More Vanilla Perfumes (…That Pre-Date the Recent “Revival”)

Finally!!! Vanilla is BACK. Or (as I wondered a while back in another post about this “trend”)…did it ever really leave us? The headlines are somewhat confusingly phrased.

Is it beloved by people born between 1997 and the 2010s (as the Pew Research Center defines Generation Z) or has vanilla long been absent from the olfactory dialogue? Some of these stories attempted to play it both ways.

Vanilla is an established favorite! and it’s having a comeback!

Pardon me…an EPIC comeback.

But again, it’s also “well-loved,” so maybe it never really went away? Some recent articles leaned into the Y2K revival theory that we love vanilla because it a) reminds us of simpler times in the early 2000s (hah) or b) is part of the current “nostalgia” being peddled to folks who weren’t old enough to savor Paris Hilton’s hijinks the first time around.

A few other recent articles have discussed the emotional power of vanilla. Vanilla makes us happy because it reminds us of comforting things like breast milk and baby formula! and dessert! (That feels pretty reductive to me.) These pieces all echoed one another, too, although some were better written than others and actually cited experts on smell and psychology.

The fine print in the above headline, which also appears in some of the other vanilla-centric articles, is key: “We may earn commission from links on this page.” Nearly every one of these articles featured Kayali, a perfume brand created in 2018 by a cosmetics entrepreneur with a massive online following. They also included either Ellis Brooklyn (a perennial favorite of beauty writers), Rosie Jane (I have literally no thoughts on this one), and/or the latest Ariana Grande scent, Mod (indisputably a big mainstream release). I’m assuming at least a couple of these brands are pay-to-play participants in this wave of “trend” stories.

I don’t know why this kind of thing still surprises and annoys me, but I’m happy to share a few of my own favorite vanilla recommendations below. No affiliate links, just links to the actual brand websites where you can learn more. And all these fragrances were launched sometime between 2010 through 2018. This timeline may illustrate that vanilla has indeed been a constant theme in niche perfumery or, instead, that nothing before TikTok really existed. Your choice!

Diptyque Eau Duelle (Fabrice Pellegrin, 2010)

A quietly cosmopolitan vanilla. In her review on Now Smell This, my colleague Robin wrote, “Eau Duelle’s opening is vibrant: it smells just like a vanilla gin martini with a twist of citrus peel. Then the spices come on fast, with a lovely overload of cardamom, and shortly after that there is a nice whiff of black tea and a whoosh of incense.” (Diptyque website)

Imaginary Authors Memoirs of a Trespasser (Josh Meyer, 2012)

This “volume” from Imaginary Authors was designed to accompany the non-existent memoir of a notorious (and also non-existent) world traveler. Robin on NST called it a “dry and smooth vanilla over a bed of resinous amber-y woods, with hints of spice and allusions to tobacco and leather…oak-y but not overtly boozy.” (Imaginary Authors website)

Arquiste The Architects Club (Yann Vasnier, 2014)

Arquiste founder Carlos Huber is an architect by training, with an impeccable sense of design and a commitment to historical context in all his work. The Architects Club, developed by the very stylish Yann Vasnier, was inspired by the smoking room of a 1930s London hotel where architects and Bright Young Things mingled over cocktails. Kevin on NST described it as a “sheer woody-vanilla cologne.” (Arquiste website)

Maya Njie Vanilj (Maya Njie, 2016)

If you’re more interested in a gourmand vanilla with a twist, rather than a woody or boozy vanilla, Vanilj is one you should try—a cozy yet sophisticated blend of vanilla, cardamom, and soft amber notes. I liked it a lot when I reviewed it for NST in 2020, during that first weird summer of the pandemic when I was looking for some good new comfort scents. (Maya Njie website)

Phoenix Botanicals Vanilla & the Sea (Irina Adam, 2017)

Irina, the Brooklyn-based perfumer behind Phoenix, mixes small seasonal batches of her various potions and lotions using nothing but natural ingredients. Here, she crafted a mermaid-worthy vanilla with breezy floral notes of neroli and tuberose and oceanic accents of seaweed and ambergris. Gentle, bewitching, and purely botanical.(Phoenix Etsy site)

Aroma M Botan (Maria McElroy, 2018)

Maria McElroy has long been inspired by her extensive travels in Japan, and in Botan she gives us a rich, velvety interpretation of peony flowers wrapped in notes of sandalwood and creamy vanilla. When I wrote about it for NST, I commented that Botan “is what I like to call a ‘fleurmand,’ a floral-gourmand that evokes some fantastic flowery dessert.” And it’s available in oil- and alcohol-based formats! (Aroma M website)

Do you have any favorite contemporary vanilla perfumes that pre-date the 2022-2023 “revival”? Feel free to share in the comments!

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