Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar (2007): An Euro-American Cultural Curio {Perfume Review & Musings}

Warm-Vanilla-Sugar.jpgWarm Vanilla Sugar Eau de Toilette by Bath and Body Works (2007) - to be distinguished from the 2006 limited-edition BBW Seductive Perfume Mist Warm Vanilla Sugar - has an interesting story to tell. It was expressly designed by perfumer David Apel like a puzzle to be solved consisting of the most popular common notes which he could find both in the European and American markets at the time of its creation. Veltol, which is another name for Ethyl Maltol and smells of cotton candy and caramel, is one of the 8 Transatlantic notes.

"I looked at [the top fragrances in the] US Market and the European market -- they were completely different." At the time, gourmand notes dominated in Europe, while the US list was ruled by "very aquatic, sheer" scents. I made a compilation of just the raw materials that were common between the two," he says. "There were only eight. Those eight raw materials in that proportion is Warm Vanilla Sugar by BBW. Everyone said, "This will never sell,"but we presented it and [the client] snapped it up. It's fun to find some kind of puzzle." [Perfumer & Flavorist Magazine]


How it Smells

The perfume opens on an airy floral, orchid-like note of vanilla with a nuance of exotic Jackfruit followed by a more toffee-like impression of sweets, all enlivened and spiced up by a hint of smokiness. Indeed smoke, as users of Liquid Smoke know, can feel like spice for its wake-up-call effect and light jolt given to the nerves...

The Basmati rice accord is distinguishable on its own smelling more at times like sticky rice pudding and at other times like an ethereal impression of rice steam. You can see that the note contributes to add both lightness to the vanilla absolute and brings added fattiness to the buttery toffee impression which nevertheless stops short of smelling like a regular caramel candy; it is a little bit more abstract and suggestive than that.

The Basmati rice accord becomes more distinctive as the watery note in it becomes more discernable. There are fleeting nuances of almond milk and almond-scented glue too.

The gustatory impression in Warm Vanilla Sugar is undeniably present. When you smell the perfume again after a short pause, the general fresh impression of it feels like lifting the lid of a cooking pot containing a hot stew of Thai coconut curry, savory nuance included. Created before Jo Malone Sweet Lime and Cedar (2008), there are common tonalities between the two scents and certainly a shared kinship within the family of gourmand fragrances.

As the perfume further dries down, the almond nuance of heliotrope becomes more prominent accentuating the comforting personality of the scent but also its slightly vintage charm as if L'Heure Bleue or Hypnotic Poison would have accidentally been spilled into a bowl of warm milk made from diluted condensed milk. On another occasion, it makes you think of a Belle-Epoque Après L'Ondée by Guerlain whose flacon would have been filled with dry granulated brown cane sugar.

What prevents the composition from feeling just like a predictable ode to Ethyl Maltol (Thierry Mugler Angel; Aquolina Pink Sugar) are the white notes of Basmati rice and Heliotropin which cut through the brown caramelized crust of the sugar.

Going back to David Apel's quote, we can see more clearly that what he did also was unite the gourmand oriental family, which is popular in Europe, with the sheer musky-floral one, a perennial favorite in the United States. The Basmati Rice note, you suspect, might come from Creed Love in White (2005) which wanted to feature that accord to suggest the ritual of throwing rice grains at newlyweds.

The official list of notes shows that there are indeed 8 distinct notes, as promised. Apel confesses to having a scientific mind-set; it was apparently given leeway in this fragrance made by a perfumer with the soul of an engineer.  

If you test the scent at your next visit to a Bath and Body Works store, you will be able to smell a well thought-out Euro-American cultural curio, something you probably did not suspect was on display at the local mall.

It also goes to showing that perfumes are not inert, stupid objects but really the translations of mental processes inviting you to open the pages of their contents to decipher them.

Notes: sheer florals, vanilla absolute / Basmati rice, coconut, vanilla absolute / vanilla absolute, heliotrope, musk, Veltol, sandalwood.

The fragrance is currently on sale for 50% less at $13.25 for 2.5 fl. oz.        


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