Vanilla Symphony: Navigating Fragrance’s Journey from Sweet to Sophisticated

vanilla symbolizes home

Bingkai Karya – For many individuals, the fragrance of vanilla symbolizes home, comfort, and a sense of belonging. According to Richard L. Doty, the director of the Smell and Taste Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, vanilla is widely appreciated due to conditioning, often associated with its presence in various desserts. Interestingly, exposure to vanilla can start early, possibly before a person’s first experience with solid food. Research indicates that vanilla from a mother’s diet can be transferred to breast milk, influencing infants to feed longer and consume more milk.

In a 2022 study, a derivative of vanilla was identified as the most pleasant smell globally, as diverse cultural groups, including members of rural and Indigenous communities, ranked it highest among 10 different aromas.

The popularity of vanilla-scented products, such as those from Bath & Body Works in the early 2000s, had a global impact, even reaching places like Mumbai through a souvenir Warm Vanilla Sugar lotion. For the author, this scent became a nostalgic link to the past, a “portkey” to another time, associated with memories of a loved one who passed away in 1995.

Elena Vosnaki, a historian and fragrance expert, notes that millennials, surrounded by vanilla-scented products in their childhood and adolescence, have formed a special connection to it, linked to carefree times. However, as the author grew older, they found many vanilla perfumes to be disappointingly sweet and juvenile. They longed for more sophisticated representations, exploring the complex facets of vanilla beyond the typical sugary notes.

Perfumers have struggled to break the association of vanilla with desserts for over a century. Only recently have fragrance houses started releasing vanilla scents with “gravitas” or seriousness. This shift is attributed to the expansion of vanilla cultivation globally, with different varieties offering diverse olfactive profiles. Fragrance houses are now able to explore the more mysterious and complex aspects of vanilla.

Notable vanilla fragrances that break away from the typical sweet notes include Deep Dark Vanilla by D.S. & Durga, Vanille Rêve by Shalini with anise-spiked notes, and Architects Club by Arquiste featuring a fizzy gin top and amber base. Vanilla is also present in unique forms, such as in Amouage’s intense Vanilla Barka attar, Kilian Paris’s Smoking Hot with a smoky touch, Perfumehead’s Room No with a palo santo filter, and Boy Smells’ Vanilla Era, which is spicy yet transparent.

According to perfumer David Seth Moltz, vanilla absolute is deeply mysterious, possessing smoky, woody, and rich qualities in a grown-up, gourmand manner. This complexity resonates with the author, who sees wearing these scents as a reminder of their mother’s approach to vanilla in cooking, using it as a tool for unexpected depth and richness.

Source: Harper’s BAZAAR

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