Geisha Vanilla Hinoki by Aroma M Perfumes

Evergreen vanilla


Notes: Bergamot, Clove, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Cedarleaf, Lavender, Leather, Patchouli, Amyris and Cedarwood.


I know it’s terribly remiss of me but I admit to never having tried anything by artisan perfumer Maria McElroy, of Aroma M, before. This is not through lack of interest mind you, but purely down to logistics. It’s not easy to get hold of American indie fragrances outside of the States. However, I think I’ve started with a good one.

The recently released, Vanilla Hinoki has been five years in the making and is the latest addition to Aroma M’s much admired Geisha Collection. Before we talk about the scent though, let’s take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous bottle covered with traditional Yuzen paper.

vanilla hinoki.jpg

The zesty opening stage of the Eau de Parfum comes as a surprise: like breaking the rind of an clementine and being squirted with the juice. The citrus is quickly joined by warming spices, chiefly in the form of clove but also cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s a familiar combination that smells so natural it resembles an aromatherapy blend. I find it simultaneously soothing and stimulating.

As promised, Vanilla Hinoki strikes a different chord to the usual calorific gourmand vanilla perfumes.  Its key ingredient is a hard to source vanilla found only in Morocco. This is partnered with hinoki wood, hinoki being a species of cypress tree which is native to Japan and much prized for the quality of its timber. As well as temples, shrines and palaces, sacred hinoki wood is used to build the hot spring pools or “onsen” found at Japanese mountain inns. Its odor profile is fresh and evergreen with lemony facets.

Maria McElroy’s intention was to recreate the sybaritic feeling of reposing at your leisure in one of those steamy pools. This concept really appeals to me because I am a big fan of soaking in hot water. Once, immersed, I soon feel the tension leave my shoulders and it’s one of the few times my mind actually manages to switch off. I think the bath may be my “safe place”.

On me, Vanilla Hinoki is a very soft, gently spiced, woody vanilla fragrance with a fuzzy, languid feel. The vanilla is very mellow and much more like the pod with its spicy and woody facets, than a dessert. The buoyant, steamy effect Maria achieves is very clever.

The subtle vanilla is perfectly complimented by the scent of evergreen trees which surround the mountainside onsen. It teeters on the verge of incense which adds to its calming quality.




Some people find sweet vanilla perfumes comforting because of the sugar hit but Vanilla Hinoki is comforting in an entirely different way. It’s wonderfully relaxing; like sinking into warm water and washing your troubles away. You feel lighter as the soft vanilla steam rises around you in clouds.


Does this sound like your kind of vanilla? Do you have any more Aroma M perfumes to recommend?

 Photo credit: BHM Photos





Filed under Perfume Reviews

21 responses to “Geisha Vanilla Hinoki by Aroma M Perfumes

  1. Lady Jane Grey

    I’ve been curious about this one for a while – but as you mentioned : the logistics… Therefore I’m very happy that my “go-to” parfum blog reviewed it!
    I mean, I like Hinoki and adore Vanilla and even if if’s a very primitive logic I’m following here the fragrance should work for me. So I have to hurry and get a sample somewhere really soon !


    • You are a sweetheart, M. I’m so happy our CQ will be able to sort you out with a sample because I really think this could be a winner for you.


  2. This one sounds lovely, evergreen and more vanilla pod than dessert. I think I have tried one of the Aroma M fragrances, and that one was, as far as I remember, very sweet and just too much for me to handle.
    As you say it’s rather difficult to come by samples of the US indies, most samples happen more by chance when send from kind US perfumistas than by design 🙂
    Thank you for another beautiful review.


    • Thank goodness for our helpful US pals!

      As you’ve probably gathered, I have very low tolerance for sweetness but I’ve enjoyed wearing this and actually finished the large sample. The evergreen accord works really well.


  3. What a dreamy, bewitching review – the prose equivalent of that relaxing soak in the bath! I love vanilla in most forms, and am really intrigued by the pairing with such zen-like co-notes (is that a term?).’Fuzzy’, ‘languid’, ‘mellow’ – these epithets are all chill-out music to my ears. This entire house has largely passed me by, and I must rectify that. I know Val is a huge fan of the Noir(e) one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love “co-notes”!
      The overall feel is lovely and floaty. Being a sophisticated vanilla fan, I think you’d really appreciate this, V.
      Yes, Val is a fan of Geisha Noire which she was telling me yesterday is tonka, sandalwood and amber.


  4. Tara C

    Just received my bottle yesterday. It reminds me a bit of Le Labo Vanille 44 with the delicate non-sweet vanilla and incense facet. Very nice stuff. I ordered the edp but would like to try the oil too.


    • Oh lovely! Enjoy your bottle, Tara.

      Good to hear you also get an incense facet from it. I think it’s great that Aroma M do an edp and an oil formulation.


  5. cookie queen

    If I didn’t have this coming, I would search out a sample on this post alone. Maria manages to make perfumes that manage to be different from so many others. A welcome addition to my small, but slowly growing collection of fine fragrances. Her oils are to die for. ❤️


    • That’s a great compliment!
      You want something different from an artisan perfumer so Maria is clearly nailing it.
      You have impeccable taste, Val and you are carefully accumulating such a high quality collection.


  6. I’ve been curious about this; I’ll definitely get the sample. I love Hinoki smell… I used to have Hinoki bath salts and I found it so relaxing and comforting. I wish it didn’t change the water to bright orange colour though. 😀


    • Oh how interesting that you had Hinoki bath salts and the scent was relaxing and comforting, just like Vanilla Hinoki. I’ll look forward to reading your take when you get a sample.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sun Mi

    I am pretty curious about this one, as soothing and calming and vanilla and steam seem like lovely things to me. I notice that so many floral notes and wood notes tend to feel screechy or sharp on me, and give me headaches. Womp Womp. So lately I’ve really been seeking out milky, vanilla and other non-floral notes to find things I can wear without worry. Thanks for the lovely review!


    • Oh Sun Mi, I’m really sorry to hear that. So many fragrances contain those notes but at least there are still a good proportion that don’t. Vanilla Hinoki is much more soft vanilla with an evergreen, slightly herbal overlay than woody so you should be fine.


  8. Sandra

    I am so happy you reviewed this as I am dying to try it! This sounds very mice. I just wonder able ut the longevity on my skin. sandra xo


    • It’s really lovely, Sandra and the longevity is great is on me but I know you sometimes have issues with lasting power. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!


  9. I haven’t tried yet any of the perfumes from this line – mostly because my track record of liking any indie perfumes is so miserable than it makes absolutely no sense for me to spend money on samples. So eventually I might (or might not) try this one but, in combination with me being really picky about vanilla perfumes (I like just a handful of those), chances are this one will forever stay for me just a beautiful review from your blog 😉


    • Aah, what a lovely comment Undina.

      It doesn’t make sense to spend your cash where you know you have an extremely low success rate. I’m trying more indie perfumes partly because I’m finding them more interesting than niche these days but my success rate is pretty low across the board.


  10. I really like the sound of this and I LOVE hinoki. I quite often buy the essential oil here.


  11. Pingback: Geisha Botan by aroma M perfumes | A Bottled Rose

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