If some wrinkle their nose just talking about it, others enjoy its powerful and contrasting aromas. The perfume of pepper is clearly not lacking in piquancy, but it also reveals a lot of subtlety. We propose an olfactory journey to conquer the multiple facets of the one called “the queen of spices”!
The origins of pepper, an emblematic spice
The pepper journey
Evidence of the existence of pepper dates to more than 2000 years BC. During the time of ancient Egypt, this spice was already the object of a flourishing trade. Traces of peppercorns were discovered in the stomach and nose of Ramses the Great. Largely influenced by older civilizations, the Romans developed a trade in spices too, especially pepper. The colored berries were used as currency and in many culinary recipes. Its price is often equivalent to that of gold.
Pepper and its pungent fragrance spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It was imported from Constantinople, Syria and Alexandria. Then in 1497, Vasco de Gama discovered a sea route to India and new sources of pepper imports. Over the years, spicy peppercorns settled all over the world and became much more accessible.
Focus on the pepper plant, a shrub that does not lack piquancy
Originally from the Malabar coast in India, pepper comes from the pepper plant, a climbing shrub that also answers to the sweet name of Piper Nigrum. Today cultivated in tropical areas such as India, Indonesia, Brazil and Madagascar, the pepper plant forms aerial vines that are generally supported with stakes. The liana produces clusters of green berries when they are not yet mature. These small fragrant berries are harvested by hand and then dried to become one of the most sought-after spices: pepper. A single vine can produce up to 1.5 kg of berries per year.
Pepper, a perfume of a thousand colors
Only the berries of Piper Nigrum can legally be called pepper. But depending on the treatment applied and the stage of harvesting, the same pepper plant can yield 4 different types of peppercorns, all of which are used in cooking and perfumery.
- Green pepper: these are young berries, harvested when the seeds are not yet mature. To obtain green pepper, the fresh berries are kept in a humid place for 6 months maximum. It is consumed fresh or dried and is generally appreciated for its soft and vegetable taste.
- Black pepper: this is the most common form of pepper berry, consumed worldwide. The berries are harvested by hand just before their maturity while they are still green. Boiled, then dried in the sun, the berries will dehydrate, harden and crumble. Used for its pungent taste, black pepper also has many therapeutic virtues and would even be a powerful aphrodisiac according to some myths.
- White pepper: harvested a little later, the berries are directly bathed in water. This makes it easier to peel off the skin, called epicarp, to reveal a white grain. The “naked” berries are then put to dry to obtain a white pepper, much softer than the black.
- The red pepper: it is picked on the pepper plant after 9 months. It is in fact a green pepper which reached its maturity naturally, then it will dry with the shelter of the sun.
Pepper and perfume: subtly spicy notes
Pepper essence in perfumery
Each type of pepper produced by the Piper Nigrum pepper plant can be used by perfumers. Noses can add to their olfactory compositions the essential oil of white, green, red or black pepper. To obtain this fragrance, the fruit must be steam distilled. It is also possible to proceed to an extraction with supercritical CO2 to deliver a pepper extract, very pure and powerful.
Real or fake pepper?
But perfumery is not limited to the berries produced by Piper Nigrum. Other berries, from the Rutaceae family, are also favored by perfumers. Close to the citrus family, these peppers develop fresh and acidic notes. This is the case of Sichuan pepper with lemony aromas or Timut pepper which evokes grapefruit. The perfume industry has also teamed up with what is commonly known as false pepper. Native to South America, this fresh spice is produced by a species of tree that grows in Brazil and Peru. This pink pepper, or pink berries, delivers a much fresher and more aromatic essential oil.
What is the perfume of pepper?
Regardless of color, the notes emanating from the pepper plant’s berries all have a warm and spicy quality that permeates the entire composition. The black pepper reveals pungent and woody facets, while it spreads dusty nuances. It brings relief and depth to fragrances. It is mostly found in woody, oriental and chypre fragrances. The white pepper is more sensual, with a small animalized side, very warm. The pink berries unveil as for them a rather delicate perfume. We find peppery facets of course, but also aniseed and sweet shades. The perfume of pink pepper is a perfect match for citrus fruits in particular, and lifts the compositions by giving them a real olfactory “kick”.
The perfume of pepper invites itself at Carrément Belle
We too have succumbed to the pungent and subtle charms of pepper. In fact, we liked it so much that we sprinkled some varieties of this fragrant ingredient in two of our fragrances…
555, bursting and peppery notes
In our mysterious and bewitching eau de parfum 555, white pepper spreads all its warm and sensual facets. Initially citrusy, the fragrance becomes warmer and spicier over the time. The pepper is combined with the freshness of pink berries and orange. Supported by spicy nuances where clove and licorice take place, its essence expresses all its subtlety. It also develops bursting accents that blend with powdery notes of iris. A fragrance for her as for him…
Essence of freshness with alõ
The sparkling freshness of “fake-pepper” is found in the eau de parfum alõ. Here, the essence of pink Peruvian berries is combined with the vibrant freshness of citrus and the spiciness of juniper berries and ginger. This festive blend takes on depth with the marine notes and then wraps itself in a much warmer and woody base.
Do you like the smell of pepper? Did you know its different varieties?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article