What does vanilla mean?
The word "vanilla" comes from the Spanish word "vainilla", which literally means "little pod". The name vanilla is used to refer to both the orchid plant and the aromatic pods it produces.
The use of the word "vanilla" dates back to the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistadors discovered the plant in Mexico and appreciated its characteristic flavour and aroma. They called it "vainilla" because of the elongated shape of the pods.
In the beginning...
The history of vanilla goes back to the origins of the Mayan civilization, where it was used to perfume sacred drinks. Vanilla is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, and was cultivated exclusively by indigenous peoples. During the colonization of the Americas, the Spanish conquistadors discovered vanilla and brought it to Europe. However, cultivating vanilla outside its natural habitat proved difficult, until a hand-pollination process was discovered in the late 18th century on Reunion Island, revolutionizing the vanilla industry. Today, vanilla is grown in several tropical countries and continues to be one of the most prized spices in the world.
DID YOU KNOW? In 1841, on the island of Bourbon (now Reunion Island), Edmond Albius, a young slave, made a revolutionary discovery. He perfected a technique for the manual fertilization of the vanilla orchid by distinguishing the male and female organs of the flower, then pollinating them with a wooden thorn. A few days later, the flower transformed into a precious vanilla pod.
The main vanilla-producing regions are Madagascar, the world's largest producer, followed by Reunion, Comoros, Tahiti, and other tropical countries such as Mexico, French Polynesia, Indonesia and India. These regions provide the ideal climatic conditions for growing vanilla.
The vanilla plant is a climbing orchid grown to produce vanilla beans. Vanilla cultivation requires a tropical climate with an average temperature of around 25°C. Vanilla generally flowers after two to three years of planting. The delicate flowers have to be pollinated by hand, as bees and other pollinators cannot reach them easily. Growers gently pollinate by opening the flower and transferring pollen from a male to a female part of the flower. After pollination, the flowers turn into green vanilla pods that gradually ripen. At this point, vanilla is harvested when the pods have reached maturity. They must be carefully harvested by hand to avoid damaging the plants. The pods then undergo a ripening process, which involves slow, controlled drying, often in the sun for several weeks, followed by a conditioning process. This process allows the pods to develop their characteristic aroma and intense flavor of sweetness.
The different types of Vanilla
• Vanilla planifolia, also known as Bourbon vanilla, is a type of orchid native to Mexico. It is distinguished by its delicate flowers and mesmerizing fragrance. Harvesting the Madagascar vanilla beans requires meticulous attention and a specific transformation process to release the rich, smooth aromas for which Bourbon vanilla is famous.
• Vanilla x Tahitensis is a specific variety of vanilla native to Tahiti and the surrounding islands of French Polynesia. It is known for its unique, exotic aroma, which differs from that of classic Bourbon vanilla. Vanilla x Tahitensis beans are plumper and wider than those of other vanilla varieties, and range in color from light green to dark brown. It is appreciated for its floral and fruity fragrance, with notes of vanillin, tropical flowers and caramel. It is found mainly in desserts, baked goods and confectionery.
• Vanilla pompona, native to Central and South America, is distinguished by its long stems and glossy green leaves. The flowers are eye-catching, with white pompon-shaped blossoms and a delicate fragrance. This plant is invaluable for the vanilla bean, which contains a high-quality vanilla oil used in cooking and perfumery. Vanilla pompona is a botanical treasure that finds its place in a variety of creative industries.
What do you know about vanilla in perfumery?
Once harvested, the vanilla processing and transformation process begins. Vanilla beans undergo a series of steps. First, they are scalded to stop them ripening and activate the enzymes that develop the characteristic aroma. Next, they are dried slowly in the sun or in special driers until they become dark brown and soft. After drying, the pods are sorted and packed. Some are sold whole, while others are ground or processed into vanilla extract or the vanilla absolute essential oil. The process of transforming vanilla requires patience and expertise to preserve its delicate fragrance and exquisite flavor.
In terms of olfactory harmony, vanilla has a sweet, warm and delicately floral fragrance. Its smell is often described as sweet, creamy and slightly woody. Vanilla evokes notes of caramel, chocolate and cream, and a comforting sensation that makes it in demand for desserts and scented products.
Vanilla fragrances are suitable to be worn by both men and women. Although vanilla is rarely used on its own in perfumery and the world of beauty, it may nevertheless be used in a variety of ways and layering is one of them.
• Woody-vanilla: for both men and women, vanilla is perfect for creating a sophisticated trail. It is often found as a base note, combined with patchouli, cedarwood or sandalwood to bring richness and depth to fragrances.
