Every Spring turns into summer and then scents with a touch of tropics are what you crave. Anyway they’re what I generally go looking for, though in the case of Ylang Ylang, I seldom succeed. It’s very difficult to discover ylang starring as the main note of a perfume rather than as supporting player. Ylang is like the blonde in a Film Noir, obligatory, seldom featured, often dying in the first reel.
Some years ago I spent an entire summer wearing I Coloniali’s Javanese Cananga which was the closest thing I have ever found before or since to a ylang ylang soliflore. There are some claims made for Micallef’s Ylang in Gold but I have never smelled that and wonder if it ever emerged from the vanilla pudding vat into which so many Ylang Ylangs tumble. If you are lucky those vats are full of creme anglaise made with cream and if you are not, they are Jello mix made with skim milk.
The curious charm of Javanese Cananga was that the fragrance preserved the medicinal edge of Ylang ylang essential oil. The perfume was full but also had a slightly woody demarcation around the ylang that made the result simultaneously tropical and crisp. I liked Cananga and of course I Coloniali, which is an inexpensive brand in Italy, dropped the scent and chose to produce a bunch of ho hum soliflores instead. I still haven’t forgiven them.
I moved on. My next choice was Parfums de Nicolai’s Juste Un Reve which in its early versions had a large ylang ylang note and also a big rum shot in the heart. If this sounds good I should also point out that early Juste, dried down to a leather note that smelled like beach baked salty skin. Oh yes! I wore that for years until the formula changed. Well you can
see why I would have. Nobody disliked that perfume, and I do mean nobody.
These days what are you left with if you crave ylang ylang? Well Chanel No 5 in EDP is rumored to have quite a lot (Chanel liked ylang) and there is a good deal in the heart of No19 presumably for the same reason. Ylang is in Annick Goutal’s Songes, also in a redo of Estee Lauder’s Ylang and Amber in Bois 1920′s Sutra Ylang. A midling version of ylang is in Myylang the new (ish) Caron. The word on the latter is that it’s so so. The Sutra Ylang is probably a better bet than the Caron.
So what can ylang lovers do? There exists Mayotte or Mahora or whatever it is that Guerlain calls their white tropical flowered typhoon these days. Critics don’t like Mayotte but that may not matter to you if all you want is a hit of ylang which is at the core of Mayotte, and not just any ylang but the Guerlain ylang from their plantation. This is one enormous white floral and not particularly subtle, but if your skin can dominate a miasma of tropical sweetness, the result is sugary, creamy, and expansive with phenomenal lift and sillage. You are back in the land of vanilla puddings with this one, but Guerlain always makes the best desserts.
If you prefer your ylang married to a bit of salt and wood ( it’s like tequila and benefits from salt) try a bit of Sous le Vent instead, this gives you dry restraint instead of curviness, and the ylang makes this otherwise rigid green chypre bend in a tropical breeze. Sous is expensive though, and hard to find these days.
I say go looking for Le De Givenchy in re-isssue, especially if you enjoy aldehydic fragrances. The Perfume House in Portland still has a little of Le De (for $87.00 quite reasonable) and the frag is good enough to be a signature with a strong jasmine and ylang presence, and backbone too, courtesy the aldehydes. You may be pretty but you are no fool in that perfume. I would also encourage you to look at the pricy but worth it Juicy Jasmine of Krigler, which has a big ylang ylang presence and almost as much moxie as the Givenchy.
Finally for vintage hunters, you may want to look for Revillon’s Detchema, which principally
featured ylang ylang in its mid section. This is one of those creamy and popular mid century fragrances, an aldehydic floral from 1953 with a powdery dry down underneath the ylang ylang of iris, vetiver and sandalwood. This is a classic version of the ylang ylang note, and very easy to wear. There is also no trace of dessert here, as you can see…
What’s your favorite ylang ylang perfume?