More vanilla?

Apr 3, 2021
Can someone enlighten me and tell me why nearly every fragrance out there has vanilla in it? Especially in more recent scents. I cook with vanilla and had rather it stay in my kitchen. Is it a filler? Is it an inexpensive ingredient? Does everyone out there want to smell like vanilla? Why??


Well-known member
Oct 25, 2007
I think it adds a nice sweet touch to the dry down of many scents. It's nice if it's blended well and in the correct proportion to the other notes.

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Vanilla (or its cousin, coumarin) has been a fundamental component of perfumery for well over a century.

The recent dependence on it strikes me as being tied both to a broad market appetite for sweet fragrances as well as an industry shift from more traditional base materials to synthetic materials for which vanilla serves as a very effective "blender."


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
1. It smells good.
2. It is relatively easy and cheap to synthesise into a manner of different smells and forms.
3. It is useful in the perfume structure as a base note that will prolong a fragrance's duration.
4. Women are now overwhelmingly the target demographic for most median consumer products, and sweeter scents are enjoyed by women moreso than other type of smells. Catering to women also means that it's not just feminine fragrance that gets sweeter, but they also want men to smell sweet as well (see the trajectory of "masculine" fragrances from 1970 to now).
5. The loss of other notes and ingredients (moss, woods, musks) leads to a void, in to which vanilla has grown.
6. The democratising effect of perfume means more and more people are making them but lack the craft of master perfumers of yore: vanilla is a safe 'get out' for less competent perfumers to create a pleasing aroma.
7. Perfume itself has become more commercially cynical, focusing on top notes and immediate gratification, rather than promising a better aroma once the perfume settles. This means a lot of effort is put in to constructing a short-lived aroma that dies in to a mix of basic smells, and vanilla is often used heavily as a base for a range of 'sweet' top notes: from citruses like grapefruit, to clean white florals.
8. It's not just vanilla that is being used, it's sweetness in general: tonka and 'amber' (a mix of labdanum and other resins/balsamic notes) are common bases in many fragrances. Also modern sugary accords are built to imitate honey, or toffee, or caramel. These are exist under the same umbrella but vanilla is quite a sharp, non-creamy sweetness: 'amber' and tonka are probably as if not more common than vanilla, but we often just refer to anything creamy and sweet as 'vanillic' because most people's reference for vanilla is ice cream rather than the real thing.
9. The homogenisation of modern perfumery means a lot of fragrances end up smelling similar and copying whatever is commercially successful. Modern, vanilla-heavy scents became big sellers in the 90s (Joop, Le Male) and the cycle has perpetuated (Chanel Allure Homme range, 1 Million; Layton, Bleu de Chanel).

There are probably more reasons but those are a few off the top of my head.

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