The 14 Best Vanilla Perfumes for Every Scent Preference

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Subtle, sweet, spicy, or strong, these vanilla perfumes are all grown up.

<p>InStyle / Brian Kopinski</p>

InStyle / Brian Kopinski

Many of the best vanilla perfumes have been around for a while, and for one big reason: The scent of vanilla is among the most timeless notes in fragrance, offering warmth and familiarity that just about everyone loves. And while fragrance can be notoriously debatable — after all, everyone and their mother has a personal preference — vanilla is often the rare exception, making it a safe bet whether you’re gifting a fragrance or looking to try something new. (In fact, research has found that it’s the scent with the most universal appeal.)


That said, there’s more to vanilla than you might think. While you might peg vanilla as the quintessential winter fragrance thanks to its warm, familiar feel, one of its unique qualities is that it plays well with other notes, which is why you can find a ton of versatile riffs on the original. Pair it with patchouli and it suddenly has a spicy edge, or jasmine for a more floral interpretation.

Best Overall Vanilla Perfume: Kayali Vanilla 28

$32 at

What We Love: It layers easily with other scents, and the gourmand aspect has mass appeal.

What We Don’t Love: The scent doesn’t have a long wear time, so it may fade throughout the day.

Mona Kattan, co-founder of Huda Beauty, kicked off this line of perfumes in 2018 as a way to expand on her love of fragrance — and this eau de parfum quickly became one of its bestsellers. An elegant, grown-up take on vanilla, it balances the built-in sweetness of vanilla with deeper, richer base notes of amber and musk, making for a well-rounded fragrance that’s as easy to love as it is to wear.

“The number 28 indicates the rounds of formulations Kattan took to bring her idea of vanilla orchids, tonka absolute, and amber woods together to create the perfect warm and spicy fragrance,” says Sephora beauty director Melinda Solares. That combo makes it surprisingly sultry yet approachable, making it a great option for a date or an overall signature scent.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Vanilla orchid, brown sugar, amber

Best Budget: Ellis Brooklyn Mini Bee

$25 at

$110 at

What We Love: It’s sweet without being overpowering or cloying. Plus, the mini bottle is more functional than a rollerball.

What We Don’t Love: The scent doesn’t linger as long as we’d like.

Ellis Brooklyn’s line of clean fragrances — created by veteran beauty journalist Bee Shapiro when she was pregnant with her first daughter — is known for its sustainably sourced, incredibly complex scents. And this one is no exception: It opens with a sweet, fresh blend of honey and dark rum, which eventually makes way for the warmth of vanilla, cocoa, and sandalwood. Together, they impart a sweet, joyful scent that’s impossible to overdo.

Since the scent subtly changes as you wear it, you’ll get the perks of a like-new fragrance as the day goes by. And, even better: The brand dropped its lineup of four best-selling fragrances in this mini format, which allows you to not only try the fragrance with minimal risk, but also give a pretty, colorful flair to your vanity.

Size: 0.25 fl oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Dark rum, honey, vanilla bean

Best Splurge: Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

$195 at

$70 at

What We Love: The unisex scent is long-lasting and makes a big statement.

What We Don’t Love: It can be polarizing, making it a tough sell for the office or on a commute.

The price point may be steep by any measure, but what you get is a classic Tom Ford fragrance — in other words, one that's unique, bold, and makes a powerful impression on anyone who smells it. At the heart of this scent is the pairing of tobacco leaf and vanilla ginger, which make for a sweet, smoky, and subtly gourmand fragrance.

We’ve found that the tobacco note takes a backseat to the sweetness of vanilla, tonka bean, and cocoa — no cigar smell here — which makes for a warm, balanced dry down that works especially well for late evenings out and cozy winter days. It’s basically a confidence boost in a bottle.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Tonka bean, vanilla, wood sap

Best Classic: Skylar Vanilla Sky Eau de Parfum

$90 at

$30 at

What We Love: The long-lasting scent is as clean and irritant-free as it gets.

What We Don’t Love: It’s a little heavy for year-round use.

If you're prone to allergies, you're in the right place with this hypoallergenic fragrance from Skylar. (In fact, the brand's entire lineup is hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, vegan, and safe for sensitive skin types.) This one leads hard into the inherent gourmand nature of vanilla, amplifying it with notes of cappuccino and cinnamon to impart the cozy feel of a cashmere blanket.

