The Ylang-Ylang Tree

le de Givenchy in reissued bottle

Le De Givenchy in reissued bottle

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.

I Coloniali's javanese Cananga

I Coloniali’s javanese Cananga

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

Juste Un Reve in relevant bottle from Ebay listing

Juste Un Reve in relevant bottle from Ebay listing

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

Old Advertising for Detchema

Old Advertising for Detchema

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?


Be Sociable, Share!

9 thoughts on “The Ylang-Ylang Tree

  1. Ooh, ylang!

    I like it. Now I’m wondering which version of Juste un Reve I tried – my sample came from TPC, in… hmm. 2010 maybe. You’re correct about the Micallef, it is very definitely ylang pudding with real vanilla beans. Which is not my sort of thing, actually. JUR was much more to my taste.

    I bought a miniature of Mahora off ebay, unsniffed, and liked it for several hours, before a horribly unpleasant metallic-chemical thing showed up and ruined the experience. Songes is lovely. There’s a good bit of ylang in Le Labo Lys 41, if I remember correctly.

    • I’m glad it’s not just my impression that Mahora is…well very peculiar. Maybe it was that dry down that did it in.

      JUR is best in the stamped bottles, not the printed ones. I hope the photo came out here, as these are the less good ones:

      • PS I don’t deem able to leave comments over at your site, the server says my server has fleas or something!

  2. Ysatis. A strong note of ylang in that. I acquired a taste for Ysatis not long after I bought a FB of 24 Faubourg, but decided that actually I like Ysatis better because although (to me) there is a resemblance between the two perfumes, the ylang makes Ysatis a more relaxed, fun fragrance to wear. Now I own vintage and modern Ysatis, and I think the modern is fine. Lovely stuff.

    • Ysatis, now there’s a chypre that people (like me) forget about- but we shouldn’t.
      I haven’t smelled it in years but have a memory that it was dark and almost animalic but had that big floral melange in the middle. As a matter of fact kind of sexy.
      . You seem to like some sensual perfumes which makes me wonder if you’ve cottoned to Muscs Koublai Khan or L’Air de Rien?

      • Actually chypres are heartland for me, but I like to experiment. Rien has been on my try list for ages but I still have not got there. MKK is probably a bridge too far. Rochas Femme – now there’s the perfect compromise!

        • Rochas Femme is a wonderful halfway point, and I love chypres too. My favorites are the animalic/green ones, but I digress. To return to Femme, maybe the men folk prefer it to Mitsouko. My Hub always liked Femme but Mitsouko was a pass for him. Too powdery I think and maybe not cuddly enough.

  3. Lys Soleia is quite ylang-ylang-y, also DelRae Debut and Aftelier Haute Claire. I love the note. It’s also in Vanille Galante, but only quietly. ;) Have been back to a post I wrote about being a ‘ylangoholic’ from 2010 where I listed a whole clatter of scents, but to be honest, it’s mostly that Film Noir blonde syndrome again, haha. Amaranthine is another one where you can certainly pick it up though.

  4. Lys Soleia is an AA I missed but the Guerlains do tend to re cycle formulas so probably similar to Terracotta and NO 25. ( All this trivia dates back to when I was determined to sniff everything Guerlain, who knows why?)
    I shall have to look at your old post but I remember Vanille Galante as a perfume I disliked and my daughter unexpectedly loved-and Amaranthine does have quite a lot of ylang going on. The Hub loved that one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>