Van Cleef & Arpels entered the prestige “niche” market in 2009 when it debuted its Collection Extraordinaire. Orchidée Vanille (hereinafter just “Orchidee Vanille”) was one of the six fragrances, a vanilla soliflore with subtle floral and gourmand accents that I found to be surprisingly pleasant.
Orchidee Vanille is an eau de parfum created by Randa Hammami. The official description for the perfume as provided by Neiman Marcus is as follows:
An intoxicating journey through the Indian Ocean and Asia, Orchidee Vanille explores all the richness of vanilla.
A floral, gourmand fragrance with a subtle blend of fruity notes (mandarin orange and litchi), combined with tastybitter almond and dark chocolate, and accented with sensual European flourishes of Bulgarian rose and violet notes. The vanilla pod is faceted with woody cedar and balsamic tonka bean and notes of transparent white musk.
Van Cleef & Arpels, the world-renowned Paris jeweler, pays tribute to nature with a range of magnificent fragrant compositions inspired by its Les Jardins (“The Gardens”) jewelry range. Created with the finest raw materials in the great tradition of French luxury perfumery, Van Cleef & Arpels debuts the Collection Extraordinaire with six scents, each given a formulation number by the master perfumer and presented in a hallmarked and embossed presentation gift box.
The succinct note list is available from Luckyscent:
Mandarin orange, litchi, bitter almond, dark chocolate, Bulgarian rose, violet, vanilla pod, cedar, tonka, and white musk.
Orchidee Vanille opens on my skin with clean vanilla, followed by abstract floral and fruity notes, hints of cedar, and clean white musk. There is a brief suggestion of something unctuous, reminiscent of vanilla extract paste melted in butter, but it is fleeting. Moments later, tiny flickers of almond, chocolate, and orange appear at the edges. They continue to flit in and out for the next 20 minutes, but rarely detract from Orchidee Vanille’s main focus which is clean vanilla with a floral facade, a hint of woodiness, and white musk.
The secondary notes are interesting. On my skin, the chocolate doesn’t seem dark, powdered, or much like chocolate at all, to be honest. It’s really more of an abstract, nebulous suggestion, and akin to something approximating “chocolate.” The almond is infinitesimal, and there is no clear rose, violet, or litchi whatsoever. The orange is more noticeable in a concrete, individual way, but it feels almost translucent and ghostly, darting in and out of background in the opening stage.
The cedar is the most prominent of the lot at first, and it combines with the white musk and vanilla in a way that reminds me of Tuesday 4160‘s Sexiest Scent On The Planet. There are differences, however. Orchidee Vanille feels significantly more expensive and luxurious. The “Sexiest Scent” is apparently close to 70% synthetic, and it smells like it with its heavy, walloping amounts of ISO E Super and something strongly resembling white musk. It is also a much woodier scent, by and large, than the Van Cleef & Arpels fragrance which feels more supple and creamy.
The similarity between the two perfumes doesn’t last for long. Orchidee Vanille begins to change less than 15 minutes into its development, though the perfume is so light that the transformation is initially quite subtle. The most noticeable thing is that Orchidee Vanille starts to turn creamier and smoother, as the vanilla deepens. The clean, white musk softens; the cedar becomes weaker; and the orange, cocoa, and general fruitiness fade to the periphery. The already abstract floral notes become even more of a nebulous, vague suggestion, and melt into the vanilla. They exist just enough to ensure that the perfume never smells like a cupcake or vanilla icing, but, rather, more of a “floral” vanilla.
That’s generally about it for Orchidee Vanille’s development on my skin. All that happens over the many hours which ensue is that the perfume becomes creamier, softer, and more intimate in nature. The clean, white musk fades away after 30 minutes, though it returns later at the very end of the perfume’s development in a light way. There are occasional, microscopic suggestions of something vaguely chocolate-y lurking in the background, though it often feels more like a sprinkling of the white variety than the bitter, dark chocolate listed in the notes.
The overall impression is of a very creamy (but airy) vanilla scent with just the lightest suggestion of something floral about it. On my skin, there is absolutely nothing about Orchidee Vanille that is purely and solely foody, evocative of the dreaded sugared cupcakes (which is a trap that many vanillas fall into), or cloyingly sweet. It’s not dry, woody, or buttered, either. By and large, Orchidee Vanille is a very simple floral vanilla fragrance, though a very adult take on the genre.
