I feel like I’ve been working on the best vanilla perfumes guide for about 15 years. It’s only now that I’m sitting down to write it.
Almost all of my favorite scents leaned heavily on vanilla for several years. I collected bottles and sample vials of vanilla florals, fruity florals with strong vanilla undertones, and gourmands that celebrated the vanilla and other sweets.
I’ve branched out since then, but there’s still a layer of sweetness and warmth provided by vanilla in the base notes in many fragrances I wear. And I do revisit the vanillas, too, mainly in the fall and winter months.
Bottom Line Up Front
I love each of the vanilla perfumes on this list for different reasons, but if I had to choose one as my top pick, I’d choose Dolce & Gabanna’s The One.
It’s the most likely to please the most people searching specifically for a vanilla perfume. The notes have fruits and flowers, but it’s undeniably a vanilla fragrance. It lasts and lasts, and people close to you may notice it, but it’s not going to settle into a cloud that fills a whole room.
It’s probably the most versatile vanilla fragrance on the list. It works well everywhere, from the office to date night, during any season.
My Top Picks at a Glance
- Dior Hypnotic Poison: If you want something sexy but a little unusual, that could also work on a weekday (the bitter almond note makes this one stand out)
- Dior Addict: Perfect silky, sensual vanilla for a date night out or cuddling at home
- Dolce & Gabbana The One: If you want a single vanilla perfume with a feminine floral side that can be worn every day, day or night, any season.
- YSL Black Opium: If you want to feel sexy and mysterious, with a side of coffee
- KAYALI Vanilla 28: Perfect for date night because it’s sweet, warm, and musky
- Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée Cologne Absolue: For when you want a heady, intoxicating vanilla with a couple of bright notes to balance it out, day or night (but not in small, enclosed spaces)
- Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille: If you want a smoky vanilla that’s not overly sweet
- Tom Ford Black Orchid: If you like “weird” and are intrigued by unusual notes in perfume, as long as the dry-down is beautiful
- Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb: If you like sweet gourmand perfumes but want to branch into floral vanilla, and you adore perfumes that qualify as “pretty” and “cozy”
- Giorgio Armani Sì: For when you’re feeling youthful and flirty
- Lavanilla Pure Vanilla: If you prefer to smell like vanilla extract without too many additional notes, or you’re hoping to layer a vanilla with something else
- Heretic Dirty Vanilla: For when you want “classic” with a twist of something unexpected (coriander, in this case)
- Guerlain Shalimar: If you love classic, vintage perfumes and lemon to balance the sweetness of vanilla
- Lâncome Idôle: For when you feel jubilant and free
- Chanel Coco Noir: For when you want to feel like the sexiest–but still classy–woman in the room (you’ll have to like spice and rich florals, too)
Choosing Your Best Vanilla Perfume
So, you know there are a ton of fantastic vanilla perfumes out there, but how do you choose the one that’s best for you?
Here are a few things to consider:
- Do you want to smell like vanilla and nothing else (think, similar to vanilla extract)?
- What types of scents do you usually gravitate toward? You can find that kind, but with vanilla added.
- Where will you wear it?
- Do you want a signature scent or to add another to the rotation that you choose from based on event, outfit, and/or mood?
If you’re looking for a workplace-friendly fragrance, you won’t want your perfume to take over the office, no matter how fantastic it smells. If you’re going to be outside at an event rather than in an enclosed space with other people, maybe you want something with more projection.
Suppose you’re wearing it just for yourself and your significant other, and no one else will be around. In that case, you’ll have more leeway in the sillage and projection you choose. You may not even care to consider that, so long as you love the scent.
How I Chose the Best Vanilla Fragrances
- Variety. There are a lot of different options out there, and representatives from all the families deserve a spot on the list of the best vanilla perfumes. I looked for vanillas from different families–florals, fruity-florals, gourmands, etc. There’s something for everyone.
