Many of the Dior Privée fragrances are an ode to a particular ingredient, highlighting its beauty with few other distractions. Mitzah focused on labdanum amber, Ambre Nuit on ambergris, Patchouli Imperial on the titular note, and Leather Oud on leather. The simplicity and occasional linearity of the scents are a trade-off for polished compositions with elegant fluidity where the notes slip one into the other with seamless ease. Dior’s latest release, Fève Délicieuse, is no different. The perfume’s name means “delicious bean,” and the focus is ostensibly on the tonka bean. In my opinion, however, it is a different, delicious bean that is being showcased, the vanilla one, though tonka does play a large supporting role.
Fève Délicieuse (hereinafter just “Feve Delicieuse” without the accents for reasons of speed and convenience) is an eau de parfum from Dior‘s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. The fragrance was created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Dior categorizes the fragrance as a gourmand, and provides the following description:
Woven around a Venezuelan Tonka Bean Absolute, this composition by Dior Perfumer-Creator François Demachy literally ravishes the senses. Drawn by the “immediate seduction” of this ingredient, François Demachy wanted to create a personalized representation of the Tonka Bean. An exercise in composition that plays on contrasts by celebrating both its sweetness and its delectable touch of bitterness. The warm and slightly smoky notes of Madagascan Vanilla were combined with the Tonka Bean to complete the evocative sensation of delight…
While other sites add caramel, praline, white woods, and sometimes cocoa to the list of notes, Dior itself says that the perfume contains only:
Calabrian Bergamot, Tonka Bean Absolute, Madagascar Vanilla.
Feve Delicieuse opens on my skin with dark vanilla that is lightly smoky and sprinkled with drops of boozy rum. It is followed by an intense greenness that smells very much like green cardamom mixed with fresh anise and a touch of unripened bergamot. The very first time I tested Feve Delicieuse, I applied only a small quantity, and there was little anise, but the sense of cardamom was so strong that it almost overwhelmed the vanilla. Things are more balanced at a larger dose, but the anise shines forth now without question, smelling as fresh as the plant’s bright green fronds. Lurking behind all this in the background is a quiet woodiness that smells like green, aromatic cedar that has been singed at the edges to emit puffs of dry smoke. Next to it is a hint of sweet spiciness that reminds me of the cinnamon facets evident in benzoin, a dark resin with a vanilla-like profile. It’s very subtle, though it ends up becoming quite prominent later on in Feve Delicieuse’s drydown. From afar, though, few of these things are noticeable and the perfume’s opening smells primarily like dark, quietly smoky vanilla, blanketed with fresh and spiced greenness and then splattered with a few drops of boozy Bourbon rum.
It remains that way for a while but, up close, changes occur in rapid succession. 5 minutes in, the anise surges forth, turning the darkened vanilla bright green at the edges and weakening the booziness with herbal freshness. Small nuances of black licorice run through the anise, but it is only a minor undertone.
For a brief moment, Feve Delicieuse feels like a very (very) distant cousin to L’Artisan‘s reformulated version of Havana Vanille, the licorice-drenched Vanille Absolument, but there are differences. First, Feve Delicieuse has significantly more anise than licorice. (There is a difference in aroma between the two.) In addition; there isn’t even a hint of tobacco; the vanilla is smokier, stronger, and richer in the Dior; and the focus of the two scents feels quite different. If I were to make a rough estimate of each ingredient’s breakdown in Feve Delicieuse’s opening, I’d say there was 65% dark, smoky vanilla; 25% anise; 8% cardamom; and 2% cedar-ish woods. The L’Artisan scent has a very different breakdown in its opening phase on my skin with almost as much green-black licorice as boozy vanilla, and is a much thinner, airier, and sharper scent as a whole.
Roughly 20 minutes in, the changes increase in speed. The first hints of tonka stir in the base, accompanied by dark caramel and a toasted nuttiness. The coumarin that is such a big part of tonka beans begins to emit the tiniest suggestion of dry, sweet hay as well. All these notes quickly seep upwards, turning the vanilla smoother and deeper, almost creamy at times. They also dilute the strength of the anise. By the 30-minute mark, Feve Delicieuse has become a fluid, rippling wave of boozy, smoky, dark vanilla swirled with caramel sweetness, laced with shrinking streaks of anisic greenness, topped with a sprinkling of warm nuts and hay.
It may sound like the perfume version of a sundae or milk shake, but I think Feve Delicieuse is better balanced than that. Although the caramel grows in strength, nothing about the scent feels sticky, cloyingly gooey, or syrupy — and I have an exceedingly low threshold for sweetness. It’s not merely the quiet smokiness that helps to keep things in check; it’s the anisic greenness that continues to infuse the vanilla, thereby separating Feve Delicieuse from something like Guerlain‘s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. While the smoke and greenness are the greatest factors, other things help, too. There is also the growing presence of the dry hay, the toasted nuttiness, and the occasional glimmers of bitter, fresh almonds which is another facet of the coumarin, though not quite as common. Together, they counter-balance the sweet notes and give Feve Delicieuse a certain semi-dryness by the end of the first hour.