It’s also extremely light and subtle on me. Three very large smears (amounting to two sprays from a bottle) create a very gauzy cloud that initially hovers 2 inches, at best, above my skin. It’s not as thin and translucent a bouquet as “The Sexiest Scent,” but it definitely lacks the richness or heft of a Profumum vanilla for example. The sillage is extremely intimate on me, and Orchidee Vanille turns into a skin scent before the close of the second hour. However, the perfume has excellent longevity. With a smaller dose of 2 moderate smears, Orchidee Vanille lasted just over 10.5 hours. With the 3 smears, the number was just short of 11.75. Some of the perfume got onto a shirt I was wearing in one test, and the scent lasted for well over a day.
There are two things that struck me about Orchidee Vanille. In the first few hours of wearing the scent, the combination of its intimate feel along with the initial, very subtle suggestion of something both clean and floral evoked the sense of feminine skin. “My skin but better,” if you will, but definitely for a woman. It also evoked the image of a very well-dressed banker in an elegant, restrained, very structured suit who uses Orchidee Vanille as her subtle nod to femininity. Later, however, when the perfume turns much smoother, softer, and creamier, the images which came to mind were those of white, vanilla flower petals blowing in the wind. Creaminess is much more a part of the fragrance than some of the official elements in the note list, and certainly more than any rose, almond, or fruity tonalities.
The response to Orchidee Vanille is generally very positive. I have a number of friends who wear it, and I often see rave reviews for the scent on different sites. The main issues involving the perfume seem to be the usual ones of sweetness and cost. I’ll get to the latter point shortly, but sweetness is obviously going to depend on one’s skin chemistry. The same applies to whatever secondary notes you will experience apart from the vanilla. On Fragrantica, the majority of posters love the scent, and a good number of people talk about the chocolate which was clearly more profound on their skin than on mine. Some also experienced a lot more floral or fruity notes at first. As a whole, people call it “gorgeous,” “one of the best vanilla fragrances in the market,” or “the fragrance equivalent of a string of pearls.”
The Non-Blonde was also a fan of the scent, much to her surprise. For her, Orchidee Vanille evoked the sense of skin as well. Her review reads, in part, as follows:
The thing about perfumer Randa Hammami’s creation for Van Cleef & Arpels is that it’s not as floral and airy as I feared. As a matter of fact, Orchidee Vanille has an almost Guerlain-like heft. Hammami is the nose behind Guerlain’s Cruel Gardenia and L’Instant Magique, but if I were to classify and label, I’d say that this fragrance is actually a distant cousin of Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille. The non-foody vanilla and complementary creamy flowers create a similar smooth sensation. The orchid image comes from the very opulent violet note. It’s interesting how one flower creates the illusion of another, while not trying to fully deceive – you’re aware that it’s violet, yet you see an orchid. Quite clever, really.
Flowers aside, it’s the musk, almond and bitter chocolate note that rule Orchidée Vanille. This reminds me a little of Guerlain’s Boise Torride, that also has some cedar in its backbone to keep the non-gourmand balance. While Orchidee Vanille keeps flirting with the edible side, the overall impression is of skin: the nape of the neck, the scalp of a second day hair. That’s what makes this Van Cleef & Arpels so incredibly intimate and warm, as well as worth the time of those who aren’t necessarily vanilla fiends. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
On Makeup Alley, the main focus of the conversation seems to be on whether or not the perfume is too sweet, or just perfect, followed by talk of its cost. On Luckyscent, Orchidee Vanille receives a lot of compliments, with people calling it “beautiful” or saying that they “love it,” often followed by comments about how they wouldn’t buy it. Bottom line, it keeps coming down to the price. Orchidee Vanille retails for $185 or £126 for a 75 ml bottle and, while pricing is always a very subjective, personal valuation, I share the feeling that the perfume costs too much for what it is. Yes, Orchidee Vanille’s smoothness does feel luxurious and, yes, it lacks the synthetics of many vanilla fragrances on the market, but it’s ultimately a very simplistic scent without a lot of nuances and layers.
