Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise ~ perfume review

Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise cologne

Vanilla & Anise is new from Jo Malone; it's meant to "...evoke the moment that vanilla orchids bloom at day-break in Madagascar", Madagascar being the world’s largest producer of vanilla.

Vanilla & Anise starts out bright and citrusy. It's slightly sharp in the early stages, and very fresh. Patty at Perfume Posse found it melon-y aquatic, but I hardly noticed until I sprayed it on paper. On skin (my skin, anyway), the fresh notes pass by in a flash. It sweetens up quickly but it never gets more than slightly sweet, and the vanilla is balanced by a slightly bitter edge in the mostly transparent florals: it reminds me of wildflowers more than tropical florals (the notes: bergamot, neroli, wild fennel flower, star anise, oleander, tuberose, frangipani, purple vanilla orchid, clove, white amber, vetiver, vanilla bourbon absolute and tonka bean). The licorice notes are subtle, and the base is pale and woody, and just slightly earthy.

I like Vanilla & Anise. It's pleasant and wearable without being dull or generic. It won't suit everyone, and it might disappoint anyone looking for a vanilla comfort scent (it's no such thing) or a foody gourmand (it isn't that either). There's just enough warmth in the base to keep it from being a summer fragrance, but still, if you're looking for something warm and spicy for winter, that's another thing you won't find it here: it's just too sheer. I usually wear fragrance lightly — typically 1 spray is plenty for me, but with Vanilla & Anise, I found 8 or 10 sprays worked best, otherwise the whole thing fell flat in 20 minutes. Heavily applied, it makes a better showing; still, it isn't a powerhouse, and I wish the anise was more pronounced and longer lasting.

I've read a few complaints about Jo Malone lately; some people feel that the brand has changed direction since Jo Malone left in 2006 (the company has been owned by Estee Lauder since 1999). I was never a huge fan of the brand to begin with, and from my perspective, their more recent fragrances are by and large more interesting than the earlier ones. Of their most recent releases, I liked the Kohdo Wood Dark Amber & Ginger Lily best, but I also liked the Sweet Lime & Cedar. This one comes in third — it's not going on my buy list, but I'd happily wear it if I had it.

Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise is available in 30 ($55) and 100 ($100) ml Cologne; for buying information, see the listing for Jo Malone under Perfume Houses.

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52 Comments

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  1. lovethescents says:

    I sampled this last week and would love a small bottle or large decant. It is refreshing and soothing all at once. I’m not wild on anise but this is done just right. The vanilla offers such good measure!

    Thank you for the review :-)

    • Robin says:

      It’s nicer than I expected. Don’t think it’s universally loved though — have seen some very unhappy reports.

  2. alltheprettythings says:

    Eek – you needed 8-10 sprays?! That translates to like 20 sprays for me; I normally apply 4-5 for EDP. Jo Malone isn’t known for lasting power, but that sounds weak!

    • Robin says:

      Give it a shot. It isn’t so much that I can’t smell it with 1-2 sprays, as that it just seems too bland.

  3. Jill says:

    So glad you reviewed this — I’ve been wondering about it. Would definitely like to sample it. I find that some of the JM’s (i.e. Pomegranate Noir, Dark Amber & Ginger Lily) last forever on me, and others (White Jasmine & Mint) are gone in a flash. Sounds like this falls into the latter category.

    • Robin says:

      This isn’t quite in the gone in a flash category on me, just that some of the notes are so subtle that I hardly notice them unless I apply a lot. The woody/musky base lasts a good long time…much longer than the White Jasmine, but if I don’t overapply, I hardly catch the spice notes.

      • scentsitive says:

        ooh ooh ooh! thanks for the review Robin! white jasmine mint is fleeting on me too, even after several spritizes.. but i like that. :)

        • Robin says:

          I accept that many summery scents, like WJM, are going to be short lived….I’ve got no problem with it either.

    • alltheprettythings says:

      Pomegranate Noir in EdC form is too light for me, but the body cream’s lasting power is tenacious.

      • Robin says:

        You know, I should see if there’s a cream in the Black Vetyver Cafe. I love that scent — it’s the only one of the early JMs I really love — but it just will not last on me.

        • Jill says:

          I love BVC too but it is so fleeting on me I just couldn’t bring myself to buy a bottle!

          • boojum says:

            I ordered samples of both last week (the VA and the BVC)… nice timing with the review and comments. :) I haven’t loved any but the DAGL of the ones I’ve tried, but love the 30 ml size at a reasonable price, so keep hoping to love more of the line.

