Spice Up Your Life – the history of spiced scents (and what to wear now)

At this time of year we’re suddenly surrounded by spices – precious ingredients once so rare and expensive they were kept in locked wooden boxes, and have been beloved by perfumers for thousands of years. And ‘noses’ today still love weaving these warmly tingling, simmeringly sensual ingredients into their compositions. So, why are we so attracted to spices, and which fragrances are the best to wear today?

Over the next few weeks we’ll trace them in turn, starting with…


Even 2000 years ago the Egyptians were using cinnamon in perfumes and incense burned to send scented prayers to the gods (though it probably originates way before that, in China).

Cinnamomum verum is thought to have been an ingredient in the original holy ‘anointing oil’, mentioned in the Bible. The Greeks and Romans used it too, often with its near-relation cassia.  It’s long been considered to have aphrodisiac properties, when eaten – though if spicy scents turn you on, maybe when dabbed onto pulse-points, too.

Cinnamon bark oil ihas to be used very sparingly in a scent – it’s a sensitiser, and as such, you may see ‘cinnamates’ on perfume packaging, as a warning. Where natural cinnamon’s used, it’s likely to have been distilled from the leaves and twigs. But it’s often also synthesised, adding a spicy warmth to amber scents.

Here’s renowned niche perfumer Andy Tauer on the restrictions on using cinnamon, which he shared with The Perfume Society – and why he loves to use it, all the same:

Andy Tauer: ‘Ah… a forbidden fruit. Sensitising cinnamal, potential allergen. So warm, metallic almost, spicy of course, gourmand, hitting the nose with memories of rice pudding with cinnamon sugar, and making your saliva flow. I love to cook with cinnamon. It brings out the flavors of ginger, onions, adds warmth to the cocktail of exotic flavors from clove, pepper, cumin, fenugreek. In my perfumes, I love it – like a synthetic aldehyde – as it switches the light on, brings out the colours and contrasts. One fine day, in perfumery heaven, we will all smell and enjoy cinnamon in heavy doses: Until then, we have to live life with the regulations that we have…’

Here we travel to the land of Assam via the richly resonant aromas of the East. Cinnamon leaf oil and nutmeg make for a lively opening that tingles all the way to wonderfully exotic citrus-fresh elemi oil. Black tea accord marks our fragrant journey with its smoky tendrils slowly opening to the deeper base and that sweet, wet earthiness and smooth wood played out with notes of oudh and vetiver. Honey is drizzled to sweeten the mix but never becomes sickly, the stunningly smooth tobacco accord putting us in mind of freshly-rolled cigars and dense canopies of greenery outlined against mountains beyond.

Molton Brown Mesmerising Oudh & Gold Accord £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Molton Brown

One of those unforgettable ‘sexy church’ scents, the cinnamon here infused into wafts of sheer smokiness, all shot through with a surprising, champagne-like airiness. Transparent in the opening (definitely more organza than velvet, at this stage), Angelique Encens’s warmth emerges on the skin, kindling notes of pepper, sandalwood, patchouli and oodles of smoothly simmering cinnamon. You shall not only go to the ball wearing this, meanwhile, but perhaps find yourself partying way beyond midnight wrapped in its enduring musk, vetiver and incense embrace.

Creed Angelique Encens £275 for 75ml eau de parfum

This fresher take on cinnamon is inspired by ‘mountain of paper, autumnal hues of corduroy… thoughtful parting words and a reminiscence of dry oil paint.’ It’s golden light on crunchy leaves, rich fabrics in earthy colours gleaming in the honeyed light, a cool, herbaceous breeze of rosemary and basil just sing with the fizz of green peppercorns in the top notes – the cinnamon all the while a link to the deep thrum of oudh, earthiness and smooth woods in the base. One to wear while wrapped up for a country walk, breathing glad lungfuls of air and exalting nature.

