“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” Do you want to sleep with me tonight? It’s a question that Labelle made famous in the 1970s, and I merely have to hear the words for the famous “Lady Marmalade” classic to start ringing in my head. As the Music Times article linked there explains, the song was inspired by the experiences of songwriter, Bob Crewe, in the red-light district of New Orleans “and the aggressive stance of prostitutes in the area.” His lyrics growled their demand through a mix of disco, R&B, and funk, and the latent sexuality at their heart was rendered overtly raunchy in subsequent musical covers.
Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi, the fragrance, is nothing like the world of Lady Marmalade, and the sheer enormity of the chasm between them made me laugh each time I wore it. Put aside all thoughts of lust, skanky raunch, and ripe, fleshy seduction. Envision instead bridal femininity, floral sweetness, and a fresh, dewy delicacy that practically verges on the innocent.
Yes, I think Kilian’s version of Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi is that much of an olfactory departure from everything implied by its name. But it’s a very lovely scent nonetheless. If it does seduce you, it’s through the refinement of a bridal bouquet where fresh white flowers are laced with greenness, then veiled with the silkiest vanilla cream. So rather than asking you to sleep with it in New Orleans’ red-light district or the Moulin Rouge, I think the real question that Voulez-Vous poses is whether you’ll marry it.
Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi (hereinafter referred to simply as “Voulez-Vous”) is an eau de parfum created by the legendary perfumer, Alberto Morillas. The way it is listed on the Kilian website, the fragrance seems to be part of a new collection closely related to the earlier “In The Garden of Good and Evil line, but this one is called “A Night in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Kilian markets it through images of sensual nakedness and serpentine temptation, sums it up on his website as a “caressing scent with a unique milky sensuality,” and describes its specific details as follows:
Voulez-Vous’ official notes are therefore: gardenia, tuberose, ylang-ylang, vanilla, and sandalwood. That’s different from what’s listed on Fragrantica (ylang-ylang, tuberose, Bulgarian rose, vanilla, and cedar), and also different from what I smelt on my skin (orange blossom, neroli, gardenia, tuberose, ylang-ylang, vanilla, and sandalwood).
To create VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC MOI, perfumer Alberto Morillas recomposed a radiant Gardenia on an exquisite Sandalwood composition.
A sun kissed heart of white flowers: Gardenia, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang.
A silky yet sensual drydown: Vanilla, Sandalwood.
A fragrance whose feigned innocence has the power to enthral [sic].
Voulez-Vous opens on my skin with green, juicy, fresh, and tangy neroli splattered over fresh orange blossoms. (Neither of those things are listed as ingredients, but that is what appeared on my skin each time I wear the scent and also what hits my nose when I smell Voulez-Vous in the vial.) The orange blossom’s soft, velvety petals are slashed with creamy vanilla and a few drops of custardy ylang-ylang. The latter seems to live up to its name as “the poor man’s jasmine,” because wisps of that flower float around, too.
The whole thing is a beautiful blend of juicy, ripe, but also fresh and crisp fruits over the lushest flowers. They waft a sweet and narcotic headiness, but never feel blackened with camphorous or metholated darkness, plasticity, powerful indoles that verge on the point of decay or mothballs, or the bug spray note that plagues so many cheap (and synthetic) white florals. If anything, these flowers are buds that have just opened a little to release a sweeter side amidst the profusion of fresh, youthful greenness.
Within minutes, a different sort of floralcy appears at the furthest edges. It’s green tuberose trailed by the merest whisper of creamy, dewy gardenia, but the latter is minor to the point of being ghostly on my skin for most of the first hour. Like the orange blossoms, the tuberose also evokes tightly closed buds on a new shoot, but it bears traces of that beautiful liquidity that so characterizes the fresh flower starting to bloom. It’s such a lovely dewy note, though there is a subtle undertone of creaminess as well, either as an indirect effect of the lush ylang-ylang or the breathy gardenia.
Each and every one of these flowers is coated with swathes of vanilla. It’s creamy and smooth, with an airy lightness that belies its richness. It is never as heavy as custard, nor as sugary as caramelized crème brulée vanilla, or cloying like the ghastly Pink Sugar variety. Yet, it’s also not the eggy crème anglaise sort or the floury Tihota variety. It’s just an ineffably smooth vanilla with a creaminess that feels like silk. I’m not particularly a gourmand lover and I prefer chocolate to vanilla, but what Kilian presents here is truly refined and appealing.
For most part, though, Voulez-Vous’ bouquet in the first 30 minutes is primarily a lush but green, heady but crisply fresh, fruity floral centered on tangy, juicy neroli drizzled on orange blossoms laced with custardy ylang-ylang, both of which have been slathered with silky vanilla. The tuberose and gardenia are more like floral dew on the petals of the main notes, but that changes later on to a small extent.
There are a few other things that happen first. The first hint of white musk appears in the background after 15 minutes, while the sandalwood awakens in the base 20 minutes after that. The musk creates a veil of clean soapiness over the flowers, though orange blossoms can turn soapy all by themselves as well. Whatever the trigger, 30 minutes into Voulez-Vous’ development, the white musk overwhelms the ylang-ylang, not to mention the tuberose dewdrops, resulting in a bouquet that is mainly orange blossoms layered with vanilla and neroli, then coated in clean white musk. Yet, the tuberose clings on tenaciously at the edges. As the first hour draws to a close and the second begins, it starts to send out small ripples over the main notes with levels that fluctuate in power and visibility.
