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Teak, Tonka Bean, and Coumarin: A Symphony of Fragrance
Native to the Caribbean and South America, Brazilian teak produces numerous small fruits known as tonka beans. In its raw state, the tonka bean has a roasted, almondy flavor reminiscent of caramel or dried hay. However, the true magic happens during the transformation process!
Fun Fact: Tonka beans are believed to have spiritual and magical properties in some cultures. They have been used in rituals to attract love, money, and luck.
Once harvested, the tonka beans are dried and then macerated for 24 hours in rum before being dried again. As a result of these transformations, small coumarin crystals appear on the surface, and they are the ones that give the tonka bean its delicious powdery smell. The tonka beans are then powdered to obtain absolute oil.
Though it produces powdery notes, the tonka bean is used in perfumery for both feminine oriental, amber, or floral scents, as well as masculine fern or woody notes.
A Love Affair Between Guerlain Perfumes and the Tonka Bean
One of the very first perfumes to use the tonka bean was Jicky by Guerlain. The precious bean is also part of the original composition of the famous Guerlinade, created in the 19th century. With Jicky, Aimé Guerlain dared to challenge the women of 1889 by offering a new fragrance with relatively classic aromatic citrus top notes, while introducing heart notes of vanilla and tonka bean for added spice and curves. Unfortunately, women were not as captivated by this scent, while men were enthralled by this alluring perfume!
Fun Fact: The name "tonka bean" is derived from the Galibi Carib language, spoken by the indigenous people of French Guiana. It is called "tonquin" or "tonguin" in their native tongue.
In 1912, Guerlain tried again to use its precious tonka bean to create L'Heure Bleue, which this time became a significant success and remains one of the brand's most emblematic creations. With this floral-spicy composition, Guerlain offered a unique amber fluffy note that revolved around the power and sweetness of vanilla and tonka bean, providing a bouquet of iris and violet flowers for those who love bold, beautiful floral scents.
Indeed, the tonka bean is the raw material of fragrances with character! Although it often appears in floral-citrus feminine fragrances such as Tonka by Réminiscence or Insolence by Guerlain, the tonka bean is also a staple in great oriental fragrances like Shalimar or Samsara, both by Guerlain. For masculine fragrances, the roundness of its facets often evokes vanilla and sweet accords, as in Armani Code or even Allure pour homme. The tonka bean, a little nugget of the Caribbean, has continued to amaze us with its multiple fragrant powers!
Modern Creations Featuring Tonka Bean
In recent years, the tonka bean has gained popularity as a key ingredient in many contemporary fragrances, offering a warm, sensuous, and comforting aroma. Some of the most popular modern fragrances featuring tonka bean include Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille, Dior's Feve Delicieuse, and Jo Malone's Myrrh & Tonka.
Fun Fact: Coumarin, a compound found in tonka beans, is also present in several other plants, such as sweet clover, sweet grass, and cinnamon. It is known for its sweet, hay-like aroma and is used in various perfumes, cosmetics, and even food flavorings.
Thanks to its rich and versatile scent profile, the tonka bean has become a favorite ingredient among perfumers, adding depth, warmth, and an unmistakable allure to both masculine and feminine fragrances. From its humble beginnings as a small fruit in the Caribbean and South America to its starring role in iconic perfumes, the tonka bean has undoubtedly made its mark in the world of perfumery, and we can't wait to see what the future holds for this fascinating ingredient!