However, you can find Orchidee Vanille for a discounted price at a few places, especially eBay. There, you can find unused tester bottles for roughly $89, or unopened, sealed boxes for $114. Amazon is also another option for a more reasonable price. (The perfume also is available from a few traditional retailers in a smaller 45 ml size that costs less than the 75 ml bottle. See the Details section below.) I think Orchidee Vanille is definitely worth it at the lower price for anyone who is a fan of adult vanillas.
As a whole, Orchidee Vanille skews rather feminine in nature, though it does have some male fans. One chap on Fragrantica thought it was perfect as a layering scent with more “manly” fragrances, while another insists that it is wholly “unisex” in nature. Regardless of gender, I think Orchidee Vanille a very office-appropriate scent, even for conservative environments. I should add, however, that a few people struggled with its longevity and lightness. One commentator said that it didn’t last on them more than 4 hours. As always, it’s going to depend on your skin chemistry.
If you’re looking for a creamy vanilla with a more adult character than some of the Pink Sugar varieties on the market and with some subtle floral or gourmand touches, give Orchidee Vanille a try. It’s really quite pretty.
Dearest Kafka, thanks for the review of one of my favorite vanillas. My initial encounter was via a swap and I knew on first wearing that a FB will join my collection and it did. Nice to know there are several volume alternatives which I will check out for my next bottle of another VC&A perfume (California Reverie). I can tell you with first hand knowledge that the VC&A jewelry store on 5th Avenue does not carry perfumes – I was sent next door to Bergdorfs.
Heh, trying to imagine a perfume bottle (of any kind, even their own) in the incredibly sanctified 5th Avenue showroom next to Empress Eugenie’s tiara is a bit difficult. I’m not surprised one bit that they didn’t have carry Orchidee Vanille, and I doubt any of the other Van Cleef stores would either, but thank you for the confirmation. As for California Reverie, I’ve heard some nice things about it. I’ll try to get a sample.
I am so delighted to see you review this staple of my perfume wardrobe. Personally I tend to choose other vanillas for evening and home wear, but reach for this one frequently for the office, where it works well even at my generally perfume-hating workplace. I did find a large tester bottle on EBay for about $60, so it’s also easy on the budget. I must say that I cannot imagine this one on a man. To my nose it murmurs in strictly female tones.
I like a few others in the VC&A line, and am curious about California Reverie. Have you tried that one?
It does seem quite feminine to me, too. That said, I suppose guys who love gourmands and whose skin brings out those notes may manage. It definitely seems to be more chocolate-y on a few people than it was on me, so gourmand-lovers of any gender may fall for that. $60 is a great price for the scent. For that amount, I might almost be tempted myself. lol (I thought it was great on fabric, and liked how it made my shirt smell.)
I haven’t tried California Reverie, but I’ve heard some nice things about it. I’m going to see about getting a sample, perhaps from Neiman Marcus since STC doesn’t carry it. From the notes, I think it sounds like a fragrance that would be right up your alley. Have you tried the Gardenia one and, if so, what did you think about it?
I enjoy Gardenia Petale a fair amount. It has some of the creamy elegance of OV, and is by no means a photorealistic gardenia. I think that Patty of the Posse described it well when she said that it’s an abstract gardenia, with all the elements of true gardenia scent but rearranged in a way that you don’t expect, so that you get them in wafts and separately from one another. It’s appropriate in places where my beloved Velvet Gardenia would probably get me thrown out of the room. And since it’s freely available for about $100 for the big bottle, I think it’s a great bargain.
It’s such a shame that TF discontinued Velvet Gardenia. It’s always sounded right up my alley. Thank you for the description of the VC&A Gardenia, here and in terms of your other comment on the creaminess. I feel a bit conflicted about the rearrangement of elements that you describe, as well as the “abstract” aspect. I think I should probably get myself to Neiman Marcus to smell it and California Reverie, then get samples. The fact that the creamy base seems to be a possible common thread is the one part that really appeals. 🙂
This evening, made curious by your review, I wore OV on one arm and Gardenia Petale on the other. After two hours it was striking how similar they smelled. Not identical, but they are clearly built on the same creamy base.
