If there is on thing I just don't think I could be without in my kitchen cupboard it would be vanilla sugar.
The top notes sing above the ingredients. A delight. Now although I'm not adverse to using essence, and I admit that I am being particular when I say that the depth of flavours in a recipe are improved significantly when infused sugar is used rather than essence.
The sugar is a treat in coffee and hot chocolate, or sprinkled over strawberries and cream
For me it has to be Ndali. Nothing else comes close in my opinion. Fair trade, organic it's dark, deep sticky sweetness vanilla accentuates the sweetness of it's counterpart ingredients.
However it's not cheap to go out and buy lots of vanilla in one go, so my tip is to gift vanilla pods instead of chocolate, wine or flowers to friends who cook.
Then if your close friends or family bring you gifts when you invite them for supper then perhaps suggest that you'd be utterly delighted with some vanilla instead as you are building your stash.
List is as one of those things you'd love to receive and you'll soon have a seriously packed jar of utterly delicious sweet vanilla sugar before you know it.