Vanilla: one of those notes which is everywhere but which isn’t always done well. The price of natural vanilla shot up in recent years due to poor harvests, bad weather and increased demands (find out more in this article from Business Insider). Now that prices have stabilised, or even started to come down (article from Food Business News) we may see an increase in fragrances using this beautifully complex ingredient which is perfect for autumnal wear.
Good vanilla is really interesting, less sweet than you might imagine, it has a relaxing, languid, resinous quality which is utterly addictive. In small quantities and paired with the right partner ingredients it can smell papery, like old books. In other guises it can smell sweet, woody, luxurious or big and bold when amped up.
We’ve collected some of the best vanilla scents together so you can indulge year round in this magnificent scent.
If you’re looking for scents with other particular elements highlighted, then check out our posts on dark rose fragrances, fruity scents, leather scents and scents which use mint in their composition.
D600 by Carner Barcelona
Listed notes: Black pepper, bergamot, grapefruit, cardamon, iris, jasmine, cedar, vanilla, vetiver.
D600 by Carner Barcelona sits that the spicier end of the spectrum of scents that contain vanilla. It’s a heady, intoxicating fragrance which is more than a little bit addictive. The vanilla serves to soften all the spices and give them a warm undertow, and an anchor that ties the rest of the notes down and stops them being too heady and energetic.
The flow of the vanilla gives a lovely, slower quality to the base part of the fragrance and the way it lingers on skin is just divine.
The Architects Club by Arquiste
Listed notes: Juniper berry oil, angelica root, bitter orange, lemon sfumatrice, Italian bergamot, French clary, lavender, pink peppercorn, pepper wood, cardamom seed oil absolute, coriander seed oil, black currant buds absolute, iris absolute, wood from Paraguay, oak wood extract, cedar wood, cypriol oil, Haitian vetiver, vanilla absolute, ambermax, ambrettolide.
One of my personal favourites on this list is The Architects Club by Arquiste. This is due to the beautiful way that vanilla is manipulated to become papery, almost transparent, and nostalgic of a bygone era. The vanilla here references the architects drawings, laid scattered across a desk whilst the architects themselves go out drinking. The vanilla isn’t overly sweet in this fragrance, leaning towards smoky at times, but it is a delicate and nuanced portrayal of this ingredient, where different facets reveal themselves as the scent wears on. The balance of the fragrance is perfect throughout, and it always leaves you wanting more: the mark of a really skilled composition.
Dust by Perfumer H
Listed notes: Iris absolute, raspberry leaf, orange flower, opoponax, benjoin absolute, vanilla, sweet musks.
Although the notes list for Dust by Perfumer H is shorter than The Architects Club, the complexity and skilful light and shade drawn by the perfumer are no less in this scent. Dust conjures, as you might imagine, dust motes rising on a swirl of warm air as rays of afternoon sunlight slant in through a window.
In this composition, the vanilla is drier, leaning towards dusty, but its warmth gives the composition a relaxing friendliness that you just want to sink into. It’s hypnotic, strange and totally beguiling.
Secrets of Love Gourmet by Maison Micallef
Listed notes: Incense, raspberry, violet, leather, chestnut, labdanum, oud, vanilla.
Whilst the predominant notes in the start of Secrets of Love: Gourmet by Maison Micallef are of chestnuts gently roasting over hot coals, there is vanilla in this mix too. Here it adds a sweet, rice-puddingy scrumptiousness to this abundant gourmand scent. The vanilla is rich and tempting, and the composition a little milky. It feels like comfort food and those gorgeously stodgy childhood puddings in perfume form, lifted by the smokier facets.
Golden Powder by The House of Oud
Listed notes: Nutmeg, cinnamon, sandalwood, guaiac wood, Virginia cedar wood, musk, labdanum, vanilla, coumarin, tobacco blossom, Burma oud.
Golden Powder by The House of Oud is another scent which leans towards the more gourmand but which is tempered by the addition of oud and tobacco so it isn’t an obvious fragrance at all. The vanilla here softens and sweetens the fragrant spicy notes to stop them being harsh. It forms a link between the spices, leading the fragrance into the more woody notes. The composition has a sensuous, languid vibe, with milky tones that feel silky and comforting. Golden Powder has a gentle character, but it is really persistent on skin, lasting easily all day – a huge plus point in its favour.
Sandal and Peony by SP Parfums
Listed notes: Chartreuse liqueur accord, wild forest berries, peony, sandalwood creme, skin musk accord.
Vanilla isn’t even listed as a note in Sandal and Peony by SP Parfums, but when we tested this fragrance, an image of vanilla ice cream with homegrown raspberries dotting it sprang to life so clearly that it would be a travesty to not include it in this list. This is a beautiful gourmand scent which is lifted by the floral elements contained within it and given added elegance by their inclusion.
For me, there is something wonderfully nostalgic about this scent, it is deceptively simple, and a joy to wear.
Endless Happiness by Swedoft
Listed notes: Citrus fruit, vanilla, green grass, pine, lavender, coffee, jasmine, cacao, sweet tobacco.
If it’s a Swedish bakery type fragrance you want to indulge in, look no further than Endless Happiness by Swedoft.
The creators of this fragrance wanted to include notes specifically selected for their associations with happiness. The resulting fragrance is a cosy, comforting blanket of a scent which is a great one to wrap yourself in when the nights draw in and the air turns chilly. Like a beautifully spiced Swedish confection, Endless Happiness will comfort and sooth you through almost anything. The vanilla here adds a vein of sweet happiness, and you won’t be able to help but smile when you get a whiff of this delightfully snuggly fragrance.
Feu de Bengale by J. Lesquendieu
Listed notes: Fig, almond, davana, rose, iris, mandarin, tolu balsam, vanilla, musk, tonka bean.
Feu de Bengale is a fragrance built around vanilla as the star character, so you wouldn’t really like this scent if you don’t like the oozy, burnished sweetness of such an ingredient. This is a classy and elegant way to wear vanilla without it becoming trite, overly saccharine or boring. There’s something deeply enticing about this scent which is more rich than it is sweet, and it has an addictive, moreish quality that we cannot get enough of!