Scent Sample Sunday: JD Vanille Farfelue

Scent Sample Sunday: JD Vanille Farfelue

Jeffrey Dame is well known to perfumistas, as the founder of Jeffrey Dame Perfumery and creator of indie classics like Dark Horse and Black Flower Mexican Vanilla. He and perfumer Hugh Spencer have created a line of what he calls “post-modern perfumes”, one of which is a major favorite of mine (Duality). But today, I’m trying out another in the line: Vanille Farfelue. The name translates to “crazy vanilla”, as Mr. Dame explained:

“It’s hard to make a great vanilla perfume, but it’s so very easy to make a good vanilla scent. Basically, you can put on a dab of vanilla food extract from your kitchen pantry and someone is bound to tell you how wonderful you smell. So vanilla is easy then. Using aldehydic notes in perfumery is also so very easy, but using aldehydes well or in an interesting manner is exceedingly difficult. A decent slug of aldehydes blended with say a classic rose note will transport you immediately to….a fusty and dry old-fashioned perfume from eighty years ago which is somehow one-dimensional and overwhelming at the same time. Aldehydic perfumes are often nose-wrinklers. But in a perfume workbench eureka moment, using aldehydic notes as a lift to slice through a sticky vanilla note and seeing the composition elevate up into the air to a place perfume normally doesn’t go to — now that’s crazy, a crazy vanilla….JD VANILLE FARFELUE. Sprinkle a touch of this and that into this aldehydic vanilla blend and you have a short concise perfume formula from JD JEFFREY DAME which turns heads every which way you go.”

The opening of Vanille Farfelue is indeed strongly aldehydic, and I love it. One immediately smells the kinship to Chanel No. 5 and Chanel No. 22. The heart notes are all floral: rose, violet, lily of the valley, ylang ylang. Base notes include vanilla, sandalwood, and vetiver. This combination really is clever; Vanille Farfelue starts off like a vintage floral, albeit with a lighter touch, and evolves into something like a modern gourmand, without being sweet or cloying. It got an enthusiastic response from my husband, who is drawn to vanilla scents (as are so many people).

Real vanilla is a very complex compound, and in recent years, the cost of vanilla beans has skyrocketed, due to major storm damage in Madagascar, an important producer of vanilla. Chemists have known how to create synthetic vanillin since the 19th century, so we’re not in danger of losing our beloved vanilla. And believe it or not, there is actually an ice cream flavor called “Crazy Vanilla”!

Ice cream cone with crazy vanilla, Newport Creamery

Crazy Vanilla ice cream, from Newport Creamery

Vanille Farfelue is a delightful, happy fragrance. It is friendly and comforting, without being sticky or gooey. I like it very much, though I think my heart still belongs to JD’s Duality, of that line. There are so many outstanding fragrances with strong vanilla notes, like Shalimar and its flankers, that I can’t say Vanille Farfelue will displace any of those classics. But it is charming, it lasts a good while, and it does have that aldehydic opening and a floral surprise at its heart. I will enjoy wearing it!

Here is the recipe for the beautiful vanilla/citrus cake pictured above and below, from the blog My French Country Home.

Citrus cake with vanilla icing and flowers, by Molly Wilkinson

Molly Wilkinson’s Citrus Cake, My French Country Home

What is your favorite fragrance with vanilla notes?

Scent Sample Sunday: Anne Klein II, Revisited

Scent Sample Sunday: Anne Klein II, Revisited

One of my regular fragrances in the 1980s was Anne Klein II, launched in 1985. That was the year I moved into New York City, sharing an apartment with my younger sister and two friends from college. It was exciting: New York was on the upswing after its near-bankruptcy and political troubles of the 1970s; Wall Street was on the rise; socialites were unabashedly socializing; and we were in our early 20s, enjoying being young in a great, vibrant city. Need I say more? We all had responsible jobs, but we also had plenty of energy to go out after work to places like The Bear Bar and King Tut’s Wawa Hut. We had fun!