All the flowers emerge after 2.5 hours, though not in equal degrees or strength. The central chord is a duet between the ylang-ylang and the orange blossom. The former continues to waft little puffs that resemble jasmine, but its innate custardy, quietly spiced, velvety sweetness is now out in force. The orange blossom retains only the merest vestige of neroli or fruitiness now, and is mostly floral in nature. Both are suffused with the silky vanilla. The rest of the notes are oddly blurry, like an out-of-focus picture or abstraction. The tuberose is almost indistinct on my skin, but the gardenia is better defined, at least close up. Even so, it’s more like a nebulous approximation of “gardenia.” The sandalwood in the base generally smells of soft, beige woods, though it occasionally wafts a synthetic nuance that hints at something a wee bit smokier. For the most part, it’s a merely ghostly touch that pops up only once in a while in a noticeable way.
From the middle of the 3rd hour until its final hours, Voulez-Vous is an increasingly hazy composite of white florals that skew freshly greenish in nature and that are suffused with silky creaminess. The veil behind which they hide has turned into soft powderiness that smells simultaneously clean and somewhat sweetened. It’s not like make-up, talc, or tonka powder, but white musk that has absorbed some of the vanilla’s sweetness. The vanilla itself feels rather amorphous. It’s somewhat clear and (relatively) distinct from a distance, but it’s not a strong presence up close at all. By the start of the 4th hour, it’s merely a soft, sweetened plushness that cushions the increasingly delicate flowers. They are rapidly becoming faceless, and soon turn into a simple gossamer floralcy that flutters in a creamy, vanillic breeze. In its final hours, all that’s left of Voulez-Vous is a soft silkiness that bears the last vestige of something vaguely creamy and sweet.
Voulez-Vous has very good longevity on my skin, along with generally soft projection, and initially good sillage that also turns soft. Using 2 big smears approximately equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with roughly 4 inches of projection and wafted a scent trail somewhere between 6-7 inches. After 75 minutes, the projection dropped to about 2 inches, while the sillage softened as well. Voulez-Vous hovered above the skin during the 3rd hour, but didn’t turn into a true skin scent until 4.25 hours into its development. It was still easy to detect if I brought my nose to my arm until the start of the 8th hour when I was certain it was dying away. I kept checking every 15 to 20 minutes, convinced that Voulez-Vous had finally drawn its last breath but, to my astonishment, a thin veneer coated my skin until well into the 12th hour. My skin eats through pure florals more rapidly than any other group, many lasting an average of 4-5 hours, so 12.5 hours in total is enormous for me. However, I must stress that the fragrance is so demure and intimate after the 8th hour that it might as well be gone to all practical effects and purposes.
I haven’t found detailed reviews or discussion of Voulez-Vous for me to provide you with much comparative analysis, but there are a handful of things out there at this time. On Fragrantica, only one person has tried and describes the scent, and it’s a man who thought Voulez-Vous was amazing but completely feminine in nature. “Sinan.al-nasiry” writes in full:
Amazing scent for women ( how i see it ) [.] dont think A guy can pull this off unless he is so into floral scents [.] not that much unique but definitely smells nice[.]
Longevity is excellent when i try it on my skin
At least 8 hours
Projection is moderate [Punctuation added by me.]
Patty at The Perfume Posse loved Voulez-Vous, calling it “an elegant floral with some opulent tuberose and ylang.” On her, the gardenia was more distinct than it was on me, but it was still mostly just “a bit of gardenia tang on a longer open that never fully resolves.” She doesn’t mention anything resembling neroli or orange blossom, nor the sandalwood and vanilla, but she detected cedar, writing that it was used judiciously with the gardenia and tuberose to give Voulez-Vous “a subtle undercurrent of darkness.” She also added: “I think a guy could wear it and smell amazing, but I think it’s a tough sell as unisex.”
I agree with Patty and the Fragrantica commentator that Voulez-Vous is completely feminine in profile. I don’t know many men who would feel comfortable in it, but I know a handful with the panache and aplomb to pull it off. As a whole, I think Voulez-Vous will appeal to many white floral lovers but particularly those in a few groups: 1) women of all ages who want a non-indolic, fresh, green, white floral bouquet that is infused with a lot of creamy sweetness so that it’s never too crisp; 2) young women who want a grown-up, refined, and luxurious treatment of white florals; 3) brides; and 4) those who want a very feminine, uncomplicated, largely traditional floral scent that has some presence but also, later on, discreet intimacy.
As a side note, Voulez-Vous comes in three sizes, but not all of them are available at the time of this review. The full bottle is 50 ml, refillable, and accompanied by a black clutch bag decorated with a slithering gold serpent for a total price of $285 or €225. In Europe, Kilian already offers the much cheaper travel set and refill options, but they haven’t been released in America yet and may not be for a few more months. Speaking of American retailers, Franco at Luckyscent told me that Voulez-Vous should arrive on Wednesday, so it will probably be up on the website by early Friday.
All in all, I liked Voulez-Vous far more than I thought I would. Actually, I found it more appealing than everything he’s put out since Apple Brandy (which I can’t wear because it’s too powerfully alcoholic on my skin to make it a practical purchase). Voulez-Vous may not be seductive in the usual or lusty sense, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Granted, tuberose is my favorite flower in nature and in perfumery, but that’s not the reason why since it wasn’t a huge or driving presence on my skin. What I appreciated was the well-executed balance between headiness, fresh greenness, and vanillic creaminess. (I could have done without the clean white musk, though.) So, if you love white florals, I recommend that you give Voulez-Vous a sniff.