Star of spicy notes, the use of clove in perfumery goes back several decades. Its powerful and camphorated essence brings relief and depth to compositions and reminds us of the smell of the dentist’s office. Let’s discover the history of these little buds with multiple powers!
The fragrant journey of the clove tree
A tree with great powers
The clove tree is a tropical tree native to the Moluccan Islands, a heavenly archipelago located off the coast of Indonesia. From the Myrtaceae family (like the myrtle or the eucalyptus), this plant can reach 15 to 20 meters in height. It is now cultivated in Madagascar, Zanzibar and the Philippines. Its intense green foliage is very leathery and produces small nail-shaped flower buds from September to March. When the flowers bloom, they reveal a small red bell which will then produce a fruit, with the shape of elongated reddish bay. The picking is done by hand while the flower buds are still closed and starting to redden.
These buds are then put to dry in the sun during several days so that they take their characteristic brown color. It is in this form that we all know or almost this spice which perfumes our kitchens… But also our skins!
The history of cloves
The use of cloves is very old. During recent excavations, researchers were able to identify traces of clove in Terqa in Syria, which could date back to 1700 BC. Popular in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, cloves are also present in the Chinese Han dynasty. Their emperors chewed cloves to freshen their breath. The Greek and Roman civilizations were not long to seize this miraculous spice. In the writings of Pliny the Elder, we find the recipe of a mulled wine prepared on base of clove… To help the lovers in breakdown of vigor, at the time of the orgies!
The aromatic and aphrodisiac character of the small bud crosses the times until the Middle Ages. It is the richest who use it in cooking to disguise the somewhat high aroma of meats or as a love potion. The spice is the subject of a flourishing trade monopolized by the Arabs, the Portuguese and the Dutch. It is finally the Frenchman Pierre Poivre, the well-named, who will introduce the clove trees on Mauritius, then in Guyana and Madagascar. Today, cloves are still a spice used worldwide for its aromas, its medicinal properties and also for its perfume.
The use of clove in perfumery
From extraction to eugenol
Democratized for many years now in the composition of fragrances, clove oil is obtained by steam distillation of dried buds. It is also possible to extract the leaves of the clove tree in the same way. This process delivers an essential oil just as intense and fragrant. If clove is so well known in perfumery, it is also because it contains more than 85% eugenol. This aromatic compound, naturally present in the clove tree, is widely used in cosmetics as a flavoring agent. In perfumery, it is also used to synthetically reproduce vanillin, an odorant molecule present in its natural state in the vanilla bean. But eugenol is also used in dentistry since the molecule also has analgesic and antiseptic properties. This is why the scent of clove often reminds us of “the smell of the dentist”.
The olfactory profile of clove
The essence of clove (from the buds or the leaves) reveals a very rising smell, which will intensify throughout the olfactory pyramid. It is a fragrance of character that is quite powerful, while remaining subtle. Indeed, this essential oil diffuses spicy, warm and camphor notes with a medicinal aspect. The clove makes us think of the comforting aromas of gingerbread, the sweet flavor of mulled wine or the sweetness of a toffee apple. But we also detect among its nuances floral undertones that evoke the carnation. Amber tones also make it very sensual, even downright aphrodisiac if we believe the old legends!
Clove in perfumery: the olfactory associations
With its aromatic power, clove must be handled with care to avoid pushing the “oral hygiene product” aspect too far. By dosing it sparingly and with balance, the perfumer generally associates it with floral notes where it reveals itself in softness. It also marries perfectly with woody accords and fruity nuances to bring them depth and character. Its mysterious side makes it very present in oriental fragrances, and more timidly in gourmand perfumes in which it “twists” the too sweet side.
Carrément Belle & the clove
The heat of the clove tree with kilim
The spicy and warm notes of kilim diffuse an oriental fragrance on your skin. At the heart of this mysterious and bewitching fragrance is a real olfactory journey that will take you to the burning dunes in the heart of the desert. You will smell the essence of clove leaves from Indonesia, with a delicately camphorated, warm and almost medicinal smell. This spicy ingredient will transport you directly to the colorful stalls of an oriental market, between flowers, fruits and fragrant woods.
Did you know about the use of clove in perfumery? Do you enjoy this subtle yet powerful scent?
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