In Japan, people like to say whether they overheat (‘atsugari’) or feel the cold (‘samugari‘), a classification of types that can lead to protracted battles over air conditioning and heating. As all my friends know, I am grotesquely samugari, and have a deep-seated fear of the cold, especially living in an old-ish Japanese house where the creeping fingers of chill have already started to press against the wooden panes. Reminding me, despite the relative balminess of this season, when October, November and even December are sunny and calmly autumnal, that the hateful cold IS COMING.

August in this country is laughably hot – a swamp of sweltering humidity and ant-under-a-magnifiying-glass sun, so boiling it can be debilitating. Yet I quite like it. For some reason, I even thrive in it, like a stone-basking reptile solar-panelling for storage. The second this radiation begins to dip at the end of September it alarms me, as though my power-plug were being pulled. I am hypochondriac, as you can probably tell, but my whole system can feel under attack.

One ploy against the incipient cold, a psychological barrier at least, is of course perfume. And there is nothing better for my spiritual insulation than a warm, true vanilla. I have something verging on a vanilla obsession. As I mentioned in my review of Frazer organics and her inspirations from tropical Madagascar, I practically froth at the mouth at the thought of actually being near to the vanilla orchids; of seeing the workers pollinating them by hand; watching the vanillin-specked, dark, glistening pods fermenting their sweet odour in the sun: those tiny flecks of vanilla you see suspended in custards and yoghurts that so entice me …..miniscule dots of aphrodisiacal pungency, flowing out into the cool, lactic, surrounding deliciousness..

My first vanillic epiphany happened at the age of 13 on a French trip at Easter, a feast attended by several branches of the family I was staying with that concluded with a huge vanilla pudding; un pouding à la vanille brought proudly in on a silver tray. When I spooned some into my young mouth it was as though I had ascended to paradise…I’m sure I must have mooned my eyes, groaning in schoolboy delight:  a world of savours and almost lascivious pleasure I had never really encountered before in relatively flavourless England, where the only ice cream we ever had was from Quiksave.

This love of vanilla has never crumbled, and as a perfume ingredient or star player it has always been an essential part of my wardrobe. My cravings can be satiated by a good quality vintage Shalimar; Molinard’s icing-sugar perfect Vanille; Yves Rocher’s light orange-musk Vanille Bourbon, Kenzo’s Jungle Eléphant…I have even got through a bottle of Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Vanille Extrême, which at certain stages in its development is quite simply monstrous in its saccharine artificiality. One of the best pure vanillas I have ever come across is another Italian perfume, I Profumi di Firenze’s golden fleece of vanillas, Vaniglia del Madagascar,a glinting, sweet elixir that you have to grit your (melting) teeth to if you want to survive through to the final, skin-licking stages, where you collapse in devilish, erotic, auto-abandon, and forget all concerns of cold, the wind and the weather. That was a great vanilla, but almost too great. Too sweet. Too concentrated.

The point here is that I get through these scents. The creations I have mentioned above (as well as two bottles of Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille) are empty. I don’t wear vanillas, I consume them, and as soon as the melancholy breezes start stirring I find myself craving that comforting, drifty aura of sucrée in which to muzzle and refuge.

Which brings to my latest bean pod acquisition, Vaniglia del Madagascar by Farmacia SS Annunziata, a mysterious company I have been reading about on Lucky Scent recently and lusting after. Not having a credit card however, (I’m sure you can imagine why), I had never been able to order any of this perfume. Then, this summer, at the wonderful Roullier White shop in South London which I was visiting for the first time, there it was, at the front of the shop  – the first thing I saw when I went in. I bought some on the spot without having properly tried it, partly because I didn’t care – I wanted it, I liked the bottle, and I was having such wonderful lost-in-perfumista ramblings with the intriguing woman working there that it seemed only the right etiquette to buy something. A vanilla for the coming winter struck me as a good place to start.


In the London summer heat the scent was disappointing, somehow – too thin; at once laboured yet underwhelming. The reasons for this I will come to, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time, and I put the bottle back on the shelf again, hoping its itme would come.

It has. And it has been delicious. But this is a perfume that is set to a strict slow motion, and it to took me a while to get it.

The first thing to say about the scent is that it is a parfum, but the bottle is 100ml, which seems like a contradiction in terms when fragrances of this strength traditionally come in 7ml, 14ml, or 30ml if you really have money to burn.

