There’s something undeniable about vanilla perfume. It can be seductive or sweet, depending on its supporting notes and the body chemistry of the person wearing it. But one thing is for certain, most people love the smell of vanilla. In fact, a study published last year in Current Biology found that the smell of vanilla ranked highest across different cultures.
“Vanilla is considered an aphrodisiac to some cultures, and prized by others for its soothing, comforting properties,” says Yvan Jacqueline, president of the Americas for Parfums de Marly. “Vanilla’s round, warm and gentle notes make it an extremely precious raw material that perfumers refer to as ‘black gold.’ Extracted from the pod of a plant resembling the orchid, it was brought back from Mexico at the end of the 18th century and introduced in the greenhouses at Versailles at the same time as cocoa. By some accounts, Madame de Pompadour would slip some into her chocolate before rendezvousing with the King.”
Why Vanilla Fragrance Is Trending
“As a pioneer in the natural fragrance category, we have seen significant growth in our vanilla-based collection,” says Danielle Raynor, founder and CEO of LAVANILA. “Statistically the most popular fragrance in the world, the scent of vanilla imparts a moment of nostalgia and comfort. Vanilla is genderless and timeless with a unique flexibility to be worn alone or layered endlessly for self-expression. As we navigate through a post-pandemic landscape, there is a real clamoring for things that are familiar. The simple things that deliver a sense of peace, and moments of individuality. Vanilla is the perfect celebration of those things.”
Looking for a new vanilla perfume? Try one of these top picks.
Burberry Goddess (Starting at $100)
Burberry’s first refillable fragrance, this gourmand aromatic scent features three distinct vanillas, as well as lavender. The vanilla beans spend five to seven weeks drying in the sun, and then they are collected by hand. Next, they are stored in wooden boxes to mature and develop their aroma.
“My initial goal was to expand upon the common use of vanilla to deliver a new kind of rich olfactive experience,” says master perfumer Amandine Clerc-Marie. “For this purpose, I used three distinct types of vanilla extraction. The first is a vanilla infusion, which provides the brightest, wood vanilla possible. Then I used Firgood, also known as vanilla caviar, for the first time in a fragrance. This innovative new ingredient adds a sweet, rich and animalic vanilla. Lastly, vanilla absolute is darker and richer, enhancing the fragrance with a mysterious, milky aspect.”
LAVANILA Pure Vanilla ($48)
The brand describes its signature perfume as “the perfect vanilla,” and many reviewers agree (some have been wearing it for more than 10 years!). Warm and comforting, it blends pure Madagascar vanilla with creamy tonka bean and soft heliotrope. In my opinion, it’s the perfect level of sweetness if you want a vanilla-centric scent.
Another major draw is that the botanical fragrance is free of harsh chemicals, and instead, infused with organic sugarcane alcohol and pure essential oils. And did you know that pure Madagascar vanilla also possesses antioxidant qualities?
Boy Smells Vanilla Era ($98)
The first new fragrance from Boy Smells this year, this unique scent is one you can’t quite put your finger on, but love it anyway. Vanilla absolute and white tulips are mixed with black amber, Iso E Super (a woodsy note that helps increase the longevity of the fragrance) and spicy coffee been absolute.
The brand describes the gender-fluid eau de parfum as a “soft yet strong scent that throws societal conventions to the wind, embodying innocence and subversion.”
D.S. & Durga Deep Dark Vanilla (Starting at $210)
“Rich and smoky vanilla absolute is one the most beautiful materials in perfumery. It can secretly blend behind things in a way synthetic vanilla cannot,” says David Moltz, the brand’s cofounder and perfumer. “Synthetic vanilla fragrances are usually sugary sweet and cloying. On skin, real vanilla is a warm gourmand recalling jungle vines and good times.”
This “deep dark” vanilla definitely smells like the real deal. Top notes include cabreuva, orchid and pink pepper. The heart is a mix of vines, green vanilla leaves and cypress root, and the base comprises vanilla absolute, dark patchouli and hay.
Tom Ford Myrrhe Mystère ($395)
Though this fragrance falls in the amber-woody olfactive family, its Ultra-Vanilla accord gives it that vanilla expression we love. The brand says it embodies a “timeless richness” and we couldn’t agree more. It’s also beautifully unisex and exudes a sexy vibe that both men and women will love. Also, how gorgeous is this bottle? We love the brown iteration of the brand’s iconic private blend bottle—it’s also perfect for fall.
Ellis Brooklyn VANILLA MILK (Starting at $25)
Leave it to founder Bee Shapiro to create a vanilla perfume inspired by a quote from chef Alex Guarnaschelli: “The best place to use vanilla beans is anywhere where they won’t be mixed in with a million other flavors. Anything with dairy, yogurt, milk, cream, or eggs—any custard or flan—how can it be bad?” I’m a big Food Network fan and love Alex, so of course this resonated with me.
Shapiro worked with female Irish perfumer Meabh McCurtin to create this addictive fragrance, which isn’t overtly vanilla, though there are two types of vanilla in it: bourbon vanilla bean and Madagascar vanilla bean extract. It has a bit of a toasted marshmallow vibe, which makes it lovely for colder weather.
Parfums de Marly ALTHAÏR (Starting at $250)
The Parisien brand calls this new fragrance “a modern ode to a universal ingredient of perfumery.” This ingredient of course is vanilla, which Parfums de Marly selected in the “most natural, traditional and noble quality available: bourbon vanilla, a direct descendant of vanilla introduced in France under the reign of Louis XV.”
Top notes include orange flower, bergamot Italy, cinnamon ceylan and cardamom Guatemala. Heart notes are vanilla Madagascar and elemi Philippines. And lastly, base notes are Ambrofix (an amber note), gaiacwood, praline, and musk. “The infusion of vanilla beans adds a refined, warm and textured allure to the heart of the fragrance,” says Jacqueline.
NETTE Thé Vanille (Starting at $30)
Described as “creamy and mineral with vanilla and a touch of matcha tea,” this fragrance has a real addictive quality to it. According to the brand, the scent was inspired by “the hushed, peaceful Japanese tea halls in Tokyo filled with the comforting scents of tiny pastries baking and steaming cups of bracing green tea.”
The main vanilla note is enhanced with pink pepper, upcycled turmeric root, luxurious orris, and cedarwood. If you’re looking for something that not’s your typical vanilla, this one has an earthy, woody quality that makes it sweet, but not too sweet.