Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla! I was waxing lyrical about these beans in a previous post talking about Nishane’s Ani and so I decided to head over the other side of the price scale today and dig into a newer chapters collection from our favorite Spanish, fast fashion and fragrance house, Zara! My goodness, but Zara has just been pumping out the fragrances this year. No doubt the department is producing a penny or two for the company.
Supreme Vanilla is a promising name from this collection of four vanillas released just a few months ago in 2023. Some people have claimed that this one smells like Vanilla 28 by Kayali. I have yet to try any Kayali fragrance, so I don’t know, but Zara says that this is
“a feminine and sophisticated fragrance that reveals all the splendor of Madagascar vanilla. An inky note enmeshed with pink sugar enhances a rich and captivating vanilla, while elegant notes of tonka bean and cedar wood leave an intense and unforgettable trail.”
- tonka bean, cedar wood, Madagascan vanilla, pink sugar, inky notes
No, this is not for me: A giant squid has ejaculated ink into my nose and to add insult, has followed that with a vomit-inducing shower of liquid defecation. The opening note experience brings back the first time I stiffed Secretions Magnifique by Etat Libre D’Orange – Blood, sweat, saliva and other bodily delights. It’s the metallic note, like the one in blood or some marine fragrances, that I tend to find difficult. The ink note in this fragrance is too metallic, and it’s also poopy. Obviously, this is not working on my skin or matching my sensibilities, but if the reviews I’ve read on this are accurate, other people don’t get this off-putting cold and metallic fecal note, at least not in a negative way. And you know, I can concur that poop smells are sometimes peculiarly positive, like oud, for example.
Vanilla Supreme is also a warm, synthetic, and powdery concoction, so forgive me if the idea of soiled disposable baby diapers also comes to mind. Baby crap is at least relatively unoffensive. For me, it’s more of the metal note I don’t jive with. If I can get past the earthy and cold, metallic and stinky ink, which hopefully won’t affect you in the same way as it does me, there’s a fabulous smoky burnt sugar and pencil shavings situation going on. The fragrance has a darker, potentially sexier vanilla than many typical vanilla scents, and it’s not too sweet. There’s something grain-like in here – Hay? Oats? Corn? Whatever it is, it’s roasted and neither unfamiliar or unappealing.
The whole composition is very different as far as perfume notes go, and I simply must applaud Zara for this. Love or hate the ink opening, this is unique and niche-like. Interestingly, the dry down with this fragrance is both the most long-lasting among the four, and also the most pleasing for me – clearly I’m enjoying the struggle with this scent. The post-squid-vomit attack gives me bakery, but dry, vanilla; not icing-sweet. That means that you’ll get no headache or cloying feeling. I don’t get any similarity to By The Fireplace by Maison Margiela as some have mentioned, since that one is deliciously warm and cozy. This is cold dry, disinterested, and vampy. But at least they are both winter frags. Supreme Vanilla is weird. Weird and growing on me. Off-putting as the ink is, I cannot stop smelling it.
Next in the lineup, we have Hypnotic Vanilla, which is more of the expected mainstream type of vanilla that I would expect from Zara.
- heliotrope, apricot flower, jasmine, vanilla bourbon, moss, caramel
Zara says this fragrance is
“an addictive and hypnotic feminine bouquet that embraces rich golden vanilla.”
People have likened this one to Dior’s Hypnotic Poison. It’s perhaps a little similar, but there are no almonds here. Although this one does stay on the skin for a while, it’s not a beast projector at all; it’s very quiet, warm, and cozy. Judging just by the name, Zara was aiming for a Dior vibe. I do like the salted caramel note drizzling over Play-Doh, and vanillic flower petals, but I can’t clearly pick out the jasmine. The floral quality is there, though, with heliotrope and apricot flowers helping to create something that smells pleasantly nutty. As for the moss? I have no idea. Perhaps the moss is responsible for taking me to the beach with this one, though. To me, this is a powdery coastal, cuddle-weather vanilla. It’s not at all marine-like, it doesn’t smell of sun tan lotion, yet there’s a solar quality to it. I think I’d enjoy wearing this on a winter stroll on the beach, but I’d have to bring the bottle along with me so I could douce at least half a bottle’s worth of liquid on my scarf (did I say it was weak?).