The base is the part that really sounds appealing, but the really super-soft sillage…. hmm. Clearly, this and California Reverie are something to seek out and test. Thank you for the additional information, my dear. I absolutely love it when people do quasi-scientific tests, analysis or comparisons. 🙂
After 2.5 to 3 hours, they were quite identical. Message me your address on Facebook (thought I had it but it’s too deeply buried to find) and I’ll send you some and also a sample of Velvet Gardenia, which all floral-lovers ought to try.
That’s a hugely kind offer, my dear. Thank you, I will take you up on that! *hugs*
Have to add that via links on this page I read your reviews of two of my favorite evening vanillas, Tobacco Vanille and (my favorite) Mona di Orio’s Vanille. It’s fascinating to me to revisit favorites through your reviews and realize how many of their qualities and quirks I’ve come to take for granted. The rediscovery freshens them in my mind so that I remember why I was enthralled in the first place. Thanks!
I was thinking of Mona di Orio’s Vanille the other day, as I’ve been ramping up my efforts to find a vanilla that works for me. Unfortunately, the MdO scent has extreme butteriness on my skin. It’s a shame, as I know so many other people who also aren’t vanilla fiends really adore it as a dry vanilla. Thus far, my best bet has been the vanilla-patchouli Gothic I, but it’s still not a true, pure vanilla. I did recently try another vanilla that I liked a bit and which I hope to officially review soon, but even that is not “true love” for me. My hunt continues, but I’m glad you found success with the Vanille. It’s so hard to find a good, non-cupcake vanilla, isn’t it?
Yes indeed, not that I have any objection to cupcakes, but not on my skin. I shivered in sympathetic revulsion at your mention of the buttery note. I love butter in its place, but the idea of smelling it on your skin is icky. I am lucky that the Mona doesn’t go there on me
One of these days, I’m bound to find the perfect vanilla, right? It may take me another decade, but surely the odds will eventually turn in my favour. lol 😉
I am so glad to read this review of a vanilla I have always been curious about. I do like the idea of ‘adult vanillas’, but so many of them (I am thinking of you Tihota) disappear on me too quickly. I must try this. Your review is lovely and enticing.
I would be really curious to see how long this one lasts on you, Tora, given its lightness. I think you would enjoy it, but if Tihota disappeared really quickly, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Orchidee Vanille. One thing you may want to keep in mind is that it is really pretty on fabric. Obviously, that’s not ideal for a perfume as one would like it to last on actual SKIN, but if you get a sample, try some in your hair and on clothing as well.
Thanks, Kafka, for the wonderful review. I have tried this fragrance and I have been on the fence about it. I like it but I’m always debating whether it is too sweet for me to buy a full bottle so I’ve been sampling a larger decant from time to time.
I love the way you took us through the scent’s entire development and the comparison to Guerlain’s vanilla notes is very much on point. That helped me tremendously. This is a very creamy vanilla. I had trouble thinking how to describe it and you found the perfect word. Also thanks much for the information on cheaper prices and smaller bottles at various retailers. A 2.5 oz. bottle is far too large for me. As always you are a gem and your reviews are so helpful. Thank you!!
You’re so sweet, and your kind words mean a lot to me, Rickyrebarco. (Do you mind if I just call you Ricky in the future? I don’t want to be presumptuous or to choose the wrong part of your name.) With regard to Orchidee Vanille, I’m curious if the sweetness becomes more or less in the heat? I was noticing that the floral aspects seem to bloom and become a bit more noticeable in the heat, while the sweetness seemed less. If you’re always debating the sweetness issue, perhaps temperature is impacting you as well? Either way, if you’re tempted, I think you should keep an eye out on eBay. If another reader found a bottle for $60, perhaps you can, too, and it would certainly be worth it at that price for the occasional wearing, even if you’re still a bit ambivalent about how sugary it is on occasion.
You are back, how wonderful!
Orchidee Vanille to me is a very lovely, transparent and even summery vanilla which I don’t have to own but am happy to wear and enjoy for a couple of hours, if I see a tester in the department store (which is once in a month).
Funny, the expression “vanilla for grown-ups” is so often used in reviews of OV, it must be something like a pavlov’s reflex. The description is very apt, but I guess it’s why OV to me seems a bit too well-behaved (for a vanilla).
Have you tried Noir Tropical from Maria Candida yet? It’s non-cupcake, a little bit boothy and quite seductive.
