Montale Boisé Vanillé: Ceci n’est pas une vanille, bis

Diamanda Galás photographed by Kristofer Buckle, from Wikipedia

Suzanne kindly sent me a decant of this knowing that I am not a vanilla fan, because she thought it was such an unexpected vanilla. My experience with perfume has finally taught me that there is no such thing as a “bad” note, there is no ingredient I cannot tolerate anymore. There is beauty in everything and where I find a note I cannot co-exist with very easily, right next to it there is a challenge to be met.

Where Un Bois Vanille is a non-edible, almost toxic vanilla, Vanillé Boisé possesses a caustic opening. This thing has fangs and it goes right for the jugular. The opening burns the nostrils with a peppery singe that has a hot quality, like the smell of a just extinguished match. It smells hot, volatile and sticky sweet at the same time. It reminds me of chilli flavoured chocolate, not in the actual note similarity but in the contradictory effect. As the burning quiets down vanilla becomes more evident but never completely takes over. I get an oily note, much like shoe polish, that usually comes from saffron. A round, glossy citrus note exists in the heart of the composition. The inedible theme is developed further with a camphorous lavender note and a bitter almond-y overdose of tonka. I cannot say that I can pick a specific wood note, except for the smell of extinguished match, to justify the “Woody Vanillic” translation of the name. The drydown remains a mixture of vanilla, tonka, saffron and probably benzoin to heighten the sweetness of the composition.

After having tried this I regretted having used the term “toxic” for Un Bois Vanille.  I spoke too soon. Boisé Vanillé is probably the scent to send all happy, romantic vanilla lovers running and screaming like Jamie Lee Curtis. The combination of sweet and bitter elements never fails to conjure images of dark forests, poisoned potions and evil queens. I got the same vibe from Vetiver Oriental. Although I am not sure I would recommend it as a vanilla centred composition, it is a dramatic vanilla. It kicks and screams and bites with power and conviction, not frantically. It is dark, deadly and morose. As I was writing these lines I had a vision of Diamanda Galás singing, mixing Greek folk tonalities and AIDS protest.

Notes from Fragrantica: lemon, bergamot, lavender, geranium, cedar, iris, patchouli, tonka bean and vanilla

Notes from my nose: pepper, extinguished match, bergamot, saffron, tonka, vanilla, magic potion


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. Oh wow, Christos! I loved reading this, but it sort of makes me feel a little frightened … about myself!! 😀 I find Boisé Vanillé more savage in a sensual and sexy way — it comes off every bit as elegant as it does Big Bad Wolf to my nose (juggling them both equally — elegant with sexy-sinister — in my opinion).

    Thanks for writing about it. You really made my day today, both with your review of this and with a very generous something-something that arrived in the mail! I’ll email you later to thank you properly.

    Before I sign off, I am quite curious … would you wear Montale Boisé Vanillé, or is it a little too “toxic” for you?

    • I assure you I have worn it. It just crashed every pre-conceived notion that I had about vanilla. I wouldn’t call it sexy myself though because somehow I get a lot of grief (here I go, waxing lyrical) from this one. Diamanda Galás was not a random choice.

  2. smellythoughts

    I LOVE the sound of this – will have ot sample, although I’ll probably do something dumb like blind buy it :’)
    I have a hard time with vanilla soliflores – I love the concept, I love the scent of vanilla, but they all send me into this ick of wanting it off my skin. Mona Di Orio’s Vanille was the scariest with it’s boiled egg note…
    Lush’s Vanillary I even tried and that was nasty. Lutens’ Un Bois Vanille I haven’t studied properly but the few times I have worn it – we didn’t get on, one of the few Lutens’ that haven’t worked with me.
    But yes, this sounds fantastic, and I’m always interested in sampling the non-aoud Montales.

    • From my experience it takes trial and error to appreciate a difficult note. I used to hate clove but last year I was impressed by Loews Sete, a very clove prominent, unexpectedly 80’s perfume

      • smellythoughts

        I used to hate cloves too (our taste seems veryyyyy similar in fragrances!).
        I learnt that I like it if it is kept cold and medicinal rather than warm and reminicent of baking goods – Stephen Jones and Iris Silver Mist being my favourite inclusions of the note.
        I also found it very interesting in Slumberhouse’s Jeke but I would never wear that.

    • Hey smellythoughts! Regarding your line “I’ll probably do something dumb like blind buy it,” please don’t do that when I can very easily send you a spray sample. I think you’ll love this!! So if you’d like to try it, flip me an email with your postal address to suz @ eiderdownpress dot com. Peace out! 🙂

  3. Hey, where are the pictures of notes?! 😦 I like that your feature so much. Have you decided not to do it any more?

    I tried two or three Montale’s perfumes and didn’t have any success with any of them. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying but, I think, I want to do it somewhere at a store where I can spray 5-6 perfumes on paper before deciding if I should risk putting another one on my skin.

    • I usually don’t do them for quick sniff posts but I think you ate right. They seem to be missing.

      Montales are a different world. At first I dismissed them as loud and unidimensional. The truth is you have to put them on skin because they are loud and they take a lot of time to develop. So you have to be forced to follow their progression to start appreciating them. They are like a dance music session: you can’t enjoy it if you’re sitting down.

      • Those that I tested I tested on skin, of course. I just feel an aversion recently to buying samples from the lines with which I previously didn’t have much success. That’s why I’d like to smell several first before even considering a skin test.

  4. Pingback: Boise Vanille – Montale « SMELLYTHOUGHTS

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