Vanilla Smoke Eau De Parfum by Aftelier Perfumes 

Per fumum…

Notes: Yellow Mandarin, Siam Wood, Saffron Absolute, Vanillin, Vanilla Absolute, Lapsang Souchong, Ambergris, Coumarin

Shalimar, with its gorgeously smoky opoponax, is the closest I’ve come to loving a vanilla-focused perfume. The usual straight-up vanillas are just too cloyingly sugary for my taste and are often very simplistic.

The only problem with the Guerlain was it just felt too dressy most of the time. Reluctantly, I found loving homes for my little used bottles of the EdP and Shalimar Light.

So my interest was more than piqued when I read about the 2015 creation Vanilla Smoke by talented indie perfumer Mandy Aftel. Could this be the vanilla fragrance that works for me? An order from Surrender To Chance later and I was about to find out.


On application, I get a shot of black tea but this is quickly overtaken by bright orange splashes of mandarin and saffron. Saffron is such a striking note with a luxurious feel, but I don’t like it in overdose. Here it’s mellow, savoury and sophisticated.

With usually weighty ingredients like vanilla and smoke at its core, you’d think Vanilla Smoke would be a heavy fragrance but it’s actually surprisingly sheer. This is what helps to make it incredibly easy and enjoyable for me to wear.

The smoke is provided not from incense but by lapsang souchong tea essence which has been extracted from tea leaves smoked over pinewood. This deep, complex accord wafts up beautifully as if from a piping hot cup and provides a lot of interest and depth in this deceptively simple composition. The lapsang souchong creates a definite fireside effect; it’s not an conflagration like Bois d’Ascese but smoke that rolls off a campfire in the darkness.

Rather than being upfront, the vanilla acts more as a backdrop, providing a beautiful contrast to the overlay of soft, smooth smoke. As well as the more typical vanillin, Mandy uses Madagascan vanilla absolute, with all its nuances. This natural material has facets of spice and woodiness, making it a thousand times more exotic than your run-of-the-mill vanilla fragrance.

While it lasts well, it’s pretty low-key, although there is also a Parfum concentration.

vanilla smoke

I find the smell of smoke grounding and add some unsweetened vanilla to the mix and you have my ideal comfort scent. It’s just the kind of thing I wish I had in my collection on drab days when I need a bit of soothing but want something with more warmth than incense can provide. It’s not just a scent to ease your worried mind though, it feels incredibly sensual too – I want to bathe in it.

Vanilla Smoke is more than just a  grown-up vanilla, it offers me the perfect smoky fragrance, being sensuous and wearable rather than austere and masculine. For this reason I feel more than justified in putting it on my Full Bottle Wish List.

Just when I’d got it down to zero too…


Have you tried Vanilla Smoke? Any Aftelier favourites?



Filed under Perfume Reviews

24 responses to “Vanilla Smoke Eau De Parfum by Aftelier Perfumes 

  1. What can I say? A zero WL is boring anyway 😉
    What a beautiful description. It seems with spring around the corner both you and Ines are feeling the love, note to self to be wary of sniffing new perfumes.
    The black tea, dark vanilla and and especially the smoked woddiness sounds gorgeous, since I’m not over my Sycomore trip yet.


    • Yes, it’s clearly a dangerous time Asail, so be careful what you test 🙂

      I love that you’re on a Sycomore trip. So classy. Vanilla Smoke is seriously gorgeous. I think it will be my birthday gift to myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, that sounds good. I will definitely check it out. And as Asali said: a zero wishlist imay sound reasonable….but oh so boring.


  3. Tami

    I have been lucky enough to try both the Edp and Parfum of the Vanilla Smoke and both are divine. Currently my favorite Vanilla, I adore the smokiness of the Tea and how the vanilla is not sweet.


    • Hey Tami,
      Great to know that you thought highly of both the edp and the parfum. I’m going to have a tricky decision to make.
      I totally agree that it’s wonderful how the tea is so smoky and the vanilla so unsickly.


  4. cookie queen

    This sounds glorious. Heaven knows which one I would order. I am so excited that I am at least gonna get to try it. The perfumistas in my life are totally amazing. Ridiculously enticing review. ❤️


    • I’m really excited for you to try it. I love smoky notes though, especially tea based ones. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.
      Perfume people are so generous, it’s incredible.


  5. I am a big lover of tea – and saffron! and vanilla! – but one tea I do not care for is lapsang souchong, so if the smokiness is of that burnt, bonfire-y nature this may not be for me, sadly. I would still be extremely curious to try this though, as Mandy’s fragrances are always distinctive and memorable. And your description of Vanilla Smoke as soothing and sensuous is doing the rest to reel me in…


    • V, I love the smell of lapsang souchong but found it too off-putting to actually be able to drink the tea. Vanilla Smoke does definitely have that bonfire-y vibe, though yes, it’s well worth a sniff even if that’s not your thing.


  6. A tea-centric smoky vanilla? Yum. I love the sound of the nuanced Madagascan vanilla absolute. Thanks for the review, Tara, this one’s on my radar for Autumn now.

    Tina G xx


    • Tina, I hate to create a lemming for something that’s not easy to get hold of but this is really great and I think you’d love it. It is absolutely perfect for autumn. Actually it’s kind of what I hoped Bulgari Black would be like.


  7. Beautiful review, Tara. It really sounds heavenly. I’ve been meaning to get a sample of this but haven’t got around to do so. It’s about time, really. Smoky note sounds fantastic!


  8. I read this review yesterday but waited until I could test this perfume myself (I just got a sample in the package last night).
    This perfume is extremely pleasant but it reminds me of something else – and now it’ll bother me until I find what exactly 🙂 I’m too tired today but over the weekend I’ll go through my database trying to figure out which perfumes I should test in parallel.
    But I admit that it smells good on my skin.


    • Ugh, we were just saying the other day how frustrating this can be. I hope it doesn’t take too long to work out. Please let me know when you do, I’m intrigued. Good to know it smell good on you, though.


  9. The vanilla, the smoke from a campfire at night, makes me want to try it!


  10. Sun Mi

    Hi Tara! This sounds amazing. I wonder how it compares to Memoirs of a Trespasser – have you tried that one? To me it’s a very bonfire-y vanilla, but perhaps sweeter and less sophisticated than this one sounds?


    • Oh how interesting. Thanks, Sun Mi. I wonder if that’s the one Vanilla Smoke reminded Undina of. I haven’t tried it myself. I’m sure it would be sweeter as VS is pretty dry.


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