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What is Bourbon Vanilla?

Rodelle Bourbon Vanilla
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 ÃŽle 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.

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  • Cookin' Canuck
    June 5, 2012

    Great post! I had no idea what “bourbon vanilla” referred to.

  • Melissa
    May 6, 2013

    So, what kind of alcohol IS used in Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

  • Mikah
    June 18, 2014


    The dried one. There’s no alcohol in it, right?

  • cherilyn
    October 21, 2014

    @melissa a good vodka is used.

  • Martha
    March 1, 2015

    I use the best bourbon and it does make wonderful vanilla extract with the bourbon beans. I guess being Southern m8ght have something to do with it.:-)

  • phil
    May 1, 2015

    Hi you say it has a high vanillin content. I had a wiki and they say vanillin is synthetic so was it just a typo? thanks

  • Nicole
    May 1, 2015

    Phil – Vanillin is a naturally occurring compound in vanilla beans. Scientists can reproduce it in a lab, without extracting it from whole vanilla beans, and they use the manufactured vanillin for artificial vanilla flavoring. Vanillin itself is not necessarily synthetic. I hope that helps!

  • Daisy Mae
    October 9, 2017

    Thank you for the no-hastle response to what Bourbon Vanilla is.

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