Fragrance Throwdown: the Berry-Vanilla Gourmands Duke It Out

I’ve been saying for MONTHS now that Bath & Body Works Dark Kiss reminds me of Hanae Mori “Butterfly.”  Finally I got busy and did the comparison, so here are the blow-by-blow details…

Hanae Mori “Butterfly” (edt and parfum)

Notes: Blackcurrant, wild strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, peony, sandalwood, Virginia cedar, Brazilian rosewood, almond tree. Composed by Bernard Ellena. Given a four-star rating in P:TG. Tania Sanchez’ review says, in part, “terrifically trashy cotton-candy idea lifted straight from [L’Artisan] Vanilia… cheerfully bright berry notes… in a classic woody-floral setting… a bombshell gourmand, incredibly rich and strong…”

Okay, so the eponymous Hanae Mori fragrance from 1995, composed by Bernard Ellena, doesn’t smell like its official list of notes. It smells considerably simpler: the overwhelming impression is of mixed berries and powdery vanilla, with a ghostly, cocoa-powder patchouli hovering around the edges. (Please notice, I did not say “ghastly” cocoa-powder patchouli, but I admit the patchouli sometimes troubles me.) If I concentrate, I can pick up jasmine-ylang-rose and a woody base, but I have to smell past the berry-vanilla to get it. Butterfly, though not so named specifically, is often called that because of the butterfly on the packaging: pink for edt, blue for edp and coral for parfum. The parfum is really lovely, very smooth and more wood-focused than the EdT, which can be a bit marshmallowy and is definitely more powdery. I have not tried the EdP. I notice that both the strawberry note and the jasmine stand out to me if I’ve got Butterfly EdT and Dark Kiss on next to each other.

(I love Fragrance Throwdowns for this reason, specifically: comparing two similar scents seems to throw differences into sharper relief, and often I’m able to pick out notes I hadn’t noticed when wearing either scent on its own.)

I actually like this stuff, which shocked the heck out of me because it is So Not My Usual Thing; I don’t really do gourmands. It’s not quite edible, but it’s just barely not- edible – the powdery woody bit keeps it from being something you could eat with a spoon. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also tell you that my teenage daughter Bookworm likes both this and Dark Kiss.

There are not many blog reviews of HM Butterfly, which might be surprising given its continuing popularity (hey, this marshmallow still sells!) Ari at Scents of Self calls it Virtual Kosher Marshmallow, and Katie Puckrik says it “smells like a stripper… a cross between Armani Code and Windex.” I don’t know where she’s getting the Windex reference – and I’ve somehow managed to miss smelling Armani Code, which in any case was released well after Hanae Mori (in 2006, principal notes being orange blossom, ginger, honey, vanilla and sandalwood). Code, by the way, rated one star in Perfumes: The Guide.

Hanae Mori (Butterfly) can be found at just about all the major discounters as well as many department stores.  I bought Bookworm a .5oz rollerball for about $18 last Christmas.  I located a 1oz bottle of parfum for about $35 on ebay, and a 3.3oz bottle of EdT would probably run you about $50.

I should also point out that I’m not generally comfortable wearing gourmand fragrances outside my house. That is, the genre is so allied with youth and braces and junior-sized clothing in my mind that I feel a little silly wearing a gourmand. This one is one of the better choices, though, and I’ll happily wallow in it if I don’t have to go do something serious. (Tauer Une Rose Vermeille and By Kilian Sweet Redemption are two other floral-gourmands that seem more sophisticated than bubblegum to me, and which I’ll wear.) 

Vanilla panna cotta and blackberries
Vanilla panna cotta and blackberries… is this not gorgeous? I am DYING TO EAT THIS IN MY MOUTH now, especially after wearing these two scents.
(Cheesy bottle, innit?)

Bath & Body Works Dark Kiss

Notes: Bergamot, incense, Mirabelle plum, black raspberry, amber, Burgundy rose, geranium, peony, dark vanilla, labdanum, vetiver, balsams and musks.

First off, I’ll talk about my personal point of view on B&BW: I like scented body products. I don’t have access to LUSH or The Body Shop, so I can’t comment on whether B&BW is better or worse in terms of quality than those other two businesses. And I doubt very much that I’d think first of a scented-body-products company when looking for Serious Perfume. Scented body products are typically so much less complex than traditional perfume that I can often find a bath gel or lotion that complements or picks up some of the notes in a full-blown grand parfum (B&BW’s Moonlight Path goes great with Chanel No. 5, for example, and their discontinued Perfect Autumn Ginger Vanilla is wonderful under, say, Mauboussin or Theorema).

