed everywhere. All. The. Time. Mercilessly. To this day I can spot either one of those a mile away as they do not change on anyone’s skin (sorry to any fans, but they don’t) and maintain a screeching linear tone that makes me want to cut my nose off.
My first niche line was Annick Goutal. I had fallen for Annick Goutal probably in 1994 when my local Holt Renfrew (the smallest in Canada) had the line there for a very brief period. Serendipity I’d say, as they carry only the most popular lines due to limited space. Their popular and fresh Eau d'Hadrien (lemon, grapefruit, ylang ylang) became my daytime scent and the sultry Passion (tuberose, ylang, patchouli, vanilla etc) was my nighttime go-to. What I loved most about Annick Goutal was no one I knew had even heard of it. DING DING this was the clincher and soon having a unique perfume that no one else might be wearing became a Very Important Thing.
Back to L’Artisan Parfumeur. Dismissed by many hardcore perfumistas as too bland and mainstream (although a few of their recent releases have been interesting…) I still love this line. They were the first house to do a fig scent and their Premier Figuier is still one of the best creamy fig scents- it was my eldest daughter Emilie’s signature perfume for years. Which is why, as much as I love its green, creamy, powdery and slightly coconut-y scent I can never wear it as it just smells like her. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Funny how we can associate a scent with that person and it becomes impossible to mold it into anything or anyone else.
Vanilia is an older scent from the house having been released in 1978. Perhaps it smells a bit like the 70s where high quality ingredients were tossed into perfumes pell-mell, like a soup. The notes given (or that I have compiled online) are simple- ylang ylang, vanilla bean, amber and sandalwood. There is a fruity note that perhaps comes from the ylang ylang with the vanilla making it almost foody- but it is never too sweet or cloying. It dries down with the amber & sandalwood adding an almost smoky resinous scent, that sits and warms on the skin never becoming cloying or saccharine. The smoke is barely hinted at before it goes and for that I am grateful as I am not a fan of smoky notes. Its more of a soft barely sweet incense. Vanilia is a bit of a shape shifter, one minute being a soft vanilla scent then becoming an amber-y floral. Some have complained that Vanilia is too soft and too ethereal and have wished for an Extreme or more intense version. I think that would take away from the whole point of this scent and I love it just the way it is.
Truly one of the oddest vanilla scents I was never quite sure if I liked it. I am not a fan of sugary sweet scents and, if you are looking for straight up vanilla scent, you may be disappointed by Vanilia. If you want to smell like cookie dough or cake, this is not the vanilla for you. This is a grown up vanilla with the smooth relaxed vibe I associate with the 70s. Think soft flowing hair, maybe Indian cotton dresses and long skirts and even YSL Safari jackets. Maybe some George Benson playing in the background while you mix drinks and get the fondue ready. The beautiful yet carefree style of Talitha Getty comes to mind and Vanilia to me smells like effortless bohemian luxury. Luxury is key because there is nothing hippie or head shop about this perfume. Vanilia is for the beautiful people, to wear when you are going skiing in Klosters, or dinner in Biarritz after surfing all day. It isn’t loud and doesn’t try to hard. Like you are wearing just a touch of make up, with your hair down and sporting a carefree attitude, in Vanilia you are enveloped in a soft cashmere wrap that is so fine it’s almost ethereal- you can barely feel it on your skin.
News on the internet says Vanilia is discontinued but several retailers I know of have plenty of stock. The manager at the L’Artisan Parfumeur boutique at Ogilvy in Montreal told me it was not discontinued, and, have it on their price list catalogue they so kindly send me from time to time. Yet, I have decided to get a back up bottle…just in case…
L'Artisan Parfumeur is available in Canada at boutiques, and they have a freestanding boutique within Ogilvy Department Store in Montreal.