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Vanille Galante – Experience vanilla like you’ve never imagined – July 2, 2017

Vanila planifolia - Wikimedia Commons - US National Park Service

July 1 was my country’s 150th birthday. Canada Day.

I’m proud and happy to be Canadian. Our family has always celebrated our national birthday, but July 1 also marks the start of summer vacation, so it’s always a super-charged day. When our kids were young, we started a barbecue tradition with friends and neighbours, and all their kids, packed onto our back deck and in our tiny back yard. It was always fun, and now we have grandkids and the back-yard barbecue is an even bigger deal, with three generations and even more friends. Same deck, same tiny back yard, but somehow it still works.

At this year’s party, I sat with my youngest granddaughter, now nine-months old, while plates were cleared and coffee made. I love every second of being a grandmother, especially that little thrill of connection when I can make her laugh or coo with happiness. Or when I nuzzle the top of her fuzzy little head and catch a whiff of her magical baby smell, softly sweet and powdery and warm and musky.

It made me wonder which of our perfumes have that same magic quality, that power to pull up strong feelings. Ones that are the same perfect blend of salty sweet, powdery musky, a skin scent, animalic but pristine. I started thinking, searching for associations, which led me to thinking about vanilla, and vanilla scents, and ultimately led me to open up my box of perfumes I’ve yet to write about. Because in that box I knew I had a small bottle of Vanille Galante by Jean Claude Ellena, one of my favourite perfumers.

Vanille Galante is part of the Hermessence  Collection from Hermès, where M. Ellena was Fragrance Director until he retired recently. Ellena built each of the Hermessence scents around a specific note paired with a second contrasting note, and he portrays these familiar notes in unexpected ways, using his uniquely transparent aesthetic to surprise us. Read about some of the other Hermessence scents we’ve listed in our Decant Store: Osmanthe Yunnan, Iris Ukiyoe, Poivre Samarcande, and Epice Marine.

I love the scent of vanilla. In food, alcohol, flowers, soaps, lotions and perfumes, doesn’t matter. Dark smoky woody gourmand sweet lusty sensual, I think vanilla in its many variations is just a fascinating smell that happens to hit my pleasure centres. Therefore, I own a lot of vanilla based fragrances, each of them unusual unconventional vanillas, but not one of them is anything like Vanille Galante.

Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). It blooms with a white flower, then forms a fruit after fertilization, which becomes the pod when it’s dried, from which the flavouring is then extracted. Vanilla orchids are tropical white blooms, scented in order to attract their natural pollinator, the melipona bee, but cultivated vanilla is now hand-pollinated – Wikipedia.

Ellena’s creative vision presents a different vanilla, far from the dark sweetness that is the clichéd character of this familiar note. The name he gave this fragrance is a clue to its difference – the feminine “galante” translates from French and Spanish as meaning polite, elegant, charming. But “galante” also has a second connotation in French, meaning amorous, or erotic. Ellena says that Vanille Galante is:

an invitation to rediscover another vanilla, an unusual, complex and paradoxical one, like a fragile plant after a long winterthe fragrance of a strange flower, light as a trade wind, wafting under our noses with hints of spice, cognac and smoked wood, somewhere between petals and cigars, skin and cocoa.”Hermes US website

The opening is light and very fresh, smelling at first like tobacco leaves mixed with a faint floral. The floral note deepens, and it is – a lily. Lily, with undertones of green banana, a lily that is barely sweet, sprinkled with salt water, a lily that’s just opened to the tropical sun for the first time. Exotic and light as air. The scent becomes more spicy with clove, peppery and green, and slightly smoky as a gauzy vanilla note drifts up and blends with the exotic floral. The deliciously airy and soft vanilla floral accord floats up on a waft of silky smooth sandalwood, as Vanille Galante dries down through the heart.

In the long dry-down, the cliché sweetness of the vanilla is transformed by the cool green lily into an ethereal vanilla, an elegant and weightless presence. Each of the two notes has changed the other, but both the vanilla and lily notes also share animalic facets which give Vanille Galante a slightly carnal edge, making it decidedly swoon-worthy in my book.  Still charming and elegant but quietly erotic.The waft is airy and soft and seems to disappear from my skin after a couple of hours but it reappears again and again, definitely vanilla, but still with that smoky-peppery shimmery salty sweetness from the lily.…” somewhere between petals and cigars, skin and cocoa.”

Ellena’s description of Vanille Galante, seems like a jumble of conflicting notes, things that don’t go together, but they add up to an exceptional and brilliant fragrance, proving that the sum is far greater than the parts. Vanille Galante is unexpectedly gorgeous, a new direction for the vanilla note when it was launched in 2009, taking it out of the predictable and ordinary, and into the magical category.

Everyone should experience this vanilla scent.

Vanille Galante is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.