B&BW was, due to budgetary factors, my access to Things Scented for maybe ten years. I could only afford drugstore perfume, and since most of that didn’t smell great to me, B&BW was an enjoyable alternative. I do notice that in the past twenty years, the offerings have gone from mostly non-perfumey smells (Cucumber Melon, Cotton Blossom) and light florals (the long-gone Freesia, which I actually wore on my honeymoon) to sweeter, fruitier, and more gourmand scents. I am fond of Velvet Tuberose, which still sells. They still carry Cotton Blossom, and Freesia has had its lovely muguet note replaced with what seems to be hedione to create Sheer Freesia. The fruity-floral-green tea scent Japanese Cherry Blossom is certainly very popular. However, most of their new fragrances have a big sugar coating or a large helping of fruit. I suppose that’s what sells.

Dark Kiss is certainly in that gourmand tradition, with both berries and vanilla, and although I made fun of it when I first heard the name, it might actually be one of B&BW’s more thoughtfully-composed fragrances.

The first thing I smell when I spray on Dark Kiss – either in the “fragrance mist,” or in Eau de Toilette – is blackberry and plum, a dark fruit accord that isn’t half bad, since it has in common with jam or cooked fruit than it does berry candy. Then, although it’s not listed, some unmistakable patchouli. Then vanilla. I sure-as-heck do not get identifiable vetiver or labdanum, but both the rose note and the peony are very present. I’m not picking out geranium, either. There’s a sweet amber there, but it’s not gooey the way amber can sometimes go (and does, in B&BW’s own truly-disgusting-IMO Chocolate Amber thankgoodnessit’sgone).

I doubt very much that there’s any real rose, vetiver or labdanum in this thing. Incense? I don’t think so. Maybe somebody waved a rose over the vat in the lab, possibly, but real rose oil in the formula? Nope. No way. Not at this price point (I bought a 3-ounce fragrance mist for about $4 on sale, and you can get the 3.3 oz EdT for about $30).

Dark Kiss – which seems to have been named for an element of the vampire craze that swept the teenage-girls demographic a few years ago, along with a little phenomenon called “Twilight” – does not smell dark. It is perhaps not as light and bright as the fluffy Butterfly, but it’s not Gothic at all. Dark Kiss is more floral, and probably sweeter, though its fruit note seems less candied to me than the one in Butterfly. If it had been named Twilight Kiss or Purple Kiss, that would have been a more suitable name. (Unless the Salvador Dali line has a Purple Kiss, which it might: I know they make Purplelips and Little Kiss.)

I’m torn here. Will everyone think I’m a nitwit if I say I like Dark Kiss better? No matter. I do like it better than Butterfly EdT. I can feel my back teeth decaying as I type, but I don’t think I care. Hanae Mori in parfum is more woody and less powdery-fruity, though, and it takes the title in this Throwdown.

I’d love it if readers weighed in here: are you a gourmand lover? Hater? Or do you take the position that it depends very much on how “gourmand” or sophisticated the gourmand is? For example, if the question is, “Would you wear Ginestet Botrytis or Guerlain Spiriteuse Double Vanille?”, your answer might be yes, but if it’s Aquolina Pink Sugar or Montale Chocolate Greedy, you’d say no?

(For the record, I’m not going to accept the proposition that Shalimar is a gourmand. Because it’s so not. It is vanilla-with-other-stuff, but it is not a straight-up gourmand.)

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27 thoughts on “Fragrance Throwdown: the Berry-Vanilla Gourmands Duke It Out”

  1. Love this!

    I also happen to be wearing a BBW fragrance today: PS I Love You, in the limited edition eau de parfum. Although all versions of PS I Love You are now sadly discontinued. 🙁 I think it’s my favorite scent they’ve ever done.

    Like you, for years I trolled BBW because they were accessible to me in terms of price. To be honest, they still are. I pick up their $1 lotion previews as a cheap thrill and then throw them in purses.

    I have a mini candle and a mini lotion of Dark Kiss at home. It’s not one of my more-favorite BBW fragrances, but it’s definitely superior to a lot of their other releases of the last two years, which have been mostly horrible. I do love berry in fragrance if it is intelligently done. I actually recently found my holy grail sweet-berry-amber fragrance, but I’m going to blog about it soon, so I won’t give it away.

    Gourmands I like include Queen Latifah Queen (own), Tauer Une Rose Vermeille (wishlist), YSL Cinema (own), and By Kilian Love (maybe decant-worthy). Oh, and I adore Tauer Orange Star, which I basically consider a gourmand, but maybe I’m crazy.

    1. I expected I’d like PS I Love You, but didn’t. I think it was just… forgettable?

      I still miss Freesia. Grrrr. (How sad is it when you are bemoaning the refo of a scented body product??) But yeah, the preview lotions are awesome. I love them – and the liquid hand soaps. I have Coconut Lime Verbena in my kitchen RIGHT NOW, and it makes me happy.

      I like berries myself. Like I say, I feel a little silly admitting to it, but what’s true is true, darn it! Looking forward to reading about your HG berry amber…

      Queen was nice, just a tad sweet for me. Cinema I tested very early on and it made no impression, though I vaguely remember thinking, “Nice. Dull.” I will not discuss Orange Star, which apparently you and several hundred perfumista friends really enjoy, but which I COULD NOT GET OFF MY SKIN FAST ENOUGH. (Sorry, Andy. You know I heart you.)

      1. I don’t know if I remember original Freesia! Only Sheer Freesia. You’re making me so curious. They just did the same thing with Coconut Lime Verbena. It’s now called Coconut Lime Breeze and they have dulled the green-verbenaness. I don’t like the new version. Boo.

        I also use their soaps in the kitchen. The tropical ones are really nice in the summer.

        1. Sheer Freesia is not at all the same. I was so annoyed. And they messed with CLV?? I send them Bronx cheers. Bppphphththbblllpp!

  2. I love gourmands, no need to qualify. I’m only as picky about them as I am about any other perfume genre — meaning, I don’t like every gourmand I smell, but I don’t like every floral or chypre either. I do like a bit of edge or sophistication in them … honestly I think Pink Sugar is weirder than perfumistas are willing to admit!

    I have a tester bottle of Hanae Mari in EDT and someday I’d like to pick up a bottle of the EDP. I love the buttery, nutty quality in the base.

    1. Well, that makes sense. I don’t even love every tuberose out there, although tubeys have a greater-than-average chance of being loved by me.

      You know, I don’t even remember Pink Sugar all that distinctly, and I don’t know anyone who actually does wear it. Blue Sugar I had a sample of, and it was… well, it was a big freakfest. Sugar + medicine + Windex.

      Oh, go get the parfum! Seriously. It’s really nice. I’d buy one for Bookworm, except the way she wears perfume, it would last her seven trillion years.

  3. For some reason, all the B&BW lotions and fragrances have a note that is like a serrated steak knife stabbing in my sinus cavities. I just can’t tolerate them AT ALL (or the candles either). However, not one to be left out, I will say I spent most of my fragrance funds on Victoria’s Secret bath and body products- my favorite being Vanilla Lace. I would still be wearing that scent except it has been pulled from the shelves and reformulated so many times it now just a shadow of its former self, sadly. I LOVED it- it was, to me, soothing and calming, innocently sexy, and understated enough I could wear it to work (fragrance is taboo in my line of work) and yet everyone always commented on how good I smelled. The boyfriends all loved it too. Oh well, nothing stays the same and I have discovered perfumes are not all department store fruity florals- I have been digging Sonoma Scent Studio ” Forest Walk” in a BIG, BIG way lately!

    1. Oh well… I will say that several of the B&BW fragrances I don’t like at all myself. Yuck. Chemical nightmares. I remember Vanilla Lace. (Didn’t like it. Too… creamy? Oily? I can’t really recall exactly why, and of course it’s long gone in its original form anyway.) I liked the VS pear one, back in the day.

      Forest Walk is really good, isn’t it? I was digging around on my laptop today and found the review I’d written of it a couple of weeks ago. I thought I had already posted it, and WHOOPS there it was. It’s scheduled for tomorrow!

      So you’re a vanilla fan in general? Do you have any other vanilla favorites?

      1. How Fortuitous! I will look forward to reading your thoughts about Forest Walk in your post tomorrow!

        Unlike most fragrance gals, my mother was not a perfume fan, so I didnt grow up with those memories as part of my childhood. As I grew up, moved out, and started my career, perfume was a big no-no. I didnt think I was missing anything because I really didnt like too many Dept Store fragrances anyway (I did love me some Opium though!)

        Then I read about Luckyscent and thought I would try to find something to replace my beloved Vanilla Lace (Yes, it was VERY creamy! YUM!)and to my surprise, I found out that, yes, I like vanilla, but not all vanillas-I also like woods, incense, ambers, leather, tobacco, ad infinitum! I am a scent schitzophrenic I’m afraid 🙂 Not too keen on big white florals, but love a hint of Jasmin here and there. Not a fan of aldehydes either.

