Vanilla Flavours for DIY

vanilla cream dessert
diy vanilla cupcake
Vanilla Flavours, Uses and Pairings

Vanilla is the worlds most popular flavour, and when it comes to DIY, it would have to be one of the biggest sellers. It’s not really a stand-alone flavour, but it certainly seems to fit almost anywhere. I’ve used it extensively in tobaccos, fruits, floral, bakery, desserts and beverages, which pretty much covers the spectrum.

Like all flavours, choosing a vanilla comes down to trial and error, however, some may prove more suitable for specific applications.  Let’s first look at the types of vanilla available. 

Vanilla Types

I classify vanilla under three categories. There’s vanillin, vanilla bean and general vanilla flavours; albeit that the later can come in the form of creams, ice creams, puddings, custards, and anything in between. Vanilla fusions are also common, such as vanilla tobacco or vanilla cupcake.

Vanilla Custards & Ice Creams will be looked at later under a custards and ice cream section.

Vanillin
Vanillin is a Phenolic aldehyde, an organic compound that’s the primary component of the vanilla bean.  Although it’s utilised in the DIY community, it’s extremely strong and has a tendency to dominate everything in the mix. If you choose to utilise vanillin, you may want to consider making a lighter base blended with one of the vanilla flavours we’ll look at below. You could also incorporate some cream/s.

Vanilla Bean
In terms of using vanilla bean, either straight or blended with other vanillas, it can at times be preferable over general vanilla concentrates; this is largely due to its distinct characteristics, authenticity and potency.  When it comes to DIY concentrates, other than vanilla bean ice creams, there’s not a lot of straight vanilla bean choices. I’m only aware of Flavorah and Juice Factory and have only used Flavorah’s.

Common Vanilla Uses

Much like creams, the uses for vanilla are virtually endless, depending on what your aim is of course. Ice cream is perhaps the most common, but mixes from all of the flavour groups can welcome a touch of vanilla.

They’re wonderful to blend with creams and various dairy flavours, such as butter, milk or cheese. Tobaccos, liquors and coffee are a must, as vanilla not only flavours but can tone down, smooth or mellow.  Fruits such as strawberry or banana are common and they make for an easy mix.  

Pairing Examples

Most pairing examples are the same as with creams. so check cream flavours.  I’ve included some specific concentrates under some of the flavours below, although most share similar pairings.

Recommended Concentrates

I’ve experimented with a number of vanillas and I’ve listed some of the highest rated that are available domestically. When I test more I’ll add them, but these should cover all your needs.

TFA Vanilla Swirl

Steeped for 2 weeks
Mixed at 4%
Recommended percentages- 
Solo Vape-3-5% (Not recommended)
Mixed-1-4%
Safety Data Sheet

Vanilla Swirl is perhaps the most popular of all vanillas. It seems every mixer has this in their flavour stash and it’s one of those flavours that I highly recommend. It’s TFA’s vanilla custard with all of the custard notes removed (Diacetyl-Acetoin–Acetylpropionyl). 

An excellent vanilla flavour which tastes like a blend of vanilla and whipped cream with a hint of vanilla bean.

Overview

This isn’t my first choice for a solid plain vanilla, given that it’s mixed with creams and vanilla bean, but it sure is a versatile flavouring. There’s certainly a vanilla punch there, but the other ingredients, although complimentary, slightly alter and diminish the vanillin.  Also, one’s perception of a true plain vanilla. 

For straight vanillas look at some of the other flavours, but for a vanilla accent or to blend with other vanillas, this is one of the best choices. Don’t go overboard with this, high percentages can mute other flavours.

Flavour Description – Notes

A rich yet light and fluffy blend of vanilla and whip cream with vanilla bean notes. There are also some distinct buttery notes coming through. Some suggest this tastes like vanilla pudding, but I suspect this is due to the cream, ethyl maltol and butter notes.

My Favourite Pairings

Almost anything goes with this flavour. Here are some of my favourite concentrates I use. Pretty much the same as with many creams.

FW Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
FA Fresh Cream 
FLV Vanilla Bean
FLV Vanilla Custard
FLV Smoked Butterscotch
TFA Marshmallow
Juice Factory Espresso
FA Fuji (Apple)
FA Pear
FA Banana
Juice factory Cherry
Various Tobaccos

As good as this flavour is, it isn’t suitable as a stand-alone vape. However, I wouldn’t consider any vanilla to be suitable on its own. This is a must-have flavour as its uses are virtually endless.

TFA French Vanilla

Steeped for 2 weeks
Mixed at 4%
Recommended percentages- 
Solo Vape-3-5% (Not recommended)
Mixed-1-4%
Safety Data Sheet

French vanilla differs from regular vanilla in that it traditionally incorporates cream and an egg base, giving it more of a custard flavour. During the water test using a 4% mix, this was somewhat apparent however, this flavour has no custard notes, not even Butyric acid.  It could also be that the cream used is extra rich.

