In common with many contemporary fragrance ingredients, jatamansi – or spikenard, to give it a more familiar name – was originally used in incense, as an element of sacred Roman, Indian, Hebrew and Egyptian ceremonies. With its slightly musky, woody, aromatic, earthy, warm and sensual scent, jatamansi also featured in body oils and unguents, in Roman times…
It’s the roots of this perennial plant – a flowering member of the valerian family – which are used in perfumery, as well as in natural medicine and in aromatherapy, to soothe stress and anxiety. The plant valiantly grows in mountain areas above 3,500 metres, in countries like India, Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim. In fragrances, though, it works brilliantly as a fixative, and in chypre and Ambrée scents: it complements oakmoss, lavender, vetiver, lemon and spice. To paraphrase Shakespeare, jatamansi by another name would smell as sweet – and it’s got plenty of those other names: nard, spike, muskroot, tapaswini and sumbul are just some of the other words used for this ingredient.
However, because it’s increasingly rare, the prices have – um – spiked, putting it beyond the reach of many contemporary perfumes. (Although L’Artisan Parfumeur built a whole fragrant collection around it…)
Smell jatamansi in: