Perfume Review: Dame Perfumery Scottsdale Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

Artwork for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, by V. Dave Dame. From Dame Perfumery website.
Artwork for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla, by V. Dave Dame. From Dame Perfumery website.

The Aztecs called vanilla tlilxóchitl, meaning black flower.  The origin myth explaining the existence of vanilla springs from the Totonac people, who live on the eastern coast of Mexico, and may have been the first to cultivate the vanilla orchid.  From Dame Perfumery’s website:

According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.

I’ll be honest, I have never been the biggest fan of oriental vanilla fragrances for myself.  I did love Emeraude, back in the 80s, at first sniff, and even though it is now an absolute disaster (seriously, don’t sniff the current stuff. This has been a Public Service Announcement), it has a very definite vanilla focus and at one time was a pure-genius sort of fragrance, the kind of thing that belongs on cleavage.  Rumor has it that famously-vanilla Shalimar is a riff on Emeraude.  Other vanilla fragrances often either have a “vanilla-and” character, or can be ridiculously simple to the point of dopiness.  Either way, I have yet to really love a vanilla scent the way I love vintage Emeraude.  (See my Sexy Cake post for an elaboration on the subject.)  The short version is, I like my gourmandy vanillas (berry-vanilla, or caramel vanilla), or my white-floral vanillas.

I will say that I loved the drydown of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Havane Vanille (renamed Vanille Absolument) – after the boozy, fruity, pipe-tobacco parts faded off, about eight hours into wearing HV, the vanilla appeared on stage solo, so clear and intoxicating. No hint of powder.  I sometimes had difficulty waiting out the early stages to get to the part I really liked.  What was really super-awesome about that clear, intense vanilla drydown was putting a dab of By Kilian’s Beyond Love on top of it. Tuberose-vanilla, yum, a do-it-yourself floral vanilla that I loved.

So I admit that I was sort of hoping that Black Flower Mexican Vanilla would be something like the drydown of HV, particularly when reading the description of it on the Dame Perfumery website: “A perfect vanilla is simply vanilla without added accents, and its creation is a task of restraint and avoiding misguided add-ons of ‘vanilla + such and such’.” 

The notes list for BFMV is more complicated than “simply vanilla.”  Fragrantica‘s list is as follows: lemon, grapefruit, caramel, nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, musk, tonka. Fragranticans smell mostly vanilla in it, plus tonka bean; the other elements seem to be noted as present but not a large portion of the scent. I’d agree: vanilla and tonka, primarily. It’s not particularly sweet, either, which is nice in a vanilla fragrance.  I was expecting a floral cast, but there isn’t one: it’s mostly just vanilla-tonka.

What I don’t understand is what smells so powdery in it.  On my skin, BFMV has a good bit of powder, following its barely-citrusy opening. I do not smell much in the way of white florals or woody notes, and I don’t notice vetiver or nutmeg at all. The caramel shows up, but if I’m being honest, all it does is make me want to go buy a mini of Prada Candy.  Perhaps the powder is due to a dusty-quality patchouli making itself noticeable; whatever it is, I’m not enjoying that bit.

There is a similar dusty/powdery quality to another one of my “vanilla” fragrances, Givenchy Organza Indecence.  But OI has so much else going on (the orange, the spices, the woods) that I can forgive it a smidge of powder.  Black Flower Mexican Vanilla – not, I emphasize, very floral on me, despite its name – has placed the vanilla front and center, so there isn’t anything to distract me from the dusty qualities.  The aspect of the drydown of Havana Vanille (which does, yes, have a dusty quality in its heart) that I loved so much was its clarity and its complete lack of powderiness; it is much more like vanilla liqueur than the powdery stuff.*

Sillage is gentle and lasting power is quite good, 6-8 hours on me where I typically get 3-5 hours’ wear out of an eau de parfum.  If you are looking for a nicely-done, unsweetened vanilla fragrance, test this one. It might be what you’re looking for.  It’s decently priced, as well: you can still pick up a 7ml spray sample for $10 including shipping, and it’s worth it if you ask me.

*Habanita nearly killed me, if you’re wondering about my tolerance for that version of “powdery.”

Well done, Dame Perfumery. It’s still not my sort of thing, but it’s competent and pleasant and engaging to wear, all the same.

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10 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Dame Perfumery Scottsdale Black Flower Mexican Vanilla”

  1. Heh, Habanita almost killed me, too, though for more reasons than just the endless (and very sharp) powderiness.

    I’m supposed to get a sample of this one at some point, and I’m looking forward to it, though your mention of powderiness does give me great pause. Hopefully, it’s a patchouli issue (and you KNOW how much I love my patchouli!!). For me, what sounds appealing about this one is the fact that it *is* an oriental vanilla, Oh Evil Scent Twin o’ Mine. 😉 That said, it’s a little disappointing to hear that it was so simplistic on you, and largely limited to vanilla/tonka with powderiness.

