Tihota is one of those perfumes that comes with a legend: “The Holy Grail of vanilla fragrances!” or “The best vanilla ever!” It’s always the first name that comes up when people talk about vanilla fragrances, and people rave about it with the sort of adoration usually reserved for the great olfactory masterpieces.
I was highly skeptical. I’ve found few things with that sort of hype to really measure up. More to the point, I’m not really a gourmand lover and I have a low threshold for sweetness, so my experiences with other beloved fragrances in the genre haven’t been very successful. At best, I was unenthused. At worst, I was utterly traumatized by tidal waves of burnt saccharine sweetness that left me with an urgent need to scrub. Still, I’ve been on a perpetual hunt for the perfect vanilla scent, so I ordered a sample of Indult‘s famous creation, and kept my expectations low.
Colour me shocked: Tihota is excellent! Positively delicious, in fact, and it only becomes more appealing with each wearing. I don’t think I would describe it as the “perfect” vanilla, particularly in light of its price, but I completely understand the fuss now, and think that Tihota deserves a good chunk of its acclaim.
Indult is a French perfume house that released Tihota and two other fragrances back in 2006. Each one was created by the famed Francis Kurkdjian, but released in limited fashion with only 999 bottles. Several years later, something seems to have happened to Indult, and the company died away. Its perfumes were discontinued, much to the sorrow of Tihota lovers, and Tihota itself became one of those cult legends. Then, in 2013, Indult was revived under new ownership, and its original fragrances were re-issued. CaFleureBon quoted Franco Wright of Luckyscent and, more importantly, Mr. Kurkdjian himself as saying that all the scents were unchanged, and that the same formula had been used. In short, not only was Tihota back, but 2013 Tihota was the same as 2006 Tihota.
On its website, Indult describes Tihota (and the meaning of its name) as follows:
« Sugar » in Polynesian
When the skin is « sugar » under the Polynesian sun: it’s an exotic marriage of muscs in fusion and infusion with the sensual vanilla pods.
A vaporous wake but maintained, like the blow of a warm breeze that wraps the body and invades the atmosphere in a singular way.
Tihota is an olfactive and magical trip, the incandescence of the sunrise that embraces the far horizon.
According to First in Fragrance, the notes are: vanilla, musk, and tonka bean. Given Tihota’s name and description, the implication is that Francis Kurkdjian used Tahitian (Polynesian) vanilla, so I did some digging to see how their beans may differ from the Mexican and Madagascan variety. On a blog called Tahiti.com, I read something which you may find interesting, and which actually has some bearing on how Tihota smells on my skin:
Vanilla actually grows from an orchid plant. The Tahitian variety (pictured below) is a rare species, making it highly desirable and often more expensive than other types of vanilla. It is low in actual vanillin content, but higher in a certain flavor compound that gives it that fragrant, rich flavor that many connoisseurs and gourmet chefs have come to know and love.
Another thing that makes Tahitian vanilla so unique is the fact that it’s indehiscent, meaning the pods do not spontaneously open as they ripen. For this reason, they can be harvested when ripe, unlike other vanilla plants that must be harvested prematurely. It’s the same difference between a yellow banana and one that is harvested when it’s still green.
Tihota opens on my skin with candied vanilla that is lightly flecked with a clean musk. The vanilla has a sugary sweetness, but also a lovely creaminess that is buttery smooth and silky soft. There is a flour-like undertone that reminds me of cake batter, along with a rich egg yolk nuance like that in expensive French Vanilla bean ice-creams. I’m a huge fan of both sorts of vanilla sub-texts, and find them far preferable to the usual caramelized, ultra-sugary creme brulée variety that is so common in vanilla fragrances. Yes, Tihota has a sugariness as well, most noticeably in its first 60-90 minutes, but it’s pitched at a much softer degree than the high-decibel shrieks in such over-the-top gourmands as Profumum‘s Vanitas, 4160 Tuesday‘s The Dark Heart of Old Havana, or Shay & Blue‘s Salt Caramel.
As for the musk, it may be clean in nature, but only slightly so. More importantly, it’s never cheap-smelling, excessive, overly fresh; or painfully sharp. Frankly, it’s a bit of a surprise. A number of Francis Kurkdjian’s scents for his own MFK line have had a ridiculous amount of white musk that I’ve found to be inordinately unpleasant. Some smell synthetic as hell, reminding me of hairspray or shampoo; others have been so sharp that they triggered a headache and made the scent a scrubber. For Indult, Mr. Kurkdjian seems to have dialed it down significantly, because the musk never intrudes upon or overshadows the vanilla.
