Jean-Paul Guerlain 2007
[spiritɥ'ø:z dubl vanij]
Family: oriental, gourmand
Notes: cedarwood, bergamot, pink peppercorn, vanilla, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, benzoin, frankincense, tonka bean
Boozy vanilla
Period: The haute cuisine years

Five years after Jean-Paul Guerlain's retirement, the brand continued to issue scents signed by him. Spiritueuse Double Vanille, a gourmand vanilla fragrance from 2007, was at first a limited edition, but it soon proved so popular that it was decided to continue production. Some would say there wasn't an urgent need for it, given that Guerlain already holds the patent for the vanilla perfume par excellence, Shalimar. But in fact, Spiritueuse Double Vanille was Guerlain's first proper gourmand fragrance, a genre that by then had been popular for more than a decade.

To develop the full calorie potential, Jean-Paul Guerlain replaced the standard citrus opening with a good dose of warm cedarwood. The choice of using cedarwood oil in such a high concentration resulted in two certain features often judged less favourably by reviewers of Spiritueuse Double Vanille: 1) when the cedarwood oil met vanilla and incense, it produced during the first hour a discordant effect somewhat reminiscent of burnt balsamic vinegar, and 2) the juice was remarkably oily, requiring most of that same hour to soak into the skin. The rest was pure and very long-lasting joy for any dessert lover, with notes of matured black rum, moist vanilla beans, pipe tobacco, and sweet resins. There was neither real spirits nor tobacco in there, but rose, ylang-ylang and jasmine mixed with wood and balsams smelled like there were.

Guerlain hired the deluxe macaron pâtissier Pierre Hermé to create a decoration for the display of the new perfume at Maison Guerlain. However, Jean-Paul Guerlain's initial inspiration was rather more rustic than Parisian pastry, namely a sturdy woman shopkeeper, Aïda, whom he met in Mayotte, the island off Africa's coast where Guerlain holds an ylang-ylang plantation. Jean-Paul Guerlain was drawn to the fragrance that emanated from her spice shop, and from her whole body, a sweet, ambrosial blend of vanilla, ylang-ylang and rum. Why did he call his composition "double vanilla"? Actually, it seemed to contain two different sorts of vanilla, one creamy and opulent à la Shalimar, and another spicier and fruitier, hitherto not used in a Guerlain ("vanilla has a spicy aspect, far removed from any sweet and childlike sentimentality," the ad read).

The bottle for Spiritueuse Double Vanille was borrowed from the L'Art & la Matière line, embellished with the famous bee emblem in red sealing wax. On the bottle's back, there was a short piece of vanilla erotica:

"Vanilla belongs to the orchid family and was discovered by Cortez. When in the 17th century the vanilla was acclimatized in the King's gardens, its infertility astounded people. The botanists had not understood that bees flirted with the vanilla plants. It was Charles Albius, a slave from Reunion Island, who in 1841 discovered the 'gesture' that ensured the vanilla plant's line of descent: with the aid of a sharp point of bamboo he picked out the pollen and transferred it to the flower's stigma. Today, the hands of professional 'matchmakers' can fertilize, one by one, up to 2000 flowers per day. Vanilla is mainly cultivated in Madagascar, Java, Tahiti, Reunion Island and Seychelles. In time of harvest, each vanilla bean is picked when it has reached a precise level of ripening. That's when the ritual of preparation begins." (What Guerlain maybe found inappropriate to mention is that vanilla took its name from vainilla, "little pod", the Spanish explorers' word for it, which is diminutive of vaina, from the Latin vagina, to describe the way the pod must be split open to expose the seeds.)

As of 2011, Spiritueuse Double Vanille has joined the L'Art & la Matière line.

  We love: how Guerlain celebrates its emblematic raw materials

  If you just love vanilla and want it more Latino than Shalimar

  With Cuban cigar and your two-tone wingtip Oxfords

Some images courtesy of

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