Vanille Galante by Hermès

When I think Vanilla I think Guerlain – or at least something in the Guerlain style of vanilla. When I think of Vanille Galante I think of metallic candle wax, in a delectable way.

The Guerlain style of vanilla is heady and intoxicating. It is rich and moreish. “There is seldom a good perfume without vanilla” Jean Paul Guerlain would reiterate – and Guerlain would often abuse vanilla in perfumery (not that I’m complaining)! Vanilla tincture is used plentifully [especially] in Guerlain compositions, which involves the process of steeping and macerating vanilla pods in an alcoholic solvent to extract ‘the good smelly stuff’ used in perfumery.

Jean-Claude Ellena’s approach to vanilla is completely new. Of course it is, it’s Ellena. Those who love Shalimar-vanilla notes complimented with coumarin accords may find this fragrance most difficult – like me.

vanille galante by Hermes Photo by Hermès


Vanille Galante is weird. It’s a hyperrealistic vanilla scent that verges on smelling too real that it resultantly smells synthetic. I can deduce that the vanilla here is easily distinguished from anything else. Vanille Galante opens virescently and immoderately ripe like a green banana, yet also nonexistent for a minute or so. It smells somewhat like burnt hair in the opening, and lacks vanilla-richness and depth that results in a melancholic longing. Vanille Galante is dully dilute and alcoholic, with a rainbow melange of floral tones that is like vanilla essence – cold, masked and somewhat utilitarian (like vanilla air freshener spiked with florals). You must escape that mindset.

I heartily chuckled when I read people find vanilla too boring for their tastes:

Plain should be the last word used to describe vanilla. Vanilla is one of the most complex spices around, boasting at least 250 different flavour and aroma compounds.” -Eliza Barclay

In this fragrance it’s as if Ellena wished to impose the difference through transparency. Vanilla tends to be dense and rich, and Ellena has showcased the complexity of vanilla by touching on its natural floral overtones. We have lost a loud timbre in favour of intellectual shading and greyscale.

I can only imagine Jean-Claude with his anti-frivolous nature, painstakingly went through a lot of vanilla varieties and plenty of isolated scent molecules deriving from vanilla to secure the one for this scent. If vanilla is deemed to be a ‘heavy’ note, then this is the sole exception; it is as light as a breeze. I can confidently state that Vanille Galante remains to be an intellectual-chemistry based exercise to fully get the most transparent vanilla molecule and then building upon that – in which one piece of a jigsaw puzzle was taken and put into an entirely different puzzle, that concerns itself more with the floral nuances and facets that the new vanilla molecule has.

Clever, but smell wise… It’s gutless for a vanilla, yet still incredibly artful. It’s the perfect take on minimalism and how it can be achieved in perfumery (by using a complex note turned somewhat simplistic). Vanilla absolute, jasmine and ylang-ylang hold hands purposefully excluding the baked syrupy notes of the vanilla absolute. Schoolyard mentality at its finest.

The vanillin molecule has been removed, or at least lessened by a great degree, resulting in a more floral-esque scent imbedded with carnal features and mandarin. Tobacco, brown spirit and a hint of chocolate give off an almost smokey impression with a greenness similar to smoked tea – yet in the end it’s just a grand illusion. Flickers of spice, powder, musk and rose come through with the adulterated scent of vanilla, leaving a sheer and mildly indolic trail of vanilla extract and florals.

Jean Claude has chosen to use the top notes of a vanilla-based scent and lift them into perpetuity; very ethereal. A presence like a kid’s first day of school – blurry, negligible, yet sweet. Some burnt notes of a creme brulee (smoked wood) are present with a raspy and hot sugar fairy floss suggestion woven in, but don’t take this for a gourmand. It’s sensual, but not opulent. It’s a romantic piece of assemblage artwork that is under appreciated and concurrently controversial, in which the margin between ‘art’ and ‘science’ collide.

I want to call this a watercolour but it’s too rich. I want to call this an oil painting but it’s too transparent. Vanille Gallante looks at emptiness and plenitude, and it finds the equilibrium between the two.

Alternatives: No.5 Eau Premiere by Chanel; No.5 EdP by Chanel; L’Homme Ideal by Guerlain (banana skin) 

Overall I appreciate this, but I cannot diverge from the common vanilla. Underwhelming nose-wise, but artistic nevertheless. 

Subjective rating : 2/5

Objective rating: 4/5

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One thought on “Vanille Galante by Hermès

  1. That was an amazing review – it was more of a overview than anything! I love the little poetic features in your work. Can’t wait for the next one!

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