I know exactly what you mean about perfumes that you enjoy to spritz on if you pass by and see them in a store, but yet feel no need to actually BUY them! There are a few that are like that for me. Usually, it’s the sillage or longevity issues which are the reason, and that’s part of it here for me with Orchidée Vanille.
As for the “vanilla for grown-ups,” I think it is actually common in reviews of a number of different vanillas — always when it’s not a super-sweet, Pink Sugar variety. Drier, woodier vanillas get that quite a bit, too, like some of the DSH Perfumes creation. Basically, women and men over the age of 20-something seem desperate for a vanilla that isn’t quite so cupcake-like. lol.
As for Noir Tropical, I have tried it, a few times. I have a sample and was planning on getting to a review of it soon. You’re absolutely right that it is definitely not a frosted icing, cupcake vanilla. Unfortunately, it’s not my perfect vanilla, either, alas. One day, one day soon, I hope, I will find that perfect one but, for now, my hunt continues. lol 🙂
Welcome back! I had never tried VC&A fragrances, so someone generously sent me a ton of samples of their line! I’ve actually tried this one and was pleasantly surprised – it’s definitely not my taste, but it is pretty and not overly sweet or foody, I agree. I don’t recall all that much about it except having generally low expectations (in spite of the positive reviews) and thinking “Oh, this is actually very nice!” But as someone else said, it’s not something I’m at all tempted by, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Heh at the “generally low expectations.” That was the same for me. It’s been so hard to find a vanilla that isn’t massively sugared or plastic-y, so Orchidee Vanille was definitely a pleasant surprise too. Have you found any vanilla scents that have made you weak in the knees or that you love passionately? Or are you like me and still on the hunt for the perfect vanilla? I think it would be much harder for you than for me, as you really don’t like anything reminiscent of dessert due to all your baking.
Ha, he did it ! And I’m so thankful for that. Oh yes, it’s an easy, simple Vanilla – but I feel so comfortable and still elegant with it. And cannot stop sniffing my wrist. But then again, I adore understatement …
BTW, I hardly get any chocolate either, sigh.
I thought of you quite a bit while writing the review, Mi’Lady. I can completely see how it would feel like a very comfortable but still elegant scent on you. I had to smile at the fact that you didn’t experience any chocolate either. We may have some differences in our skin chemistry (white musk, ISO E Super, the fleeting nature of animalic notes on you), but we seem to have more commonalities in our overall reaction to things than differences. 🙂
I did one skin test of this when it was relatively new, and absolutely hated it. Plasticky. Super-sweet. Gooey chocolate. The only good thing about it is that it only lasted four hours on me.
I mean, you just never know. My idea of a good floral vanilla is Vamp a NY, which is also way sweet and has angles of bubble gum and root beer along with its tubeynilla, so I thought I’d like Orchidee Vanille. Nope.
How interesting to hear about how two very similar genres of fragrances manifested themselves so differently on you, especially as you enjoy the “way sweet” Vamp a NY. Skin chemistry is such a strange thing. I was particularly interested to read that you experienced a lot of chocolate with Orchidee Vanille. I don’t think I would have enjoyed “gooey” chocolate in conjunction with the other notes, and most definitely not any plastic tonalities. Definitely not.
Plush is the word that comes to mind when I think of Orchidee Vanille. It’s one I would have a FB of if I still lived in a cooler climate. My skin must bring out the richness in it because though I love it, on me it feels too heavy for the semi tropics. Have you tried L’Ambre Merveilles yet? I get a beautiful ambered vanilla from it and it lasts.
I’ve never been a fan of Ambre Merveilles, I’m afraid. It’s too thin, wispy, subdued, and sweet on my skin, and is heavily vanillic with less than true, real amber on me. I know a vast majority of people love it, though, so I’m rather a freak in that regard. 🙂
Interesting how Orchidée Vanille is too heavy on you, even though we both live in similar climes. I suspect that skin chemistry is probably a big reason things, as well as perhaps a different baseline standard for “heavy.” But it sounds lovely on you, Vicki. Such a shame that it doesn’t work with where you live.
It is Kafka, it is. It’s lovely but so heavy on me. I hope you find that holy grail vanilla soon. Mine are a comfort at the end of “those days”
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