5 Vanilla Fragrances That Don't Smell Like Cake

I'm not quite sure why, but I hate (and I never use the word hate) vanilla perfumes. Or at least until recently I did.

Let me preface: My sister has terrible taste in fragrance. Every time I go home and sleep in her room I'm haunted by the smell of cheap, plasticky vanilla candles. I often end up sleeping on the couch.

I also had a childhood incident involving vanilla-heavy cake- and cookie-scented Lip Smackers; I tried to eat them.

Last Christmas, while visiting my parents in Vancouver, I stopped into The Cross, one of my favorite local stores, and bumped into a friend who works there. We perused and talked and sniffed about 100 candles--and then he led me to the perfume section.

"This is my absolute favorite," he said, reaching for a gorgeous blue bottle of Library of Flowers True Vanilla. I considered turning my nose away as the bottle came closer and closer, but I played along and took a deep sniff. Hmm, no nausea or disgust, I thought. So I took another sniff, and another, and... it was one of the best things I've ever smelled.

Of course, I wanted more. What other non-cake-y and surprisingly wonderful vanilla fragrances were out there, just waiting for me to scoop them up? I have smelled an awful lot of vanilla scents since that day at The Cross, some lovely, some headache-inducing. But a few very special bottles stood out.

1. MCMC Phoenix Perfume Oil

Phoenix is a beautiful melody of vanilla, neroli, flower, and peach. MCMC founder Anne Serrano-McClain formulated the scent to capture the essence of someone who floats through life and never comes when she’s called, not unlike the mythical fire bird the fragrance is named after. I think it's enchanting, but it could use a bit more staying power.

2. Lavanila Laboratories Vanilla Coconut

Beauty bloggers LOVE Lavanila Vanilla Coconut, and it totally lives up the hype. A vegan, cruelty-free blend of Madagascar vanilla, Tahitian tahare flower, and young coconut, it has a tropical vibe that I just want to sink into. It's also vaguely reminiscent of sunscreen, if you, like me, are into that sort of thing.

3. Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise

I'd describe this as warm and classy. It's a grown-up vanilla, formulated with vanilla orchid, oaky caramel vanilla bourbon, and a touch of star anise. The sweetness is balanced by a subtle hint of licorice, which is quite beautiful.

4. Byredo Seven Veils

This is my second favorite vanilla fragrance--Library of Flowers is still number one. But this is like nothing I've ever smelled before. Among the notes are carrot, pimento berries, Tahitian vanilla flower, laurier rose, sandalwood, and vanilla bean. Think carrot cake--but made by a gorgeous witch.

5. Library of Flowers True Vanilla

If there were a vanilla fragrance Olympics, True Vanilla gets the gold. I've got the perfume, the shower gel, and the hand cream. The rest of the True Vanilla line sits high on my beauty wish list. With a twirl of bergamot, dark vanilla, and amber, the scent is smoky, sexy, and mysterious in all the right ways. It might just be my favorite fragrance, vanilla or otherwise.

What's your favorite vanilla fragrance? Better yet, what's the vanilla scent that made you HATE vanilla fragrances?