- Staying power. I considered how long they tend to last on the skin. There’s nothing worse than spraying a perfume on in the morning and then having it fade to nothing before lunch. Luckily, vanilla perfumes–at least in my experience–tend to hang around longer than some other types.
- Sillage and projection. There’s no right or wrong here, but it’s nice to know what to expect. Sometimes you want a vanilla perfume that sits close to your skin for just you and maybe one other person to enjoy. Sometimes, you want people to stop you on the street and ask you what you’re wearing that smells so good. It’s essential to match your perfume to the occasion.
The 15 Best Vanilla Perfumes: My Top Picks
There are so many vanilla perfumes to love out there; narrowing it down to which ones are the best or the ones to try first can feel overwhelming.
I feel like I’ve tried almost all of them, so maybe my list of the best can help you find your starting point. If there’s a brand you already love, check their line-up for a vanilla fragrance, too.
I love all the Dior Poison scents, but the two I reach for the most are Hypnotic Poison and Pure Poison (not vanilla, but a beautiful floral).
Some people think it smells like Play-doh, but I think that’s part of the appeal (for the record, I don’t think that’s ultimately an accurate description, but I can see where it’s coming from). It’s the almond, giving it an interesting twist that makes it stand out.
I find this one of the sexiest vanilla scents for date nights out or in, but I could also wear it on a weekday.
Notes include: Bitter almond, sambac jasmine, and vanilla
- Unusual for a vanilla
- Sexy and mysterious
- Noticeable but not overpowering
- Four sizes are available, and you can spend anywhere from $39.00 to $118.00 to experience the scent.
- Beautiful red packaging
- Some people don’t like the bitter almond note and think it smells like Play-doh.
- It’s a little expensive. The 0.7 oz rollerball option is $39.00; one ounce costs $65.00.
This is a creamy, obviously vanilla scent with a sensual, sexy vibe. It’s comforting and warm with no “edges” that tickle your nose. It reminds me of a carefully-crafted decorative vanilla soap, but in the best possible way. I find the projection and sillage impressive and usually prefer to wear this one on date nights vs. every day. Something about this one feels intoxicating, but it’s hard to say what exactly it is.
According to Sephora’s listing, notes include silk tree flower, mandarin leaf, orange blossom, queen of the night flower, Bulgarian rose, bourbon vanilla absolute, Mysore sandalwood, and tonka bean.
- It’s a creamy vanilla that seems to wrap around you like silk.
- It’s a comforting scent with good projection and sillage.
- Even though it’s cozy and comforting, it’s still a sexy scent.
- It lasts for hours and hours.
- It’s expensive ($112.00 for 1.7 oz or $142.00 for 3.4 oz)
- There are a lot of notes on that list, but to my nose, only the bourbon vanilla absolute, Mysore sandalwood, and tonka bean are all that detectable.
This one is sweet, pretty, feminine, and will last forever on your clothes. Some may find it a bit too sharp (especially if prone to migraines; I have to be careful when I wear it, but I can still enjoy it).
It lasts on the skin, too, but I sprayed it on a scarf one day and could still smell it the following year when I pulled it out of the closet.
Notes include amber, jasmine, peach, and vanilla.
- The peach keeps it from being too sweet. It lightens the mood and makes the scent feel more playful than it would if, say, berries had been used instead.
- It’s warm and cozy.
- It lasts forever on your skin and clothes.
- It works during any season.
- You can wear it day or night, weekday or weekend.
- The simple, clear glass bottle with gold lid feels classy and glamorous.
- Sometimes, it can feel a little sharp, but that usually doesn’t last for long. Sometimes that edge can be nice compared to bottles and bottles of sweet gourmand vanillas.
- It’s not cheap at $78.00 for one ounce.
YSL Black Opium makes me feel like a cappuccino-sipping woman of mystery. It’s at home with heavy black eyeliner and a leather jacket, and it perfectly struts the line between mainstream and edgy, comforting and sexy.
It smells like sweet vanilla, flowers, amber and sticks close to the skin when it dries down.
Notes include black coffee, white flowers, and vanilla.
- It manages to be sweet and edgy simultaneously, so it can work for different moods.
- It’s not so strong that you can’t wear it in the summer, but it’s still noticeable.
- There are so many sizes of this perfume, from .33 oz travel spray to 5 oz. value size.
- Prices start at $30.00 (travel size)
- If you really love it and want to wear it every day for the rest of your life (maybe a mild overstatement), you can save around $200.00 by choosing the value size.
- The bottle is a shimmering black flask that will look gorgeous on the vanity.
- The dry-down smells a little generic, though lovely.
- It fades faster than you’d probably expect, but it still lasts a few hours.
- Many people wear this one, so it may not be the one for you if you want your perfume to stand out.
KAYALI Vanilla 28 is sweet, warm, and musky. It’s a good date night fragrance, perfect for wearing when snuggling up with your special someone.
Notes include musk, amber, patchouli, brown sugar, jasmine, Madagascar vanilla, and Brazilian tonka.
- There is a travel size ($25.00 for 0.33 oz.), so you can try it without a huge financial commitment.
- This is a perfect blend of sweetness, warmth, woods, and musk that can go almost anywhere, day or night.
- It falls somewhere between “sweet gourmand” and “vanilla extract,” so it’s a happy medium for those who don’t want anything especially sweet, but don’t want to smell like they’ve been baking cookies, either.
- It’s sold out often.
- Lots of people seem to be wearing it right now, so you won’t stand out (but you’ll smell amazing).
- Other than the travel size, the 1.7 oz., and 3.4 oz. bottles are on the expensive side. They’re $85.00 and $118.00, respectively.
I never bought an entire bottle of this, but the sample was intoxicating. The vanilla is very obviously front and center, but it’s not “just” a vanilla. It had staying power, sillage and was just a little too strong for me and my needs overall, but it is still beautiful.
Notes include vanilla infusion, lime, and coriander.
- It’s supposedly unisex, though I felt it leaned slightly feminine.
- It smells sophisticated and like pure vanilla, with a little something extra.
- It’s not something everyone else is wearing, so if you don’t like following the crowd but do want a vanilla scent that’ll turn heads, this one might be it for you.
- It felt a little heavy like it needed some notes to brighten it up.
- Expensive and may be hard to find
- I found the coriander and lime barely detectable. Still, I could tell something there was taking it from run-of-the-mill vanilla to something different.
I don’t know why it took me so long to buy a sample of this perfume; I was drooling over the description for years. I could see this one being unisex. It’s smoky and sweet but not overpowering. Notes include tobacco leaf, vanilla, tonka bean, cocoa, dry fruit accords, sweet wood sap, and ginger.
- I haven’t had any luck finding other scents like this that incorporate a tobacco note with vanilla. If you want a standout scent or love the way vanilla and tobacco notes play off of one another, this is the one.
- It’s unisex.
- A mini size is available, so you don’t have to commit to the price of a full bottle (but that’s still a whopping $65.00 for 0.3 oz.).
- The packaging is classy and would look good on a vanity or bathroom counter.
- It wraps you in a warm, cozy, spicy scent perfect for fall and winter.
- I think it’s a gorgeous scent, but it’s overpriced ($163.00 for a single ounce!).
- Though it’s technically a unisex scent, it felt a little masculine for my taste.
For about a year, this was my signature scent, and I’m not one to even have a signature scent. I rarely wear the same fragrance for more than several days in a row.
Warning: It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of perfume that’s a little “out there,” but if you love it, you’ll want to wear it all the time.
The vanilla isn’t as strong here as it is in some other fragrances. Still, it plays a solid supporting role for the black orchid, truffle, black plum, patchouli, citrus, and ylang-ylang.