It’s a mix of smoky, warm, dark, fresh, sweet and dry notes that doesn’t change dramatically for the next few hours, except in terms of its projection. Feve Delicieuse opens with great robustness and strength before turning much softer. Using 3 large smears equal to roughly 2 big sprays or 3 small ones from an actual bottle, the perfume was initially a rich cloud that projected about 4 inches before quickly dropping. After 15 minutes, it radiated about 2.5 inches, then 1 inch after 90 minutes. There it stayed for the next few hours, never really leaving a scent trail, always smelling strong up close, but also feeling soft.
At the end of the 4th hour and the start of the 5th, Feve Delicieuse shifts gears and begins its long drydown. The tonka finally surges up from the base to join the main players on center stage, coating the dark vanilla and the caramel with silky creaminess. The vanilla occasionally reminds me of crème anglaise sauce, except this one has tendrils of smokiness and a hint of woodiness woven in. The smudges of greenness have largely faded away, muffled by the tonka’s cream. The vanilla’s boozy Bourbon side has undergone the same treatment. Even the coumarin’s dry hay, toasted nuts and fresh almonds are quiet now, though occasional flickers continue to pop up in the background once in a while, particularly the nuts.
For the most part, Feve Delicieuse is now a creamy but dark vanilla laced with caramel and wrapped up in thin ribbons of smoke. If there is one thing I am really impressed by with Feve Delicieuse, it’s the textural quality and feel of the scent at this point. There is really no other word to describe it but “silky.” The fragrance clings to the skin with the softness and smoothness of silk in a way that is really beautiful. I have to admit that I am not particularly fond of Feve Delicieuse’s first five hours because I really didn’t enjoy the anisic greenness, but the seamless, golden silkiness of the scent from this point forth is very nice.
The main reason why the drydown is so enjoyable is because I find it essentially replicates all the qualities of an amber scent. In fact, 7.5 hours in, Feve Delicieuse is basically much like a mixed amber accord in all its traits. It has the caramel facets of labdanum with benzoin’s lightly spiced, cinnamon-vanilla aroma mixed with the quiet smokiness of styrax. There is also a light powderiness now that hangs over everything and resembles benzoin more than just pure tonka by itself. While the official note list does not include any of those ingredients, Feve Delicieuse has much the same smell and feel of an amber fragrance, many of which combine vanilla and/or tonka with labdanum and benzoin. That is just one of the reasons why I would bet that benzoin is one of the perfume’s hidden ingredients (along with the anise which so many other people have noticed as well). Another is that Feve Delicieuse reminds me of the drydown of Maitre Parfumeur‘s Ambre Precieux, only with a touch more smokiness and vanilla.
From this point until its very last hour, Feve Delicieuse is essentially an amberized mix of creamy, soft caramel infused with equally creamy vanilla and then lightly dusted with a quiet, vanilla-ish powderiness that occasionally bears a hint of cinnamon spiciness. It’s as soft as a hushed breath, a quiet kiss of sweetness that is golden and warm above all else. Over time, the labdanum-like caramel dominates more and more, while the vanilla fades. In its final hour, all that is left is golden sweetness.
Like all the Dior Privée fragrances, Feve Delicieuse has enormous longevity with generally moderate to soft projection. I’ve discussed the latter earlier to some extent, but Feve Delicieuse became a skin scent 5.75 hours into its evolution, though it was still easy to detect up close until almost the end of the 7th hour. All in all, it lasted 14 hours with the equivalent of 2 big sprays or 3 small ones. Using a lesser amount equal to 1 spray from a bottle, Feve Delicieuse became a skin scent after 4 hours, was hard to detect after the 6th hour, but still lasted quite a long time, just short of 11.5 hours.
On Fragrantica, Feve Delicieuse has received generally positive reviews, though one chap found the sweetness excessive for his personal tastes. The most detailed review there thus far comes from “Deadidol,” who prefaces his analysis with the comment that he’s not a gourmand lover and generally dislikes the Dior Privée line. Yet, he seemed surprised by Feve Delicieuse or, at least, it was far better than he expected. He writes, in relevant part, as follows:
There’s a fresh, herbal-citrus kind of note at the top that establishes a tone of refinement by briefly hearkening back to more traditional styles of perfume. It gives the scent an aerated crispness, but it’s a subtle effect rather than appearing as a defined, prominent citrus. This opening has a slight herbal, almost cedar-like texture to it but it veers green and even a tad grassy / leafy. Within minutes, it blooms into the tonka / vanilla core — an intricate, gradual maneuver that seems meticulously timed. The gourmand aspects are perfectly handled — they’re barely sweet and there’s nothing even remotely cloying about them. The scent smells vanillic, but nutty and crisp at the same time. At no point does it read as overly foody, maintaining instead a more organic, stem-like effect with a slight smokiness to it. It’s surprisingly elegant for a genre that tends to pound the wearer into sugary submission.
