Angel Belsey is a Londoner. She owns too much perfume and too many books.


There are those who think we wear perfume in order to attract members of the preferred sex. It's a nice theory, if unfortunately not true. Ok, there may be some elemental truth to the idea, in the same way that it's elementally true that we eat to give our bodies fuel. But (while I have no proof) I'm pretty sure the attraction concept is related more to the human smells we all create naturally (and perhaps limited to specific fragrances that pretend to be those). In contrast, the world of perfume is the world of oil painting, fine dining, opera, dance, fashion. Scent is art for the nose--and it doesn't always have to be sexy.

Now, the pieces of fragrant art we wear can and do have an impact on others--they attract or repulse, make someone sneeze or lean in closely. So for some people (but by no means all!) it's important to get buy-in from their partners before plumping for a bottle of scent that they will wear for literally years.

I have reviewed quite a few fragrances here (and tried even more that I haven't written about yet), but my husband has offered unsolicited praise for only one specific scent*. The perfume he admires is going to be an anecdotal feather in some researcher's cap**: it is Vanillary by Gorilla Perfumes/Lush.

I've mentioned before the "vanilla-perfumed nightmare that was the early 90s," which attracted disgusted agreement from my friend Oda (and probably others who stayed silent on the issue). What I didn't mention then was that I was a fully paid-up member of the Vanilla Club (Vanilla Musk represent!). I think we all overdid vanilla back then, but I don't really hate it. Even though my tastes have expanded in the meantime, I'll probably always have a certain openness to vanilla notes in perfumes. So I was looking forward to seeing what Vanillary had to offer.

Vanillary is a linear scent: it goes on with a candied puff of vanilla and alcohol, and as the alcohol evaporates and the fragrance develops, the vanilla gets warmer but doesn't really change. Other reviewers online say they also smell jasmine, and jasmine absolute is indeed listed in the ingredients, but for me it's really all just warm vanilla.

Vanillary is simple and sweet. If worn on its own, it's as 90s as a Rachel haircut. For vanilla lovers, that will be no problem, but if you are unsure that straight vanilla is really for you, if Vanillary works on your skin it will probably layer well with anything that needs a little more warmth (and I have already found that it layers beautifully with another Lush fragrance, Orange Blossom).

Vanillary, Gorilla Perfumes/Lush, 2009 Notes: vanilla absolute, jasmine absolute, tonka absolute, coumarin (thanks The Perfumed Court!)

* Though he did say the other day "some of the things you've worn have been quite nice"--I wish I knew which! ** Hey! Spicy florals make you thin!


Un Lys