• Citrus-vanilla: Adding fresh citrus notes such as bergamot or mandarin, for a fresh, lively eau de parfum. It softens their lively, tangy character, creating a more balanced, complex fragrance. Citrus notes add a touch of freshness to vanilla, preventing the fragrance from becoming too heavy and sweet.
• Musk-vanilla : A warm, gentle accord that can be worn at any time of the day. Notes of musk add sensuality and roundness, while vanilla notes add a sweet, gourmand touch. However, this musky vanilla combination might sometimes seem heavy or overpowering.
What is layering? It is a technique used in skincare and fragrance. It involves layering different products to achieve a synergy of results and a unique sensorial experience.
Before continuing... Vanillin
In perfumery, the fragrance of vanilla is sometimes reproduced synthetically. In this case, an organic compound called "vanillin" is developed which is also used as a food additive.
Yes, vanilla is known and appreciated for its flavour and olfactory properties. But its other properties should not be overlooked, especially as you may find it very useful in your day-to-day life!
Vanilla has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the body. Useful against arthritis, for example. It is also known for its soothing and relaxing effects, making it a natural option for relieving stress and anxiety. Finally, some research suggests that vanilla also has positive effects on mood by stimulating the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone.
Some popular vanilla perfumes !
These remarkable discoveries have made vanilla an essential ingredient in the history of perfume and beauty since the end of the 19th century. Let's take a look back at the best vanilla perfumes that have left their mark on the perfume industry!
• Jicky by Guerlain created in 1889. This iconic unisex eau de parfum was inspired by a childhood love of Aimé Guerlain. Vanillin, in the base notes, gives the fragrance animalic and woody facets. Accompanied by top notes of lavender, rosemary and bergamot, this eau de parfum leaves the skin feeling fresh.
• Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, revisited in 1977, is an emblematic eau de parfum for women. Sweet and intense, let yourself be seduced by pear, accented by the notes of orange blossom and vanilla. It's sure to blow your mind!
• Angel by Thierry Mugler, with its gourmand accents, patchouli and vanilla base notes, this oriental signature scent is quickly becoming the benchmark for women's sweet scents with vanilla that can be worn every day. Additionally, Thierry Mugler Alien Goddess is a perfect choice for summer days.
• Allure by Chanel, combines vanilla with notes of citrus and white flowers. Fresh and gourmand, this woman perfume will find its counterpart at Dior: Hypnotic Poison, best floral vanilla fragrance with hints of almond.
• Tom Ford's rebellious Tobacco Vanille revisits vanilla note in perfumery! Sweet and spicy notes, let yourself be seduced by this unisex fragrance with vanilla in the key notes that is suitable to wear during the winter.
Furthermore, other famous vanilla perfumes include Byredo Vanille Antique Extrait de Parfum, Jo Malone London Vetiver & Golden Vanilla Intense cologne, Woman in Gold by Kilian Paris, Diptyque Eau duelle Eau de Toilette, Kayali Vanilla Eau de Parfum and Christian Dior Vanilla Diorama Le Parfum.
UNUSUAL FACT! Guerlinade is a perfume base, a compound of iris and vanilla, created in 1921 by Jacques Guerlain based on the old perfume Jicky, created by his uncle Aimé Guerlain in 1889. On a creative impulse, Jacques Guerlain poured a healthy dose of ethylvanillin, a synthetic vanilla, into a bottle of Jicky "just to see" into a bottle of Jicky. After removing the wood and lavender aromas, he added bergamot.
Bon Parfumeur vanilla perfumes
Choosing a perfume isn't easy. Whether you prefer fruity, gourmands, florals or warm and spicy vanilla scents find the best perfumes with vanilla from our collection that match your character:
• For a fruity vanilla scent, we opt for eau de parfum 203. It's hard to resist when combined with the sweet notes of raspberries and blackberries.
• For a rounder yet addictive fragrance, choose eau de parfum 401 ! Here, candied fruits like plum add a luscious touch to the composition.
• For a floral vanilla, we often associate it with white flowers. Women's favorite, notes of jasmine (like our eau de parfum 103) or rose (like our eau de parfum 106) blend perfectly with vanilla for a floral, springtime perfume.
• For a gourmand vanilla turn to eau de parfum 402 with its notes of tonka bean, caramel and almond. These notes, combined with vanilla, add a sweet, sensual touch to this eau de parfum that's to die for.
• Finally for a spicy vanilla fragrance, vanilla's roundness can also soften and add warmth to an intense, assertive eau de parfum. We find it as a heart note in our eau de parfum 302, to calm the fire of this spice and incense composition.
Just the scent of vanilla is enough to make you want to succumb to its deliciously hypnotic charms. Still not sure which eau de parfum to buy? Use our online scent finder.