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Unveiling the Aromatic Profiles of Vanilla Planifolia

Discover the intricate aromatic profiles of Vanilla planifolia. Dive into detailed sensory analysis, the role of endophytic bacteria, and geographic influences on vanilla’s unique aroma. Perfect for vanilla professionals and experts.
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Vanilla planifolia, commonly known as Bourbon vanilla, is celebrated worldwide for its rich and complex aromatic profile. This prized spice, essential in culinary arts and perfumery, owes its unique aroma to a combination of natural compounds and intricate curing processes. At the recent 5th International Vanilla Congress held in La Réunion, a comprehensive sensory and chemical analysis of Vanilla planifolia was presented, shedding light on its aromatic profiles’ subtleties and endophytic bacteria’ role in shaping these characteristics.

This article delves into the detailed findings, offering professionals and vanilla experts valuable insights into the aromatic diversity of Vanilla planifolia.

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Sensory Analysis and Olfactive Characterization

The sensory analysis of Vanilla planifolia, a vital presentation focus, involves a meticulous olfactive characterization that categorizes aromatic profiles into distinct groups based on their sensory attributes. The study identifies two primary groups, each with unique sensory characteristics:

1. Group 1: Complex and Sweet Notes

  • Characteristics: this group is marked by sweet, rich, and multifaceted aromatic notes. Prominent descriptors include caramel, biscuity, honey, vanilla, and prune. These notes contribute to the complexity and sweetness that are highly sought after in high-quality vanilla.
  • Varietals: varietals like CDY-C and CHM-L are notable for their presence in this group. These varietals are characterized by their ability to develop rich, sweet, and complex aromas during curing, making them particularly desirable for gourmet culinary applications and premium vanilla extracts.


2. Group 2: Spicy and Earthy Notes

  • Characteristics: this group encompasses spicier, more robust, and earthier aromatic profiles. Key descriptors include pepper, licorice, tobacco, and mushroom. These notes provide a distinctive and bold flavor profile often appreciated in niche culinary products and specific perfumery applications.
  • Varietals: varietals such as CLB-C and CDY-L fall into this category. These varietals are known for their solid and distinctive scents, enhanced through specific curing techniques highlighting their spiciness and earthiness.


The olfactive characterization provides a foundational understanding of Vanilla planifolia’s diverse aromatic profiles. It allows professionals to identify and categorize the nuances in aroma, enabling targeted applications in various industries.

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Multiple Factor Analysis (MFA)

Multiple Factor Analysis (MFA) further refines our understanding of Vanilla planifolia’s aromatic profiles by correlating sensory attributes with specific chemical compounds. This analysis is crucial for identifying the chemical basis of the aromatic characteristics observed in sensory evaluations. Key findings from the MFA include:

  • Anisic and Floral Notes: these notes are linked with high concentrations of compounds like anethole and linalool. Varietals with these characteristics often have a light, floral aroma that is delicate yet distinctive.
  • Caramel and Sweet Notes: these notes are associated with vanillin and other phenolic compounds, prominent in vanilla beans cured through traditional methods. The presence of these compounds contributes to the deep, sweet, and complex aroma that defines high-quality vanilla.
  • Spicy and Earthy Notes: these notes are correlated with the presence of eugenol and other spice-related compounds. Varietals exhibiting these characteristics provide a bold and robust flavor profile, making them suitable for specific culinary and perfumery applications.

The MFA provides a detailed chemical framework that complements the sensory analysis, offering a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing vanilla’s aromatic profiles. This dual approach allows for more precise optimization of curing processes to enhance desired aromatic characteristics.

Exploring Endophytic Bacteria

Endophytic bacteria, the microorganisms living within plant tissues, play a significant role in developing Vanilla planifolia’s aromatic profile. These bacteria influence the plant’s growth, health, and the production of aromatic compounds during the curing process. Recent studies presented at the congress highlight the diversity and impact of endophytic bacteria on vanilla’s aroma:

1. Diversity After Curing:

  • Higher Diversity: the curing process significantly increases the diversity of endophytic bacteria in vanilla pods. This increased diversity contributes to developing complex aromatic profiles, enhancing the quality and depth of the vanilla beans.
  • Key Genera: dominant bacterial genera such as *Halomonas, Pseudoalteromonas, Bacillus, and Carboxydocella remain prevalent after the curing process. These bacteria play crucial roles in modulating the aromatic compounds during fermentation and curing, impacting the final aromatic profile of the vanilla beans.

2. Bacterial Transmission:

  • From Substrate to Pods: bacterial communities are transmitted from the substrate (e.g., leaf litter and compost) to the vanilla plant’s roots and green pods. This transmission is critical for establishing the initial endophytic bacterial population that influences the plant’s growth and development.
  • Specific Compositions: each vanilla accession has a specific endophytic bacterial composition, which significantly impacts the final aromatic profile. The composition of endophytic bacteria varies based on environmental conditions and the substrate used, contributing to the unique aromatic characteristics of different vanilla varietals.

