He Who Smelt It – Episode 4: Vanilla Spice Spice Baby
I consider myself a man of simple tastes. There’s nothing particularly fantastic about the things I like. That’s not to say that I have no taste, or bad taste. Quite the contrary in my mind. I’m not one who needs the newest, biggest, or baddest, of anything. I’m not trendy, but my preferences don’t stray from the norm in any garish way either. I pride myself on standing apart, of being my own man, but not with any pomp or flash.
My wedding band has a raised ridge running down the middle that sets it apart in the tiniest of ways. If I were a millionaire, my dream car would still be a Jeep Wrangler. I love the sparse prose of Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, but James Joyce and William Gaddis give me fits – Reading Ulysses is like trying to watch ten different TVs at the same time, each tuned in to a different program, some with subtitles, and all with the volume cranked up to 11. I love the raw emotion of the blues, but progressive jazz gives me tachycardia. I get all giddy when I stumble across a rare vintage t-shirt at Goodwill, but that new $200 pair of shoes or designer dress shirt that people can’t live without does nothing for me.
I’d prefer to call myself refined, however, refinement seems a lofty pedestal on which to place myself. My refinement sits in the corner, waiting patiently and gathering dust. Maybe I’ll get to dust it off one day. Maybe I won’t. Perhaps I’m modestly refined? Somewhat refined? I don’t know. It’s subjective. To me, the word “refined” implies an appreciation and understanding of the finer things. The refined have a supreme knowledge of scotch or wine, culinary art, fashion trends, German auto engineering, European stock markets, sailing, French new wave cinema, artists of the Renaissance, or a plethora of other things that I don’t possess. There’s a sophistication there I can’t self-apply. The refined are geeks in a sense, but what they geek out about allows them to rise above this term. Geeks love Star Wars and Joss Whedon. The refined prefer 8 1/2 and Jean-Luc Godard. Jocks (sports geeks) love football and basketball. The refined prefer jai alai or polo. The refined like progressive jazz, and books that require them to read other books to make sense of them.
Anyway, like I’m prone to do, I’ve hijacked the logic train and taken its passengers on a ride deep into some dark and far-reaching corner of tangent land. Let’s get this wayward train back on track.
I was accompanied last week by M. Micaleff Vanilla Orient. It had me at first spritz. The reason is simple. It didn’t try too hard to impress. Every other scent I’ve reviewed up to this point has come out swinging fists of fury. Most have been quite haughty with their initial barrage of competing scents, each vying to overwhelm and conquer the others. Some pull back on the reigns, but some continue to offend. M. Micaeff Vanilla Orient was a different breed altogether. I was shocked at how inoffensive this one was. I thought initial pungency was just a thing. Lesson #56 learned. I got the vanilla. I got the spice, but just enough of each. Both have the power to overwhelm, which was a concern when I first read the label (especially the vanilla, which I typically disdain). I was wrong. They completely balance each other out and, because of this, never overwhelm. There’s nothing flashy about this fragrance. It’s laid-back, singular, interesting, but not too complex. It’s this simplicity that makes it perfect. It’s this simplicity that sets it apart. It’s more of a side dish than an entrée, but it tastes just as good. It’s a Jeep Wrangler. It’s a vintage t-shirt. It’s blues music. It’s me.
There’s a quote from the film High Fidelity that popped into my head at the beginning of the week, and it wouldn’t leave me alone. I feel it’s worth mentioning, so I’ll go out with it. Midway through the film, Rob Gordon, the distressed and contrite narrator says this about his ex-girlfriend: “She didn’t make me miserable, or anxious, or ill-at-ease. And you know, it sounds boring, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t spectacular, either. It was just – good. But really good.” I think that adequately describes the relationship I’d like to have with my cologne. I could have that with M. Micallef Vanilla Orient.
PS – Dee, you sneaky little monkey. This is a fragrance for women (as are some others I’ll write about soon). Had I not researched in advance, it would never have crossed my mind that this was even a possibility. Lesson # 57 – I can’t always tell a masculine fragrance from a feminine one. That being said, I’m curious. What do the ladies out there think of this one?