Make no bones about it, it’s definitely a vanilla scent, but it’s surprising how Dior had wrangled this away from the kind of traps that this style tends to fall into. It’s not sickly at all — it’s not foody; it’s not cloying; and it keeps from smelling like a cheap candle. This is far more versatile than I expected it to be, and, although it becomes quite linear after the opening sequence (it sits close to the skin as well), there’s a good amount of depth packed into it. I’ll probably return to this review after I’ve spent more time with the scent, but for a gourmand-hater such as myself, this one’s surprising. A green, crisp, ventilated take on an otherwise claustrophobic genre that doesn’t smash you over the head.
On Basenotes, an early thread on the fragrance was filled with ambivalence about yet another vanilla gourmand scent, but that changed once the fragrance came out and people got to test it. One initial skeptic, “Remik” actually called it “beautiful,” despite being a self-confessed anti-gourmand. To his relief, Feve Delicieuse was not cloying, syrupy, “flowery/girly/sweet” or an over-the-top gourmand like A*Men. He writes, in part:
It’s definitely not sweet, not like A*Men sweet, or Tobacco Vanille, or Herod… It’s more like dry cocoa and dry, almost smoky Madagascar vanilla bean, ground to a powder and misted through the air. It’s gourmand-ish, but not exactly “edible” category, to me anyway. I’m not a big fan of (most) gourmands to begin with, but this one is definitely not in that same boat as one would expect. It’s got wonderful nutty aroma, mixed with praline and caramel (very light, not sickly sweet kind), and that sort of bitter, dry chocolate powder, sort of like the hot chocolate mix that you haven’t mixed with milk or water yet. So have no worries, it’s not sugary, syrupy concoction like some have feared. No need to check your blood sugar levels, lol.
I think this sort of reminds me of Idole de Lubin, with a somewhat dry, almost boozy, ebony wood + saffron effect, but here this vibe is achieved with dry cocoa and smoky vanilla as the two key ingredients.
All in all – beautiful, if I may say so… and as I mentioned before, I’m not big on gourmands, so I hope this is saying something. […] I don’t think this one has a ‘gender’ – it’s perfectly unisex, with a slight nod to the masculine side, I’d say. Definitely not flowery/girly/sweet concoction that some guys try to stay away from. It’s coming off as crazy unique, or at least I haven’t explored this side of the semi-gourmand territory. Very well done, Monsieur Demachy! [Emphasis to perfume names added by me.]
I didn’t experience any cocoa, and had instead the greenness noted by “Deadidol” on Fragrantica, but I agree with both their general conclusions about the perfume. Feve Delicieuse is not some hideously gooey, Pink Sugar or A*Men take on vanilla, nor the equally common creme brulée sort with its crystallized, hyper-saturated sweetness like Profumum’s Vanitas. (I continue to be traumatized by Vanitas.) If I were a greater fan of strong anise notes, I’d wear Feve Delicieuse in a heartbeat because its sweetness is extremely well-balanced and the drydown is lovely.
I also agree that it is a very unisex fragrance. That said, I should note that one female poster on Fragrantica thought it better suited to a man, probably because of the anise that she encountered, while one male commentator found its sweetness made it hard for him to wear. Obviously, it’s going to depend on your personal thresholds, as well as how much your individual skin chemistry amplifies certain notes, but I think the greenness, smokiness, and coumarin hay create sufficient dryness to make Feve Delicieuse worth your while if you’re looking for a semi-dry gourmand.
As a side note, Dior has once again raised its prices for the Privée line. The smallest bottle — 125 ml or 4.25 oz, which is admittedly large by everyone else’s standards — now costs $210 or €210. I think Feve Delicieuse is worth it, even if it doesn’t suit my personal tastes, because it’s an incredibly smooth, high-quality fragrance with a very polished character and a seamless treatment of its notes. It’s also a very versatile scent that might even be office-suitable if you go easy with the quantity application. While many people think rich vanillas, orientals or gourmands are best for the winter months, I think Feve Delicieuse has sufficient lightness to work in most weather all-year round. So if you’re looking for a drier take on vanilla and if you enjoy green, anisic freshness along with coumarin and tonka, then give Feve Delicieuse a sniff.