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.
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?