Cardamom’s been spicing up perfumery (and the incense trade) at least since Egyptian times, and was one of the key fragrance plants used in Greek perfumes. It’s pricy –the third-costliest spice in the world (after vanilla and saffron) – but so aromatic that only a touch is needed of the essential oil that’s steam-distilled from the seeds of the Elletaria cardomomum plant. (What you see in a photo is the pod: pop it open and the tiny seeds spill out.) Widely used in cooking, too, in south-east Asia – and perhaps most famously, to flavour chai – its slightly camphorous properties work to freshen breath. In fact, there are two variietes of cardamom: earthy, smoky black cardamom – and the fresher, almost minty, eucalyptus-y green cardamom. The first works perfectly in more exotic, Ambrée blends – making for something that’s almost skin-like, or suede-soft – while the aromatic green cardamom adds brightness mostly to colognes and men’s scents.
Smell cardamom in: