Orchidee Vanille Eau de Parfum by Van Cleef & Arpels Review

Collage of Orchidee Vanille by Van Cleef & Arpels and its notes, including vanilla, chocolate, almond, violet, and tonka.

Vanilla cake, chocolate, orchid, lychee, and musk. Orchidee Vanille is Britney Spears’ Fantasy all grown up.

The general themes are the same, but Fantasy is much more loud and pink, forever girlish and forever young. Orhidee Vanille is still sweet as ever, but softer, quieter, a bit more restrained. She’s wearing a cream-colored blouse and sensible shoes and is on her way to the bank.

A rolled paper message in a glass bottle in the ocean, with a seagull flying overhead.

Orchidee Vanille is innocent yet irresistible, a soft and sweet perfume for a soft and sweet woman. Quiet, subdued, yet delicious, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Orchidee Vanille is a versatile, classy vanilla gourmand. It’s delicate vanilla angel food cake that still manages to come off as grown-up, measured and tidy and ready for work.

Some gourmand perfumes are so brash, so loud, so unapologetically sweet and food-y you can’t step outside without risking being swept off your feet by seagulls. Anyone can feel whatever they want, wherever they want, but somehow it feels kind of rude to go to the doctor reeking of French crullers, you know what I mean?

Not so with Orchidee Vanille. This is where you can get your pretty angel-food-cake-vanilla perfume fix before dashing off for a day of meddlesome unknowns. It’s soft and delicate, doesn’t project very far, but will cocoon you in a comforting envelope of vanilla and chocolate all day without making you or anyone you love sick. It’s versatile and polite, even and measured, gentle and quiet. You can wear it to the office, to the bank, on a date… anywhere you’d like that comforting hit of vanilla.

So yes, the first thing I think when wearing Orchidee Vanille is that this feels like a more subtle and refined Fantasy by Britney Spears. Chocolate vanilla cupcake. Sweet, pure, wholesome. Light and fluffy vanilla cake with chocolate lettering and filigree on top.

Botanical illustration of a light pink rose with buds, leaves, and a stem.

This is a pink perfume, alright. The light orangey-tan color of the liquid in the bottle is classy and oh so Van Cleef & Arpels, but this is a fragrance profile I associate much more readily with pink, with bubbly sweet girls wearing pastels and pop star perfumes: a pretty-in-pink gourmand, soft vanilla angel cake laced with chocolate with flowers and powder around the edges and a hint of juicy fruit. It really is quite similar in its broad strokes to Fantasy.

The difference is in how it’s blended. Nose Randa Hammammi composed Orchidee Vanille with a light and delicate hand. Nothing here feels brash or out of place. It’s quiet, classy, gentle, all while being decadent and tasty as hell.

As the name suggests, Orchidee Vanille is all about vanilla and vanilla orchid — which is a fantasy-note way of saying more vanilla, perhaps a touch more powdery and pink. (Orchid is always a made-up fantasy note. Orchids themselves don’t quite smell like anything, though vanilla does come from the dried and cured pods of the Vanilla planifolia orchid.)

The fragrance is made softer and more billowy by the cushioning note of tonka bean, soft and musky and sweet. The gourmand nuance is emphasized by a doughy marzipan hint of almond.

There’s a prominent warm spiciness emanating from somewhere in Orchidee Vanille. I can’t quite understand what it is. In the first few moments I’m thinking pepper, but that isn’t right at all. It’s more of a warm spicy texture to the vanilla and chocolate than it is a strong note standing on its own.

A small, bright orange mandarin orange, a type of clementine, with two green leaves attached.

Mandarin orange and lychee lend just a little fresh, fizzy, bubbly champagne lift to the opening of Orchidee Vanille, keeping things from getting too bogged down and heavy. The effect is perfumey, spritzy and light, shaping the general contours of the scent to something wearable in warmer weather without taking center stage with any prominent fruitiness. Even on a hot late summer day, Orchidee Vanille holds its shape and keeps from collapsing into a nauseating sticky mess of sugar and dough.

Much like the woods in that one Robert Frost poem, the chocolate accord in Orchidee Vanille is lovely, dark, and deep. It doesn’t define the overall feel of the fragrance, which is still decidedly vanilla, but is artfully laced through it, a delicate gossamer spiderweb of dark chocolate icing.

It doesn’t have any of the obnoxious fake-chocolate, Tootsie-roll timbre I find in a few designer chocolate notes (like the one in Tom Ford’s Black Orchid). This chocolate is delicate and subtle but realistic enough. It’s heavier on the sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla than it is on the cacao, but it’s no white chocolate note. There is a lace of real rich chocolate threaded through it, runny and soft and rich with cocoa butter like those round little melting chips generally reserved for activities like cake décor, but which melt oh-so-decadently on your tongue when you steal one from the pantry.