- It’s intriguing and unusual, and not everyone will be interested in trying to pull it off, so you won’t smell like everyone else.
- It’s heady, boozy, cozy, and feels like being wrapped in velvet on a drizzly late-fall afternoon.
- It’s earthy, sweet, jammy, and floral, all at the same time. All the notes that make it stand out are lounging on a woody-vanilla base. This combination of notes is a juxtaposition of the unexpected and expected in the perfume world.
- You’ll either love it or hate it; it seems like there’s no in-between.
- It’s expensive.
- It’s “weird,” thanks to the truffle note.
- The dry-down is pretty mainstream–warm vanilla, florals, and woods–so if it’s the weirdness you like, it’ll let you down here. The fragrance is still intoxicating at this stage, just not “weird.”
Wearing Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb feels like pulling an old, familiar cozy-but-chic sweater over your head. Notes include cattleya, rose, jasmine, patchouli, and vanilla.
The vanilla is the only identifiable note to my nose, but the others are definitely present. This is a sweet perfume, but not nauseatingly so; the notes work well together to create balance.
- It’s sweet, creamy, floral, gourmand, and comforting (a lot is happening, but the outcome is a delight).
- If the original is close to your perfect vanilla perfume but not quite it, there are several flankers to try that might get it just right for you.
- There is a mini size, so you don’t have to commit to the whole bottle if you’re not totally sold, but it’s still $55.00 for 0.68 oz. There’s also a rollerball for $33.00 (0.33 oz.). Ultimately, there are six sizes to choose from, so there’s something for every perfume wardrobe and budget.
- It lasts several hours on the skin.
- It’s been popular for years, so you’ll smell wonderful if you choose this one, but you won’t stand out.
- No specific notes really stand out. It’s a bit of an olfactory cacophony, but it’s still a beautiful fragrance.
- It’s expensive, at $88.00 for one ounce. Even the value size (five ounces) is $220.00.
- The clear pink grenade is not my favorite bottle design.
This one is the vanilla to get if you tend to love fruity florals. I’m not typically one to go for this type of scent, and I still bought a bottle. It’s light and fruity, but there’s a smooth creaminess to the base of it that makes it feel sophisticated.
Notes include blackcurrant nectar, mandarine, orange blossom, vanilla, and rose.
- It’s youthful but doesn’t come across as just for teens or 20-somethings; anyone can wear and enjoy it.
- It’s perfect for spring and summer, when you want to wear something vanilla-based but worry that it’ll be too cloying.
- It’s an upbeat, optimistic, feminine scent.
- Compared to other vanilla perfumes, this one is a little flat and linear for my taste.
- It’s expensive, $80.00 for an ounce.
If your goal is to smell as much like vanilla extract as possible and you want a true, clean vanilla, Lavanila Pure Vanilla is for you. I enjoy layering this one with other perfumes because it’s “just” vanilla, and there isn’t much room for mixing the fragrances to end badly.
Technically, there are other notes–tonka bean and heliotrope–, but this is the closest to plain vanilla you can get.
- It’s basically just vanilla, and sometimes that’s hard to find.
- It’s layerable.
- It’s inexpensive, comparatively speaking, at $47.00 for 1.7 oz.
- It’s an all-natural fragrance and free of parabens and phthalates.
- It’s versatile–you can layer it, wear it any time of year, day or night, etc.
- It could get boring if you don’t start to layer it with other scents.
- Mine went bad more quickly than other perfumes in my collection, so you’ll need to make an effort to use it up in a reasonable amount of time.
Heretic Dirty Vanilla stands out because it’s not your average sweet vanilla scent. There’s coriander instead of florals, caramel, coffee, or fruit. It’s rounded out by the not-unusual notes of amber and sandalwood. Still, that coriander gives it an attractive spicy, fresh twist that makes it interesting.
- It’s warm and woody with some spice, good for any season.
- It’s not your average sweet vanilla.
- It’s free of phthalates and parabens.