      • Jill says:

        Interesting. Pom Noir is really long-lasting on me — it’s one of those I have to make a commitment to when I put it on because it’ll be on all day!

        • Robin says:

          It lasts well on me too.

  4. SmokeyToes says:

    Hi all
    Robin, thanks for the review. I was curious about this given I like anise/vanilla/gourmand. I am daunted by the 8-10 sprays though! Maybe it would be nice layered with Pom Noir or Dark Amber & Ginger Lily? I might have to trip down to Nordies/Bloomies to have a look-see!

    • Robin says:

      I am hoping someone else will try on skin and report back if they found that many sprays necessary — it does seem like a crazy amount! And I did not try layering at all. I did see that they recommended layering w/ Orange Blossom, but that did not sound appealing to me, don’t know why. Pom Noir might be interesting.

  5. flittersniffer says:

    I tried this on two fingers (the only space left!) the other day in London and it lasted fine for the rest of the evening – 5 hours, say. I am getting a decant of this in a swap in a couple of days so will play around with it some more. Black Vetyver Cafe was awfully fleeting on me but so far that has been the only one of the range.

    • Robin says:

      I so wish BVC lasted longer! I love the top notes, but that’s about all I get.

  6. Rictor07 says:

    Im a fan of Jo Malone, but yes, i wish they would up the concentrations. Black Vetyver Cafe is one i was interested in, but i will need to try it on my skin first.

    • Robin says:

      Do try it. I really like it. If it lasted on me, I’d own it.

  7. Joe says:

    Can you believe I still haven’t sniffed that dang Lime/Cedar thing? I actually like several Jo Malones though I own very few. This is something I’d want to try — a dry, non-gourmand vanilla sounds good. At first I thought it seemed a weird combo with anise, but then I thought… maybe smelling like a Stella d’Oro biscotto or pizzelle cookie might not be too bad. I doubt I’d want a FB, but you never know… I really should stop by my local Saks JM counter.

    • Robin says:

      I do think the SLC turned out to be sort of a love it or hate it. Lots of women found the cedar too masculine.

      • Joe says:

        Good thing I’m not a woman. ;-) Though sometimes the cedar in Feminté du Bois is a little too “hamster cage” on me.

        • Robin says:

          It’s pretty darned hard to make a cedar TOO hamster cage for me. I like cedar. If other people say something smells like hamster cage or pencil shavings, chances are I’ll love it.

          • Jill says:

            To me, the Sweet Lime & Cedar has just the right amount of “hamster cage.” I like it a lot.

          • You LIKE hamster cage? I’d be happy to send my 100-ml bottle to a better home. I’ll never wear it. Moths in LA drop dead when I put on the stuff here.

  8. Dawnkana says:

    Hi Robin,

    Nice review.

    Unfortunately for me, this new JM VA lasted a whopping 10 minutes on my skin. So disappointing.

    ~D

    • Robin says:

      Oh, that’s too bad. It did much better on me.

  9. I tried it at Saks, and I couldn’t smell it at all–the ambient-spritzes drowned it out completely. I’m not a fan of anise, but after the massive disappointment of Sweet Lime and Cedar (my body chemistry turned it into a giant moth-repellent closet on me. No lime) I was a little timid.

    I spritzed some on paper and lots more on my arm and headed out to the shady side of the building. It was 110 outside, I expected to get a blast of something. The paper smelled melon-y (uh-oh) but on my arm–nothing. Well, maybe a little. Something. I waited, because a few of the JMs turn up and stay with me for days. (Grapefruit and Lime, Basil and Mandarin). I couldn’t tell you what it was. Next to that, the Sisley #1 is a Fracas-equivalent.

    Disappointed. But JMs really work on me only in the body cream, which has more staying power.

    • Robin says:

      On paper, VA smells very much like a summer scent to me…on skin, it’s closer to fall and/or seasonless…

      Wonder if you’re anosmic to the musk or something?

      • When I left the store, I thought, “What am I trying this for? I don’t like anise anyway.” I’m secretly waiting for Havana Vanille, and my arm and nose knew that. . .

        • Robin says:

          LOL…I like HV much, much more than this one. Now if L’Artisan would only do 30 ml bottles for $55!