My first reaction to this, like a painting by Magritte, was

ceci n’est pas un parfum


as in terms of sillage it barely seemed to register, at least on hot, sweaty nights in London. But since the Japanese weather has cooled, and I have been spraying myself and my new hoodies with Vaniglia, I have come to realize that the perfume is structured like nuclear fission: compressed atoms of flavour which dilate outwards; slowly, at their own prehistorically ambered pace. This perfume just won’t let you rush it. It is set in thick, glacial, time-spaced layers that cannot be perturbed.

* *  *    *        *              *                            *                            *                         *


One of the joys of Japanese culture is the universally loved traditions of sento and onsen – bathing rituals in local bath houses or hot springs where families, couples and individuals go to soap down, switch off and relax in cleansing pools of contemplation. From a therapeutic point of view, onsen, with their volcanically active, sulphurous clouds of mountain water pumped in are the best, but I am happier probably in a sento, for the smells: of steam, active ions, citrus soaps, humanity, and saunas made of hinoki.

I still can’t put my finger on why exactly, but the beginning stage of Vaniglia Del Madagascar caterpults me exactly into this environment every time I spray it on; the bitter orange top note (the website says lemon) and ambiguous ‘floral’ notes are more like a fresh, misty saltiness which I have never smelled in a vanilla before and which I have really come to appreciate since coming back to Japan this September. Where it felt odd in London, it feels absolutely right in my current context. This ‘sento ‘ stage of the perfume lasts for about an hour or so before the vanilla, essentially hidden from view by some alchemical trick, begins to appear and advance in depth and texture over a period of twelve hours or so, until you completely succumb to its heat-charged fullness and drape in it like a cream-silk blanket.

It is then that you realize ah yes, this is a parfum, it really is, especially when you wake up the next day and the sunlight bathes the golden glow. Vanilla, classical, resonating Bourbon vanilla, surrounds you, is set from your pillow. A sense, almost, of achievement. And for me, this delayed pleasure, the sensation of a whole day for the scent to reach its full, tantric potency, is quite glorious.

I’m still in the early throes of mania with this one, but I think it might actually be my all time favourite vanilla.


Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vanilla


  1. Gorgeous review of an apparently gorgeous fragrance. A must try!

    • ginzaintherain

      Well, I fear I may have gone overboard with something so uncomplicated, this two-note. But for me, that final vanilla is gorgeous, always slightly tempered with that mineral quality to stop it from becoming too sickly, so perhaps I was right to rave!

  2. ginzaintherain

    I fear I may have gone overboard…

  3. nicky

    I am so glad I found your review of Vaniglia. I was wondering if I had received a watered down bottle or whether I was anosmic to some of the ingredients! It arrived this morning. On first spray it was very disappointing, Very weak, watery vanilla with a strange salty-citric topnote. However, just as you say, give it time and the vanilla is emerging gradually. After half an hour I detect more creaminess and a subtle vanillic “aura” is developing slowly : a lesson in patience and letting things unfold …

    • Moonlocks

      Me too! I poured half an ml over my arms just a little while ago, and it seemed to vanish. I detect a whiff of vanilla somewhere in the air–but it hardly seems to be coming from me. I came looking for more reviews because the forums and Lucky reviews don’t say anything about it vanishing. I look forward to what may come. I’m seeking my holy grail vanilla–closest I’ve come is Dulcis in Fundo (didn’t care for Vanitas).

      • I think I need to know more about Dulcis In Fundo.

        As for Vaniglia Del Madagascar, I find that it really does bloom into something enormous as time goes on, especially on clothes. GORGEOUS!

  4. ginzaintherain

    For me it was wonderful to find someone who had a similar reaction to me, Nicky, seeing as everyone on Lucky Scent was singularly uncritical and raved over Vaniglia. I think I was probably like you – expecting something instantly vanilla-ish and cremeux, not this bizarre citric mineral thing which hardly seemed to smell of anything. You reaction makes me feel less alone (not that this matters: we are, of course, just talking about a vanilla scent, but I am sure you know exactly what I mean, especially when these things cost the earth).

    I hope by now you have experienced the joy…..if not, try spraying it on clothes….it lingers and lingers and blooms and vanilla-izes for days, seriously. The aura it leaves is quite divine, and all those saline contrivances only serve, ultimately, to keep it gorgeous but somehow caged, in the best possible manner.

  5. nicky

    It definitely lasts longer on clothes and I am enjoying it more and more. Sometimes it almost seems to have an animalic, carnal quality which I cannot explain from looking at the notes. It is much more complex than first appears. Have you tried Profumo Vanitas? That is supposed to be very similar but much more potent. I have just ordered a sample. By the way, I completely understand what you mean about feeling less alone when one finds someone with a shared perception. That’s exactly how I felt when I stumbled across your article. Ah, the joys of this perfume journey!