A pot of light indigo-colored African violets with fuzzy green leaves.

Bulgarian rose is listed in some note pyramids for Orchidee Vanille, but I honestly can’t detect anything I’d call a rose note. And violet? Perhaps it imparts a faint, very soft powderiness around the pink edges of Orchidee Vanille, pretty and perfumey and cozy. It’s not a dominant note by nature, but it’s quite subtle here.

(This seems to depend a lot on perception and skin chemistry. A few people get a prominent makeup powder in Orchidee Vanille. It seems like most people don’t, but your mileage may vary.)

Like in many designer feminine perfumes, cedar is listed as an obligatory base note I don’t really smell in Orchidee Vanille. What I do get in the base is a steadily increasing sweet musk, along with plenty of soft, fluffy, marshmallow-y tonka bean and vanilla, with the lightest hint of smokiness.

Here’s what the boyfriend had to say on smelling Orchidee Vanille: “It smells like Hershey’s chocolate world. Like a sweet sort of chocolate. It’s a rounder sort of chocolate, you know? Like the bitterness of chocolate balanced out by the sweetness of vanilla and tonka. It’s a little powdery, but not in a bad way.”

I need to stop blind sniff training this man before he takes my job.

An hour in, Orchidee Vanille is warmer, sweeter, muskier, a little spicier. It’s almost like ginger, here and there for just a moment: a delicious, warm and musky depth.

Four lychee fruits with some green leaves. The exterior of the center fruit is cracked open, revealing a soft white interior.

Four hours in, Orchidee Vanille is close to the skin. It’s more and more of a softer, almond-tonka gourmand musky sweet, with the pink perfumey fresh fruit fading away. There’s just a hint of violet powder that reads mostly as soft, fluffy comforting musk.

Orchidee Vanille may be soft-spoken, but she’s long-lasting enough. A significant whiff of Orchidee Vanille survived a full day of wear, a dip in the ocean, and a long hot shower. What’s left as it fades is a fluffy, musky marshmallow vanilla, staying close to my skin but distinctly recognizable and incredibly comforting. It is quite faint, though.

Orchidee Vanille only projects significantly for the first six hours or so, after which point it fades to a faint skin scent of sweet vanilla musk streaked with smoky tonka bean and rich marzipan almond. This is decadent, warm and lovely, but it sits quite close to the skin and doesn’t perform with much volume.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive dupe that projects much farther for the money, go for Fantasy by Britney Spears. Orchidee Vanille is a smoother, slower, lower projection, more defined Fantasy. It’s a rich, decadent gourmand, less brash around the edges, but that subtlety comes at the price of projection. Sometimes… things that are expensive… don’t project as far.

Botanical illustration of a vanilla flower, leaves, and bean.

Fantasy by Britney Spears is more bright pink cupcake, innocent-sickly-sweet, with sharper fresh-fruity edges and a heavier dose of sugar.

But if you’re looking for a smoother, muskier, more subtle way to get that vanilla cake fix, go for Orchidee Vanille. Yes, it’s pricey. That’s the point. It feels like the grown-up designer take on that bright pink sugary-sweet genre of perfumes. It’s Fantasy or Pink Sugar for when you’re all grown up and make so much money you don’t know what to do with it.

It’s the pastel pink day-to-night silk sheath dress, the handbag you buy yourself with your first paycheck. It’s a celebration of the bright sweetness and innocence of youth meeting a certain sense of growing up, of making your own questionable decisions, of dabbling in expensive taste.

When I smell Orchidee Vanille, I imagine the quintessential twentysomething woman in New York City with all her friends from the law firm or the publishing office or the insurance agency, figuring out life on her own, sitting on her fire escape, coughing as she tries to smoke a cigarette that looked so much cooler on TV.

Blooming pink orchids.

She’s trying to act like she knows what she’s doing. She’s wondering whether she should get into collecting shoes or handbags, because she can only afford one ridiculous designer habit, and it seems everyone around her has one nowadays. Sandwiched between her Icelandic eiderdown duvet and secondhand IKEA mattress, she still snuggles up in an old childhood blanket with butterflies on it.

The comfort of a sweet chocolate-vanilla perfume with the softness and subtlety of an office-appropriate signature. I don’t think I’ll reach for Orchidee Vanille often, but it’s so delicately delicious I can’t bear to let it go just yet.

Tall glass rectangular bottle filled with pale orange colored Orchidee Vanille perfume by Van Cleef & Arpels with a black cap.

Where to Find Orchidee Vanille Eau de Parfum by Van Cleef & Arpels

You can find samples, decants, and full bottles of Orchidee Vanille EdP at Scent Split.

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