vanilla: 10 posts

Vanilla Orchids

Stepping inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory during Kew Gardens’ annual orchid festival is an opulent fragrant experience. While the most popular orchids sold by florists are unscented, there are also many perfumed varieties, with their aromas spanning the full olfactory spectrum from effervescent lemon to dark chocolate.

In my recent FT article, Vanilla Orchids, I describe one of the most famous perfumed orchids, Vanilla planifolia. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since this plant produces one of the world’s most fragrant spices. The flowers have a delicious aroma reminiscent of creamy jasmine and green grape. Although more subtle than the scent of vanilla pods, it has inspired perfumers to create fragrances around vanilla flowers, relying on recent studies of orchids and their aromas.

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L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille : Perfume Review

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The combination of salt and vanilla is not common in perfumery, despite the ubiquity of these ingredients in modern patisserie. For one thing, salt is a fantasy impression created by certain marine and dry woody notes in fragrances, and its effect is cancelled out by the sweetness of vanilla. Also, when a perfume promises vanilla, we expect warm, creamy and cuddly–a bowl of custard, if you will. L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille, however, dares to be different.

While retaining the creaminess and dark sweetness of vanilla, perfumer Aliénor Massenet, who worked with L’Artisan Parfumeur on this launch, blended fresh floral and salty notes to balance out the richness. The sweet and salt facets give Couleur Vanille its personality, right from the top notes.

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Vanilla and Nutmeg Scented Plum Jam

Judging by the variety of gourmand fragrances, the kitchen is a terrific source of inspiration for perfumers, and the exchange happens the other way too. A perfumer turns to vanilla to round out a composition, and if you’re in doubt how to jazz up your dessert, try this familiar sweet note. Vanilla is versatile enough to play along side many different ingredients, but it pairs especially well with stone fruit. This was my thinking as I simmered plums with sugar and a generous dose of vanilla in an impromptu jam I had to devise with a surfeit of damsons. I splashed it over the bubbling jam so liberally that the kitchen was filled with vanilla scented steam within seconds.

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The jam was very good, and my husband pronounced it the best plum jam he has tried, but I felt that something was missing. The sweetness of vanilla and plums was rich and deep, but I wished there was more bite and sparkle. When I returned to the kitchen for one more experiment, I added lemon zest and nutmeg towards the end, and the spicy-citrusy twist completed the picture. Now, this jam was not only perfumed as well as something from Serge Lutens, but it was also richly flavored.

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Chopard Casmir : Perfume Review

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If you feel that minimalism is overrated or you’ve  had enough of well-mannered, chic to the point of annoyance perfumes, I have one answer for you: Chopard Casmir. You have it all in this amber tinted liquid–the richness of vanilla, the earthy heft of patchouli, and the creamy sweetness of sandalwood. Also, let me not forget the piña colada like fruit and jammy jasmine. It may sound scary, but Casmir works surprisingly well as a blend of woods with a bold gourmand note. It’s a Bollywood film in a perfume bottle.

casmir

Chopard is famous for its jewel encrusted finery and watches, but its fragrance collection is comprised of such over the top scents that even diamonds pale in comparison. Most of the perfumes were flops–Mira Bai, Madness, Infiniment, and Casmir didn’t exactly rake in the profits with its drama queen personality. Created in 1991 by perfumer Michel Almairac, Casmir looks to the 1980s with its glitzy composition.

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Viennese Vanilla Crescents with Tonka Bean (Vanillekipferln)

Tonka beans look like dusty, wrinkled pods, but they smell like smoky cherries, sugared almonds and sun warmed hay. Many fragrance raw materials have heady aromas that are as complex as those of a finished perfume, but few rival tonka bean for its luscious seduction. Gourmand doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s decadent, sultry, and addictive.

The best way to experience the complexity of tonka bean is not just to smell it, but to eat it. Tonka bean is the flavor of the moment in Europe, where I’ve encountered it in cakes, ice cream, chocolates, and even savory dishes. The sweetness of tonka lends itself perfectly to desserts, especially anything that contains almonds, vanilla, or cherries. These ingredients explore natural affinities, and you can’t go wrong by adding a pinch of tonka to cherry compotes, almond cakes or vanilla custard. The best way to imbue as much tonka flavor as possible into a dessert is to grate it finely and either infuse it in warm liquid, or as I do in the recipe for Viennese Vanilla Crescents (Vanillekipferln), cream it with butter.

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