  6. nicky

    My Profumo Vanitas sample arrived today. Sadly, it is pretty much pure cotton candy bars all the way, Very sweet and sickly. Probably more ethylmaltol than vanillin. Nothing like as layered and nuanced as VdM. Considering the hefty price tag, definitely worth sampling first. I am so gad I chose VdM over this!

    • ginzaintherain

      Has it VdM grown on you? I have got through more than a third of a bottle in two months. OBSESSION. although i may have overdone it; stay clear for a while…

  7. KG

    this smells wonderul! buying a bottle from Lucky Scents next week!

    • ginzaintherain

      I adore it and cannot live without it : in my top ten for sure! Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

      • jennyredhen

        What is your top 10?? I ‘d love to know. I have learnt such a lot from your blog. Perfume samples are arriving daily. Its such fun

      • Let me think about it?

        Do you have one, so far?

      • jennyredhen

        My top 10 is that of a total novice. I like the traditionally popular ones… Shalimar, Mitsouko, Samsara, Opium, Cinnabar, Ysatis, and dare I say it Chloe, DKNY Pure, Marni, Gucci Flora. From recommendations on your blog I have been trying a lot of others eg Jo Malone.. Chopard… and digging out the essential oils. ,
        But I would like to hear your top ten.. I am sure a lot of other people would too.

      • I can’t come up with one, but I like yours: a good mix of classic and modern. I imagine that you smell delightful.

      • jennyredhen

        I live in New Zealand the Perfume selection is quite limited!!!!

  8. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:


  9. You make me want to visit Japan so much with your descriptions. A japanese bathhouse steaming with vanilla and seaweed…

    • The public baths are an experience we can’t get in the UK or anywhere else, and although at first it can be a bit embarrassing being in the nod, you get used to it very quickly. Something communal and very human about it all. And the beer tastes delicious afterwards.

      • Not that I’m a nudist or exhibitionist, but getting in the nip (in the right places like these) doesn’t bother me really. I like the sound of the communal aspect of it. Much like a Turkish mud bath or Icelandic hot pool! I can imagine the beer is delish after! What about sake?

  10. Sounds delish. ooh Neil, not long to wait till Vanilla heaven now!

    • I have got through my bottle. Was thinking about sending you off to Roullier White for me actually… might send some dough over soon for you to exchange (only if you feel like a foray into South London!)

      • ninakane1

        Yes, do honey. Rouiller White? I’ve never heard of it but am intrigued. I’m actually going to be spending loads of time in London from the end of May as Emily’s going to be trapezing in a huge show as part of her Circus Space training and I have to go with her! La joie!!! Will spend the last week of my thesis sitting in the British Library! More joy! Anyway, yes, send dough n details and I will happily oblige.x

      • Excellent (if I can afford it)

      • I’d offer to buy it for you (am still parcelling up your your birthday pressie), but have no job at the mo so am broke. Will check out the place anyway, spritz mucho and report anon.

      • Darling we don’t expect our friends to buy us 100 quid perfumes on a whim, and I have about 10ml left anyway (plus summer is on its way, so it will be soon unwearable…)

        Come Autumn again it will be essential though. I think you would like that shop, and the whole street actually. Strange mix of posh and very SAARF LANdon if you know what I mean. I kind of liked it. And they do amazing essential oils in 50ml bottles (good quality as well; the rosemary in particular was great) for a song. xx

      • ninakane1

        Ah, yes that is a little outside my pressie budget! Worth the dosh from the sounds of it though. I will have a wander down that street though when I’m next a Londres, and when you’re ready for the bottle, let me know xx

  11. brie

    As you already know I ADORE vanilla and now with your reasoning I understand why…I am also a “samugari”…spring is finally here in the Northeast and I still have my tiny space heater warming me by my desk! Summers are an endless battle of the air conditioner wars with Hubby who is an “atsugari”…..
    Looking forward to what you will say upon return from your vanilla trip!

    • It’s still a long way off but on the theme I have just had the heater on too…I am the granniest of grannies in that regard.

      If I reach old age I will need to live near the equator I think, or else inside a laundromat.

      • brie

        Moi aussi!!! My orginal intent was to retire to Montana (those gorgeous mountain views) and hubby said “Are you crazy! you’d freeze your little bum off!”

      • I’m usually ok by this time of year, but my hands have been utterly freezing for days now even though it’s gone warm outside. And my hands are normally warm I think it’s the chill of the last chapter of the thesis!

