When your inner-11-year-old decides to grow up and move on from the charred chemical charms of Aquolina Pink Sugar - and that day may never come - here’s what’s out there for you:
Le Maison de la Vanille range has more of an “adult cupcake” approach, if such a thing exists. Vanille Sauvage de Madagascar is my favorite from this line. It’s a less chemical-y Pink Sugar with smidge of incense.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Vanilia is vanilla and ash, like cotton candy with a pack-a-day smoking habit. I layer this one with Comme des Garçons Avignon.
Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum eau Poudrée envelopes you in a billowy, powdery cloud of Turkish delight: rose, almonds and honey.
Indult Tihota turns you into Jonah in the belly of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It’s a smooth, dense, sweet vanilla, without any of the plastic Barbie head or burnt aspects that sometimes come along for the ride.
Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille is Pink Sugar after falling in with an arty crowd and running off to Europe. Un Bois Vanille ditches the chemicals but keeps the burnt caramel and adds a worldly smokiness. And it wouldn’t be a Serge Lutens without a certain amount of fancy footwork -- here it’s beeswax, coconut milk and gaiacwood adding layers and interest.
Those are my favorite vanillas that I’ve encountered so far, but just I’m a vanilla dilettante, or “vanilettante”, if you will. I know there are specialized fumeheads out there whose winning Jeopardy! category is “Vanillas We Love”, and you’re the ones I turn to now. What vanillas do I need to try? Hermès Vanille Galante? Calypso St Barth Lea? Jessica Simpson Fancy? Clue me in to the wonders of the pod and the bean.