Vanilla provides aromatists with a wide, open olfactory field to play with. And while vanilla has its own distinct flavor and aroma, it’s almost always used as a middle or base note (meaning it tends to emerge gradually, as opposed to instantly). When used correctly, it blends harmoniously with fruity, woody, floral, and aromatic notes to give a range of pleasant aromas.
For instance, if you’re a fan of fun, fresh scents, you’d probably enjoy vanilla paired with citrus notes like mandarin, bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit. Or perhaps with some fruity aromas such as apple, coconut, or berries. Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée and Armani’s Sì are good examples; as is Byredo’s Gypsy Water, a refreshing blend infused with citrus and creamy vanilla in a sandalwood-amber base.
Vanilla is also a powerful aphrodisiac that promotes relaxation, calm, and peace. For this purpose, it’s often combined with other aromatherapy scents, like rose, vetiver, ylang-ylang, lavender, or patchouli. The most comforting vanilla scents we love are Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium, Dolce & Gabbana’s The Only One, and Lancôme’s Idôle.
Vanilla is also sometimes used in sensual evening fragrances. If that’s what you’re after, try scents that balance vanilla’s sweetness with something deeper, such as cedarwood, vetiver, or ambergris. Cashmere scents are excellent examples of this. While we’re talking richer fragrances, vanilla also goes well with more spicy notes, such as tobacco, incense, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. Together, these notes and vanilla create a scent that’s both sweet and seductive, making it ideal for an intimate evening. One fragrance that fits the bill here is Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, a warm and spicy unisex vanilla scent that’s perfect for the colder months.
You should know that vanilla is a very expensive ingredient, so it makes sense that only a few fragrances – mostly your eaux de parfum and eaux de toilette – feature it. In others, it’s substituted with synthetic vanillin (or alternatives like benzoin resin or chocolate), which tastes just as sweet and is much cheaper.