Spiritueuse Double Vanille, a limited edition by Guerlain (as of 2016 it's been made part of the permanent collection of L'Art et la Matière), is a dark, liquorishe-y vanilla that has been rendered more animalistic thanks to a significant dose of cedar wood. Anyone who has walked on a street in a Northern America city where chips of cedar wood are abundantly used to fertilize the soil of gardens can remember how cedar wood smells after the rain; it smells like the sudden presence of a wild beast who would have escaped from the city zoo and is hiding behind the bushes, except it is just the exacerbated aroma of damp cedar wood...
Spiritueuse Double Vanille thus oscillates between gentle sweetness and a more feral quality, sometimes understated, sometimes more overtly erotic. At this point of the perception, a quote by Jean-Paul Guerlain regarding the properties of vanilla starts making more concrete sense:
"If a colour or fragrance were to be associated with each day, like the planets were in ancient times, sandalwood would be the Sun, saffron would be Jupiter, and without doubt vanilla would be Venus."
Working with this intuition of a deeper erotic quality ascribed to vanilla -- more commonly seen as a comforting gourmand ingredient -- the perfumer has pushed some notes to the point where they feel leather-like or skin-like, as the woodsy notes of cedar start morphing into nuances of raw leather, sweat and even indoles.
The innocent vanilla of our childhood evoking the ivory swirl of an Italian ice-cream is not absent but as in the in the background and by touches only. This vanilla is mainly dark, with nuances of tobacco, leather, smoke, and spirits. It is also more aqueous than creamy, with a honeyed texture. The gourmand facet of the scent feels a little bit like a Baba au Rhum that would have been steeped in an exotic spicy vanilla liquor, its spongy texture infused with all the aromas of a rich alcohol and its surface sprinkled with dark black spices and shiny slivers of vanilla pods.
The floral facet of the composition is also interesting; suddenly an Aqua Allegoria Guerlain perfume called Ylang and Vanilla comes to mind. If one pays attention more to the floral notes, which include also Bulgarian rose, it feels like a narcotic spicy creamy bouquet, a small one, worn in a button hole. The perfume is unisex but offers the pleasing sensation of an old-school Victorian floral masculine scent, hidden somewhere in the recesses of the fragrance.
The aroma of a cured vanilla pod is one of the most intoxicating that exist; Spiritueuse Double Vanille smells like an infusion of it. It is one of those perfumes that melt into the skin to resurface with deeper intensity overtime. Its dry-down is delightfully complex, with nuances of blonde hay, cold wet incense -- as if you were standing in the doorway of Notre-Dame de Paris and the cobblestones had been simultaneously steamed with church-y frankincense, the sweat of humanity and hit by a cold rain -- and burnt caramel -- probably a whiff of Crème Brûlée coming from a neighboring café --, among other things. Eros, transcendence, and food -- everything that matters in this life.
Top notes are pink peppercorns and bergamote; heart notes are incense, cedar wood, Bulgarian rose, and ylang-ylang; base notes are vanilla and benzoin.
The perfume is available at Bergdorf Goodman.