Jo Malone Rose Water & Vanilla ~ fragrance review

Jo Malone Rose Water & Vanilla

I tried Jo Malone's Rose Water & Vanilla when it was first released, but since I was under the impression that the "Cologne Intense Collection" (which included Rose Water & Vanilla) was a limited edition line, I didn't bother to review it. Now that it seems to have become part of the permanent collection, I've revisited it and I'm still intrigued.

The Cologne Intense Collection is a group of "distinctive scents inspired by the rich, sensory experience of the Middle East," and Rose Water & Vanilla is inspired by "delectable Turkish Delight": "Rose Water and comforting vanilla are enriched with a succulent bite of rose loukoum. Tempting and addictive." Elsewhere, Jo Malone describes this fragrance as "an elegant powdery scent that blends spicy sweet Orange Blossoms, the richness of Vanilla and an underlying smokiness from the agarwood."

I'm sure I'm not the only one who looks back with fondness on the craze for loukhoum-inspired fragrances that swept through various perfume message boards in 2004. How does Rose Water & Vanilla fit into that genre, a decade after the niche trend began? It's certainly a gourmand perfume, and as Jo Malone's descriptions promise, it is sweet and it is powdery. It's probably more dessert-like than anything that the company has previously released, and since many customers probably haven't been exposed to earlier loukhoum fragrances like Serge Lutens Rahät Loukhoum (1998!) or Montale Sweet Oriental Dream, its sugared-almond and candied-floral notes may seem new and unusual.

On the other hand, Rose Water & Vanilla is more feminine than either of the fragrances I've just mentioned, and it doesn't include any hints of pipe tobacco or alcohol. Instead, just as its name suggests, it emphasizes Turkish Delight's flowery, sugary side. It starts off with a wave of orange blossom and heliotrope, followed by a clean almond (no Play-Doh here!), some very pretty rose petals, and a smooth, aromatic note that may or may not be agarwood. (I don't even trust myself to recognize agarwood/oud anymore, since it's everywhere and nowhere at the same time.) Rose Water & Vanilla's base includes a soft, creamy almond-vanilla as well as a gentle, fuzzy musk. 

This fragrance reminds me of one older Turkish Delight-themed fragrance in particular: Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, a cult favorite that was released in 2000. Rose Water & Vanilla feels like a lighter iteration of Loukhoum, with the cherry opening deleted and the pillowy almond-hawthorn-vanilla blend dialed down. Although Rose Water & Vanilla seems somewhat intense and pâtisserie-like in its initial application, and it's certainly one of the richer and longer-lasting Jo Malone fragrances that I've tried, it quiets down and stays closer to the skin after its first hour. As much as I used to love Loukhoum, I found myself wearing it less and less often when I began a full-time office job and married someone who doesn't like strongly gourmand fragrances. I can imagine wearing Rose Water & Vanilla more regularly; it's a bit flatter than Loukhoum, but it's certainly more adaptable. (I think I've even been smelling it on a fellow commuter during some recent morning bus rides.)

Did you take part in the loukhoum niche-fragrance trend of the early 2000s, and if so, are you still wearing any of your favorites? Or is the idea of a Turkish Delight perfume new to you? Either way, have you tried Rose Water & Vanilla? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Jo Malone Rose Water & Vanilla is available as 100 ml ($135) Cologne Intense. For purchasing information, see the listing for Jo Malone under Perfume Houses.

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42 Comments

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  1. Tama says:

    Oh, I want to smell this. I have been all about powdery lately, and Sweet Oriental Dream is a perfume that I like despite myself. I could see liking something a bit less in-your-face. Thanks for the review!

    • Jessica says:

      Tama, do give it a try if you can — I’m a powder-lover, of course, but I do think this one is easier to wear than many others.

  2. Kelly Red says:

    I have SL Rahat as you mentioned and like to occasionally wear it when I need a sweet sugar jolt. But as much as I like it I grow bored w/ it very quickly, it just doesn’t have enough. Enough of what I can’t always say but just not enough :) That said, I would be interested in this if JM adds it to her bath line. This sounds marvy as a bath oil.

    • solanace says:

      I love the idea of a loukhoum bath oil. Or a soap.

      • Jessica says:

        I would love this as a body lotion or a dusting powder! I hope someone from Jo Malone is listening… ;)

  3. solanace says:

    This is a JM I really want to try. I have a decant of Lutens’ Rahat Loukhoum that I really love wearing, and eventually will need a full bottle of (after Chergui and Santal Majuscule, though).