Mihan Aromatics Mikado Bark £123 for 100ml extrait de parfum

Lapped by milk, snuggled by soft blooms of immortelle flower, the cinnamon in this is neck-nuzzle-worthy – you’ll definitely want to move closer to the person wearing it. Inspired by Manos Gerakinis’s Greek heritage, the immortelle is a yellow flower found in Greece, its story dating back to the Trojan war. In myth, during Helen’s capture, she asked Paris to validate her beauty against Venus. Paris replied: “Do you not see this flower? Your hair shares the same golden colour and your body smells like the flower while your skin is as soft as its petals. Your beauty will be everlasting.’ The resonant warmth the cinnamon affords sizzles for hours, beautiful indeed..

Manos Gerakinis Immortelle £145 for 100ml eau de parfum

Written by Suzy Nightingale


Spice up your fragrance wardrobe with black pepper – a ‘hot’ scent ingredient

Nose-tinglingly warming, rich and exotic: Sunil Makan explores the opulence of black pepper – which we’re increasingly finding (and enjoying) in fragrance…

We implore you to take heed – and pay attention to the humble peppercorn. Such a versatile ingredient, it can be the hearty sprinkle on your caprese salad – or the crowning glory atop a blood red Bloody Mary. But more and more often, black pepper can often be found doing all sorts of wonderful things to your fragrance. Whether you prefer a woodier scent, something with florally notes or scents with a somewhat masculine edge, we’ve found seven exquisite ways to enjoy pepper…

Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily Cologne


Pepper intensity: 2/5
Staying power: 5/5

A full-bodied elixir with a hit of ginger, which cuts through rich and warm amber. The pepper is subtle here but gives life and lift to this bold and intense concoction, making it perfect for wear all year round.

£100 for 100ml Cologne at jomalone.co.uk


Pepper intensity: 3/5
Staying power: 4/5

Clean soapy vanilla beans meet freshly-laundered silk sheets. The black pepper lingers and tones down any initial headiness from the vanilla adding spice to this sophisticated, aromatic but sweet fragrance, which is creamy with sandalwood, too.

£115 for 100ml eau de parfum at liberty.co.uk


Pepper intensity: 4/5
Staying power: 4/5

Like salty waves crashing off the coast of LA, this contrasts citrussy fresh lemon with the sweetness of juniper berries. The pepper leads you towards a soft and powdery dry-down; a sublimely elegant fragrance construction in which you can really appreciate every single note.

£88 for 50ml eau de parfum at liberty.co.uk



Pepper intensity: 2/5
Staying power: 4/5

A vase full of freshly hand-picked creamy and herbaceous magnolia. Pink peppercorn and notes of green tea deliver an organic and natural feel; we think this would be perfect for ballet dancers on opening night, as well as lovers of classically floral fragrances.

£90 for 100ml eau de parfum at ormondejayne.com



Pepper intensity: 4/5
Staying power: 5/5

The femme-fatale of the group: unabashedly opulent and sexy. A grandiose garden full of pink roses and violet geraniums by night, from ‘nose’ Michel Roudnitska. Black pepper adds mystery to this decadent Ambrée creation – this is old-world fabulousness at its most decadent.

£115 for 50ml eau de parfum at lessenteurs.co.uk


Pepper intensity: 2/5
Staying power: 4/5

A musky blend of mango and pineapple dusted with pink peppercorns which soften any immediate saccharine notes. The cutesy fruit fragrance decidedly gets a gorgeous upgrade.

£105 for 100ml eau de parfum £105 for 100ml at houseoffraser.co.uk



Pepper intensity: 2/5
Staying power: 3/5

Like a vase full of crisp wild grasses next to a freshly-run mineral bath: although not precisely a peppercorn, the green pepper holds the same qualities and characteristics and caresses the subtlest notes of coriander and white musk, resulting in a raw and natural – and yes, green – scent, which we find very ‘shareable’.

From £42 for 25ml eau de parfum at selfridges.com