That said, it’s not one of those scents that only works in winter (after all, iced frappes are a godsend on hot summer days.) Ultimately, it’s an unapologetically feminine scent, and manages to smell sweet and delicious without leaning into dessert territory — which is pretty impressive when you consider the notes within.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Cappuccino, vanilla, caramelized cedar

Best Warm: Kilian Paris Angels’ Share

$255 at

$65 at

What We Love: The unique notes make for a fragrance that smells a little different on everyone.

What We Don’t Love: The steep price makes it an investment, although the refill version is less expensive.

The eponymous founder’s last name is Hennessy, so it’s not exactly a huge surprise that his fragrance line has an entire collection devoted to liquors — including, in this case, cognac. (For context: The name "angels' share" describes the portion of liquor that naturally evaporates into the air while it ages, like a little offering.)

As expected, it's grounded in the essence of cognac, which is derived from the actual liquor and gives the fragrance its amber hue. While it does smell boozy at first spritz because of that, it transforms into a more spicy and gourmand scent as it dries down — think apple pie filling — thanks to a creamy blend of oak, cinnamon, praline, and vanilla. Together, the notes make for a memorable and appropriately intoxicating scent that is, pun intended, heavenly.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Cognac, tonka bean, praline

Best Amber: The 7 Virtues Vanilla Woods Eau de Parfum

$32 at

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What We Love: It has a long wear time, and the fruity note of pear sets it apart from other vanilla scents.

What We Don’t Love: The formats and sizes are limited.

7 Virtues isn't just committed to clean, natural fragrances infused with organic alcohol, but also the communities who source the ingredients, such as Haiti, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. Take its vanilla, for instance. “The organic vanilla is sourced from a sustainable cooperative in Madagascar that provides families with fair wages that help to provide education and health care,” says Solares, who counts this among her favorite fragrances.

While the blend of vanilla, amber, and caramel base notes makes it most definitely a gourmand, you'll also get more surprising notes of sweet, juicy pear and rose. Plus, you can feel good about smelling good, making it a win-win in your fragrance rotation.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Pear, rose, vanilla

Best Musk: Byredo Vanille Antique Extrait de Parfum

$350 at

See at

What We Love: A little goes a long way, and the complex scent is a totally new interpretation of vanilla.

What We Don’t Love: It’s an investment, since it’s both pricey and not an everyday fragrance.

This isn't your average, capital-P perfume. Rather, it's one of Byredo's Night Veils scents, which uses luxurious raw materials at high concentrations to create perfume extraits; these, in turn, tend to last longer on the skin, lending both depth and wear — hence the luxury perfume price point. (You can also get this as part of a boxed set of five, if that's your thing.)

However, this makes for a statement fragrance. Vanille Antique is a night owl's celebration of vanilla, turning it moody with the addition of musk and cashmere wood. While it still has the warmth and sweetness you'd expect of a vanilla fragrance, it’s not as pronounced as you might expect for something with “vanilla” in the name.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Vanilla orchid, brown sugar, amber

Best Coconut: Dolce & Gabbana Dolce Garden Eau de Parfum

$135 at

What We Love: It’s surprisingly light and delicate, making it the rare vanilla fragrance that’s ideal for summer.

What We Don’t Love: You’re limited in sizes, since only the one bottle is available.

One part floral, one part gourmand, this riff on Dolce & Gabbana's original Dolce fragrance is inspired by the Sicilian coast when in bloom — think Mediterranean beach, fresh flowers, and warm sunlight on your skin. (Are you feeling relaxed already?)

At the heart of Dolce Garden is a combination of vanilla absolute and coconut, which lend it a sunny, uplifting feel, while top notes of magnolia, neroli, and mandarins lend it a fresh, juicy vibe. It’s still heavier and bolder than your average fruity-floral fragrance, however, and if you don’t love coconut, the note is definitely noticeable.

Size: 2.5 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Mandarin, coconut, vanilla

Best Sweet: Dior Vanilla Diorama

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What We Love: This is a fragrance that commits to the bit — the bit being dessert.

What We Don’t Love: Wearing a dessert-inspired fragrance on a daily basis may be a hard sell for most.