Nothing there is nothing mind-blowing to sniff here. It’s soft, it’s sweet, it’s vanillic, it’s yummy, perhaps a little sultry and youthful. But overall, it’s the least interesting to me in this collection. Very much unlike other fragrances in the collection, I don’t care so much for the dry down. It’s musty. It’s great for bedroom sheets and curtains, good perhaps for layering, and perhaps an easy pull when I don’t know what to wear and want to smell vanillalushios. Side note: the original Dior Poison is light years light years better than the Hypnotic Poison flanker. Just saying.
According to Zara, Starlight Vanilla contains
“exquisite almond nectar and tonka bean are embellished with a captivating amber vanilla signature.”
- lavender, almond milk, vanilla foam, amber
There’s an interesting mix with lavender and amber here. This scent is more aromatic, incense-y, and perhaps the least feminine of the bunch. To be honest, though, I think men can easily pull off any of these four vanillas. Starlight vanilla has more of a sticky rather than powdery vanilla in it, and the whole fragrance is very bright, almost aldehydic – quite fitting, considering the name. I like sweet, ambery fragrances, so this one is a better fit for me than the others so far. The lavender is not obvious in this blend, although I do perceive it at the start. Nor is there much in the way of a lactonic or milky feeling that I would expect, but perhaps that’s because they simply are designed to act as support to the vanilla foam and amber floating on the top. Perhaps one could envision this blend as a well-blended vanillic lavender latte. People are likening this to Jo Malone’s Myrrh and Tonka, which I have smelled, but can’t remember. Apparently, the only note difference between the two is that Jo Malone’s has myrrh whereas Zara’s has amber.
This is how Zara describes the last in this set, Vanilla Vibration:
“Lovely vanilla nectar permeated with the woody scent of papyrus and iris flower powder.”
- cardamom, violet, iris flower, orange blossom, vanilla
This is another interestingly dry, slightly vanillic composition that is also rather original. It’s extremely powdery – that would be the iris in addition to the vanilla, I suspect. This one seems to have an oiler texture to it on the skin, it must be said, and although cardamon does go great with vanilla, I’m not sure about the other notes. It turns into a toothpaste smell, a clean and cooling effect. There is less obvious vanilla in this blend. Cardamom, iris, and papyrus are the keynotes. Although the opening is green and bright, slightly floral, it morphs into sugary vanilla chai. This brings to mind sitting in a library with a pile of ancient books you have to investigate for a research project. Someone spilled some spiced black tea (no sugar) on the carpet a few hours ago and the carpet’s still damp with it. I dislike neither the smell of books, nor Chai, nor vanilla, but this one doesn’t speak to me in the way I want to be spoken to. I don’t know entirely how I feel about this one. I can tell you from sampling it earlier that the performance isn’t great. It is much better in the dry down, though, when the fragrance reminds me of a damp and cold autumn night after rain. Not my favorite time to be outside, but I appreciate that this fragrance takes me there. It’s soft, subdued, and lives very close to the skin. Again, Vanilla Vibration has been compared to other popular perfumes, one of which being Louboutin’s Loubirouge this time.
What are my overall impressions of this collection and what is my personal ranking? It’s tricky. I was both most disgusted by but at the same time most impressed with Supreme Vanilla. I suspect that on other people’s skin this might just be amazing. It’s genuinely original and very niche-like, and if I could just bypass the way the opening smells on me, it’d be a winner. The same can be said for the last one, Vanilla Vibration. If you want to smell elevated and original on the cheap, one of these two might be for you. Hypnotic Vanilla was both the least original and least interesting to me. It is inoffensive, though, and I have a beachy girlfriend who I think might enjoy this, so I’ll pass it her way. Starlight Vanilla is the clear wearable winner for me, and I will be using this, despite the less-than-average dry-down.
Generally, this fun and interesting sniff fest was the result of a blind buy that didn’t break the bank. Though none of these fragrances will be repurchased, I am definitely more open than ever to making another fragrance blind buy from Zara.