I credit my discovery and subsequent love of spicy foods to the year (1994) I lived in Singapore. Prior to that, I can’t recall having tried spicy food at all.
My love of spice has also transferred to the world of perfume. I find myself often reaching for a spice note. The spice notes can liven up a perfume and often lend themselves to warm and sensual fragrances usually associated with the oriental style perfumes. It has also been interesting to discover that certain florals can sometimes have a sharp, spicy element to them. For instance rose – some varieties have a subtle spicy, peppery note, when paired with a dash of pepper, that aspect of the flower can be nicely accentuated.
When using spice to ‘spice’ up a perfume, it is useful to know that they fall into sub-categories: dry spice, sweet spice and fresh spice.
Here’s a brief rundown on some of the key spices available to the natural perfumer:
Juniper Berry – a heart note distilled from the berries, the aroma is dry, crisp, woody and warm with a subtle fruity note. Juniper berries are responsible for giving gin its well known distinctive flavour.
Black Pepper/Pink Pepper/Green Pepper – a top note, each type of peppercorn may have subtle differences however they are all essentially dry, fresh, warm, spicy and peppery!
Cardamom – one of my absolute favourites. It has a lovely refreshing, sweet spicy aroma. I find it provides a lovely lightness, lift and freshness to the top of perfumes.
Nutmeg – from the seed, reminds me of rice pudding. A fresh, warm and sweet top note.
Clove – not my personal favourite, makes me feel a little queasy! Nonetheless I don’t mind it in teensy amounts with florals, as it lends body and a sweet warm richness to the heart with a woody, balsamic undertone.
Cinnamon – essential oil can be distilled from each part of the tree, however, the bark has the classic aroma that most would be familiar with from food. Cinnamon adds a lovely sweetness and warmth and will quickly turn a fragrance into the gourmand variety, which is fine if that is what you are after! If not, a sparing approach is required.
Ginger – a mouthwatering middle note. Very rich, warm and spicy. I find the standard essential oil I have has a subtle floral component, whereas the fresh ginger version has much greater freshness and clarity.
Coriander – distilled from the seeds, coriander is very useful as a fresh, uplifting top note.
I obviously must love the spice notes – writing this has made me aware that I have used spice in 4 of my 5 natural perfumes I sell!
010 – cardamom and clove bud
020 – coriander and juniper berry
030 – coriander
040 – ginger, pink pepper and coriander
050 – no spice! Sweet marjoram instead for its refreshing, herbal character
There are obviously more spices available for the natural perfumer to use, I’ve just covered the ones that I am most familiar with and use at the moment. Please feel free to share your perfume experience of any spices not listed here : ) xx