  10. thenoseknows says:

    I do love this scent! And on me… i only needed like 3-4 spritzes and it lasts all day… when i tested this scent about A week ago It stayed on my skin for absolute HOURS! i was still experiencing the drydown about 8 hours after giving only about 4 good solid spritzes! I do SO Agree it is not Foody/Gourmand/Comfort in it’s composition, more elegant and complex than that I found, also to me, the Anise REALLY Exploded in the top notes and took about halfway through the mid notes to interweave itself with the rest of the essences. I was deeply suprised and in the same breath, upon recollection a trifle disappointed… i was hoping for more OOMPH from the Vanilla, for it to not be so, Diffuse, in the scent, It is certainly in the top 5 of my fave Jo Malone Scents, but I was sincerely hoping for a bit bigger presence of The Delicious Vanille! Here’s to hoping i can Smell Havane Vanille soon and get a good solid kick in the head vanilla scent on me!

    • Robin says:

      I was hoping for more anise, I guess. More clove, too? Just something spicier, with more pizzaz. I do like it though.

      Havana Vanille, while still not at all foody, is heavier on the vanilla than this one.

      • thenoseknows says:

        P.S. Smelled the New Orchidee Vanille from Van Cleef And Arpels… Must say, It is DEFINITELY a more Sophisticated and Vanilla-centric fragrance than this, it is absolutely LOVELY! Intensely Feminine, ALMOST, but certainly easy enough for an andventurous man to want to wear, (such as myself!) it is quite a delightfully beautiful scent, would probably spend the money on it first before i would on the Jo Malone!

        • Robin says:

          Oh, I do need to go smell the new VCAs!

  11. tussah says:

    I really like this one because it’s not foody or overly sweet. For some reason Jo Malone fragrances last a long time on me and this one lasts all day with just a couple of sprays for me. The SA layered this with Blue agave & cacao and it was a nice combinational also.

    • tussah says:

      lol! “combination”….sorry….

    • Robin says:

      Oh, that could be a fun layering combo, thanks!

  12. cazaubon says:

    I tried it on Monday… it was okay, but I’m not really an anise fan so I wasn’t expecting to love it, and I didn’t. Not much vanilla, some clove, lots of anise. I spritzed 2-3 times on my wrist, and it lasted for a few hours.

    • Robin says:

      See, I adore anise so thought it was too subtle, LOL…

  13. eminere says:

    I found the opening to be very fizzy-sweet, and the anise/licorice note seems especially pronounced to me. I agree that this is by no means a comfort, gourmand scent; if anything I think it’s a pretty “cool” fragrance.

    I think a lot of people were expecting a truer vanilla-based fragrance.

    • Robin says:

      That always happens…companies just shouldn’t put vanilla in the name unless it’s foody, I think: leads to disappointment.

      • thenoseknows says:

        it CAN be done and not be foody… Vanilla in the raw is a very Carnal almost Narcotic scent… If the fragrance were developed As the predominant note with essences such as say Lemon, Tuberose, Neroli, Benzoin, Labdanum, Cyclamen, Osmanthus and perhaps even Pepper or Nutmeg it could be more, Modern yet still VANILLA-Y but most perfumers perception of Vanille is that it is too overpowering to be the foreground note and relenquish it to being a background player… or if it is the star, it turns into something Treacly and Cloyingly Saccharine! I would love to create a Complex, Coconutty Vanille Scent with Osmanthus and Gardenia and Wisteria as the base and stll have the Vanilla Shine Through in a Non-Foody but very Unctuous and Obvious way!

        • Robin says:

          I probably wasn’t clear…I didn’t mean that you couldn’t make a good non-foody vanilla, only that there are so many vanilla freaks looking for a great foody vanilla that you’re bound to have disappointed customers if you put vanilla in the name. Case in point: the wonderful Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise.

  14. anngd says:

    Found this metallic and sharp with almost no vanilla. Unpleasant notes persist.

    • Robin says:

      Oh dear! Well, plenty of other fish in the sea :-)

  15. turbovivi says:

    I tried this on me yesterday and *gag* it was no good. For some odd reason it reminds me a very cold can of Coca-Cola… Must be the licorice.

    • Robin says:

      Sorry you didn’t like it! I don’t want to smell like Coke either :-)

  16. katarina says:

    I tried this in London the other week, as I love vanilla, but think there was too much anise for my liking. I sprayed my wrist and dab a bit of body creme on my other arm, and by the evening the scent from my wrist disappeared. On the other side, the creme left very subtle sweet beautiful aroma, that i really liked and could not stop smelling it! I think the body creme would work on me better than the spray. :-)

  17. sweetgrass says:

    I got a sample of this from the SA at Neiman Marcus. I don’t really care for it on its own. The anise takes on kind of a medicinal edge that I’m not overly crazy about. But I have discovered that it layers nicely with 154. After it settles in, the combination is reminding me of something.. I think I’m thinking of Chanel Coco. I’ve only smelled that a couple of times, so I’m not sure, but I remember it having a similar anise note to me.

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