Butyric acid is what flavour chemists use to add that buttery note, and is widely used today as a replacement for diacetyl and diketone; also known as custard notes. 

Overview

This french vanilla from TFA has the richest aroma out of all the vanillas I’ve listed. If you’re familiar with french vanilla ice cream, as opposed to regular vanilla, you know what to expect. I am however impressed that such a flavour can be produced without the need of custard notes.

Flavour Description – Notes

This has a scent and flavour of traditional french vanilla ice cream but with a touch of marshmallow. A number of mixers have suggested that this tastes like vanilla coffee creamer. I find it more like a custard but without the noticeable buttery notes.

My Favourite Pairings

Pretty much the same as with Vanilla Swirl, although I often use this to start a base and build a rich vanilla. Try it with FLV Vanilla Bean and even FA Vanilla Bourbon.

For an extra creamy type vanilla, try mixing in some French Vanilla Cream, this really adds some depth and additional richness.

Juices Factory Vanilla Super Concentrate

Steeped for 2 weeks
Mixed at 3%
Recommended percentages- 
Solo Vape-3-5% (Not recommended)
Mixed-1-4%
No SDS available. Contains ethyl alcohol

This is the most straight vanilla of the bunch, and it’s an extremely versatile flavouring. The closest other vanilla would be Inawera’s Shisha, so make sure you have one of them. The alcohol adds some additional sweetness and punch, but it’s certainly true to its name.

Overview
This is an excellent vanilla flavour, especially as a blender, as it’s fairly light. Some of the alcohol content will evaporate over time, at least 30-40% of it, leaving a semi-rich, yet soft general vanilla devoid of any additional notes. This is an excellent vanilla to mix on its own or with other vanillas and or creams.

Flavour Description – Notes
This is pretty much straight up vanilla, with a subtle hint of cream/s in the back. The aroma is much like a commercial vanilla diffuser. It’s vanilla – vanillin and nothing more, other than a partial shot of alcohol that is.

My Favourite Pairings
The same as vanilla Swirl although I tend to use this mostly for blending with other vanillas unless I’m mixing fruits. It’s also great solo in tobaccos.

Juice Factory’s Vanilla is a great choice if you’re looking for a straight vanilla. It also works well for a base mix. Try adding some creams such as FA Fresh Cream, Vienna Cream or FLV Cream.

FlavourArt Vanilla Bourbon

Steeped for 2 weeks
Mixed at 2%
Recommended percentages- 
Solo Vape-2-3% (Not recommended)
Mixed-0.5-3%
Safety Data Sheet

Bourbon vanilla is the name for a vanilla grown in Madagascar and other islands among the Indian Ocean. This not an alcohol flavour, although its name is taken from an island that was once known as Bourbon island.

Overview

Of all the vanillas, this is probably my favourite, and I use it extensively in richer tobacco vapes, coffee and dark fruit blends. Whilst it’s not as versatile as most other vanillas, given its strong woody notes, it certainly belongs in every mixers flavour stash. 

This is one of Flavour Art’s most useful flavours, as it’s also a great additive; especially for the types of mixes I utilise it for.

Flavour Description – Notes

A rich, bold vanilla that offers a distinct woody note, along with a creamy, semi-spiced finish. This is certainly a vanilla extract flavour.

My Favourite Pairings

Due to its distinct and unique properties, this isn’t always suitable for lighter mixes; especially light fruits. Here are some concentrates that I enjoy mixing along with vanilla bourbon-

FW Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
FA Fresh Cream 
FLV Vanilla Custard
FA Marshmallow
FA Mixed Nuts & TFA Pistachio
FA Dark bean (espresso)
Juice factory Cherry
FLV Cured Tobacco
FLV Kentucky Blend
FLV Oriental
FA Cuban Supreme
FA SOHO
INW Captain Jack for Pipe
JF RY4 Double

I would consider this to be a must-have concentrate, it’s so unique and offers a wonderful blend of ingredients.

Inawera Shisha Vanilla

Steeped for 2 weeks
Mixed at 2%
Recommended percentages- 
Solo Vape-2-3% (Not recommended)
Mixed-0.5-3%
Safety Data Sheet

The term Shisha is commonly used throughout middle eastern nations, as well as Egypt. It translates to a hookah, pertaining to smoking tobacco, with or without additional flavours. I could assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the term Shisha vanilla, also relates to the strength of vanilla.

Irrespective of the name, Inawera’s Shisha vanilla is one of the most commonly used in DIY.

Overview

This is one of my favourite vanillas and yes, I have a few. I find this works well as either a basic vanilla or when blended with creams; for me, this is when it really shines.

There’s some complexity, and although it’s a strong flavour and one may wish to be cautious on percentages, it’s light enough to use all across the spectrum of flavours. It’s also a great vanilla to make a base from.

