And honestly, once you’ve used pure vanilla extract in your desserts or savories, there’s no going back to imitation vanilla. The question is which alcohol should you use to get the most out of the pure vanilla flavour experience?

The highly-prized vanilla bean has over 300 flavour compounds and pairing a handful of them with a premium distilled and aged spirit produces a smooth, cohesive taste sensation. It’s not essential to use a the most expensive spirit out of the top-draw but choose one that you’d be happy to drink at a cocktail party.

At the very least, the spirit you use for homemade vanilla extract needs to be 80 proof. Thereafter, it comes down to your preference in sweetness and natural vanilla flavour.


Vodka is the most common distilled spirit used to make homemade vanilla extract. Vodka is tasteless and odorless which allows the fragrance of the vanilla essence to shine through.

Vodka is made by fermenting and distilling grain, mostly either corn, wheat or rye. The higher the quality of grain and the number of times it’s distilled, the cleaner and more smooth the vodka. A quality vodka lends itself to producing a smoother extract with stronger tones of vanilla.

Why use vodka?

Vodka is flavorless and acts purely to extract the natural fragrance and taste of the vanilla bean, giving you nothing more than a pure vanilla taste.


Rum is made from sugarcane or sugarcane byproducts such as cane juice or molasses. White rum is best for homemade vanilla extract because it’s smooth and pure. It’s the perfect marriage with vanilla beans, drawing out the beans’ decadent sweetness which enhances the natural sweetness of white rum.

Dark and spiced rums add heavy, sweeter tones for a richer flavour profile for desserts and deep, decadent savory dishes.

Why use rum?

Rum produces a pure vanilla extract that is very sweet and gives off maximum vanilla taste and fragrance.


Bourbon is distilled from a fermented puree of grain, yeast and water, with a minimum of 51% corn (preferably up to 70% grain). Other grains used to make bourbon include rye, malted barley and wheat which are considered to be flavor grains.

Bourbon is whisky but as they say, not all whiskey is bourbon. True bourbon has it’s own distinctive flavour characteristics and rules, including it must be made in America and aged in new, charred oak barrels. Bourbon must be bottled at no less than 80 proof and must not contain any added flavoring, colouring and additives.

Bourbon is perfect for homemade vanilla extract because it’s clean like vodka but imparts a sweeter, smokier fragrance profile which it gets from being aged in charred oak barrels. Bourbon is rich and fragrant but not as sweet as rum. It draws out the sweetness of vanilla beans without overpowering the bean’s natural aroma.

Learn more about vanilla powder.

Why use bourbon?

Bourbon enhances the taste and sweetness of vanilla but produces pure vanilla extract that is less sweet and more smokey than one made using rum.

This is a featured post.