I don't usually go in for gourmand fragrances, but Vanille Absolu is something special. This is my first Montale, and I intentionally avoided trying the ouds and musks, mainly because everyone and their brother talks about them. I wanted an unconventional review for this brand, and Vanille Absolu seemed like a good bet. Let's see how well Montale does vanilla! I was very excited to wear it.
I found that Montale doesn't really take vanilla very seriously. The fictional Pierre Montale is certainly no real-life Jean-Paul Guerlain. I expected a severe overdose of vanilla frosting when I applied Vanille Absolu, and for a few seconds, that's exactly what I got - intensely sweet extract, sinus-searing in its sweetness, with the bright muskiness that upholds most mall-rat vanillas. Somehow the neon vanilla fails to endure, and within a minute it turns into something a bit more original: cotton candy (candyfloss). There has to be something like 85% ethyl maltol in Vanille Absolu. There must be. How else could it smell so strongly of cotton candy for so many hours? I don't know, but I really like it. I don't know why I like it, either. I should hate it. Vanille Absolu should be the antithesis of everything I strive to smell in life, or strive to wear. Yet I can't help wanting more of it, and find myself frequently digging out the sample. It carries itself with a cheeriness that you simply do not get from standard-issue feminines. Paris Hilton did not think to slap her name on Vanille Absolu.
As it dries down (about six hours later) the sweetness burns off, leaving a rich, bourbon-like vanilla musk. Remnants of the candy still hang in there, even eight, nine hours later. It's so friendly that it makes me hungry, and I'm not one to think with my stomach.
So let me close with this thought - Vanille Absolu is a little niche offering from a very controversial brand, and it's a conceptual fragrance (concept being "vanilla") that succeeds at executing the vanilla idea, while offering something more, and possibly something more fun. It is a success, and a great thing to wear on the weekends. What more could anyone ask of a fragrance?