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Jan 5, 2007 04:53 PM

Your favorite vanilla extract...?

A friend of mine went to Mexico recently and brought me back a bottle of the most tantalizing vanilla extract I've ever experienced. Every time I open the bottle, I make everyone within shouting distance sniff the unbelievable aroma. In fact, don't tell anyone, but I find the scent so seductive, I'm often tempted to dab a little behind my ears.

Needless to say, the bottle is nearly empty. Old McCormick's will never satisfy me again. So ... what vanilla extract should I buy now, and, where can I buy it?

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  1. Neilsen-Massey's Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla - most supermarkets now carry it, definitely Williams-Sonoma.

    Or Penzey's - regular or double-strength.

    4 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      World Market has the best price I've found on Neilsen-Massey. I use that for special occasions but I go through so much vanilla I just buy it from Costco.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        I prefer Penzeys 1x, but the 2x is very convenient. Nelisen Massey's Mexican and Tahitian is very good, but their standard Bourbon vanilla is definitely a notch below Penzeys.

        P.S. CindyJ, I would be very careful with vanilla that was processed in Mexico. Vanilla made from Mexican pods is very good, but the vanilla that is processed in Mexico can be toxic.

        1. re: Kelli2006

          Kelli, that article had me running to my pantry to check out the bottle of vanilla. I'm assuming it's not toxic because I haven't died or gotten sick from it(yet). The label says, "This product does not contain coumarin," and "No sugar added" so I'm okay on that count, too. The company that makes it is Molino Real. Thanks. That was an interesting article.

          BTW, where do you buy Penzeys 2X?

          1. re: CindyJ

            You can buy it here: - check to see if there's a store near you.

      2. Regarding dabbing a little behind your ears, I think there've been "studies" circulated about the fact that vanilla scent has been proven to have some kind of "aphrodisiac" properties on either men or women or both (I can't remember which).

        To tag onto your question, I'm wondering if anyone can comment on use of the vanilla PASTES I've been seeing frequently all of a sudden (Trader Joe's started carrying it). Are the pastes so, so amazing? I enjoy the idea of vanilla bits in there...

        11 Replies
        1. re: allegro805

          Who ISN'T turned on by the smell of good vanilla? mmmmm

          1. re: annimal

            That is why Shalimar has stayed so popular since the 1920's. The vanilla base will do it every time.

            1. re: Candy

              Shalimar does not use artificial vanilla in it as do many modern vanilla scents. I find most of the abhorent. It is the real thing which is why when you wear it many will follow you anywhere. Of course the true vanilla keeps it expensive unless you get lucky at TJM or MArshalls.

          2. re: allegro805

            I only wear vanilla scent (Sephora and Bath & Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel body lotion). :-)

            And I have the N-M paste - like it just as much as the liquid.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Funny, I don't usually like vanilla-scented soaps, shampoos, etc. Give me the REAL thing!

              1. re: CindyJ

                I don't like most scented soaps, etc. Mostly just the Vanilla Bean Noel body & hand lotion is what I favor - it has a "deep baking vanilla" scent that is just heaven to me. I just can't see dabbing vanilla extract behind my ears. :-)

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  LOL! I didn't say I actually DID it -- I just said I've been tempted.

              2. re: LindaWhit

                Funny-- I have the NM paste/liquid stuff and find it totally useless as a flavoring agent. I always have to supplement with regular extract. Its only function seems to be pretty bean flecks.

              3. re: allegro805

                I used the Trader Joe's paste throughout the holiday baking spree, and it worked just fine, but not better than any pure extracts. The first ingredient in the paste is sugar, though, and the flavor of it is a little metallic due to a gum additive to give it the paste texture. It is nice to have the little pulverized specks of bean dust in there for aesthetics but thats about the only advantage I could tell....

                1. re: nicemonster

                  I too used it for the holidays, and aside fron the specks I was unimpressed. Difficult to measure and use efficiently, I felt I was rinsing a dimes worth of vanilla off the spoon each time.

                2. re: allegro805

                  Next time you're near the fine fragrances, I invite you to check out Dior Addict, truly one of the most beautiful fragrances ever, IMO...if you do a google search, you'll see they use "bourbon vanilla" in it but you can definitely detect the vanilla in it, hubba hubba!

                3. I swear by Penzey's double strength--has a vanilla bean soaking in it too. After vanilla is finished--can use the bean for vanilla sugar etc. BTW, Penzey's stocks a mexican vanilla, try it. But, the double strength beats it hands down IMHO.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ora

                    I second (third?) Penzey's 2x vanilla. Nothing compares to the flavor it imparts to simple baked goods.

                    1. re: maestra


                      Penzey's 2x is the only thing you'll find in our house.

                      1. re: GeoffD

                        Do you find that you substitute 2x for regular vanilla in equal quantities, (meaning 1 tsp of 2x would substitute for 1 tsp of regular vanilla), or do you use less of the 2x than you'd use of regular strength vanilla? Thanks!

                        1. re: Laura D.

                          If you are using 2x vanilla extract, you should use 1/2 as much of the double strength for the same taste.

                          I might use a bit more if you really liked the taste of vanilla,but I would never substitute on a equal ratio.

                  2. Premier Mexican. A litre is about $4 south of the border. I've got a whole unused bottle here I can't give away. Pretty good quality, can't beat the price.


                      We purchased fantastic vanilla from Bill Porter, the door to door salesman...through Watkins.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: HillJ

                        I'm not sure the Watkins stuff, even the variety with natural vanilla, doesn't also contain artificial flavor. Not that that's horrible, but I'd double check to make sure. I was surprised how much "imitation" Watkins uses in many of their products.

                        1. re: allegro805

                          allegro, I feel in love with Bill Porter'story. I hear from his assistant Shelly every year, my organization appears in his book... and so I'll continue to buy his vanilla :) because for me it's all about Bill.