- Scent Semantics no. 4
This month’s word for the Scent Semantics project is TASTE. Merriam-Webster defines taste in several ways, as either a verb or a noun. For the purposes of this post, I’ll use the word TASTE as a noun, and in this particular context/post as:
- The distinctive quality of an experience
- Individual preference, inclination
- Critical judgment, discernment or appreciation
- Manner or aesthetic quality of such discernment
In other words, perfect for a blog post concerning perfume, inclination, appreciation and discernment. It is a marvel, universally acknowledged, that the evolution of a perfumista can create seismic shifts in the quality of an experience, individual preference, critical judgment and the aesthetic quality of that discernment.
When I was given the next word for Scent Semantics, I knew precisely which perfume to write about. The Seismic Shift that was, and indeed is, Spiritueuse Double Vanille from Guerlian’s L’Art et La Matière line of perfumes, created by Jean Paul Guerlain in 2007.
Spiritueuse Double Vanille, henceforward referred to as SDV, as indeed it is known on many Facebook perfume groups, was a definite seismic shift in my personal perception of Perfume with a capital P. I was never, ever, a gourmand kind of gal, until SDV – and indeed another much-lamented and now discontinued L’Art et La Matière perfume, Iris Ganache – upended all my personal expectations of what, precisely, would be a perfume I wanted to wear without wanting to eat it, and as we all know, no matter how swoonworthy the perfume, all perfume tastes horrible.
SDV, the gourmet’s gourmand, is to my nose, the Vanilla to End All Vanillas.
Vanilla as a flavor, inclination or taste has sadly devolved to become a synonym for boring, bland and decidedly conformist. Once upon a storied time, I trained as a pastry chef, and came to know a thing or two about that unassuming orchid that was neither bland nor boring and emphatically non-conformist. Any kind of vanilla heightens all other sensual perceptions, but especially taste, touch and aroma.
Vanilla planifolia, the OG version, was once upon a time the byword for all things exceedingly costly, exotic and otherworldly. Native to Mexico, it since evolved into three distinct species, all with differing olfactory profiles; Mexican vanilla, closest to the orchid the Maya and Aztecs so adored, is woody and almost chocolate-y in character. No accident it was used as a flavoring in the Aztec drink xocolatl. Tahitian vanilla, on the other hand, is ten thousand shades of vanilla flower, floral and almost psychedelic in its profile, whether as a flavoring or as a perfume, and as any perfumista will tell you, the two are to all extents and purposes the same – indeed, what we perceive as flavor or taste is comprised more than anything of aroma – which is to say, smell.
Finally, the most common vanilla, Bourbon vanilla, running the gamut between rich butterscotch and caramel, rum and whiskey and the barrels they’ve aged in, too.
Which brings me back to SDV. Because it is all these things and all these vanillas and none of them. The über-plush silk velvet of vanilla perfumes – trust Guerlain to go all out with vanilla-to-the-max.
Not two weeks ago, I moved cross-country to a new job and a vastly different life. I brought my last dregs of a modest decant of vintage SDV with me for the purposes of this post, and it is everything I could ever want in a vanilla-centered perfume, in terms of evolution from bright to boozy, richly floral to softly spicy, with a l-o-n-g vanilla drydown that makes it perfect to wear on a cold day spent indoors baking cookies, something I’ve been known to do, before snuggling up with my vanilla-loving cat – and eating all the cookies.
Disturbing rumors breathe that SDV has been reformulated beyond recognition and repair, that it is a mere anorexic shadowy ghost of its blowsy, voluptuous self, that we might as well all look elsewhere for that seismic shift of vanilla greatness. I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors, except to say that it pains me more than I care to admit if they’re true. If anyone has anything to add, let me know below, so I can cry my vanilla-flavored tears, and not waste my money.
SDV changed everything – my inclination, my critical judgment, and my discernment in perfumery. It turned a non-gourmand lover into a vanilla fanatic, and added many orchid-colored dimensions to that aspect of perfumery known … as TASTE.
With thanks and love to Ruth the Perfume Dragon.
Don’t miss the other contributors to the Scent Semantics perfume project!
Daisy https://eaulalanyc.com and https://www.instagram.com/coolcookstyle/?hl=en)
Old Herbaceous https://scentsandsensibilities.co