Flavour Description – Notes

A fairly dense mouthfeel with some decent body, offering a semi-rich, earthy, yet creamy vanilla with just the right amount of sweetness. One of the flavouring agents, Dihydrocoumarin, adds a milky soft coconut taste, albeit that’s it’s barely noticeable.

My Favourite Pairings

Many are the same as FA’s Vanilla Bourbon, given that there are some earthy qualities here. Really a nice vanilla to use with darker fruits, tobaccos, alcohols and floral vapes. Here are some specific flavours that can work well-

FA Mandarin
FA Orange
FA Blackberry
FA Banana
FA Ylang Ylang
TFA Honeysuckle
FLV Blackberry Blossom
FLV Cherry Blossom
FLV Root Beer
FA Dark Bean
Juice Factory Espresso
TFA Jamaican Rum
TFA Kentucky Bourbon
FA Mixed Nuts
FA Coconut

I wanted to recommend just 2 or 3 must-have vanillas but it seems that’s impossible. So, start with a couple and grab the rest when you can; there’s never enough vanilla.

Flavorah Vanilla Bean

Steeped for 2 weeks
Mixed at 0.75% & 1.5%
Recommended percentages- 
Solo Vape-1-3% (Not recommended)
Mixed-0.5-2.5%
Safety Data Sheet

There’s no question that Flavorah wanted to release an authentic vanilla bean flavour, and that’s exactly what they’ve done with this flavour. Think of this as you would when mixing with vanillin. 

Overview

I’m surprised there aren’t more vanilla bean flavours, but being so close to vanillin, in some respects we’re covered. One should think of this as an additive and or an enhancer for vanillas and creams.  For those vanilla and dessert lovers, this is well worth the expense. 

Flavour Description – Notes

A straight-up light in body-mouthfeel vanilla bean with some soft cream and dairy, which stems from a compound ingredient.  Experimenting with TFA custard and other vanillas, this enhances the vanilla note, brings out any spice and boosts any creams; even dairy notes when using percentages over 1.5%.

Given that this flavour contains Isobutyric acid, much like Butyric acid, it’s not surprising that we’re offered a creamy, dairy flavour (perhaps a touch of butter) and aroma, although this may be hard to detect it’s there.

My Favourite Pairings

This is not the sort of vanilla you simply add to any mix. Again, it’s an additive and its real purpose is to boost other vanillas and creams but it’s also useful to make a vanilla base from. This is really for those that like to experiment, It’s a marvellous additive-flavour.

Tips on using Vanilla

As I’ve suggested, you’re going to want more than one vanilla. If you’re after just plain vanilla, grab either Juice factory super concentrate vanilla or Inawera Shisha vanilla. However, TFA’s Vanilla Swirl is so commonly used in recipes, those fairly new to mixing should have this too.  

  • Don’t base your assessment of vanilla as a whole if you’ve only tried 1 or 2 vanilla flavours. True, some are rather similar, but when you test vanilla bourbon for example, against vanilla swirl, a whole new world of possibilities open up, vice versa too.
  • A number of vanillas contain ethyl alcohol which will blend and mellow slightly when steeped. 
  • If making a vanilla base, pick two vanillas and or a vanilla bean, and experiment working in some creams such as FA Fresh Cream or Vienna Cream. Use 5 ml batches and let them steep for at least a week.
Depending on your intended application/recipe, certain dairy and bakery flavours can really compliment and elevate a mix when a plain vanilla is used. 
  • FlavourArt’s Marshmallow and Meringue can add a nice touch to vanillas. Marshmallow also adds some extra body and mouthfeel and can complement a wide variety of flavour profiles. Start out low with percentages from 0.25-0.5%.
  • Butter, be it TFA’s or FA, adds a nice dairy richness that compliments tobaccos, bakery and dessert vapes. It can be heavy and overpowering so start with 0.25-0.5%
  • Sweet Cream by TFA is perhaps the most common and is an obvious companion to vanilla. Although I love to blend vanilla with cream, be cautious, as many vanillas already contain cream; albeit that they may contain small traces. Experiment, but generally you can go as high as 1%, depending on intentions.

My favourite profiles for using both vanilla and or creams are – Tobaccos, Tobacco fusions with Rum or Bourbon, Coffee vapes and Desserts; mainly ice creams.

Please let us know if you have a favourite vanilla. Or share your thoughts or suggestions below.

From The Table,
Charles 

It’s all about the juice.. 
How I Test Flavour Concentrates

All flavours are tested using an RDA – Vandy Vape Pulse 22
Fused Claptons – 2x27g TM N80 and 1x40g N80 
Tested at 25 & 35 watts using Native Wicks Platinum Blend cotton.

All flavours are mixed in a 50-50 blend of PG & VG. Zero nicotine.
Generally steeped for 2 weeks.

Flavour Notes are based on aroma, the 5 ml water test and vaping. 
See our post on Testing Flavours

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