Vanilla can be extracted using several different methods such as percolation, carbon dioxide and heating. Ndali’s vanilla extract is cold processed in small artisanal batches following the traditional method by steeping (macerating) vanilla beans in pure alcohol in stainless steel drums over a lengthy period. Then it is filtered and bottled and will continue to mellow with the years. Maceration at ambient temperature, though time consuming, extracts the true flavour of the vanilla bean, allowing the more volatile top notes to come through. Much care is taken in selecting and blending ripe full-bodied beans for depth and smoothness with exceptionally high-vanillin beans for intense aroma.

As a result, Ndali extracts do away with the sugar and glycerine included in other extracts as a means to stabilise and fortify. This gives the extract an honesty which is clean and fresh on the tongue, with notes of butterscotch, honey and dates.

Vanillin: natural, nature identical and artificial…

Vanillin is the compound responsible for the typical aroma we associate with vanilla. It is a delicate and rarely seen white or iridescent crystal which forms inside and on the surface of the best quality planifolia beans and which can look like an explosion of downy frost or shards of fibreglass. In laboratories it can be isolated from the vanilla bean and used as ‘vanilla’ flavouring.

However vanillin is found in other plants, including barley and asparagus, and is also the by-product of the paper industry when lignin (present in the bark of trees) is oxidised. This is another natural source of vanillin used by the flavourings industry.

The chemical structure of vanillin can even be copied exactly in a laboratory to produce ‘nature identical’ vanillin; or modified further (enhanced or made stronger) to give ‘artificial’ vanillin.

Natural and nature identical vanillin are indistinguishable in taste and chemical structure.

…versus pure vanilla extract

There are over 400 different components in the vanilla bean of which vanillin is just one, which is why the harsher notes of nature identical, artificial and natural (vanillin) vanilla essences and flavourings can never come close to the round flavours of a pure vanilla extract. To distinguish between them, look for ‘extract’ as opposed to ‘essence’ or ‘flavouring’ on the label – but be prepared for the large price difference.