The first 90-minutes of Tihota is appealing, but not my favorite part of the scent. There is this strange back-and-forth which occurs with the sweetness levels. Every single time that I thought the perfume had exceeded my threshold for sugariness, it pulls back and another wave of silky smooth, eggy, vanilla cream washes over me. Luckyscent’s description for Tihota references vanilla bean pods that have been dipped in honeyed water and then left to steep. I think Tihota is sweeter than that in its first stage, because there is a definite crystallized, raw quality to the notes that feels like sugar cane. Yet, somehow, by magic or some perfumer’s feat, Tihota’s creaminess really seems to cut through much of it.
The result really smells like a warm, cozy house where someone just baked. Swirls of snickerdoodle cookies, perhaps, but also freshly made vanilla cake hot out of the oven. And that’s the part that is most appealing to me. I absolutely love the sense of warm flour, butter, and eggs that lurks in the base, as well as the extremely delicate wisp of floralcy that weaves quietly through the top.
The Tahiti.com site referenced both the vanilla orchid flower, and how their beans are genetically unique in terms of being harvestable when ripe, instead of being green. I think both things factor into why Tihota is so delicious. The perfume really has the feel of velvety, creamy white petals from a vanilla orchid plant, even if it’s subtle and sometimes merely an evocative wisp dancing at the furthest edges.
At the same time, the heart and soul of Tihota is centered on the very flavourful richness of ripened beans. The Tahiti site may say that they are technically low in vanillin content, but somehow this is a better sort of vanilla. It’s less obvious, and not quite so much like you poured a bottle of extrait on yourself. What is so impressive though is the balance in the various sub-texts. Instead of dark Bourbon booziness, there is frothy, airy creaminess. It’s eggy and, yet, it’s not quite so. It’s custard-y, but it’s not unctuous or heavy. It’s buttery, but it’s nothing like the butter in Mona di Orio‘s Vanille (which made me think of what movie theatres pour over popcorn). It’s richer than a creme anglaise sauce, but it never verges on creme brulée with its burnt, caramelized crust.
The best way I can describe the overall bouquet is the simultaneous twin aromas of uncooked, slightly flour-y, vanilla cake batter and the actual cake taken hot out of the oven, mixed with a handful of sugar cookies, and then covered with a few velvety petals from an orchid plant. It’s really a delectable, cozy, utterly comforting scent, even in the first 90 minutes when Tihota keeps tipping over my sweetness limits before suddenly pulling back.
The whole thing is a very soft bouquet that seems to envelop you like the thinnest, most translucent silk. Using 3 good smears equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, Tihota opened with roughly 3 inches of sillage at first. That number soon dropped: the perfume projected about 2.5 inches after 15 minutes, 1.5 at the end of the first hour, and just below an inch at the 1.75 hour mark. Throughout it all, Tihota was very light in weight and body, too much so for my personal tastes to be honest. I was a little saddened by the gauzy sheerness, and I would have liked more sillage, but I did appreciate how little curlicues of vanilla sugar cookies occasionally wafted up at me during the first hour when I moved.
Tihota’s true beauty shone best for me after 90 minutes and as the 2nd hour drew to a close. Up to then, the sweetness had occasionally given me pause, especially at one moment around the 40 minute-mark, but everything changes during Tihota’s second stage. The sweetness is finally at an even balance, roughly a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, instead of the 7.5 or 8 that it had occasionally flirted with earlier. At the same time, the creaminess in the base floods over, coating the vanilla with even greater silkiness. The musk has changed as well, and now feels warm in a way that evokes the image of sun-kissed skin sprinkled with orchid petals, vanilla, and gentle cleanness. Tiny, ghostly flickers of something boozy and vaguely smoky dart about, but they are as small as fireflies in a big sky filled with fluffy vanilla clouds.
The whole thing feels a soft and inviting as a pile of goose-down. Yet, for all the pillowy gentleness, there is a surprisingly languid effect to the scent, perhaps because Tihota really is so indulgent and creamy. It’s like having vanilla cake and cookies coat your skin with the smoothness of clotted cream. You’re nestled within some warm haze that is the epitome of all the sweet, positive things in life, where everything is safe, innocent, and with the happiness of “raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens.” The difference is that these raindrops are liquid vanilla on orchid petals, and the kitten smells of sugared cream musk. I think the best way I can convey Tihota’s overall feel is with this picture:
There isn’t much more to Tihota. It’s a simple soliflore that doesn’t change at all from this point forth. Tihota turns into a pure skin scent 3.25 hours into its development, and finally dies away as a wisp of vanilla roughly 7.5 hours from the start. I would obviously have wished for more time with it, as well as greater sillage and heavier body, but my skin is wonky. Other people have reported experience great longevity with Tihota. Yet, even with my lower numbers, if there is one gourmand that is worth continually sniffing your wrists up close, it would Tihota for me.
