This key ingredient of the legendary aftershave (West Indian Bay Rum) is actually no relation to the bay leaves we throw into our cooking pots and casseroles. The West Indian bay tree – Pimenta racemosa – with its leathery leaves, belongs to the myrtle family. But its aromatic nature really comes out when a distillation of the dried leaves and/or berries (in rum and water) is blended into perfumes (and aftershaves). This masculine splash started as an artisan creation on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, but many other West Indian islands (as well as American and European fragrance companies) now make a version. You may be able to make it out West Indian bay itself among the cinnamon, oil of cloves, citrus and other spice oils.
Smell West Indian bay in: