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Is There Actually Bourbon in Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

Slofoodgroup Team November 14, 2022

If you are a vanilla bean novice, it is completely understandable that you would be wondering whether Bourbon vanilla extract actually contains bourbon whiskey. The name does contain the word, bourbon, after all. 

In most cases, though, vanilla extract will not contain bourbon whiskey. Though there are exceptions, typically when“Bourbon” precedes vanilla in a product name, it is referring to the type of bean used to make that particular product. 

What is Bourbon Vanilla?

Bourbon vanilla is synonymous with vanilla Planifolia beans—typically from Madagascar or smaller, neighboring islands. Why Bourbon? Bourbon is location-based nomenclature, associated with the growing region from which these beans were primarily cultivated early in vanilla’s history as a trade product. 

Did Madagascar used to be known as the Bourbon Island?

No. Actually, a smaller island state east of Madagascar, now called Reunion, used to be called Bourbon. It was on this island where it was discovered that vanilla Planifolia could be pollinated by hand in absence of the Melipona bee.

Bourbon used to refer to Planifolia beans cultivated on islands in the Indian Ocean and that is still where the vast majority of Planifolia beans are exported from. Nowadays, though, Bourbon vanilla beans are grown across the globe. In fact, some of our favorite Bourbon vanilla comes from the southwestern Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea. 

Bourbon vanilla is the most common type of vanilla found commercially and, as such, boasts that notable flavor that most folks think of when they hear the word vanilla. 

What Does Bourbon Vanilla Taste Like?

The Planifolia orchid yields vanilla beans which are rich in that classic vanilla flavor recognized around the world. These Bourbon vanilla beans are highly regarded for their cream-like overtones supported by notes of caramel and chocolate. Many people describe them as sweet; though the natural sugar content is very low in vanilla beans. 

Where Can I Find Bourbon Vanilla Extract?

Bourbon vanilla extract is the most prevalent commercially available pure vanilla extract. This might come to many folks as a surprise because Mexican vanilla extract seems to be readily available and at far lower prices. However, much of what is being sold as “Mexican vanilla” isn’t sourced from a vanilla orchid at all. Instead, their flavoring agent comes from the Tonka tree, which is a member of the pea family. 

If you want real Bourbon vanilla extract, it isn’t hard to find. You should be able to locate it in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. It’s can also be found in many online shops. When searching for vanilla extract, we recommend reading reviews and ensuring the vendor you choose is using ethically-sourced beans to make their extract. At Slofoodgroup, all of our products are quality tested and ethically sourced. Find top-quality Bourbon vanilla extract here.

If you loved learning about Bourbon vanilla extract, then you might also like these posts about Vanilla queries, facts, and fallacies. 

What type of vanilla bean should be used for making vanilla extract?

Learn more about the flavor of Madagascar vanilla beans.

Reasons why the prices of vanilla beans will likely increase.

Tahitian vanilla versus Madagascar vanilla