Cinnamon, em-bark for a ride

cinnamon is one of the oldest spices used and its scent warms the fragrances of woody and sweet notes

Known since Antiquity and recognizable miles away, cinnamon perfumes our skins as well as our favorite pastries. Adored or unloved, this spicy bark is an ingredient appreciated by perfumers. It was one of the first spices used in perfumery and still now, it cheers up fragrant compositions with its warm and peppery scent. Discover the origins of this bark like you’ve never smell before!

The history of cinnamon

Its origins

The origins of cinnamon go back to about 5000 years BC, in China where it was already used for its medicinal virtues. It is one of the oldest recognized spices in the world. 2000 years BC, cinnamon traveled the silk and spice road from China and India to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and ancient Rome. From Antiquity, it became a flagship product of trade, as precious as gold.

It is used to treat various ailments, from digestion to healing, but also as a spice to flavor drinks and especially wine. In Egypt the bark is burned in ceremonies and enters into the embalming process of the bodies. Already, cinnamon takes part in the making of solid perfumes such as kyphi, and in various anointings and fragrant oils. It even seems that Cleopatra used and abused cinnamon to seduce her many suitors. Since Antiquity, cinnamon is everywhere, as a spice, incense, perfume and medicine.

Arrival in Central Europe

Hundreds of years later, cinnamon finally reaches Central Europe in the 9th century. In the Middle Ages, it was generously rubbed with high meat to mask its smell and taste. It quickly became a luxury product reserved for the wealthiest. The island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where the cinnamon trees grow is then controlled from the 16th century by the Portuguese, who have a monopoly on the sale of the precious spice. The Dutch ships took over Ceylon and considerably improved the cultivation of the cinnamon tree to increase its production. Pierre Poivre, a French botanist who was definitely aptly named, will steal cinnamon tree cutting from the Dutch to plant it in new lands: Madagascar, Mauritius, the West Indies and Guyana.

Cinnamon for everyone!

Thanks to the end of the Dutch monopoly, cinnamon is democratized from the Renaissance. It becomes a daily spice and appears in more than half of the receipts of the French gastronomy of these times. At the dawn of the 19th century, the entire European bourgeoisie love its spicy taste, which it appreciates in small candies straight from Turkey, with aphrodisiacs powers, it is said. Cinnamon became affordable for the vast majority of the population, and its aromas were incorporated into many traditional dishes, from Swedish Kanelbullar to Alsatian gingerbread. If cinnamon triumphs in cooking, its presence in perfume is very rare, if not non-existent. It will be necessary to wait until the beginning of the 1900’s for it to become a perfumed ingredient in its own right.

From the tree to the essence

A tree with magical aromas: the cinnamon tree

Cinnamon is the bark of a tree native to the tropical regions of Asia: the cinnamon tree. Like avocado or nutmeg, « cinnamomum » belongs to the Lauracaea family. Its name comes from the Latin “canna” which means reed and refers to the shape of the bark that curls up on itself while drying. There are different species of cinnamon tree but not all of them produce the spicy bark that is so much sought after. The most well-known and appreciated variety is the Ceylon cinnamon. But today the great majority of the production comes from the cinnamon of China. Its bark is thicker than that of Ceylon.

Harvesting and extraction

Cinnamon is now grown in India, Sri Lanka, China and Indonesia. Its harvest takes place every two years and follows a precise process. The branches of the cinnamon tree are picked to scrape their outer bark. It is the inner bark that presents a real gustatory and olfactory interest. It is then meticulously peeled and dried in the open air between shade and sun for several hours. At this time, the bark rolls up on itself, giving the typical shape of a small hollow stick. These are then steam distilled to extract a fragrant essence.

From left to right: the Ceylon tree, the reddish bark and the sticks after several hours of drying.

Cinnamon in perfumery

An original and characteristic scent

Whatever its variety, this ingredient gives off a warm and refined scent that evokes wood with a little sweetness. The essence from China has a stronger aroma than its cousin from Ceylon. It is much lumpy with a peppery aspect. Ceylon cinnamon is more discreet, its scent is softer and subtly spicy. Very powerful, the essence of cinnamon can also be delicate in small doses. It will then deliver vanilla and even fruity scents.

The scented associations of cinnamon

This raw material is very often used in oriental fragrances for its bewitching and exotic scent. It generally takes place at the side of other spices such as vanilla or pepper, in sensual and amber juices. But the bark also blends perfectly with floral notes such as rose or jasmine to give them more depth and warmth. This spice is also found in many woody perfumes, to warm up a Virginia cedar or to complement sandalwood or patchouli. With citrus fruits, the spice blossoms in a wind of freshness and acidity.

the spicy notes are predominant in 555 thanks to pepper, cinnamon and cloves

555, a spicy and bewitching eau de parfum

At Carrément Belle, the power and subtlety of this spice has inspired us. That’s how we came up with a very special perfume in our Collection. 555 is an eau de parfum that is both tender and virile, combining the warmth of cinnamon with other spices such as white pepper or clove. Refreshed by a citrusy top note with lemon, this spicy cocktail is warmed in a heart of amber incense. The powdery nuances of iris also distinguish the femininity of this unique fragrance.

Did you know the origin of cinnamon? Do you like its warm and spicy scent?


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