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Solanance — it’s not too similar to SL Rahat Loukhoum, because it doesn’t have the cherry-almond liqueur effect — but if you’re in the mood for a soft, powdery rose-almond-vanilla-musk fragrance, you’re in luck! :)

  4. Merlin says:

    Am I right in thinking Louvre is a turkish-delight- inspired concoction? If so it was one of my worse experiences. I like sweet, I like vanilla and I like gourmand, but that was just a horror!
    On the other hand, I did like this Jo Malone. In fact I like several of the cologne intense series. They have a depth that is missing in the regular range.

    • Jessica says:

      Merlin, Louve has always felt a bit *blunt* to me — I like cherry-almond fragrances, and I like the Louve concept, but I don’t enjoy the fragrance itself! And I don’t think it has the floral-musky notes that most loukhoum fragrances have. Have you ever tried Rahat Loukhoum?

      • Merlin says:

        No, unfortunately not!

  5. Ari says:

    This is my favorite Cologne Intense! But I wish it was sold in a smaller bottle, because no one needs 100 ml of something so intensely sweet!

    • Jessica says:

      Ari, that is true! If they sold this one in a small bottle, like they do for most of their regular “colognes,” I might have purchased it by now! A petite black bottle would be so chic, too.

    • Emma M says:

      Completely agree with this – I really liked Rose Water & Vanilla when I tried it, but didn’t love it enough to splurge on a huge bottle.

      • Jessica says:

        It’s a shame that they don’t offer their “exclusive” and limited edition line in their smaller sizes!

  6. Julia says:

    I’ve been interested in these since they were first announced. I don’t love all Jo Malone fragrances but I like Christine Nagel’s work and I’m pretty sure she’s the nose for some of the cologne intense fragrances. I have a coffret of earlier scents and hope they release another one with these fragrances. In the meantime I guess I’ll have to satisfy make do with a handful of samples from Saks if I ever manage to drag myself to the mall.

    • Jessica says:

      Julia, That’s another good thing about Jo Malone — they can be very generous with samples, if they sense that you’re sincerely interested in the line!

  7. Vanille says:

    Jessica, I want to try this one now! I was really into the loukhoum craze in 2004, but my samples/decants are since long gone, although almond remains one of my favorite note. We are lucky to have a Jo Malone counter in Montreal. I need to pay a visit…

    • Jessica says:

      Vanille, I think we belong to the same “generation” of Makeup Alley! :)

      I did manage to find a KM Loukhoum sample and a Sweet Oriental Dream decant in my fragrance drawer. I used to have a full bottle of Loukhoum but I swapped it away when it was only half-empty… my tastes had changed. Now I miss it!

  8. hajusuuri says:

    This sounds interesting. I will try it the next time I venture out to Saks.

    • Jessica says:

      Hajusuuri, it’s worth a sniff, even if you’re not a big Jo Malone fan. (I don’t really *love* most JM fragrances, although I do like the Orange Blossom shower gel a lot!)

  9. happy888cat says:

    Reading this post I have a few things I would like to comment on, so I guess I will just number them (or else they just read like a crazy brain vomit)
    1. I used to love my Rahat Loukhoum (Name engraved bell jar? Yes please. :P) but its slightly too focus on the cherry. Which I find to be a fact for many Loukhoum-inspired fragrances?
    I am thinking of getting Traversee du Bosphore from L’artisan right now.
    2. A good gourmand rose is in order! I was reading Robin’s post today and was asking about any great true-gourmand roses. Many just are not foody enough!
    3. Funny how reading this post leads me to feel it smells a little along the lines of What We Do In Paris Is Secret by A Lab On Fire. I know it shouldn’t cause of the agar wood and middle-east inspiration. I guess it’s the mentioning of pastries, almonds, vanilla and powder perhaps..?

    • annemarie says:

      As a gourmand rose, would Tocade be gourmandy enough for you?

      • Jessica says:

        I’d also recommend Bond no. 9′s West Side, unless it’s been reformulated recently. And maybe PG’s Brulure de Rose (very sweet!).

    • Jessica says:

      Happy888cat, I have a Rahat bell jar, too, which a traveling friend kindly brought back from Paris for me! I should wear it more often. I’m just always so afraid of spilling it!

