THE YLANG YLANG QUEST

-guest post by Catherine

As a perfume lover you’ve probably been there: the quest for the perfect (add note of your choice) fragrance. I’ve been on quite a few holy grail searches, some are completed, others are ongoing, not because I’m not satisfied but merely because they are fun to continue exploring.One of my more recent hunts was for ylang ylang. Late Spring last year when rummaging through my essential oils I found a bottle of ylang ylang EO that must be at least 10 years old, maybe closer to 15. Miraculously it hadn’t evaporated and the scent was (and still is) out of this world amazing. That’s how it began; I needed to find a perfume that smells like this EO, the same eyes rolling in the back of my head take me already aaaaarghhh! tropical fever mind blowing outer worldly I’ve died and gone to heaven scent.When I finally came back down to earth, I retested all perfumes featuring ylang ylang already in my collection (no small task). Metallica, Ylang & Vanille, New Look 1947, Casta Diva, Fleur des Comores, Songes, Kiss me tender, etc etc. None came even close to the marvellous aroma of that essential oil. I realised that while ylang is often used in fragrances, it is rarely showcased as the main player. I will try to write a few words about some of the perfumes I bought and enjoyed during this mission.

Carla Fracci Giselle (yellow box)

Giselle is often recommended on Fragrantica in the hidden gem threads and as usual, curiosity got the better of me. The initial spray smells a bit plasticky, and I wrote it off as a failed blind buy. But hold on, pas si vite! While wearing Giselle I kept getting wafts of the most delicious flower nectar on a creamy vanilla base, enveloping me in a cloud of softness. It is reminiscent of Ylang in Gold by M. Micallef but without that overly sweet fruity bubblegum note (sorry YiG, you are pretty but Giselle is beautiful).Tropical florals feel perfect in Summer, but I often reached for this bottle in winter too when in need of some warmth and sunny vibes. The scent lingering on my sweater the next days was fantastic. It is not THE ylang ylang scent I was looking for but it is a dream of a fragrance, so very cozy, soothing and back up bottle, or four, worthy.

Anatole Lebreton Cornaline

The fragrances that I tried from this house are, to put it mildly, weird. They are interesting, yes, but to me they are difficult to wear, definitely not no-brainer scents. When I bought Incarnata (waxy Estée Lauder lipstick from the 90’s anyone?) I added a few samples to my cart, Cornaline being one of them. I tried my sample a few times, unable to decide if I wanted it or not. It starts with a hint of candied peach, and then morphs into a composition that is rather disturbing. Still, it kept drawing me in, haunting me, and I ended up getting a bottle. It is only while wearing it now to write this attempt at a review that it finally hit me: it’s the “wet cardboard in the cellar” note. I had the same association when trying Ylang Ylang Nosy Be and also faintly with Compliment. This is a facet of ylang ylang that is bordering on unpleasant but at the same time is fascinating. Behind the damp, vegetal, and musty curtain is hiding a banana custard ylang, showing only glimpses of its true beauty. In all its oddity and incongruity, I find Cornaline quite addictive.

Lorenzo Villoresi Ylang Ylang

I’ll spare you the details of having to deal with this Italian retailer; I’m getting a headache just remembering the hassle. Ylang Ylang is part of LV’s vintage collection. In typical Villoresi style, this fragrance is refined, devoid of any rough edges, very well-behaved. It brings us a polished ylang ylang, creamy but not heady, a tad powdery and on the verge of soapy. If I were to compare, I’d say that the ylang here is as gentle as the one in Guerlain’s Ylang & Vanille. The fragrance is clean and classy, perhaps with an air of innocence, it never gets cloying nor naughty, and feels perfect for polite afternoon drinks at a shaded terrace as well as dinner in a chic, chilly to the bone air-conditioned restaurant. This one is a keeper, to spray abundantly on those days when you want to leave the steamy jungle behind and wear crisp cotton over slinky silk.

La Via del Profumo Tasneem/ Tasnim (Abdes Salaam Attars)

My search for the ultimate ylang ylang fragrance ended when I discovered Tasneem. THIS is what I was looking for, my EO in spray format. YESSSS! More please! I was seduced in a split second. Tasneem is sultry, sexy, lush, almost indecently dirty with its dripping over the edges indoles; pure bliss for ylang lovers. I want to inhale it, bathe and roll around in it, become one with it, that’s how amazingly gorgeous this stuff is. There is no wet cardboard, no soapiness, it feels like pure and raw ylang on the stem at its peak ready to be picked. After a while the indoles recede to the background pushing the creaminess more forward, and a subtle incense note lingers around, grounding the composition while giving it a faint air of mystery. Exquisite. Heavenly. The fragrance remains very close to the skin though, an unfortunately irremediable feature of all natural perfumes. Tasneem hits you full force like a huge yellow wave, then gently bobbing carries you to shore. It’s a short ride but an unforgettable one that I want to repeat over and over again.

Are you a fan of ylang ylang? I’d love to hear about your favourites. Catherine

25 Comments

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25 responses to “THE YLANG YLANG QUEST

  1. OnWingsofSaffron

    Oh how timely! Ever since you wrote a post on the new Francescha Bianchi perfume a few weeks ago, the one with the long name, I thought to myself: must delve into ylang-ylang, sort of soliflor! I have an enormous bottle of Songe; quite something, yet I cannot tell the tropical whites flowers apart. Then 1000 had a hefty dose of ylang (bananas!) but I‘ve used my vintage eau de toilette up. I‘m sure it is elsewhere but if I think of how many jasmines I‘ve got then I definitely need an ylang-ylang-centred perfume!

    • Catherine has sent me some vials of the perfumes she has described in this luscious post : they should be arriving tomorrow.