I associate Anne Klein II with all of that; and it is indeed a warm, happy, floriental fragrance (also the only one that has ever prompted a total stranger to ask me, on the subway, what my perfume was). Its top notes were: bergamot, galbanum, peach, rosewood, and lemon; heart notes were jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, marigold, carnation, and orris root; base notes were vanilla, amber, sandalwood, musk, patchouli, benzoin, and civet. Victoria wrote a long post about it several years ago at her blog “Bois de Jasmin“, identifying the perfumer as Yves Tanguy, who also created another favorite of hers and mine, Jacomo Silences, as well as Lancome’s Magie Noire. Sadly, AKII was discontinued many years ago, although I continued to hoard my last bottle of eau de parfum. I was glad I had, since the price went through the roof on eBay, commanding ridiculous amounts far beyond the $19.99 on my original 50 ml bottle. This seems even more egregious when one recalls that “Anne Klein II” was the name of the design house’s “bridge line”, which offered less expensive options than the main designer collection to younger and less affluent women.

I was very happy to discover Jeffrey Dame’s JD Duality, which is not a dupe of AKII, but enough of an homage to it that it fulfills the wish for a semi-sheer, warm vanilla-based floriental. Its list of notes is somewhat different: artemisia, lemon, bergamot, cinnamon, coriander, cedar leaf, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, carnation, water lily, lily of the valley, vanilla absolute, vanilla, benzoin, cedar wood, patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum and musk. Duality is also a great value: high quality at Jeffrey Dame’s usual reasonable prices. It seems to be sold out right now on his website; let’s hope he makes more, because it’s great stuff!

Imagine my surprise, though, when on a recent visit to T.J. Maxx, I spotted a tall, 100 ml spray bottle of what looked like the original Anne Klein II! For $12.99! I realized it couldn’t possibly be the original, but the packaging was identical, and for that modest amount, it was worth making a blind buy. Reader, I bought it on the spot.

It turns out to be a relaunch of AKII by a company called Palm Beach Beaute, and it is a very respectable reissue, manufactured in China. Since I still have a half bottle of the original, I have been able to compare them directly, one on each arm. While the original is richer and deeper, the new version smells very similar, and lasts almost as long. It even goes through the same stages of drydown at about the same pace as the original, at least on my skin. I suspect that the differences I can smell are mainly due to changes in ingredients that were necessary to comply with newer regulations. To be fair, also, the richness and depth that I smell in my original bottle may be partly because it has aged well for 30 years. As it dries down on my skin, its basenotes keep getting richer and sweeter, more so than those of the reformulation.

If you miss Anne Klein II and can’t wait for more JD Duality to arrive, look for this reissue! Like the original, it is a semi-sheer, vanilla-based floriental, not too heavy but with a warmth that is very alluring, especially in autumn. Some commenters on Fragrantica have not cared for it, but many have. If you buy online, it will be important to know the difference between the original and the reissue, as the packaging is so similar but the prices so different. The original was made in France by Parlux, and it will say so on the bottom of the box. The reissue lists many more detailed ingredients on the back of its box, as is now required, and it will say “Designed in the United States, Made in China” on the back, with the company name of Palm Beach Beaute LLC and its website, palmbeachbeaute.com.

It seems to be rare that a relaunch or reformulation satisfies fans of the original fragrance, but I am very pleased with this one, especially at the bargain price of $13-15 for 100 ml. Did you ever wear Anne Klein II? Have you tried the reissue? Or have you found any other reformulations or relaunches of favorite fragrances that you found acceptable?

Scent Sample Sunday: Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

Scent Sample Sunday: Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

In honor of American perfumer Jeffrey Dame’s generous giveaways last weekend and this one, on Facebook Fragrance Friends, today’s Scent Sample Sunday is devoted to one of the samples he sent me in addition to my freebie:  Black Flower Mexican Vanilla.

It is on my wrists as I write this, and wow, is it scrumptious! It’s not really gourmand, though; it has enough citrus, floral and other notes to prevent that. It is one of the “Artist Collection Perfumes”, described as creative collaborations between Jeffrey Dame and his father, artist Dave Dame. The artwork on the bottles’ labels is by Dame Pere. The fragrance is described as “a blend of vanilla absolute with touches of lemon, grapefruit, caramel, nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, musk, and tonka.” It was launched in 2014. You can read more about Dame Perfumery and its three generations of Dames here.

Black Flower Mexican Vanilla is mesmerizing. It reminds me of the late, great Anne Klein II , a discontinued gem that I wore in the 1980s and which now commands outrageous prices online, if and when you can find it. Like AKII, it opens with a healthy dose of citrus, but the vanilla permeates top, heart and base. Like AKII, the floral notes emerge shortly after the opening and blend beautifully with the omnipresent vanilla. BFMV has gotten enthusiastic nods of approval from the two males in my household (husband and teenaged son), also reminiscent of AKII, which is the only fragrance I’ve ever worn that got me compliments from strangers on the New York subway.

