Why vanilla and gourmand fragrances are making a comeback

From comforting vanilla to delectable pistachio, discover how foodie fragrances are dominating in 2024 and why they evoke such powerful memories and emotions.

Harper's Bazaar India

One of my earliest fragrances in the noughties was Victoria’s Secret Vanilla Body Mist. It was soaked in sweetness—like a glazed Cinnabon, or a batch of freshly baked cookies, or a lick of ice cream. You could almost taste the sugar melting on your tongue. A right of passage for every teen in the era, the vanilla perfumes of the 2000s made a nostalgic return last year. Speculated to grow further, the 2024 Predicted Beauty Trends Report by Spate, a consumer trends platform, suggests that the search volume for vanilla perfumes is anticipated to increase by 16.5 per cent, and gourmand fragrances will dominate the trends this year.

Vanilla Sex, Tom Ford

Gourmand fragrances refer to perfumes with edible notes, and in 2024, warm and sugary accords are resonating with us. It can be traced back to our need for comfort and tranquillity in the post-pandemic world, leading us to familiar notes of vanilla, caramel, and pistachio. “We’re seeing a renewed love for gourmand notes because consumers are looking at fragrance as a source of comfort,” explains Maggie Arms, the director of global product marketing, fragrance, at Sol de Janeiro. The gourmand notes of today are more nuanced than the cloying and synthetic ones of the past. “They take the warm and addictive quality of the overly sweet scents, blending it in a way that’s more sophisticated and wearable,” Maggie adds. This could be why their iconic Cheirosa 62 with pistachio and salted caramel and the good-enough-to-eat Cheirosa 71 with caramelised vanilla and macadamia have become wildly popular, especially among fragrance enthusiasts on social media. “All Sol de Janeiro fragrances are rooted in the idea of being ‘cheirosa,’ which in Portuguese means to smell incredibly delicious,” says Maggie. 

Cheirosa 62 with pistachio and salted caramel, Sol de Janeiro
Cheirosa 62 with pistachio and salted caramel, Sol de Janeiro

Steeped in nostalgia, candy notes are a gentle evocation of bygone days. “Gourmand notes tap into the olfactive memory, which affects our emotions,” says Anton Denver, education director, Jo Malone London. Most of their loved scents—be it English Pear and Freesia or Vetiver & Golden Vanilla Cologne Intense—have edible notes at their core. “It’s a sensory journey that resonates with those seeking comfort and sophistication in fragrances,” says Anton, who seconds vanilla’s ability to make you feel calmer. “Most people have a positive connection to vanilla, often linked to childhood. These scent memories play a huge part when selecting a fragrance.”

This rings true for Mona Kattan, founder, Kayali, whose maiden fragrance bottles one of her first scent memories—the smell of birthday cake. “Vanilla is birthday celebrations and sharing these happy moments with my family,” says Mona. “There is something comforting about smelling familiar.” Most of the brand’s fragrances revolve around indulgent edible notes and underscore Mona’s obsession with gourmand perfumes. “Vanilla 28 has a delicious and addictive scent that is great for layering. It’s like adding whipped cream to your dessert—it goes great with everything!” Likewise, the brand’s another popular offering—the Yum Pistachio Gelato 33 Eau De Parfum—is an olfactory treat inspired by Mona’s favourite Italian dessert. “The scent effect is a fresh gourmand as if you are walking into a gelateria,” says Mona. Pistachio seems to be a popular choice with other brands as well. D S & Durga’s Pistachio Eau de Parfum is unabashedly sweet with top, middle, and base notes of pistachio. 

English Pear and Freesia, Jo Malone
English Pear and Freesia, Jo Malone

Some move away from the clichés of syrupy vanilla and favour a rich and smokey fragrance. D S & Durga’s Deep Dark Vanilla is one such gourmand perfume. Similarly, Tom Ford’s latest fragrance in his vanilla repertoire— Vanilla Sex—takes a maximalist approach to vanilla. Yet to launch in India, the fragrance is an interplay of vanilla CO2 extract, vanilla tincture India—exclusively developed by Tom Ford, and vanilla absolute. It brings out vanilla’s leathery qualities, warmed by floral notes of jasmine and harmoniously balanced with sandalwood and orris for a warm and spicy trail.

Both Deep Dark Vanilla and Vanilla Sex are genderless, underscoring vanilla’s versatility. “Vanilla can adapt to any style of perfume,” states Mona. “We recently launched a fifth chapter to our Oudgasm Collection, and each scent has vanilla but offers a unique olfactory experience.” Jo Malone’s Vetiver and Golden Vanilla attests to this with its masculine-style gourmand notes of warm vanilla bourbon. “We also have fragrances where gourmand notes may not be dominant but still play a tantalising role, like Velvet Rose & Oud,” says Anton. “It has notes of praline that make it desirably delicious.” 

Foodie fragrances are, undeniably, the flavour of the moment, with saccharine notes taking the lead. But according to Spate, 2024 will also see a rise in scents with fresh and fruity accords. These notes are sweet but juicy and mouth-watering. Think Kayali’s Eden Juicy Apple 01, Jo Malone’s English Pear & Sweet Pea, and Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry. With a rising taste for gourmand fragrances, the future could take a fruity turn.

Feature Image: Camille Brodard / Unsplash

All images: The Brands

This article originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar India April-May 2024 print issue. 

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