      Tropical florals are what we need right now for a hopefully more liberated summer!

      I am wearing Penhaligon’s Gardenia today – on the bus to work right now and it is feeling right : restrained but ‘gladly floral’. Can’t wait to get my mitts on some YYs too for post back home showering wristy nuzzling

    • OnWingsofSaffron

      Sorry, I‘ve no idea what happened to my last sentence — „elsewhere“??
      Anyway, I‘m on holiday, staying in a wee hotel on a lovely hidden lake in Brandenburg, 100km to the North of Berlin. Brought along only 4 perfumes (!), all of them from Sana Jardin, one of them Savage Jasmin.

      • That is a one note heavy mother. How does it work on you ? Are you constantly surrounded by an fluttering entourage of hyperaroused insects ?

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        😂 nope!
        I don‘t mind jasmine bombs at all; living in Brussels I wore „À la nuit“ all the time, also to daytime work. Also like my „Jasmin angélique“, „Madagascan Jasmine“, „Grand bal“ etc. Wish I could finde the Reine Margot you wrote about, but it‘s disappeared!
        Now I‘m lusting after the YY by La via del profume!

  2. Tara C

    Tasneem is the only one on your list I own, wonderful stuff! I had Guerlain Ylang & Vanille but passed it on. I also have AG Songes. Not a top favourite note in perfumes as a soliflore but I generally like it blended with other big white florals, although I’ve never smelled the pure oil. Sounds intriguing.

  3. Robin

    Wonderful read, Catherine. Thank you! I was taken on a heady journey into ylang ylang land with your beautiful prose. Even better, I’m not a huge fan of fragrances featuring this bloom, which makes my delight that much more astonishing and your writing that much more adept.

    I’m glad Neil’s not here at the moment, because he doesn’t especially like Parfumerie Generale and he will wince slightly if he were to know that my favourite ylang ylang is Pierre’s Ilang Ivohibe. I can’t do heavy, sultry, yellow ylangs like Songes, and this is the antithesis: fresh, with some mandarin, slightly green, light and creamy. I would love to blind buy Giselle — love your description — but I think the yellow box is long gone and evidently the newer pink and white box is not very good. Alas.

    Thank you again for a most pleasurable post.

    • Cath

      Thank you Robin for your kind and encouraging words (I’m a loyal NST reader).
      Neil isn’t a fan of Pierre’s work? We must remedy to that 😂 I haven’t had the pleasure of trying Ilang Ivohibe. In a way I think I have found my ideal YY scent and I can close this chapter. I’m open to try more of course if they come my way, but I don’t feel the need to actively pursue it. For now 😉

      Giselle in the pink box is a nondescript musky floral, rather laundry detergent-like IMO, aeons away from the yellow box. Alas indeed.

      • How bizarre they fucked up the formula so egregiously, thinking no loyal fans would ever notice?

        I wish I could find my sample of Ylang Ivohibe – but I am too lazy to look for it and the contents have probably evaporated in any case

  4. Interesting read, although I am not much into tropical florals, but sometimes even I crave this type of scent. I had Terracotta, but swapped it for Pulitzer Beachy, that I like a bit more

  5. Karina

    The pursuit of the perfect… is a recurring theme in my perfume journey. The first obsession was Sandalwood (Tam Dao), then I tried all things Gardenia (result – I‘m actually not a fan of gardenia in perfume as I am of the scent on real life), Linden Blossom (Tilia Cordata), Lavender, Iris most recently Frangipani of all things. It’s a fun journey seeing the same thing through different lenses.
    Thanks for sharing your ylang ylang journey.

  6. Tora

    After I read this I bought a super cheap bottle of Giselle. It arrived today and I put it right on. Yum Yum Yum. It does have a bit of a plasticky opening and then it is all delicious vanilla laden, coconut-infused tropical ylang, and tuberose. It is simple and very easy to wear. Thanks for the tip, Neil!

  7. What a wonderful read this was. I always enjoy ylang in a fragrance, especially in Songes. For years I used to wear the EO from L’Occitane en Provence, it was a perfect perfume on its own. Actually while working for L’Occitane I learnt that ylang-ylang EO is one of the few that is a proper perfume on its own; it has top, middle and basenotes on its own. So I love wearing just the oil when I crave it.

    • I agree. I was thinking it could work in a cream as well: say a thick cold cream, infused with ylang ylang oil, just to take some of the harshness away. Just apply, and voila!

    • Cath

      Thank you ❤️ it’s my first attempt at writing a blog post.
      L’Occitane used to have wonderful stuff. Do you remember their Neroli fragrance? Amazing!
      I had no idea that YY EO could be applied directly to the skin. Mmm, time to go dig up my aromatherapy books.

      • L’Occitane was an amazing store with amazing products, now they have become far more mainstream.
        Oh, I mixed my ylang ylang EO with a bit of carrier oil to put on skin, but sometimes I would put a tiny dot on by itself and it didn’t seem to irritate me. To perfume myself with it properly though, I always mixed it with the L’Occitane neutral carrier oil.
        Their Neroli fragrance was amazing, truly amazing. Remember they used to have all of them on the etageres, and all the tiny bottles of extraits. The candles were amazing as well.

      • OMG THE TINY BOTTLES OF EXTRAITS

        So many gorgeous ones; the Patchouli and Santal were both incredible.

        I hate their scents now

      • The scents now are commercial garbage. The old ones were just heavenly.

  8. Cath

    Sandalwood! My perfect one at the time was “sandalwood” by The Art of Shaving.
    I have found “my” oud, leathers, tobacco, chocolate. Still exploring vanilla, iris, powdery, … Recently I’ve been thinking about exploring mimosa 😂 There will always be something.

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