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I bought a natural vanilla extract, but it had a strong aroma somewhat like spirit or what you get in almond essence? Is that normal? I've only used artificial vanilla so far and they smell really pleasant and warm and wonderful.

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"Pure vanilla extract is made by macerating and percolating vanilla beans in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water."

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanilla_extract]

There is alcohol in it, that's why it smells like it has alcohol in it :)

So it is perfectly normal.

Personally, I find extracts and essences of vanilla to be a complete waste. To get that lovely vanilla smell and vanilla taste, add vanilla beans. To combat the relative high cost of vanilla beans, buy in bulk and store correctly, your vanilla beans can last for ages.

  • Thanks. Yes I would consider buying vanilla beans in bulk! – voddy Aug 18 '14 at 6:01
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    I disagree with the vanilla bean > vanilla extract part, but this is not the place for an extended discussion. Just wanted to mention that this is not the only way to view the matter. – rumtscho Aug 18 '14 at 6:28
  • @rumtscho if you have a minute, I'd like to hear about it? Now that I think about it, ease of even distribution is an area I think extract/essences > beans, but I'd like to hear what your views are :) Chat? – Ming Aug 18 '14 at 6:31
  • @setek yes, I'm in chat – rumtscho Aug 18 '14 at 6:35
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    Another angle is that artificial vanilla extract is often just a solution containing vanillin, the primary compound which lends vanilla its distinct flavor (as you might have guessed from the name). Natural vanilla extracts contain hundreds of other compounds as well, which give it a much more complex flavor and aroma. – logophobe Aug 18 '14 at 20:50

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