        Thanks to you and other perfume bloggers, I have learned so much and have been turned on to some great scents- I just wish my pocketbook was as extensive as my desire! I think that is one of the reasons I like SSS so much- lovely perfumes (love Fig Tree, Tobac Aurea, Winter Woods, and of course Forest Walk) at an affordable price that I can get in the 17 ml size, which is the perfect size in my opinion. And best of all, I now work from home and can wear whatever I want!

        Cant wait to see what you like (or dont like) about Forest Walk- I just love it more each time I wear it, and oddly enough, it takes me on a journey throughout the day as it morphs over time- transcendental! Love reading about your shared scent experiences with your children- what a wonderful thing to share!

        1. Oh I agree – SSS is a wonderful, wonderful bargain! Such good perfumes, such good prices.

          It’s always interesting to find another almost-evil-scent-twin… I do love Tabac Aurea, but it’s an outlier on my continuum. I’m not usually a woods-incense-leather-tobacco gal. Love all white florals EXCEPT jasmine. Love aldehydes, too. And green things, especially green florals.

          Glad you like the scent diaries!

  4. Fun throwdown! Have to confess I’ve never smelled either of these scents. I’m not. Into. Gourmands. I enjoyed my sample of Botrytis and SDV was (gasp) just okaaay, but I’ll pass on Pink Sugar. I sniffed it after watching Katie Puckrik’s hilarious review, but refused to give it skin. No way.

    You make me want to see what HM Butterfly in parfum is like. I’m willing to explore gourmands, but my tolerance is low. BK’s Sweet Redemption is justthisclose to being cloying. Some days, I crave it. Some days, I’ve sprayed it and wanted to escape myself. It’s a fine line. I like a couple of Pierre Guillaume’s wooded gourmands. PG Indochine takes lots of flak for its name/imagery, but the honeyed chai woods are beautiful in my book. Ditto with PG Cadjmere. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to give HM Butterfly…or Badgley Mischka a try. Perfumistas I trust rave about both 😀

    1. ACtually, I agree with you on SDV. Ehh. Nice, but no swoon factor for me. Haven’t smelled Botrytis myself, and can barely remember Pink Sugar.

      I think I might go hunt through my samples and see if I have one of Cadjmere… don’t think I have one of Indochine. While I was thinking of “gourmands I like,” I almost wrote down Organza Indecence, but then I realized that in my mind, the woody notes take the scent out of gourmand territory. I love the bubble-gummy sweet vanilla of Vamp a NY, but there’s enough inedible floral in that one to remove it from gourmand status, too. Now, roses are edible, so that seems to be the difference for me. Rose-vanilla could be gourmand, to my way of thinking.

      Which is all unnecessarily complicated, of course.

      If you didn’t love SDV, I doubt you’d like Butterfly parfum. Sure, TRY it, you might be surprised… (happens to me all the time!) but I predict you won’t like it. I really enjoyed the fruit part of Badgley Mischka, but the fruit in conjunction with the patchouli chypre stuff just killllled me. I continue to have real and horrifying difficulty with fruity chypres. Nausea is no picnic…

  5. Agree with others – great comparison! I’m an “it depends” when it comes to gourmands. Some are just too much. Chocolate, especially, is pretty heinous on me in most cases (notable exceptions being Angel, esp. EdT and Taste versions). And anything candy floss-ish is off the table. But I love almonds and vanillas and such.

    1. I absolutely despise chocolate in perfume. Hideous. I mind the cotton-candy accord a lot less – UNLESS it is, as it frequently is, paired with patchouli.

      I love almond, but I’m probably pickier about my vanillas.

  6. I like your throwdown posts as to the gourmands… If I had been connected to a polygraph machine and had to answer only yes/no my unswer would have been “No”. But since I have a luxury of semitones I’ll say “rather no” but there are several exceptions (Angel, Jeux de Peau, sometimes – no always – Iris Ganache).

    I absolutely love BBW’s (the regular one, not Japanese) Cherry Blossom. On others. It doesn’t smell as good on my skin. But I have a bottle of it hping that maybe one day…

    1. Oh, I forgot Jeux de Peau! I liked it. At the same time, it didn’t seem like something I would aspire to save money to own. I just cannot justify spending big bucks on a gourmand, just can’t do it. Too frivolous or something.

      I don’t remember plain Cherry Blossom… must go in there sometime soon. (I have to replenish my hand soaps anyway.)

      1. I’m not sure I’ll ever need a full bottle of JdP. For now I’m happy with a 10 ml decant and I might get another one once this one is gone (in three-five years based on the consumption 😉 ).

