Sunday, December 1, 2013

Best Foodie, Succulent, Dessert-Like Creamy Vanilla Perfumes (Vanilla Series)

If you have always felt that vanilla cupcakes look all too Barbie-style, blonde girl in a mini skirt and bright pink lipstick with an impossibly flat belly to be actually consuming them, you're not alone. I'm right there with you. Vanilla fragrances can be the olfactory equivalent of a bimbo, 45 years of feminism thrown with the bath water, celebritoid wannabe or even white trash; but when they're good, boy, are they good! What I'm saying is there is absolutely nothing wrong with craving a vanilla scent from time to time (would you have said the same thing if it were chocolate?) and this comes from a sworn vanilla abstainer.

The real peril I guess is in wanting a pure baking-type vanilla scent which can come across as having spilled vanilla frosting all over yourself (a fun idea for a romp in the bed or a kid's party but not much else, though Jennifer Love Hewitt has other views). It's also all too common to have plain and cheap vanilla scents turn "plastic" on skin, a very synthetic smelling "note" that when overdosed can even have an alarming burnt hair facet (exceedingly common in candles, room sprays and a few store ventilation systems which has probably turned off many of us off vanilla scents).

So what do you do?

One solution, Jennifer-Love-style, is if you have a favorite cooking type vanilla extract (in liquid form), to steal a drop of two from time to time to put at the base of your neck. Food grade means it's safe for skin use. Or you can consult my guide to foodie and creamy vanilla perfumes below. The following suggestions even though very much belonging into the gourmand orientals perfume family (fragrances directly inspired and reminiscent of desserts, from said cupcakes to creme brûlée and vanilla bean poundcake) are carefully selected to hold the vanilla in check; frou-frou and all around good fun, but not brain dead all the same!

Aveda Vanille Absolue: a perfume oil that emits comforting baking vanilla fumes around as your body heats up, much preferable to more evanescent body sprays. In fact vanilla scents in oil form are a good idea in general because they project subtler and mix with your own "musk" to produce a unique smell.
Britney Spears Curious in Control: smells like mouth-watering, crisp on top, melting below, creme brûlée (To my perfume critic status's shame, I would never have tried this, were it not for an ingenious perfume lover, Teacake, who sent me a mystery decant in the mail with no label on eons ago)
Burberry Brit: especially the eau de parfum is for those with a sweet tooth, the tonka bean's vanillic and almondy facets highlighted
Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Abricot: in a line full of vanilla fragrances, this is popular for a reason, taking the fruity, lactonic heart of apricot and injecting it with a good dose of vanilla without making it cloying
Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Coco: a tropical dessert, a little goes a long way, recommended if you like coconut (I don't as a rule, but you might)
Jessica Simpson Fancy: among the better celebrity scents, this is very popular with notes of almond and caramel but a predominant vanilla

Kenzo Amour: a vanilla rice pudding (hold the cinnamon), very nicely done, a simple pleasure you need not feel guilty for
L'Artisan Parfumeur Vanilia: discontinued, but in the words of supermodel Paulina Porizkova who was a fan, the best "ice cream cone" scent with a hint of smoke, built on the sugary aromachemical maltol
Lavanila Laboratoires Pure Vanilla: like its name says, the scent of unadulterated yummy goodness
L'Occitane Miel & Vanille: a cult favorite, this ingenious mix is both delicious and intriguing, but, alas, discontinued (though you may find a bottle in auctions or swap with someone)
The Body Shop vintage Vanilla oil perfume: the old version smelled like pure essence of freshly baked vanilla cookies (The newer version is just not the same in terms of cuddliness; if you're there nevertheless the Madagascar Vanilla eau de toilette is nice enough for an inexpensive fun play on a light vanilla).

If you're a man, you're often left out when considering sweet vanilla scents. There is one that can be easily hold of, Givenchy Pi, popular with men and women alike, although caveat emptor I personally think it's too sweet and can become too much. If the same applies to you, check out my list for Top Woody Vanillas, Top Quirky, Spicy, Anisic and Floral Vanillas or Top Dark, Boozy and Smoky Vanillas (upcoming).

Do you like pure, foodie vanillas? Which are your favorites?


  1. leathermountain00:11

    No! Someone will have to trick me with an unlabeled vial. :)

  2. Anonymous00:22

    I have some old (caramel-coloured now) Vanilla Oil from The Body Shop and it is just what the doctor ordered for facing gloomy or demanding days without overpowering bystanders.

    Can't wait to see the vanillas in this series.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  3. I really think I do. I just can't think of a foodie vanilla I like at the moment.

  4. Anonymous06:56

    Your vanilla posts have been very illuminating. But I am still confused about cooking vanilla. What pray tell is "pure vanilla extract"? Vanillin? What about when you buy vanilla bean ice cream and it has those little black dots in it that make you think an actual vanilla bean was harmed in its making? When/where do we ever find vanilla from vanilla beans in products? And finally, in fragrance, is vanillin always used instead of vanilla bean extract? Thanks for your excellent series!


  5. La Maison de la Vanille makes five extremely foody vanilla scents, each theoretically highlighting the differences between vanillas from various parts of the world (Mexico, Madagascar, and so on).

    I love many of the CSP vanillas, almost all of which are very edible-smelling: not only the sublime Vanille Abricot, of course, but also Vanille Amande (marzipan), Vanille Café (mocha), Vanille Orange (sherbet), Vanille Peach, and Vanille Pineapple.

