What Does Almond Smell Like?

Collage of a white bowl full of almonds, a red cherry fruit, and a jar of white sugar cubes with a pile of sugar beside it.

Almond. It’s a classic sweet gourmand note reminiscent of marzipan, amaretto, baking, and cherries. It’s a simple but powerful note, one of the most powerful cozy and comforting notes you can find in a fragrance.

In perfume and cologne, almond notes are soft and nutty and sweet in a way that’s reminiscent of vanilla and cherries. Almond notes are comforting and warm. Sometimes they’re a hint bitter or green or just a little bit woody. They can also sometimes feel a little powdery, especially if they’re blended with sweet floral notes like heliotrope.

Botanical illustration of a vanilla flower, leaves, and bean.

Almond perfumes and colognes often remind you of things you can eat, all kinds of sugary desserts and decadent drinks. Almond notes are often blended with other sweet gourmand notes like vanilla, coconut, caramel, sugar, chocolate, coffee, cherry, and other nutty notes like hazelnut, pistachio, and praline.

Because almond is a sweet, cozy, vanilla-like note, it’s best appreciated in perfumes when worn in a cooler climate. When worn in heavy heat and humidity, a sticky-sweet almond note can come across as too heavy and stifling, depending on your preferences.

Where Can I Smell an Almond Note?

If you have a vial of bitter almond extract in your kitchen spice drawer, take a whiff of that. The intoxicating vanillic, almost cherry-like scent of almond extract is basically the scent of a common almond note in a perfume.

Almond is also a fairly common note in many popular perfumes. If you go to a cosmetics store like Sephora or Ulta or to a perfume boutique, you can find dozens of perfumes with an almond note to smell. You might not be exactly sure what you’re smelling if you smell just one, but if you sniff a handful of different almond perfumes and colognes, you’ll start to recognize that distinct sweet almond note.

What Are Almond Notes Made Of?

Almond notes are generally sourced from bitter almond essential oil. (They can also be composed from a combination of imitation aromachemicals like benzaldehyde. But because bitter almond oil is a fairly affordable and relatively unregulated natural material, it’s often the first material perfumes reach for when it comes to almond and cherry accords.)

A single bright red fresh cherry with a green stem.

If you think bitter almond essential oil smells nothing like the almonds you eat as a snack at your kid’s soccer game, that’s because they’re actually not the same plant.

The almonds you eat are technically known as sweet almonds. They have little to no scent. In fact, sweet almond oil is often used as a diluent and carrier oil for other fragrance oils because it’s soft, moisturizing, and almost unscented.

(If you’re trying to buy almond essential oil and you think you’re getting a good deal on a big bottle, make sure you’re buying bitter almond essential oil and not sweet almond carrier oil. May or may not be speaking from experience here. Don’t shop while sleep deprived.)

The almonds used in almond essential oil, on the other hand, are bitter almonds. As the name suggests, these almonds are very bitter to the taste due to the high quantity of cyanide found in them. (Sweet almonds contain trace amounts of cyanide, but the amount in bitter almonds is 42 times higher.)

Are They Apricot Kernels?

A lot of people think bitter almonds are the kernels inside apricots. (I actually thought this myself until I wrote this article. Oops!) In fact, they’re similar, but they’re also different plants.

Two halves of a cut-open light-orange apricot, with a brown seed inside.

Bitter almonds have more in common with the kernels found inside of stone fruits like apricots than they do with sweet almonds. These kernels are also quite bitter and aromatic (and toxic), although not as much as proper bitter almonds are.

If you want to look at and smell something that’s sort of like a bitter almond, you can crack open the seed of an apricot or peach and take a look. (But don’t eat it! Because cyanide.)

Cracking open apricot seeds was actually one of the big things that got me into fragrance again as an adult after loving mixing essential oils as a child. I loved the scent of them so much I read all about fragrances with almond notes and decided to order myself a decant of Guerlain’s L’Homme Ideal Eau de Toilette. Now I’m writing about it and learning to compose my own almond perfumes. What a ride it’s been.

Will I Like A Perfume With An Almond Note?

Obviously, I can’t say what you will or won’t like. But if you like the smell of vanilla and cozy baking scents, you’ll probably love almond. Also, if you like the smell and taste of almond-flavored and cherry-flavored foods and drinks, like marzipan, amaretto, and cherry ice cream, you’ll probably love the smell of almond.

Now, even if you love the smell of almond, you might not love smelling like it all the time. Personally, I adore almond. It’s one of my very favorite scents. But if a perfume is too sweet, I can get sick of it quite quickly.

A vanilla cupcake topped with pink frosting, sprinkles, and a maraschino cherries.

If that sounds like you, pay attention to the other notes in the fragrance. If they all look very sugary (like cupcakes, praline, and chocolate), you’re probably looking at a very sweet perfume. Which might be exactly what you’re looking for, or it might not be. But if all the other notes are woody notes, flowers, tea, or other such un-sweet notes, it’s probably a more temperate sort of composition.

Almond is, in my humble opinion, one of the most delightful fragrances known to man. It’s so simple yet complex, accessible yet deep, quirky yet comforting.

Almond Perfumes and Colognes

A small white bowl of light brown almonds.

Fragrances with notes of almond include:

3 thoughts on “What Does Almond Smell Like?

  1. Hmm. Your post is now making me want a perfume that does for almond what Indult Tihota does for vanilla.

    People seem to love Tihota or disdain Tihota for the same reason. That is, they’re either, “Oooh, it smells JUST like a bottle of vanilla!” or, “Yeah? And? Smells like a bottle of vanilla. Next?”

    I’m in the first category.

    If I assume that almond-only isn’t going to happen, Loukhoum (just read that post, too) sounds like a good choice for almond overload?

    • Ooh, that would really be something. And yeah, in my experience Loukhoum is a gorgeous overload of powdery pink almond. It’s supposed to be all honey and rose, but on my skin it’s all sweet almond. Super sticky but I kinda love it. YMMV. Let me know what you think if you try it!

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