Instead of shying away from vanilla's rep as a dessert staple, this fragrance leans all the way into it. In fact, it was both inspired by and named for the diorama gourmand, a pastry (which purportedly pairs orange-glazed vanilla with bitter chocolate) created especially for Christian Dior himself by Paris restaurant Maxim’s.

The spotlight is entirely on the vanilla here — which, as with the namesake sweet, is enhanced with notes of fresh citrus and warm cocoa. (You'll also get rum and patchouli for a bit of spice, just to mix it up.) The only catch: It’s pretty intense, so you have to really, really love vanilla to make it worth your while.

Size: 4.25 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Bourbon vanilla, cocoa, rum

Best Woods: Maison Margiela Replica By the Fireplace

$35 at

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What We Love: It comes in a variety of formats, including a rollerball and refill option.

What We Don’t Love: It’s such a love-it-or-hate-it scent that you might want to test it out before buying a whole bottle.

While some fragrances' names aren't so literal (see: Dior's Poison), that's not the case for this one, which really does evoke the scent of sitting by the fireplace. If anything, it might actually be a little too realistic, with smoky notes cutting through the sweetness and inadvertently contributing to headaches, which is worth keeping in mind if you find you’re sensitive to some scents.

If that doesn't put you off though — and you're game for something to warm you up in the colder months — this complex scent does make for a unique signature scent. We’ve found that the smokiness comes courtesy of cloves in the top notes before you get the woodsy lineup of chestnut, juniper, and balsam. Vanilla pulls its weight here as the sole gourmand note, but it’s not front and center — which is either good or bad, depending on your preference.

Size: 1.0 oz | Type: Eau de toilette | Key Notes: Clove, chestnut, vanilla

Best Spicy: Diptyque Eau Duelle Eau de Toilette

$175 at

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What We Love: Its soft, mellow profile makes it a great daytime fragrance for year-round wear.

What We Don’t Love: There’s no travel-size available, making it tough to pack (and test-drive).

While you might know Diptyque best for its luxurious candles, its fragrance offerings deserve a little commotion, too. Take this genderless fragrance, which is directly inspired by the spice route that for centuries wound its way from Asia to Europe — and, naturally, brings together the best of spicy notes while still feeling fresh and easy to wear.

Rich without being overpowering, it suspends vanilla between a lineup of other exports, like cardamom, frankincense, and vetiver. (Plus, it includes notes of black Ceylon tea for a fruity touch.) It does smell a little boozy when you first spritz it on, but eventually dries down to a soft, super-wearable spice.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de toilette | Key Notes: Pink peppercorn, calamus, bourbon vanilla

Best Perfume Oil: Nest New York Madagascar Vanilla Perfume Oil

$35 at

$102 at

What We Love: The oil-based format extends the wear time, so the scent will stay with you all day.

What We Don’t Love: Since it’s an oil versus a spray, application takes longer (and is more likely to spill).

If you're worried you're going to smell like a baking mishap, rest easy: This perfume oil won't make you smell like you dropped a bottle of vanilla extract. While it does contain Madagascar vanilla, it's paired with vanilla orchid — the actual plant on which vanilla bean grows — and a touch of coconut for a low-key tropical vibe.

The fragrance is suspended in baobab oil, which allows the formula to sink into skin and impart the warm, rich scent all day long. We especially love the dropper, which allows you to apply as much as you want. And since it's a nourishing oil, it can double as a hair perfume — just in case you, like us, can’t get enough of it.

Size: 1.0 oz | Type: Perfume oil | Key Notes: Vanilla bean, vanilla orchid, coconut

Best Floral: Heretic Dirty Vanilla Eau de Parfum

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What We Love: The clean, vegan formula offers an unexpected take on vanilla, which is refreshing.

What We Don’t Love: That take is definitely not for everyone.

Forget the vanilla you think you know. Instead of drawing inspiration from the dessert table, this takes a different approach by highlighting Vanilla Planifolia, which is the orchid species at the source of vanilla bean. As a result, instead of the usual gourmand flavor, it offers a more earthy take on the note, making for a perfume that’s much more sexy than sweet. (However, it's still billed as a unisex fragrance.)