    1. I don’t even want to talk about Habanita. 🙂

      You know, I had been hoping for a more floral angle to it, but I don’t think it was the simplicity that bothered me. Simply vanilla would have been quite nice. I just don’t do well with dusty/powdery (I can manage makeup/powdery just fine).

      Will be interested in hearing how it is on you.

  2. If I go backwards from your review, I will comment first that I am sorry and I think it is kind of funny that Habanita is a weapon of mass distruction for you. It is the powdery godzilla of fragrances. I know we are near fragrance opposites b/c this year in my quest for the perfect vetiver, I discovered that I adore Habanita. Thank god there are enough fragrances to go around for everyone. Oddly enough, your descriptions of fragrances can lead me down the right path, even though we don’t always like the same notes.

    I really appreciate your review of this dry vanilla, as I am always also on the quest for one, even though, when I smell vintage Shalimar or Emeraude, I wonder why I even bother. But I still am looking. I do need to test this one, but I also ended up loving Diptyque Eau Duelle, but that is a whopper powder too. I am seeking the dusty dry almost smokey vanilla that doesn’t get sweet or baby-powdery…. At the other end of the vanilla spectrum, I recently got seduced by the Thierry Mugler Alien Essence Absolue, which is like Tocade grew up, got rid of the blousy corsage, and learned how to wear couture. I think of you often as I test this rather compelling fragrance b/c it has all the plasticy weird vanilla and smokey tonka of Tocade without the nameless items left in the car after last night. Have you tested this one? I’d be very interested to hear your opinion. It has grown on me and is more of a modern synth-oriental vanilla than anything, but has a drydown to die for.

    As far as patchouli goes, I concede that after originally liking what used to be a glorious spicy concoction of deep wonder, eg, Coromandel, I’ve come to loath the rich chocolate powder and patchouli base. It suffocates me now. So I know what you mean about patchouli dust, even though most of the time I can tolerate a bit of it. Cheers!

    1. Hi, Ann! I think it’s terribly useful to have an Evil Scent Twin – as a guide to What To Avoid, if nothing else. Kafka up there is very close to being one for me (oddly, we do have a few areas of overlap).

      It’s funny, I never seem to wear Tocade anymore; my bottle may have deteriorated or something, because it is now almost unbearably smoky/ashy. It’s still drunk but not particularly friendly. I like the original Alien to some degree, however; that obvious synthetic vibe is actually pretty good when worn in certain situations. It was terrific at a major league ballpark, and I suspect it would be perfect for a nightclub.

      Yes, exactly! That cocoa powder patchouli is what I absolutely cannot stand. Cannot stand it. BFMV is not *heavily* powdery – I can wear this and probably will from time to time. I’m just not going to love it. And it really is not sweet. It might just suit you.

      1. Do you know what I’ve been doing this summer with my downmarket frags that I can’t stand anymore? I’m using them to scare off the deer from my netted garden! I tied some rags to some of my net poles and every other evening I douse liberally with the offending scent. Tocade is up right now, and man is it powerful! 😉

        1. That is a fabulous idea!

          We don’t really have trouble with deer coming near the house (I suppose they are comfortable enough in the fields… and there’s the dog to consider), but my parents, who live in a heavily-populated subdivision at the foot of a wooded mountain, have TERRIBLE deer problems. They lose most of the apples from their four trees every year. I will try passing that idea on to my mother.

          And then I suppose I will give her an unloved bottle or two to spritz! Tocade WOULD waft for yards and yards.

  3. Hi there,
    So many people have problems with powder in their frags. I love it. Fluffy, soft, warming and pretty; powder in a frag will often push me from like to love.
    Vanilla is a fave around here too but I think most of my vanillas would have you screaming for the hills. MdO, Shalimar, HA now I can’t think of any, um, oh yes Courtesan.
    Portia xx

    1. Powder, I know… thing is, I never mind aldehyde powder. Or rose-violet-iris makeup powder. I like that very much. The drydown of Iris Poudre, for example, is very much To Die For in my opinion. Likewise Mariella Burani.

      What I cannot manage, and was probably not clear about, is that the kind of powder you sometimes get from “amber” notes seems flat and dull and annoying to me. And I flat-out HATE dusty cocoa powder patchouli, which is what I think is happening here. I just hate it. I mean, you do not even *want* to know the depths of rage to which Borneo 1834 sent me.

      I don’t hate Shalimar – I can take vintage parfum or the 80s parfum de toilette if I am in the mood for it – but it is manageable. It doesn’t smell like baby powder to me, but it is smoky.

      Courtesan I’ve not smelled, nor Mona’s Vanille. (I really hated her Tubereuse, though I can’t remember why.)

  4. Well I was wondering what sort of take you would have on the Dame Perfumery releases? This one has me slightly foxed as a there’s a bit that disappears on my skin for about fifteen minutes. The rest is a very grown up dark vanilla.

    You know what it reminds me of? Coty’s Dark Vanilla! I think so, but anyway for me the mother of all vanillas is Spirituese Double Vanille which I do sort of like but don’t wear. I wear Vanille Tonka-but you know IF I wore that sort of Godzilla Vanilla-that would be it!

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