In the beginning...
The tonka bean, with its exotic fragrance, has become a staple of the perfume world. Originally from Amazonia, it was introduced to Europe in the 19th century and quickly won over French perfumers. Originally used as a substitute for vanilla, it became prized for its ability to bind other ingredients and prolong the life of fragrances. Harvested in South America and the Caribbean, the dipteryx odorata tree can reach heights of up to 30 meters. Its fragrant flowers attract bees and pollinating insects. Over the last few decades, it has become the most popular spice, lending its bewitching character to many perfumes.
DID YOU KNOW? In the Amazon region, the tonka bean is considered a symbol of good luck and happiness. Local inhabitants believe in its protective and beneficial powers. However, it's important to note that there's no guarantee that simply wearing tonka bean jewelry, such as a Craftazur Tonka necklace, will produce this magical effect!
Tonka bean cultivation
Dipteryx odorata is a tree native to South America. Tonka beans are harvested in many of these regions:
Venezuela is recognized as the world's largest producer of tonka beans. The humid climate and fertile soils create ideal conditions for growing these trees. Brazil is also a major producer of tonka beans, particularly in the northern part of the country. Brazilian tonka beans have a sweeter scent than those from Venezuela. In addition to perfumery, tonka beans are also used in cooking. Colombia is also another major source of tonka bean cultivation, but more so in the Santander and Norte de Santander regions. Colombian tonka beans are prized for their vanilla-like sweetness.
Growing tonka beans has always been difficult, due to the tree's long ripening period and its susceptibility to pests and disease. To address these issues, a number of companies specializing in the planting of the tonka bean tree, dipteryx odorata, have embarked on planting these beans in a sustainable and responsible way. In doing so, they ensure a steady supply of this precious ingredient and contribute to the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and the livelihoods of local communities. The planting process involves selecting the best quality seeds and propagating them in a nursery until they are strong enough to be transplanted to a field. These trees need fertile, well-drained soil, sunshine and regular watering and fertilization.
The tonka bean harvesting process is a delicate and time-consuming task. In fact, it requires meticulous attention to every detail. Once the tree has matured and produced pods, the fruits are harvested. The shells are broken to retrieve the seeds. These must be gently extracted and left to dry in the sun for several weeks, before being macerated in rum for 24 hours. This drying process is crucial, as it allows the seeds to develop their flavors. Once the seeds have dried, they are sorted according to size, color and intensity of fragrance. The highest quality seeds are then packed and shipped to perfumers around the world.
What do you know about tonka beans in perfumery?
In perfumery, beans that have been macerated and dried are reduced to powder. They are then treated with volatile solvents. This substance is then rinsed with alcohol to deliver a 100% tonka bean absolute. Depending on its concentration, it has a brown or amber color and a powerful scent, and makes part of the faugere (fern) fragrance family. Moreover, tonka bean is most often used for its versatility. Indeed, it can be used in a variety of olfactory families: gourmand, oriental or floral. With its wide range of scents, tonka bean can be used to create fragrances for both men and women.
Tonka bean is renowned for its diverse and intriguing olfactory profile. Let's take a closer look! Once used as a substitute for vanilla, tonka bean is known for its creamy, sweet vanilla smell, which makes it irresistible. In addition to its vanilla scent, it is also renowned for its distinct almond scent, almost indistinguishable from almond. Finally, coumarin, found in tobacco leaves and tonka bean, gives it a spicy, woody scent, adding depth to this ingredient and complexity to any fragrance.
Tonka bean has a number of medicinal virtues. In fact, it is widely used as a painkiller, a cough soother, an antispasmodic, a stimulant against fatigue, an anticoagulant and a detoxifier. However, in high doses, the coumarin contained in the bean becomes toxic and can cause serious liver damage, which is fortunately reversible! This applies, of course, to heavy consumers of this ingredient.
Popular tonka bean perfumes…
In the early 20th century, perfumers began to take an interest in this ingredient for its distinctive vanilla scent. However, it was Guerlain who brought tonka bean to the forefront. The ingredient is present in the famous Guerlinade, a set of raw materials unveiled in 1921. This became the brand's signature scent. As a result, the tonka bean became a favorite among perfumers, some of whom you probably know!
• Guerlain Tonka Impériale by Guerlain, is an eau de parfum by Guerlain known for its rich, spicy notes of tonka bean, cinnamon and saffron.
• Shalimar by Guerlain, the house's flagship tonka bean fragrance, expresses the ambery, spicy side of the tonka bean.
• Tonka 25 by Le Labo, is an eau de parfum with woody and musky accords that blends tonka bean with white musk, orange blossom, styrax and vanilla.
• Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford, a blend of vanilla and tobacco. This is one of the most popular fragrances for tonka bean lovers. Warm and soft, this fragrance is perfect for autumn and winter.
• Myrrh & Tonka Cologne Intense by Jo Malone London is an amber fragrance, with, unsurprisingly, myrrh and tonka bean, together with vanilla and almond
• Scandal by Night by Jean-Paul Gaultier, powerful and sensual, this fragrance with its vanilla and honey scents emphasizes the tonka bean.
• Fève délicieuse by Christian Dior, this oriental perfume combines tonka bean with vanilla, creating an intense, gourmand scent.
• L'Eau de Toilette Allure Homme Sport by Chanel embodies dynamic energy and modern freshness. Its sparkling citrus notes as top notes mingle with woody and spicy accords as tonka bean as a base note, creating an elegant, sporty fragrance that inspires confidence and adventure.
• L'Eau de Parfum Manifesto by Yves Saint Laurent is an audacious, bewitching perfume. Its rich notes of jasmine, vanilla and amber wood create a sensual, captivating fragrance, a true expression of assertive femininity.
• Fougère Royale by Houbigant est une fragrance audacieuse et envoûtante. Ses notes riches de jasmin, de vanille et de bois ambré créent un parfum sensuel et captivant, véritable expression de la féminité affirmée.
Bon Parfumeur tonka bean perfumes
Sweet and spicy, you'll find tonka bean at Le Bon Parfumeur, in 603 and 901 perfumes.
• Sweet and mystical, let yourself be seduced by Eau de parfum 603, with its scents of leather and tonka bean.
• For a shot of energy and spice, be inspired by Eau de parfum 901, with its sweet vanilla scents.
If you don't know which tonka bean you are ready to wear, have a look to our discovery sets and dive into our haute parfumerie collection !