  7. Gourmand lover? Mostly no. It seems if a perfume is slightly sweet, my skin amplifies the sweetness and it becomes sickly sweet. That said, I know I have a bottle of Hanae Mori in the back of my closet. I’m pretty sure it was a gift from my husband and daughter for Mother’s Day or something like that, about the time my daughter was six years old. I’m also pretty sure my husband let my daughter help pick out that fragrance. The package is open, but I think I wore it once, maybe. I agree with you that Shalimar is NOT a gourmand fragrance.
    I love vanilla fragrances on others, but unless they have something dark or spicy or woody added into them, they just don’t work on my skin.
    I’ll save my money for irises, galbanums and chypres.
    BTW, I love the throw down reviews.

    1. (Sorry for the late response! I think I may have been furiously busy around this time and missed these comments… school started around then.)

      I think it’s good to know what works for you and what doesn’t… I am definitely not an incense-tolu-oriental lover. CanNOT do them. And there are plenty of iris/galbanum/chypre scents to explore, of course, without ever touching a gourmand if you don’t want to! I don’t do straight-up vanilla scents, either, but if there’s a strong floral presence I tend to like them better. These are actually pretty floral underneath the berries.

      Hey, *I* love throwdowns, too! They’re so much fun.

  8. I shocked myself by discovering that I LOVE gourmands. It can range from something like Guerlain SDV to something inexpensive and fun like CJScents Gingerbread Amber. I’d like to say that smelling like dessert keeps me from eating actual dessert, but …. that would be untrue. 😉

    I like any number of BBW lotions/shower gels and have really enjoyed their White Citrus perfume. The Brown Sugar & Fig and White Tea & Ginger are favorites too. I got a sampler of Boots body butters from Christmas last year and found them to be good quality products too.

    1. (Sorry for late reply! Just found these.)

      Every time I think that gourmands are utterly childish, I think of Cher wafting clouds of Vanilia, which apparently she used to do, and change my mind. But maybe you have to be edgy/dress like a sex bomb to carry off a gourmand, once you are of a certain age… I’m still on the fence about it.

      Haven’t smelled Gingerbread Amber, but I notice that spice notes can sometimes make something wearable for me even if it’s on the sweet side. Likewise boozy notes (though I admit that I didn’t swoon over SDV).

      My sister loved Brown Sugar & Fig… White Citrus is really nice, I think. Reminds me just a tad of Cristalle.

  9. I like some gourmands but not all. If they smell like a 12 year old should be wearing them then it’s a no. Sugar berry syrup is not my thing. I love spicy gourmands. I don’t mind smelling those sweet scents in say, a candle, but I don’t want them on my skin.

    1. (Whoops, missed replying to this – sorry!)

      I can completely understand. Wearing a gourmand can be like digging around in your kid’s Halloween candy stash – it’s delicious, but sort of embarrassing. Such a guilty pleasure.

  10. I do like gourmands, but I find my tolerance for sweet in perfumes is decreasing. I have a bottle of CSP Vanille Coco that I haven’t touched in a few years as it’s just too cotton candy for me. I had 2 decants of SDV, but find it just too much now and sold one. And Ambre Narguile is too much apple pie for me, and I swapped that sample as well. La Maison de la Vanille Vanille Noir du Mexique is nice and not very foody. Also enjoy Lostmarch Lann-Ael and PG Praline de Santal.

    Freesia lotion was the first thing I bought from B&BW back in the day. I’ve gone through so much of their stuff over the years, mostly just lotion and shower gel. Never bought any of the EDTs. Right now, I have some White Citrus body spray and Coconut Vanilla shower gel. I only stop in occasionally when they have their 75% off sale to see if there is anything interesting. I’m always baffled that anyone can keep all the names straight as they introduce a new scent every month, and of course discontinue another one!

    1. You know, I don’t think I’ve tried the Nazgul. Probably because I’m not a big amber fan – just haven’t sought it out. Praline de Santal was nice but there was a note in there that bugged me… can’t remember what!

      Wasn’t Freesia nice? It was SO NICE. Sigh. I usually get the shower gel and hand soaps, and sometimes the body cream – the only EdTs I’ve ever bought were Velvet Tuberose (which I don’t wear anymore) and Dark Kiss (for Bookworm). White Citrus is really nice, and it goes with a lot of (real) fragrances. It is nice that they always seem to be running some sort of sale or other, so I can get my hand soaps for not-too-ridiculously-expensive. My sister’s still very fond of the Lavender Vanilla, and I really miss the Aromatherapy Orange Ginger – at least I think it’s gone. Last time I was in my B&BW, they didn’t have it. But they’ve done that before, stopped carrying it and then restocked… i don’t know.

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