Ah, vanilla: the dependable foundation of so many yummy gourmand fragrances. I love gourmands in general, and, when in the mood, nothing hits the spot quite like a delicious vanilla. However, Vanitas is an unusual vanilla scent and an unusual gourmand, too. For starters, it opens with a bracing, medicinal dose of myrrh, which prompts me to wonder: is this even a gourmand at all?
The opening is tricky and even a little bit frustrating for me. Myrrh doesn’t always work well on my skin, and I still can’t decide whether or not I like it here. It’s definitely medicinal, and bordering on camphorous. Sometimes I think ah, that myrrh is so interesting! And other times I think no, it’s just giving me a headache. Maybe it’s fortunate then that the vanilla comes on very strong, interlacing a sweetness with the fortifying myrrh. The overall effect here is that of coldness, signalling that this is not a typical warm and cozy vanilla.
If this fragrance gives the impression of food, it might be of a milkshake made with vanilla bean ice cream, freshly blended, still frothy and bubbling. But then, maybe even ice cream is too heavy for Vanitas. This is a surprising vanilla composition in that it never develops that familiar creamy texture, not even from the sandalwood. Even though the sillage here is quite strong, Vanitas still manages to give the impression of delicacy.
The name Vanitas is appropriate then. In the arts, vanitas is mainly associated with still life painting. Vanitas themes and motifs are meant to symbolize the transient nature of life and of earthly pursuits. Bubbles are one such symbol used to convey the ephemeral nature of life. Vanitas the fragrance reminds me of bubbles, not in a fizzy champagne way, but in a pretty, fragile kind of way.
Vanitas is something of a riddle for me. The vanilla is quite sweet, but the myrrh keeps me from thinking of this as edible. Similarly, the fragrance as a whole comes on quite strong, but still somehow creates an air of fragility. Perhaps it’s the “chilly” aspect of this particular vanilla, creating a cold atmosphere that feels like it could shatter. It never does shatter; the fragrance fades away in a gentle cloud of swirling vanilla that clings to my clothes and my sheets.
I think I admire Vanitas more than I actually enjoy wearing it. But who knows? This atypical vanilla has room to develop in interesting ways. (And I may go for a milkshake anyway.)
Profumum is a niche Italian fragrance line. It’s available from Luckyscent in the US, which is where I got my sample.
Image and fragrance notes are from fragrantica.