Vanilla in fragrance

The best smell in the world?

Almost everyone knows what vanilla smells like, in fact it’s that familiarity that makes it so comforting. It has a warm, sweet and slightly spicy aroma that makes you feel instantly relaxed. But what exactly is vanilla, where does it come from, and what are the benefits of using it in fragrance?

When you think of vanilla you probably think of that stringy, almost-black, dried up old bean pod you get in the supermarket. It starts life as something much more beautiful – it comes from an orchid, no less. An orchid vine.

This orchid is native to Central America and Mexico but is now grown all over the world. The plant is a vine that climbs trees or other supports, and has delicate, fragrant flowers that only bloom for a few hours in the morning. The flowers must be pollinated by hand, which makes vanilla one of the most labour-intensive crops in the world.

After the flowers are pollinated, they develop into long, thin seed pods that are harvested when they are still green and unripe. The pods are then cured and dried, which intensifies their flavour and fragrance. The result is a rich, complex aroma that has become one of the most beloved scents in the world.

The use of vanilla in fragrance dates back thousands of years. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans used vanilla in their food and drink, and they also burned the fragrant beans as incense. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, they were introduced to vanilla and brought it back to Europe. It quickly became popular as a flavouring and a fragrance, and by the 19th century, it was one of the most valuable commodities in the world.

A study in 2022 showed that vanilla is the most popular scent in the world, regardless of culture. And interestingly, it’s been found that the scent of vanilla can actually help to reduce stress and anxiety – it smells relaxing, and it is relaxing.  Vanilla has also long been associated with sensuality and seduction, perhaps even have aphrodisiac effects – which makes sense given it’s proven to have calming properties.  

It can also help to reduce cravings for sweets and chocolate – so there’s no need to worry your vanilla fragrance will send you to the bakers.

Many fragrances use a vanilla note to add a sweetness and softness. When combined with other notes it’s not always something you can pick out easily. If you are looking for a more vanillary fragrance though, try Marzi. It’s not a straight-vanilla scent – it’s got notes of bitter almond, brown sugar, musk and carnation too. It’s sweet and delicious.