If you thought chocolate was the world’s favorite flavor, you’d be wrong. It appears that vanilla wins hands down. The surprise revelation according to some scientists, is that we get our initial attraction to it before birth from our mothers. Breast milk and amniotic fluid are filled with the scent of vanilla. Who knew? It could be worse, we could have inherited the love of pickle flavor.

We can no longer call it plain vanilla. It’s the x-factor in most fragrances, conjuring feelings of cravings, warmth and familiarity. Other scent friends come ad go, but not vanilla. Remember when you were a kid and wanted to use the bottle of vanilla for perfume when your mother was baking a cake? I certainly did.

In the perfume industry the person who creates all those delicious smelling scents is called a “nose”. They can differentiate each fragrance much like a snobby French waiter can tell you what curious components are in that $60 bottle of wine you just ordered.

Some vanilla beans come from small farms in Madagascar that takes three years to grow and must be pollinated by hand within 24 hours of a blossom appearing. “This is a vanilla like you’ve never experienced” says Camille McDonald, president of brand development at Bath and Body Works. At $2,200 per kilogram, this vanilla is also the most expensive raw material the company has ever used in a fragrance, she says. The vanilla ingredient is used not only in perfumes, but in bath oil, body cream, etc. Proctor and Gamble introduced Downy fabric softener scented with vanilla in 2004, which led to vanilla fragrances in detergent, dryer sheets and dish soap. I will certainly be more prudent when splashing myself after a shower from now on.

Vanilla’s natural pollinator is the melipona bee found in the crop’s native Mexico. In the 1800’s, advances in hand pollination techniques allowed vanilla to be more widely grown in tropical climates, including Madagascar, Uganda, Indonesia and India.
Vanilla is part of the orchid family and there are many varieties, each producing a slightly different characteristic. It’s growing conditions and processing methods determine its versatility, making it a popular tool.

Vanilla milestones in the perfume business apparently started with the creation of “Jicky” by Guerlain in 1889, and continued on to Guerlain’s “Shalimar” in 1925. I have a special memory of “Shalimar”, because it was my grandmother’s favorite perfume and came in an incredibly beautiful bottle. When I was a Junior in High School, a boy I liked worked at the local grocery store. I had been walking past the produce department daily trying to get his attention for a month or so, when he finally succumbed to my nubile charms and invited me to a movie. I doused myself liberally with “Shalimar” and we hopped on the bus to Oakland. He never asked me out again, but I still have my grandmother’s bottle of “Shalimar” as a lesson not to be repeated.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

20 thoughts on “DON’T CALL IT “PLAIN” VANILLA”

    1. I do remember “Vanilla Sky”. I am not a fan of Tom Cruise so we didn’t see it, but the song was good.

      I took grandma’s nearly empty bottle of perfume as a “sweet” remembance when she died in ’73 and though it is nearly dried up now it still stinks!


  1. I love the smell and taste of really good vanilla – I have a bottle I purchased in Guatemala and it is heavenly – and absolute detest those overpowering fake vanilla air-fresheners. I had no idea “Shalimar” was an intensely vanilla-scented fragrance. It certainly did come in a beautiful bottle.


    1. Apparently most perfume companies use vanilla in their product. Strange to imagine isn’t it?

      There is a definite difference in cooking vanillas, and in the results. If you’re going to go to all that work making something, use the best.


  2. I’m here following up on the “like” you just left on my blog..Thank you…and I’ve had some fun browsing here. I’m especially interested in you as an artist—since I have lived, worked, taught in that field, even though language/poetry is my first love. On the subject of vanilla….it’s my favorite ice cream, in fact, if you want to test for really good ice cream, go with vanilla!


  3. Shalimar was my mother’s favorite. I had a little bottle of it for a while, and now I can’t remember what happened to it. I didn’t favor it so much, so I suppose I disposed of it. I do still have a couple of her lipsticks, though. Everyone wears down their lipstick differently. Now and then I use hers, just to remember.

    I do love vanilla. I’m down to my last quart of Mexican vanilla, so the time will come when I’ll have to buy some. I have a friend who gave me some of this brand, and it’s wonderful.

    Here’s a tidbit that tickles me: people around here who bow hunt for white tail deer swear by vanilla as a scent disguise. One guy I know says he can’t use it, though, because all he can think about is sugar cookies.

    I’m nearly done with the post I teased you with a while back. I’ve been coming across your blog about a dozen times a day or more while working on it. You’ll see why — there are times when the coincidences in life are just unbelievable. I think the weather is supposed to be horrid tomorrow, so I’ll have time to finish it. 🙂


    1. Even thinking about Shalimar now makes me cough! Probably one of the strongest perfumes invented. I had a friend who lost her sense of smell and she always poured on the perfume of her choice before we got into the car. With the windows closed I always got a coughing fit. She would ask what was wrong, and I finally had to tell her that i was allergic to her.

      My family lived in Mexico for a number of years, and I was well supplied with both vanilla and cinnamon. Haven’ had the vanilla for awhile, but recently a friend gave me a bag of the cinnamon.

      As far as vanilla for hunting, I’ll have to ask a couple of my hunter grandsons. As I remember they used fox urine! Vanilla would be infinitely better.

      I’m waiting to read what you come up with (as usual). Wish we would more horrid weather. It’s like summer today and they threaten to cut the water down still more.


  4. How wonderful to learn breast milk and amn fluid smells of vanilla. If that, and the fact we have the ocean in our eyes and that women are attuned to the moon and tides, doesn’t suggest we are rather more than a bag of skin and bones, I don’t know what will! Great story about Shalimar and the boy 🙂

    PS. I once had to give up a friend who wore Red Door because I couldn’t find a way to tell her it made me feel sick.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I wonder if we have become more allergic or if we used to simply put up with over-the-top applications of perfume out of politeness? I remember having to walk out of a movie because my daughter, then in her early twenties, could not endure the fug of perfume surrounding us.

    My first encounter with ‘Shalimar’ and its beautiful bottle was in my first year at university. It was the signature perfume of a new friend. I tried it, but it didn’t suit me.

    When my son was about a year and a half old, he got hold of a bottle of Chanel No. 5 and had a great time dousing himself with it. Worried that he might have imbibed some of the perfume, we called the poison control centre. They said he might become a little intoxicated, but otherwise it wouldn’t hurt him!


    1. I think we have all become a bit allergic from everything we put into the air. Some department stores seem to be changing their entry departments. It used to be the realm of the cosmetic department, so that you got a “:sweet” welcome. Now fortunately they place it further back in the store and give us a look at the shoe department. Maybe they figure there is more profit in shoes than perfume.

      Glad your son was OK it is frightening what they can grab.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never been exposed to real vanilla, only essence. Mum always had some on hand and we all loved it. Homemade vanilla ice-cream was the best thing she ever made. Very interesting post, Cindi. Thanks.


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