    I bought Givenchy Pi upon its launch and never really thought it smelled like vanilla, exactly: it was very sweet and balsamic, but more like tonka bean and benzoin to me, vanillic but not edible.

  6. no, i really don't like the foodie things. i never care for the perfumes that have a notable "food" component, whether it's too much fruit, coconut, chocolate, sugar, or vanilla. i don't even tend to like ones that are generically sweet or boozy, without an identifiable food scent. i love the smell of cardamom or cinnamon, but if the rest of the perfume evokes a dessert, i'm done. yet the appeal of a well-executed balsamic vanilla base is undeniable...something along the lines of the beautiful dry-down of shalimar. i love the effect of tonka or benzoin, but to me they are only elliptically vanilla-referent, having more of some other character like "balmy". for me to embrace a vanilla-focused perfume, i think it would be more likely to come from a woody-vanilla direction.

  7. Ellen16:06

    I have on occasion worn Burberry Brit and my daughter loves it. She says she gets continuous compliments when she wears it.

  8. annemariec23:59

    Kenzo Armour is about as far as I'm prepared to go in the foodie direction, and then only because it's about spice and rice, not ice cream. I keep a mini to dab on (a few dabs last ages) as an evening comfort scent. Bonus: KA works as a summer comfort scent too because of its weightlessness. And - true to its Asian origins - it's not about dairy products, and I appreciate that.

  9. A,

    that was one of the most wisely judged blind tests of my life. That woman knew what she was doing and had challenged me to come to terms with my own perceptions. It worked!

    (I'm a big believer in blind tests and do it all the time when consulting a client)

  10. Anna,

    you're very lucky then. Alas, I happily went through my own bottle at one time (layering merrily no less) and now I have nothing left.... :-(
    It did elicit a lot of compliments, very fun if you stop to consider it is so reminiscent of food.

  11. Lean,

    it may come later on, no worries.
    After all the vanilla series will continue with more "varieties" so you're welcome to post whenever you like.

  12. Ann,

    excellent question and thanks for mentioning this.
    I intend to tackle this very thing in my next vanilla post (boy, do I sound weird, are there more "rocky road" posts and more "tame" ones?), when talking about boozy vanillas.

    My understanding is that cooking supplies differ by manufacturer and by country and what makes them different is not the actual vanillin or ethyl vanillin universally used but the additives and fillers.
    The fragrance industry of course goes both ways, using both vanillin/ethyl vanillin (in almost every commercial and niche perfume) and vanilla absolute (usually in tiny amounts in more upscale products and in all naturals)

    As to the little black dots in ice-creams and the like, there is a whole industry for utilizing the discarded pod "skins", used for more "posh" uses. Nothing is wasted in the food industry! If it's there, there will be a use for it ;-O

  13. C,

    thank you for the more detailed additions!

    I am a fan of the Mexique variety from LMDLV (it's nicely full bodied) and do like VA from CSP and would like some Vanille Cafe one day (generally I like coffee notes in fragrances very much).

    Pi has a big following, you're not alone; alas for me, I get too much of the vanilla; granted that's when it's compared with my more tonka/benzoin rich favs, such as Tonka Imperiale or Ambre des Merveilles. I prefer Rochas Man for my masculine vanilla fix, which is woodier (and somehow more "flou" and "powdery"? hmmm, don't know how to "peg" it exactly)

  14. NFS,

    like you, for me this post was above and beyond the call of duty! :-D

    That said, I find that I have become more indulgent towards the craving of that sort of thing; I can understand where it comes from and I don't purse my lips with disdain anymore at people who regularly wear pure vanillas. However it's very rare that I personally choose to wear one: maybe a drop of Kenzo Amour once every year. That's it. These perfumes have more of an intellectual appreciation status to my mind (I KNOW!!) than actual sensual pleasure. I'd rather eat vanilla than wear it :-)

    Love your "eliptical vanilla-referent" quote! So true. (and I do love both tonka and benzoin)

  15. Ellen,

    Brit to me is the embodiment of the inexplicable attraction of something I don't undestand. At all. Everyone loves it. Everyone compliments it. Except for me. But I must be missing something, surely it must be me, not the other way around.
    I think its Brit Red flanker was the one that was truly simpatico (in fact the only Burberry I wear myself).

  16. AMC,

    we see eye to eye! ;-)

    From this selection the one I wear is indeed this one, though I did have a bottle of Vanilia back in the day (but swapped it with someone who would enjoy it more).

    Funny thing though is I love dairy. So not Asian like of me.

  17. Mary K23:08

    The CSP Vanille Cannelle is another nice one that falls into this category (but you have to also like cinnamon, of course).

  18. Miss Heliotrope00:26

    Vanilla is not something I find comfortable (or even comforting) to wear for some reason - & sweet scents mostly irritate me (except when I have a migrane for some reason, at which Jersey or Jicky are suddenly useful).

    Am much the same with foody smells that actually do -

    My only break from that is Coqui Coqui's coco (coconut) which manages to be almost exact for coconut scented sunblock and Bounty chocolate bars. But this only works in summer.

  19. Burberry Classic (before called Burberry london) belongs here. It is Miss Dior Cheries english cusine.

    Smells just like Jessica Simpson Fancym though.


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