- It’s vegan.
- You can layer it with other scents to make your own signature scent.
- It seems overpriced to me, at $65.00 for 0.5 oz. and $165.00 for 1.7 oz.
- It can veer too far into the masculine scent territory, which not everyone will love.
This classic has been in my collection for a long time, but it feels heavy for everyday life. Its powdery, warm scent can mentally transport me to the past, so it almost feels like a time machine in a bottle. I adore its warm, sensual blend of vanilla, citrus, iris, incense, and amber, but beware of its projection if you’ll be in an enclosed space with other people.
It’s best to experiment with this one–as gorgeous as it is–when you’ll be alone, with family or friends, or in an outdoor area first, just to see how it performs on your skin.
- It lasts and lasts.
- It has wonderful projection and sillage.
- It’s warm, spicy, and cozy.
- The bottle is vintage-inspired.
- This one can be headache-inducing (I tend to get migraines, and this is one I have to be careful with).
- Some may find it too powdery or outdated (it was created in the 1920s).
I love this perfume, but not on my skin. On me, it smells beautiful before it takes on a sharp, soapy scent that eventually turns dirty. I gave my large sample away. On other people, it’s an absolute dream, so I had to include Idôle on the list even though my personal experience with it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be.
This is one of the more vibrant, lighthearted, everyday scents on a vanilla base. It’s delightfully fresh and effervescent. If a perfume can be full of hope, it’s this one.
Notes include citrus, rose, jasmine, white musk, chypre accord, and vanilla.
- It’s a light, bright, and optimistic scent anchored in vanilla.
- Though the smaller bottle (excluding the travel size) is smaller than average at 0.84 oz., that might make it easier to get your hands on if you’re on a tight budget. It’s $60.00. The travel size (0.33 oz.) is $30.00.
- It’s not non-existent but tends to stay closer to the skin than some other vanilla scents on this list.
- The bottle is extremely thin and needs to lie on its side on the vanity, or it risks falling over.
- It went from something beautiful to something less-than-beautiful on my skin for a couple of hours. I’m not sure how common that is, but it might be worth trying a sample first, just to be sure you don’t have my luck with this one.
- The longevity isn’t great.
A word of warning: If you’re young or like youthful perfumes, this one might not be your cup of tea (but definitely give it a try anyway, if it sounds interesting). It’s got a vintage perfume vibe, and it’s heavy on the rich florals, tonka bean, and vanilla.
It feels almost fizzy when it hits my nose, almost as if there’s a black pepper note (I don’t see one listed, but maybe it’s the patchouli that gives that effect). If you like the heavier fragrances with a long history, don’t miss it. Chanel’s Coco Noir is a masterpiece of amber, Egyptian jasmine, may rose, patchouli, tonka bean, bourbon vanilla, and white musk.
- It’s a rich and intoxicating scent that smells sensual and seductive.
- It’s a complex fragrance, and it seems to transform as you wear it, with different notes coming to the surface at different times.
- Elegant bottle
- It’s a powerful scent with good sillage and projection, even while it’s sexy and seductive.
- For some, it may be too heavy of a scent, though I wouldn’t personally consider it especially heavy.
- Some will find out outdated.
Conclusion: Which One Should You Buy?
Perfumes are personal, so I can’t guarantee you’ll love a certain one over others.
If you need to blind-buy one and can’t go sample it at a store or have a sample sent to you first, I recommend Dolce & Gabbana’s The One. It’s the most versatile and doesn’t have any unusual love-it-or-hate-it notes like Black Orchid or Dirty Vanilla.
If you want light and fresh, choose Idôle. Sexy? Try Hypnotic Poison. Something with a history that’ll carry you back in time? Shalimar. If you want to feel seductive and mysterious, check out Black Opium or Coco Noir. There’s a best vanilla perfume for every occasion, personality, and mood. Try as many as you can, and then settle on the one or two that really speak to (and for) you.