Vanilla is exciting; vanilla is erotic. Like the magnolia and the rose it is a very ancient plant, a green and white flowering orchid with a fruit of precious bean pods that delight the nose and taste buds.
Europeans brought the beans back from Mexico five hundred years ago, vanilla has enjoyed a long and not undeserved reputation as an aphrodisiac for a peculiarly fascinating reason. The two words “vanilla” and “orchid” derive respectively from the Latin and Greek words for the female and male genitalia: this being on account of the intrinsically suggestive shapes of the plant.
Intriguingly, modern science has established that vanilla contains a molecule very similar to one found in human milk. No wonder then that vanilla is also a comfort food and fragrance par excellence, invoking thoughts of the protective nurturing love of a happy and cosy childhood. Vanilla is - one way or another - highly emotional. Just like perfume!
Vanilla in perfumery - vanilla to wear - came into high fashion just short of a century ago in the shape of Guerlain’s oriental classic Shalimar. This innovative and hugely influential fragrance was characterised by a massive overdose of vanillin. Then, and for many years after, vanilla- based perfumes trended towards the sweet and creamy, even syrupy.
In recent years however, perfumers such as Sylvaine Delacourte and Mona Di Orio have returned to the redolence of the orchid in its natural state and that of the bean pod in the kitchen jar. Dark, earthy, smoky with a touch of leather and tobacco: maybe even a hint of cognac. “En mon fin est ma commencement”: for this is how the Aztecs knew vanilla in old Mexico. They drank their chocolate cold and foaming, laced with vanilla and chilli - but entirely unsweetened.
And so, for your delight, we present 12 of the best Vanillas at Les Senteurs: like Cleopatra, of Infinite Variety!