Vanilla is one of the most important flavors in baking and we use both vanilla beans and vanilla extract in our recipes. When you see vanilla in the store, you probably notice that there are quite a few types of vanilla available. Sometimes, you’ll simply see plain old vanilla, but there is also Tahitian, Mexican and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla is the most common, as Madagascar produces most of the world’s supply of vanilla, and it is often written simply as “Bourbon Vanilla.”
Although vanilla extract is made up of at least 35% alcohol by volume, the “bourbon” in “Bourbon Vanilla” is not the name of the alcohol used to make it. Bourbon vanilla is the name for all vanilla grown in Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean, including Comoros and Réunion. Réunion was formerly known as the Île Bourbon, and it is the name of that island that gave Bourbon Vanilla its name. Bourbon vanilla beans come from the orchid V. planifolia. Bourbon vanilla beans have a high vanillin content and a very strong, clear and creamy vanilla flavor that is instantly resognizable and a great addition to any recipe.