Odor profile: An ever popular fragrance note, known mostly through its synthetic variant vanillin, which is sweet, cozy, comforting, with a pleasing cookie-baking feeling to it. Alongside amber, the reference note for the Oriental family of scents (The most famous classic being Shalimar). The real vanilla pod has darker facets that recall treacle and booze with off notes. Simple vanillas (Victoria's Secret Love to Dream, Charlie Touch, TBS Vanilla, Coty Vanilla Musk) have become increasingly popular with the adolescent market, giving rise to the umbiquity of the gourmand category of scents, while complex, earthier vanillas are appearing steadily in the niche sector (Spirituese Double Vanille by Guerlain, Tihota Indult, Montale Vanille Absolue).
Vanilla, known long ago to Indians of Middle America, came to win hearts of gourmands around the world together with cocoa upon the "discovery" of America and the New World, . Mayas, and later on Aztecs, called vanilla "tlilxochitl" and used it mainly for their royal chocolate drinks. Europeans discovered and came to like vanilla back in 17th century. They used it as a cure for many diseases, and due to its smell and taste, as an additive to food and drinks. Vanilla was, for a good reason, considered a powerful aphrodisiac.
Today everyone knows the scent and taste of vanilla, but mainly synthetic, as the real vanilla extract is very expensive and its production hardly profitable for producers. The scent of vanilla consists of several components, main of which are vanillin and piperonal (heliotropine).
Vanilla is a climbing plant, a sort of orchid, the world’s most popular variant of which, Vanilla planifolia, originates from Mexico. There are around hundred of variants of this plant, but only two are used in wide commercial production due to its taste and smell: Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla tahitiensis.
Vanilla planifolia grows today in tropical climates, in Mexico and South America, Caribbean, islands of the Indian Ocean, Indonesia… Vanilla growing in Mexico is considered to be one of the best, due to the fact that it grows in the country of its origin, however, the production there is not big.
Vanilla Bourbon comes from Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean, which is considered to be the biggest producer of vanilla, as they produce 1,000 tons of pods per year, Comoro Islands and Reunion islands. The same variant is grown in Africa and Indonesia. It was named after the former name of the Reunion Island, Bourbon, a name given in honor of the royal house. Bourbon vanilla is the same Vanilla planifolia, but the new and different conditions of production by all means affect the quality of taste and smell.
Vanilla Bourbon is of rich scent and taste. This kind of vanilla is used for production of natural vanillin produced by pods in a form of crystals, during the process of drying.
Production of natural vanillin is a long and expensive process. Vanilla pods are forming and growing from the beautiful green-yellow and yellow vanilla flowers.
In natural conditions the flowers are pollinated by insects and hummingbirds, but on plantations it is done manually. Green pods remain on branches for 8-9 months and after picking they are being dried for another half a year. During the drying process they produce white crystals – vanillin.
Tahitian vanilla grows in the islands of French Polynesia (Tahiti) and is a more rare and expensive variant. Its taste is regarded as milder than the Vanilla planifolia, but the scent is stronger. It contains less vanillin and more heliotropine, which gives a fruity nuance.
French vanilla which can be found among the components of fragrances is not a special kind of vanilla, but a kind of quality label of its taste and scent as real (identical to natural vanilla) and intensive. The name originates from a French ice cream recipe.