I am especially enjoying BFMV because I’ve been looking for a vanilla-based fragrance I would like. My preferences lean heavily to greens, florals and chypres, with a special fondness for muguet and narcissus (yes, I have two bottles of Penhaligon’s Ostara). I haven’t been won over by any truly gourmand scents, and so many vanillas now are gourmand more than Oriental. BFMV is classified as an “Oriental Vanilla” while AKII is listed as an “Oriental Floral”, paying heed to the spice and woody notes each one includes.

Vanilla has a fascinating history, too; its orchid-flowered vines are native to Mexico and Guatemala, where it was first discovered by Europeans. National Geographic explains:

Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, a sprawling conglomeration of some 25,000 different species. Vanilla is a native of South and Central America and the Caribbean; and the first people to have cultivated it seem to have been the Totonacs of Mexico’s east coast. The Aztecs acquired vanilla when they conquered the Totonacs in the 15th Century; the Spanish, in turn, got it when they conquered the Aztecs.

Vanilla orchid vine and flowers by Dan Sams

Vanilla orchid flowers; image by Dan Sams via Getty Images

The Totonacs are supposed to have used vanilla pods as a sacred herb, using it in rituals, medicines, and perfumes. I find that the photograph on Dame Perfumery’s website, featured at the top of this post, is very evocative of that history and the actual scent, which is darker, spicier, drier and more beguiling than your standard vanilla. Nielsen-Massey, a purveyor of vanilla extract, points out:

Even after its discovery by Europeans, Mexico was still the sole grower of vanilla beans for another 300 years. That’s because of the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla orchid and an indigenous tiny bee called the Melipone. The bee was responsible for the pollination of the vanilla orchid flower, resulting in the production of the fruit… Vanilla from Mexico has a flavor that combines creamy and woody notes with a deep, spicy character, making it a delicious complement to chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and other warm spices. Even more, Mexican vanilla works wonderfully in tomato sauces and salsas, where it smooths out the heat and acidity of these dishes.

BFMV is very true to this heritage, as it tames the acidity of the citrus notes and brings its own creamy, woody, spicy smoothness and warmth to other notes like nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver.

As it dries down, I am finding that the vanilla intensifies while the floral notes slowly fade. Luckily for me, I love the notes that seem to be taking the stage with the vanilla during the drydown, especially sandalwood.

Black Flower Mexican Vanilla is a new love for me! It will be especially welcome now that autumn is here and the weather is cooling down. Thank you, Jeffrey Dame!

American Perfumers

Allure Magazine has posted a fascinating article on several independent American perfumers: The American Perfumer’s Modern Approach to Fragrance.

A movement composed of independent, homegrown perfumers is reshaping the fragrance landscape, gradually changing the way we approach and experience scent. Straying from tradition, these olfactory trailblazers are creating fragrances with a distinctly American feel — solitary, rugged, luminous. A new frontier. But there’s another virtue, beyond the pioneering spirit, that motivates this group to push boundaries and break genres. It’s called defiance, and it’s just as entrenched in our American mentality. These artisans are inspired not necessarily by their love of fragrance but by a sense of opposition to it.

If you are curious about CB I Hate Perfume, Juniper Ridge, D.S. & Durga, Joya, Phlur, Imaginary Authors, check out journalist Liana Schaffner’s take on on their work. As for me, I think there are a few more discovery set and sample purchases in my near future! Even though my reviews here have not kept pace with the trial sizes I already have from other brands … I’m surprised she didn’t include Jeffrey Dame’s Dame Perfumery, another independent brand I am eager to explore, or Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Perfumes. As I think about it, though, there are so many American perfumers who could have been mentioned in an article like this that there simply isn’t enough space.

Have you tried any of these brands’ fragrances? What did you think?

Update: Victoria and Jessica at Bois de Jasmin have pointed out that the Allure article did not mention any women indie perfumers, of whom there are many! So they and other contributors to that (excellent) blog propose to remedy the oversight by starting a series of articles about those important contributors to modern American perfumery, starting this week. Check them out!

Featured image: copyright Jared Platt.