That's because the vanilla, which appears as both the heart and base notes, is surrounded by a collection of powerful wood scents, such as cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli, which gives it an incense-like feel. It's definitely more outside the box — so if you're not a huge fan of classic vanilla, this might be a good one to try.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Vanilla, sandalwood, coriander

Best Light: By Rosie Jane Dulce Eau De Parfum

$75 at

$28 at

What We Love: If you love the scent, you can also try it in a body wash, perfume oil, and other formats.

What We Don’t Love: One too many sprays can overdo it, so it’s key to start small.

Why settle for one form of vanilla when you can have two? That's the thinking behind this fragrance, which (like all the scents from By Rose Jane) draws from natural ingredients. “It’s like a deep dive into the world of the warm and sweet gourmands scent type with two kinds of vanilla, chocolate, and Hinoki wood, which ground the sweetness perfectly,” says Solares.

Founder Rose Jane designed the fragrance to feel nostalgic and youthful — hence the vanilla — but it's a softer, airier version than some of its super-sweet peers, making it a winner for everyday wear or if you're going for something more casual.

Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Eau de parfum | Key Notes: Vanilla, chocolate, musk

What to Keep in Mind

  • Perfume Type: If you’re trying to determine between an eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and perfume oil, that decision can ultimately impact how your vanilla perfume smells. “The concentration of a perfume is the percentage of pure fragrance oil to ethanol and stabilizing ingredients, which determines how it will wear and how long it will last,” says Solares. If you prefer a light vanilla scent, she suggests sticking with an eau de toilette. If you want more intensity from your fragrance, you can’t go wrong with an eau de parfum. And finally, if you want the most potent concentration, you could get a pure perfume at 20 percent or more perfume oil. 

  • Complementary Fragrance Notes: Vanilla is one of the most popular notes on the shelf, in part because it plays nice. “It is a very versatile scent that marries with lots of other notes,” says Marypierre Julien, naturals innovation perfumer at international fragrance and flavoring firm Givaudan; she loves to pair it with musky notes as well as amber scents, such as cinnamon. For a soft and delicate scent, vanilla pairs well with florals. And for a rich and warm scent, vanilla pairs best with spicy or woody notes.

  • Wearability: The thing about vanilla is that you can trust it to smell good. “It’s the most universal ‘feel good’ ingredient I know,” says Gabriela Chelariu, senior perfumer at international fragrance and flavoring firm Firmenich. “It transcends age, culture, gender, and background.” As we mentioned earlier, florals can add a lightness ideal for daytime wear, whereas spices and woods might make for a special-occasion scent. With that in mind, how you want to wear your fragrance can guide your decision accordingly.

Your Questions, Answered

Is vanilla perfume seductive?

While its inherent familiarity and approachability can definitely be considered seductive (which, we should add, is pretty subjective), certain vanilla combinations can also up the ante. Paired with woods and amber notes, for instance, “it brings sexiness and addiction to a perfume,” says Julien. “This is how I like to use it — for its absolute femininity, seduction, and long-lastingness.”

How do you apply perfume so it lasts?

The best way to apply perfume is “on the warmest part of your body directly, so it keeps evaporating throughout the day,” says Julien. “Re-apply once if necessary.” (As it evaporates, that’s when you — and those around you — are likely to smell its scent, like a time-released effect.) Those warm parts of your body would be the nape of your neck or pulse points, like your inner wrist. You can apply perfume on your clothes if you’d like, but, to get the most out of your fragrance, it’s typically better to apply it to your skin. The fragrance interacts with the heat and pH of your skin, which can help bring out different aspects of the scent.

Why Shop With Us

Deanna Pai is a freelance writer and editor who has been covering beauty, health, and wellness for more than a decade. She not only has an extensive fragrance collection but opinions about all of them. For this story, she interviewed three experts, including Melinda Solares, beauty director at Sephora, Marypierre Julien, naturals innovation perfumer at international fragrance and flavoring firm Givaudan, and Gabriela Chelariu, senior perfumer at international fragrance and flavoring firm Firmenich.

Additional reporting was done by Daley Quinn, a freelance writer, specializing in beauty and health, who has contributed to numerous publications, such as Elle, Real Simple, Allure, The Cut, WWD, and more. She also writes for her blog, The Daley Dose.

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