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Influence on Aromatic Profiles

The presence and activity of specific endophytic bacteria in Vanilla planifolia significantly influence the development of its aromatic profile during the curing process. Notable impacts include:

  • Enhancement of Sweet and Caramel Notes:
      • Halomonas and pseudo-alteromonas: these bacteria are known to contribute to the production of complex aromatic compounds, enhancing sweet and caramel notes in vanilla beans. Their metabolic activities during fermentation and curing lead to the formation of essential aroma compounds, such as vanillin, contributing to the desired sweetness and complexity.
  • Development of Spicy and Earthy Notes:
    • Bacillus: this genus is often associated with robust and spicy aromatic profiles, contributing to the earthy and peppery notes. The presence of Bacillus during the curing process can enhance these characteristics, resulting in a distinctive and bold aroma profile.


Understanding the interaction between Vanilla planifolia and its endophytic bacteria offers valuable insights into optimizing and enhancing the curing processes to achieve specific aromatic profiles. By managing bacterial communities through controlled curing environments and substrates, vanilla producers can tailor the aromatic characteristics of their products to meet diverse market demands.

Geographic Influences on Aromatic Profiles

The aromatic profiles of Vanilla planifolia also exhibit significant variations based on geographic origin. Recent studies highlighted at the congress emphasize the influence of different growing regions in the Indian Ocean on vanilla’s aromatic characteristics:

  • Vanilla planifolia Uganda:
    • Key Compounds: Vanillin, acetic acid
    • Aromatic Profile: these compounds give Ugandan vanilla a warm and slightly acidic note, offering a rich and robust profile that stands out for its potency.
  • Vanilla planifolia Papua New Guinea:
    • Key Compounds: Anisaldehyde, caproic acid
    • Aromatic Profile: anilla from Papua New Guinea is characterized by sweet, anise-like notes with a slightly greasy and tangy aftertaste, giving it a unique and appreciated profile.
  • Vanilla planifolia La Réunion:
    • Key Compounds: Vanillin, p-cresol
    • Aromatic Profile: Known for its robust and balanced aromatic profile, La Réunion vanilla exhibits strong vanilla and sweet balsamic amber notes.
  • Vanilla planifolia Madagascar:
    • Key Compounds: Octanoic acid, ethyl ester, benzoic acid, 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzaldehyde
    • Aromatic Profile: Madagascar vanilla is renowned for its creamy, slightly fruity, and rich vanilla aroma, influenced by the high concentrations of these compounds.
  • Vanilla planifolia Tahiti:
    • Key Compounds: Heliotropine, vanillin
    • Aromatic Profile: Tahitian vanilla is famous for its sweet floral scent with hints of vanilla and almond, making its profile extremely smooth and desirable.
  • Vanilla planifolia New Caledonia:
    • Key Compounds: Formic acid, cinnamic acid
    • Aromatic Profile: This vanilla is distinguished by an earthy and slightly spicy aromatic profile with a hint of sweetness, offering an intriguing and appealing complexity.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Partial Least Squares Discriminant Analysis (PLS-DA) further validate these geographic distinctions, showing apparent clustering of aromatic profiles based on the region of origin. This geographic variability underscores the importance of terroir in vanilla production, influencing the final product’s quality and specific aromatic characteristics.

Infographic depicting the aromatic profiles of vanilla from different regions including Madagascar, Tahiti, PNG, and New Caledonia. Each region is represented by a colored segment in concentric circles around a central decorative motif, with aromatic descriptors like 'vanilla', 'caramel', and 'biscuit' for Madagascar. Vanilla Fair logo at the bottom


The aromatic profile of Vanilla planifolia is a complex and intricate interplay of sensory characteristics, chemical compounds, geographic origin, and the influence of endophytic bacteria. Detailed sensory analysis and multiple factor analysis provide a comprehensive understanding of the diverse aromatic profiles while exploring the role of endophytic bacteria and geographic influences, which offers insights into optimizing and enhancing vanilla’s aromatic qualities.

These findings are invaluable for vanilla professionals and experts. They provide the knowledge necessary to produce high-quality vanilla products tailored to specific aromatic preferences, catering to both the culinary and fragrance industries. By leveraging these insights, the vanilla industry can continue to innovate and meet the growing demand for premium, aromatic vanilla, ensuring the highest quality and sensory appeal standards.

As we continue to explore and understand the complexities of Vanilla planifolia’s aromatic profiles, we open new avenues for enhancing and refining this cherished spice, solidifying its place as a cornerstone of global culinary and fragrance traditions.

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