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QUALITY ALERT : Trader Joe's 'Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract' 4 oz

Earlier in the season I picked up some TJ Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract. Like a fool I didn't taste it.

Weak vanilla aroma, bitter, and harsh alcohol. Not at all like good vanilla should be.

It has tainted 3 batches of cookies. I shrugged off the first batch, as I was using up a bag of flour, thought that was it. New flour, fresh butter, and next batch: bleagh! So I tasted the vanilla--cheap and awful. Never had trouble with their vanilla in the past, but now I know.

My fault for not tasting it and I will return it--but BEWARE if you are getting a late baking start as I am. Test your vanilla first if you haven't used it before.

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  1. I made a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies yesterday with it and they were fantastic!

    1. i've used it several times, including to flavor whipped cream. no problems here.

      1. I absolutely find TJS vanilla to be inferior.

        1. It isn't freshly scraped Vanilla pods from Papantla... but its not bad.

          1 Reply
          1. That's a shame. TJ's quality is almost always excellent. It would be a good idea to contact TJ's central and complain. A refund is never a probelm with them, but this is a case where they need to change wholesalers and get a different source.

            1. I just made cookies and used this - it is okay, but not as strong as others - just not as vanilla-y. The one vanilla I absolutely loathed and could not use was a Trader Joe's Cookie Vanilla - which was made with Tahitian vanilla beans, I believe. It had a perfumey odor and flavor that just was obtrusive. Have not seen this at the store for a year or two, tho, so maybe that is off the market now.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Seldomsated

                that is a trait of Tahitan vanilla. sounds like you prefer Madagascar.

                1. re: Seldomsated

                  I recently learned that the perfumey scent and delicate taste of Tahitian vanilla is better suited to cold applications...pastry cream, ice cream, etc. and really isn't best suited for baking. Weird that TJs would push it that way.

                2. I now swear by Penzey's double strength vanilla. Its not cheap, but quite good. I like that each bottle has its own vanilla bean soaking in it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Ora

                    Me too. I've had too many bad experiences with grocery store vanilla and now buy only Penzey's (spices, too, which is why I also buy spices from Penzey's).

                    1. re: Ora

                      I'll second Penzey's for sure. They are impeccable and if you're ever near one of their retail locations (their business is mostly catalogue) you should definately make a trip.

                    2. Interesting you mentioned this ...yesterday I was making something and I finished an old bottle of the vanilla which had that pleasant vanilla scent...and opened a new bottle of the exact same thing bought last week and smelled it...it had the overpoweringly astringent odor of alcohol and only very faintly a vanilla scent in the rear...I thought I would probably return it...now I definitely will!

                      1. Make you own vanilla. It's so easy and much better quality and you can control the strength. For the price of a bottle of vodka and vanilla beans you can't beat it. Richie

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: javaandjazz

                          I make my own vanilla. My favorite is my jack daniels vanilla. I also use a rum based vanilla and a vodka based vanilla. This year I made a tequila vanilla and am going to try it soon. I personally buy a .375 ml liter or larger of alcohol with a couple or three vanilla beans split open. I use a mason jar and give it a shake every few days. Give it a month or so before you use it. When you run low, just add more alcohol. I get vanilla beans from penzeys.

                          1. re: TampaBarb

                            Do you keep it cold? And thanks for the recipes, all sound great.

                        2. Thank you! I thought it was me. I usually really enjoy TJ's products so I couldn't figure what was the deal with the vanilla. I won't buy it again. I suppose we should complain though.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: laylag

                            It could just be a lot issue (TJ's often has more than 1 vendor for the same product)... my bottle purchased a few weeks ago... is no worse than any of the non-artisan products normally found at your typical markets.

                          2. I've purchased Trader Joe's vanilla for several years and have not had this problem. I supposes TJ's buys it where they can find it cheaply; this supplier is definitely inferior.

                            My bottle has a number (lot?) on the side: 62271

                            This post is not to bash Trader Joe's but to alert anyone else who's bought it lately. Mine was purchsed last month.

                            1. I buy TJ Pure Bourbon vanilla extract and it is fabulous each and every time.

                              1. So are you advocating opening the bottle in the store and tasting it? I hope you do then take it to the cash office and turn it in and not place it back on the shelf. The only bargain vanilla I buy is when I can find Neilsen Massey on the shelf at TJMxx

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Candy

                                  No, of course I don't open bottles of vanilla at the store.
                                  I didn't smell or taste the vanilla before using a new bottle. The baked goods had very little vanilla flavor, so I checked the bottle for fragrance. Zero. Taste: very strong and harsh.

                                2. I'm back to Penzey's double strength vanilla extract, like a couple posters said earlier. I'd bought a bottle of Whole Foods' store brand, and disliked it in comparison. Penzey's is worth the money, hands down.

                                  1. Trader Joe's Bourbon Vanilla is nasty. I bought it to mix in plain greek yoghurt. It was so bad I returned it. They were pretty rude about it. I thought I had a bad bottle. Apparently, this is a continuing problem.

                                    1. I bought it fairly recently too and found it to be awful - just as the OP described it. I won't buy it again.