After an absolutely beautiful, sunny summer here in the Pacific Northwest, the rain has finally set in, and that means it’s time to cozy up with your deeper perfumes. Fortunately, Mandy Aftel’s latest creation, Vanilla Smoke, fulfills the hopes for those of us who love vanilla fragrances for the fall and winter. The beauty of this new perfume is its nuanced balance between sweet and smoky. The vanilla absolute used in Vanilla Smoke is in no way sticky sweet, but rather like an aromatic liquor that lulls you into a cushy nap. Coumarin, which is derived from tonka beans and cinnamon, heightens the vanilla note as it too adds dimension to the perfume’s smokiness while not making it sugary.
Yellow mandarin, Siam wood, ambergris and saffron absolute are also listed in the notes, but it’s the Lapsang Souchong tea essence that really takes front and center. If you’ve never smelled Lapsang Souchong, it is a very intensely smoky tea due to its leaves being dried by pinewood smoke, rather than air-dried. Mandy must be using quite a high quality Lapsang Souchong essence, as this perfume is very true to the tea’s aroma.
I will hazard a guess that the inclusion of ambergris helps temper the charred tea leaves, providing a musky warmth that softens any harsh edges. Additionally, the gentle and sweet lightness of ambergris affords the perfect base for all of the other notes to play on. I’d like to add that there is a leather quality alongside the smokiness of Vanilla Smoke. I don’t know where it’s coming from, it simply could be the Lapsang Souchong, but something tells me the alchemical magic that Mandy is known for is at work, and that the leather aspect is a result of something more complex. Whatever the case may be, I am enjoying it immensely!
Vanilla Smoke is available in both perfume and EDP forms and Mandy kindly sent me both for review. To my nose, they are equally lovely, but the perfume does have better longevity on my skin. Samples are available, and I encourage you to try both if this perfume intrigues you in the slightest. If you prefer to spray your perfumes, and you’d only like to try one, give the EDP a whirl.
Disclosure: Samples sent to me by Aftelier Perfume. All opinions are my own.