    • brie

      Being a bundle of nerves (as I am SURE that you must be in the last stages of your thesis) always makes me extra cold! Best of luck with it all…keep yourself doused in perfume and you will surely feel better!!!

      • ninakane1

        Thanks Brie! I think that’s it actually. I am really skeletal suddenly and old. Fell a little rattly and hollow! Am in library at the moment surrounded by loud and giggly youths and feel like the crone of doom tutting in the corner, tapping away. On the countdown now – 30 days to go! I’ve gone hard-core with my perfume for the last trek – Francis Kurkdijan’s ‘Pour le Matin’, on the rocks, no sweetener or nothing! Though somebody has just floated past me smelling delightfully of Spiritual Sky White Musk ( a Summer of 1991 oil for me), and I’m getting wistfully nostalgic. But I will stick to bitter lemon n white thyme Mr K for now. There’s time enough for beaches.

  12. Lilybelle

    That sounds like a wonderful vanilla. What I’m lusting after, however, reading your reivew, is an onsen. 🙂

  13. Dear Ginza
    You know, you may yet make a vanilla convert of The Dandy. I liked l’Elephant despite myself. Now I shall have to make a pilgrimage down to Lordship Lane to what looks like a thoroughly thrilling emporium to peruse their wares.
    Thank you as ever
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  14. Cath

    I love your reviews, but man, you are a danger!!!! I always want to spend money after reading your blog. And most often the beauties you describe are not available in Nippon. Grrrr.
    Anyhow, this one goes on my to try list. Thanks for introducing me to yet another vanilla, as if I needed more. Oh, wait, based on your writings here, there isn’t such a thing as having too many vanillas, right? 😉

    • Well, you have to get through them until the one that you know you need. And I know that I need this one, as it is perfect for me. As I wrote, it is initially disappointing in some ways, but now I love the salty citric sento ions of the opening, and when the vanilla finally does its thing it is DIVINE without being too sweet. Yes, you must try it.

  15. solina

    a general thank you for loving vanilla and talking about my favorite scent!

  16. Top Vanilla – great too that it is an Italian house

  17. You are a poet of vanilla. Your seven-part vanilla series is one of the great things on the perfume blogs. I go through vanilla frenzies periodically,or maybe much of the time, and this one has become one of my favorites. Recently I’ve developed a passion for VC&A Orchidee Vanille; took me a while to notice how beautiful the drydown is, and it’s perfect for summer. And in the past I’ve disliked CSP’s Vanille Abricot a great deal, but recently I’ve come to love spraying a little around the bathroom before I take a bath. It can make a just-right spring air scent. Mona’s Vanille remains my very favorite, but this time of year I limit it to our cool mountain evenings because it seems a little too big, woody, and rich for warm afternoons. I have to go back to your vanilla series and see if I’ve missed any potential loves! I never, never get tired of trying vanillas.

    • “A poet of vanilla” ; what a delightful thing to say.

      And I NEED to smell the Mona di Orio!

      • I agree! I keep telling you, email me your mailing address and you will smell it. Or reply to this comment with your email address, spoofed with the dawtcawm stuff because those bots are getting wily, and I’ll reply so we can work out the details.

      • I most definitely will. Can’t wait, though I have to say I have never loved a Mona, so..

      • I honestly don’t know what you will think. The woody spicy qualities are in many ways and at many times more prominent than the vanilla; it is a completely different take on vanilla than anything else I’ve tried, and sort of pulsates spice and vanilla alternately. I can’t wait to hear what you think, and I suspect that a post will come out of it, one way or the other.
        Also, have you tried the Le Labo Vanille 44? I got a tiny decant and it’s exquisite, although it’s pricey enough to offend my sense of proportion. Paying that much for a perfume, even if I could afford it, would make me feel like Anne Romney with her brace of Cadillacs.

      • I do know (and have) Le Labo, and think it is very nice: I think I reviewed it in the vanilla series briefly, though as you say, definitely not worth the money.

        Here is my email address: and then we can exchange mailing addresses. Perhaps there is something I have reviewed that has intrigued you..

    • brie

      Feral- I adore VC & A Orchidee Vanille and blew through that sample I had in less than two hours due to frequent application! considered a full bottle until I saw the price!

      • FeralJasmine

        I know just what you mean. I went through my 2ml sample in two days. I did luck into a used but still good bottle inexpensively, but when that’s gone I will need to bite the bullet and pony up the real price. I don’t think that I can do without it as a summer vanilla; as time goes by I like it even more.

      • I think I can just about afford it, and you are making me need it

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