Vanilla. When it’s bad it is very, very bad, but when it’s good it is like liquid gold.
Fig, almond, davana, rose, iris, mandarin, tolu balsam, vanilla, musk, tonka bean.
We need to get something straight right from the start: bad vanilla in fragrances is a travesty and should not be allowed. Bad vanilla is a saccharine sweet, tooth rotting, one dimensional, headache inducing, chemical weapon that seemed to be everywhere three or four years ago. Thankfully the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way and multi-dimensional, interesting vanillas that don’t physically hurt to sniff them are once again on the ascent. You might have guessed this already, given the fact that we are examining it, but Feu de Bengale by J. Lesquendieu is one of the good guys of the vanilla world. You might even go so far as to say that this sumptuous fragrance, centred around vanilla, is something of a superstar in that sphere.
Feu de Bengale opens with an interesting kind of bright, paperiness and quite frankly, I cannot get enough of it. It makes you feel like you have somehow fallen between the pages of a really lovely quality, beautifully bound tome. Old books give off a chemical which smells of vanilla as they decay, and so good vanillas can sometimes remind us of old books. In this case that is really exaggerated by the beautiful dry paperiness of the iris. These two elements together in an embrace at the start of Feu de Bengale are absolute perfection. They feel like they are meant to go together, like they were made for each other and right from the start the scent hangs in perfect poise and balance.
The next thing one notices about Feu de Bengale – once you get over how lovely the opening bars are – is just how exquisitely blended it is. This is one of those fragrances where the seams between notes has been polished away and the whole scent feels smooth, like copper that has been burnished until it glows.
As Feu de Bengale unfolds, it becomes fruitier (although I personally found it hard to say exactly what fruit it was) and delectably smooth. The fragrance becomes rounded and full-bodied, rolling off the skin beautifully. There is something deeply soothing about the heart of the scent, it feels comforting, familiar and yet just a little spicy in the background. It is like it rings a chime in the memory that makes you think of places you have been where you felt at home at once. The faint spiciness adds a hint of sass and backbone and holds the sweet vanilla in check. It also tells us that everything is not all sweetness and innocence here. Vanilla is sometimes used as a euphemism for boring or tame, but here that’s not an apt description at all. There is a richness about this fragrance which quickens the pulse and makes hairs stand on end.
There is also the sense of something fuzzy or furry about the scent. It has a bit of an animalic edge, but by that it’s not to say that it is skanky, or lots of indolic notes. Instead, it feels like there is the soft caress of a cat’s fur perhaps, a glossy coat soft under your fingers, that’s the sort of thing it conjures rather than an animalic funk.
The fruitiness that we observe in the heart of the scent becomes decadently drizzled with warm, syrupy honey before the vanilla, tonka and musks settle into their final, deep-throated purr, rumbling away for the next few hours in blissful reverie. The scent appears to become sweeter, a little spicier, before reducing into this sweet but satisfying hum that is shot through with the gentlest hints of warm smoke.
Feu de Bengale is a very likeable and elegant fragrance that gives you a refined way to wear all the comfort and sweetness of vanilla but in a chic way. It’s difficult to imagine anyone who doesn’t like vanilla getting along with this scent, because it is such a central player in this story, but that aside, it feels like the sort of scent which will appeal to many.
The other stuff
The longevity of Feu de Bengale is solid, lasting eight hours or longer. The fragrance begins by projecting to perhaps around handshake distance or so, but quickly becomes a scent which lingers close to the body, but which you do definitely catch whiffs of throughout the day.
Feu de Bengale is a fragrance which would really suit the cooler months of the year, when the sweetness it projects would help chase away the dark nights and the chill. It also feels like the sort of scent which would wear very nicely to dressed up, celebratory events when its lovely coppery glow would act almost as another accessory to an evening outfit.
Lesquendieu are a high end French boutique house. According to their website, they have a long and esteemed tradition, being founded in 1903 no less. The compositions we have had the chance to try (which admittedly isn’t all of them) don’t feel dated though, instead they feel luxurious, incredibly well blended and relevant for the modern market.
At present, Lesquendieu have five fragrances in their range, along with scented candles. The whole vibe of the house is high-end luxury. This is the sort of perfume that people who actually live in Monaco would wear, rather than the flashy, blingy stuff of those who pretend to belong there. Understated elegance that doesn’t need to scream about its worth.
Feu de Bengale is available from the Lesquendieu web boutique, where it is priced at €240 for 75ml EdP.
We received a no-strings-attached sample of this fragrance when visiting Jovoy Mayfair in London, however, the brand is no longer appears to be shown on their website.