      I love Traversee du Bosphore, because it has such a pretty loukhoum note combined with the leather and the fruit and the other notes. It’s really one of my favorite non-discontinued L’Artisans. I also happen to like What We Do in Paris is Secret, although I’d say it’s richer and fuller than JM Rose Water & Vanilla, and has a lot more going on.

    • Merlin says:

      Irisfreak suggests Rose Praline (from Les Parfums Rosine) below and I have not smelled that.
      Recently, however, I smelled a Rosine on a cardboard strip and thought it wonderful. I thought the name was Rose Patisserie but when I looked it up at home I couldn’t find such a perfume. I think it must have been Rose Poussiere; the only one that sounds similar. In any case – the word patisserie sounded right because it smelled so much like a gourmand to me – cinnamon etc!

      And Jessica has a great review of it too.

  10. Omega says:

    This was really more about vanilla than rose too me, it was too much vanilla for my tastes, a really sweet vanilla. I liked it upon very first sniff but quickly realized, the vanilla is the main player when I was wanting more rose. Just me though.

    • annemarie says:

      And probably me too. My skin seems to magnify vanilla, which prevents me from smelling other notes and accords and makes a lot of vanilla fragrances seem the same to me. (So I was pretty thrilled to discover recently that I can detect the lovely iris note in Shalimar Parfum Initial quite clearly, along side the vanilla. I don’t pick it up in the original Shalimar.)

    • Jessica says:

      It certainly is more vanilla than rose — I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear!

  11. AnnieA says:

    What do people think of JM’s osmanthus? Don’t think it’s turned up yet over here..

    • Merlin says:

      It didn’t exactly blow me away.

      • irisfreak says:

        I don’t know how you can improve on TDC Osmanthus or Parfums D’Empire Osmanthus Interdite. Why look anywhere else?

        • Merlin says:

          Osmanthus Interdite…now that blows me away. And for something even richer Ineka’s Evening Edged in Gold…

    • Jessica says:

      I haven’t smelled it yet… I plan to check it out next time I pass a JM boutique. My favorite osmanthus to date is The Different Company’s, although it doesn’t have much staying power…

  12. irisfreak says:

    I don’t know when it came out or whether it qualifies for this discussion, but for a gourmand rose I quite like Rose Praline at Rosine. I’ve never purchased a FB from that line, though, because I find the drydown so boring and banal. I wish they would figure that out so we’re not left with the meh for the rest of the day.

    • Jessica says:

      I love Rosine’s Rose Praline for a spicy-cocoa rose! Good suggestion.

  13. Joe says:

    Hi Jessica: I’m definitely very intrigued if this is akin to a lighter verion of KM Loukhoum. I love that one and think the rose note in it is amazing — but it’s an incredibly strong scent and just a drop or two is almost too much sometimes. I also enjoy Rahat, but I can see where that’s more about an almond extract type scent.

    Thanks for this review. It’s hard to keep up with all the JM launches in the last couple years.

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Joe — I don’t manage to try every single JM release, but I did like the recent Blackberry & Bay more than some others! and I definitely think of Rose Water & Vanilla as a lighter cousin of Keiko Mecheri’s Loukhoum. I’d actually be surprised if the folks at JM didn’t take KM’s fragrance as their starting point for this one!

  14. Heliotropia says:

    Hi, would this be appropriate for a 17 year old to wear? I’m on the lookout for a good vanilla that isn’t cloyingly sweet and has depth to it. Wearing Prada Candy at the moment and is looking forward to building my perfume collection. :) It would be greatly appreciated if other perfumes can be recommended. Thank you!

    • Merlin says:

      I think it would be great on a 17 year old – but it is pricey!

    • Jessica says:

      I agree with Merlin—someone in her late teens could wear it, although it’s not exactly cheap!

      Do you ever shop at sites like Luckyscent that offer sample vials? You could try a few vanilla-themed fragrances that way. Diptyque’s Eau Duelle is very nice, with some depth. Les Nereides Douceur de Vanilla is a very pretty sugar-crystal vanilla. You might also like Sarah Horowitz’s Perfect Vanilla or Perfect Bliss.

      There are many others out there… I’m sure we’ll get a few good suggestions!

  15. Icaria says:

    I will have to sample this. Seems positively delicious! :)

  16. Norma says:

    This is so tempting, Jessica! How does it relate to Tocade, if it does at all? I really love vanilla and rose, and I live in a very hot city, so my poor Tocade rests untouched most part of the time…

    Thanks! :-)

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