Creating PROVANILLA Perfume: Solving The Mystery of the Disappearing Vanilla


Guess which aroma we get asked for everyday (and I mean everyday) at the perfumery?  VANILLA.  What do you have with vanilla?  Where are your vanilla scents?  We have a number of fragrances with vanilla such as Divine, Samarinda, our Chai Cocoa bath and bodycare line, . . . we even have a vanilla body powder we sell exclusively in our brick and mortar perfumery for these vanilla lovers.

 However, guess what we've learned regarding customer requests for particular aromas?  When someone says they are looking for a particular scent, say Sandalwood or in this case, Vanilla--this requested aroma MUST be the predominate note.  When someone asks for sandalwood, and we show them Moss Gown which has an enormous amount of real gorgeous sandalwood, they don't respond.  They don't want to wait for the creamy powdery sandalwood to emerge after a complex tea-green-mossy opening.  Natural perfumes are complex, and most customers are used to instant scent gratification via synthetic aromas.

 The term "slow scent" is sometimes used to describe the nature of natural perfumes.  I prefer the concept that natural perfumes are living, breathing entities.  They change, and evolve, and travel through the stages of top, heart and base notes more quickly than mainstream fragrances composed with aroma chemicals.  I've found most people judge a perfume on it's top notes.  They are impatient sniffers, and persuading them they need to give the perfume some time on the skin or the scent strip to evolve and take the wearer on a fragrant journey is challenging.  We are a culture of instant gratification.  My generation will be the last to remember a time before microwaves existed.  In opposition, natural fragrances celebrate the highest quality essences, the deepest red rose, the delicate beauty of linden blossom, the richness of a buttery tuberose, and this quality and rarity takes time and a willingness to step away from the microwave and a decision to embrace the journey.

was this a dog or a luck dragon?


To be clear, it is possible to create a linear natural perfume.  As a perfumer, I tend to find these scents less interesting, which is why I wasn't particularly excited about creating a vanilla scent.  The creative process of formulating such a scent (vanilla, ho-hum-yawn) wasn't very exciting to me.  After being asked for the thousandth time for a vanilla perfume, I reluctantly decided to see what I could formulate.  I learned very quickly that creating a natural vanilla scent is very, very, very challenging.

The harder it became for me to create a vanilla scent, the more I became intrigued by the process.  You see, vanilla hates to be the star of the show.  Natural vanilla loves to play the role of a back-up performer in a scent.  It's difficult to make vanilla the star of the perfume as any addition of other essence in the formula instantly dominates the vanilla.  I made countless mods and became more frustrated with each unsuccessful trial.  Adding one drop of myrrh instantly transformed the scent into a leathery myrrh based scent with hints of vanilla in the background.  A small amount of rose and I had a gourmand candy rose scent, with the vanilla being covered by any other essence that was added.

I decided that what I needed was a powerful, potent beyond compare vanilla base.  I began to focus on creating a strong vanilla centric accord.  Again after much trial and error and a year (no joke) of aging, I had created the mother of all vanilla bases.  This base required: 1 kilo of vanilla Co2, ten pounds of Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian vanilla beans chopped and macerated in perfumers alcohol, vanillin powder (extracted from cloves) and the addition of benzoin, and various balsams to bolster the vanilla aroma.

I was pleased I had finally created the strong vanilla accord I had been searching for, I didn't realize I had inadvertently created another problem in the formulation of the perfume.  Sillage, or lack there of.  My vanilla base finally was "vanilla forward" except it whispered on the skin.  I could wear the vanilla accord on my wrist and it would last all day but would not, could not project in any way.  Base note heavy and unbalanced I decided.  Back to the drawing board . . . again.

I added rose, myrrh, coconut pulp, and other aromatics.  I was challenged by formulating the top notes.  I knew my vanilla scent needed lift and effervescence that top notes would add but each attempt at adding these top notes to my formula resulted in creamsicle and baby powder like accords which wasn't what I was seeking.  Then, I landed on it.  The perfect top note accord to lift my vanilla scent.  Natural melon aldehyde.  Weird, watermelon, potent, soapy and fresh.  It was everything that should not combine with vanilla.  It was wrong in every way.  It was so wrong it was RIGHT!  I loved the way the fresh melon aldehyde combined with mimosa and projected the vanilla.  I had created a vanilla mist scent.  A cloud of vaporous vanilla.  An interesting vanilla scent.  Despite my best attempts at playing it safe with the vanilla scent, I followed my own path and the result was Provanilla.

We recently received the following email and it makes the challenges I experienced creating Provanilla perfume worthwhile.

"I wanted to thank you again for the Provanilla, I had to order another one, my purse size went so fast! I usually wouldn't do this but this is an unusual circumstance. 

I wanted to write you, to tell you, I have never received so many compliments in my life of one  scent. 

I am in contact with many people and everywhere I go beit the gym/work, stopped in the street, on a run, or with a few close friends enjoying a night out at a nice lounge, people stop me everywhere with a big smile to ask me or just tell me I smell amazing :)

It is one thing for me to enjoy it, but to see so many smiles around me- that is a gift ( from you). I am very grateful to you :)  Thank you again!

Please never stop making this beauty! :)" --Cara, Toronto ON

For more information visit
Providence Perfume Co. 301 Wickenden St, Providence, RI 02903 (401) 455-2325



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Loved reading about how you developed Provanilla. It sounds like it will become one of my favorites. I do think you need to write the stories of all your perfumes. Do most of them take a year to perfect?


Loved reading about how you developed Provanilla. It sounds like it will become one of my favorites. I do think you need to write the stories of all your perfumes. Do most of them take a year to perfect?


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