Funnily enough, Tihota seems to get better with each wearing. I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time I wore the scent. The second time, I started thinking about getting a decant. The third time, I flirted with the crazy idea of buying a full bottle. For someone like me, a person who doesn’t actually wear gourmand fragrances and has never bought a single one in my life, that is a crazy idea, indeed. The main reason why is because Tihota is enormously expensive for a simple, linear vanilla soliflore with two notes or three at best. A small 50 ml bottle costs $200 or €160. I blinked at that, I really did. I double-checked the bottle size on Luckyscent again, and then gulped. Profumum Roma may charge $240 for its gourmands, but they’re pure parfum extraits that come in a 100 ml bottle, have massive body, opaque richness, great longevity and frequently big sillage as well.
Tihota is far from all that and, yet, for more moments than I care to admit, I considered buying a full bottle. I won’t, simply because I can’t mentally justify it to myself, but, dammit, the fragrance calls my name like one of the sirens in The Odyssey. I don’t quite know what has happened to me. I don’t like gourmands or sheer scents; the thought of spending $200 on mere vanilla (!!) in a small 50 ml bottle is madness; and, yet, I’ve considered it nonetheless. I think that says something about Tihota.
There are numerous reviews for Tihota across the blogosphere, and I don’t recall reading a single negative one. On Fragrantica, the vast majority of comments are positive, though people frequently struggle over Tihota’s price. On Luckyscent, the positive reviews exceed all others by a landslide; there are 48 Five Star Reviews, followed by 7 Four Star ones, 11 Three Star ones, and so on. That’s a huge gap, and it’s worth noting that most of the middling reviews seem to be driven primarily by the price. It’s quite understandable. People expected a lot when a mere vanilla costs $200.
People are a bit more critical on MakeupAlley, but not by much. One woman wrote, “Whenever I take a whiff of this, it’s like I can hear angels singing.” As with everywhere, Tihota’s price is always the main problem, and usually not the actual nature of the vanilla or how the perfume smells. There are a few, rare exceptions, but they are a tiny minority.
What I was happy to see on Fragrantica was that a lot of commentators thought Tihota had great longevity and big sillage, saying things like “it LASTS and lasts,” so you may fare much better than I did with my wonky skin. And, like me, a number of people appreciated Tihota more with each wearing; even those who were “initially disappointed” by the scent and didn’t find it to blow their world suddenly changed their mind after giving it a few tries. One such woman ended up calling Tihota “radiant,” adding “It’s like a comfy blanket and the best of dreams. It’s a loving hug. It’s bottled joy.”
As a side note, I’ve seen a number of fragrances mentioned as “dupes” for Tihota, though almost everyone agrees that they don’t have the same quality. The name that comes up repeatedly on Fragrantica is Victoria’s Secret Vanilla Lace. It’s a fragrance mist (so not an actual eau de parfum) that apparently costs $14 and is allegedly “identical,” though some people are honest enough to admit that it smells synthetic in nature. On MakeupAlley, the reference is to Lignes St. Barth, and I think it’s their Vanille West Indies perfume that is being discussed. A handful of people also mention Lavanila‘s Pure Vanille which apparently costs about $65.
I haven’t tried any of these, so I can’t comment. All I can say is that I didn’t think Tihota smelt cheap, synthetic, plastic-y, cloying, or sharp. Those are things that have been a problem for me even with some expensive niche vanillas, so I wouldn’t hold my breath that a $14 “mist” from Victoria’s Secret would be any different. You get what you pay for. As for Lignes St. Barth’s Vanille West Indies, it costs $165 on Beautyhabit for a similar 50 ml size, so you’re not saving all that much less. Plus, I’ve read that it has a profound caramel note, along with much more of a floral bent. It doesn’t sounds particularly close to Tihota to me.
In short, if you’ve been looking for the perfect vanilla fragrance and haven’t tried Tihota yet, I strongly recommend getting a sample. If you have sweetness issues of your own, keep in mind that I experienced fluctuating levels during the first 90-minutes, and that it gets much better afterwards, so you may want to be patient. I would also suggest trying Tihota a few times. A number of people have said that their initial ambivalence or disappointment turned into love after several wearings, and I myself found that Tihota became more appealing each time. I have no solution as to the problem of the price, though. You’re on your own there. If you discover a magical Tihota-dispensing tree, let me know. I would gladly wear Tihota myself, but I’m a long way away from spending $200 on vanilla.
Cost & Availability: Tihota is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 50 ml bottle, and costs $200 or €160. In the U.S.: Tihota is exclusive to Luckyscent. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find Tihota at The Perfume Shoppe. In Europe, Tihota is available directly from Indult, but I don’t know if they ship worldwide. Tihota is also available from Germany’s First in Fragrance, Paris’ Jovoy, and Italy’s Sacro Cuore. In Russia, I think it’s sold at Ry7. Samples: Several of the sites listed above sell samples. I got mine from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.