Friday, December 7, 2012

Back To Black Vs Chergui Vs Tobacco Vanille: Comparison

The amazing tobacco note in perfumes! We are talking about fresh moist, coarsely cut, pipe tobacco here which is rich, dense, luxurious and all those gorgeous things. I have never smoked in my life and hate the smell of cigarette smoke with a passion. But I can stand and do enjoy the smell of pipe tobacco, not the smoke, but the smell of the fragrant leaves. Tobacco perfumes are usually pitched for the male perfume audience and very few tobacco perfumes are marketed as feminine (think Vivienne Westwood Boudoir). Tobacco can smell gorgeous on a women as it can on a man. It smells irresistably sexy on me, even if I do say so myself! My personal taste in tobacco fragrances leans towards sweet ones. Luckily for me, there are some great perfumes to choose from and unluckily my taste comes with a biggish price tag. Over the past few months, I have added three awesome tobacco perfumes to my collection: Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille, By Kilian Back To Black and Serge Lutens Chergui.

These three perfumes are centred around the tobacco note and the comparison is inevitable. But each of them is unique because there are subtle (or not so subtle) undertone differences which make each perfume what it is: an icon. So, it is not really 'versus' because there is no one winner. It is an experience is to smell them, wear them and simply enjoy them. After all, that is what perfume is all about. I have received a few emails requesting for a comparison. I absolutely adore all three but will not let that bias my thoughts. I'll try to be as objective as possible, so that someone somewhere looking to get a sample or a full bottle will find this helpful. Also remember the golden rule: Sample first!

Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Vanille: It is all about pipe tobacco and bourbon vanilla. It is sweet but the sweetness from the vanilla is cut down by fresh cigar smell of tobacco and the mild spiciness of clove/cinnamon. The result is an out of the world fresh tobacco scent, that is sexy, delicious and so rich.
You may not like it if: the combination of sweet and spice is not your thing. There is generous amount of tobacco, moderate amount of bourbon vanilla and mild amount of cloves and cinnamon. It is loud and gets you compliments. Stays on the skin forever. The man and I share the bottle.

Serge Lutens Chergui: It is unique in so many ways. There is tobacco but it is not dominant. I get this strange but beautiful smell of sugared dry hay dipped in honey! It also somehow makes me think of bread! It also has faint hints of dry herbs, dry fruit and mild spices (yes, old and dry 'fruit bread' smell!) but doesn't smell edible at all. It is sweet, powdery (only mildly powdery compared to Back To Black) and it is really soft and sensual. While Tobacco Vanille is rich, Chergui is dense. It is not loud and it is something that blends into the skin.
You may not like it if: This is the safest blind buy in my opinion. I don't think it will offend anyone. It is soft and it doesn't scream for attention. It stays close to the skin. Although it is complex, it is easy to wear and the strangeness (sugar/honeyed hay) works in your favour . This bottle was actually bought by the man and he uses it a lot more than I do.
Fumerie Turque is also tobacco based but personally I feel it is a riskier choice than Chergui. It is more prominent on the tobacco, drier, deeper, smokier and is very leathery. I like Chergui more and actually don't think I can wear Fumerie Turque as a perfume.

By Kilian Back To Black: This is awesomeness! Yes, it is a honeyed tobacco and it is absolutely sexy. The honeyed tobacco is boozed up with smoothest of Hennessey cognac and has a soft amber undertone with a tinge of berry. The honey has a prominent but soft powderiness, not an 'old lady' powder or baby powder but a soft, sweet, sensual powder. It is sultry and sensual in the most lavish, sophisticated way. It is so gorgeous that you can knock me out with a feather when I am smelling this!
You may not like it if: Boozy/honey is not your thing or for that matter 'powdery' note is not your thing. It has good staying power but it is a bit soft projection wise. The man did not like it on him but loves it on me. I LOVE it on me!

Comparing costs: Cost for 50 mls (UK RRP):
Back To Black (refill): £65; (bottle): £145
Chergui: £69 
Tobacco Vanille: £135

Self questionnaire
If I could just get one:
Tough choice between Tobacco Vanille and Back To Black. 
I'll say Tobacco Vanille because I have wanted to get this for ages and the first of the three I got.

The one I will replace
Back To Black

The one I can wear anytime, anywhere:

I am really curious to know if you have a favourite of the three. Which one would you like to try, if you haven't tried any?


  1. MY GOD, now I NEED Chergui! Su, what are you doing???? LOL (J/K!) ;)

    I have samples of Tobacco Vanille and Back to Black but never sniffed Chergui. But now I feel certain that Chergui is going to be my fave for some reason. I prefer TV over BtB, unfortunately, because I think I'd like to support Kilian over Tom Ford (& also K's black bottles are awesome), but TV is simply DIVINE.

    So I should snag some Chergui, right?

    1. TV is divine, isn't it?! I can understand why you prefer TV over BtB (honey, powder, booze all of which work for me lol). You can also try other Kilians to tempt yourself into getting the gorgeous black bottle. I love Straight To Heaven (the most sophisticated masculine-ish bay rum) and Love (upscale floral marshmallow) ;D

      YES, you SHOULD try Chergui! I think it is easy to find SL perfumes at stores. Let me know what you think :)

  2. I still haven't decided whether I like tobacco or not. I think it depends what it is blended with. I'm trying to be braver, but also I think I have a better feel for what I like now, as well, so I don't want to go against my gut feeling JUST to be adventurous, you know?

    1. I agree! It is fun to explore but what's the point when you know you don't enjoy something? That's the reason why I don't experiment with lavenders, citruses. I'd say get into what you like more and you'll find 100 perfumes within your comfort zone :) That said, keep TV in mind and try some on your skin next time you are at a store :D

  3. I love the smell of tobacco, Chergui sounds yum, Dee sent me a sample of TV a while back, such a lovely cozy smell, so $ though wahhh ;)

    1. Oh TV! Why so expensive?! You'll like Chergui, it is softer and more milder than TV but so good!