Spice notes are used extensively in perfumery, often as materials to contrast or amplify specific effects and are sometimes, but not often, the particular focus of a scent. These notes vary from everyday things you’d find in your spice cupboard (cardamom, clove, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, salt) to more unique materials (pink pepper, saffron, ginger). Many of these spices aren’t things we want to wear in isolation, but when the magic of perfumery is used to bring out their very best, they come to life.
We’ve rounded up our own spicy supergroup for this overview of spice notes in fragrance. Think of this as the perfume equivalent of The Spice Girls – instead of five, we have eight. Each shows a different type of spice, but each smells just as good as the other. They all showcase the many ways in which spice notes can be used and just how universal they are, traversing the domains of masculine, feminine, mainstream, and niche perfumery.
Here is a selection of spice fragrances you absolutely must sniff (if you haven’t already tried them in October’s #EscentualScents box)!
Scent A: The Explosive Spice
Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Eau de Toilette
Spicebomb is aptly named, and as the grenade-shaped bottle leads you to expect, it unleashes a whirlwind of spices when the pin is pulled (or the sprayer is pressed, much safer). Spicebomb blends a warm amber accord (vanilla, benzoin, labdanum) that feels resinous and sweet, like some caramel treat, with a melange of hot, peppery spices. The result is a delicious, chai-like fragrance that feels brutish and masculine but also soft and cuddly at the same time.
Scent B: The Smooth Spice
Amouage Interlude Black Iris Man Eau de Parfum
Interlude Black Iris Man by Amouage is one of those fragrances that handles spice really well. It’s got the heat and intensity of spice, but balances it out with smooth, creamy vanilla notes and fresh, uplifting tones to give the fragrance texture – not that I’d expect any less from Amouage. Once the top notes have fizzled out, Iris Man’s heat builds in the heart – and it’s a rich, opulent heat at that, thanks to the likes of amber and frankincense, balanced by sweet woody-leathery cistus. As the name suggests, there’s iris here too, which adds a touch of softness to keep the spice in check. As the fragrance settles, it has a rich, luxurious woody tone – stunning.
Scent C: The Mineral Spice
Cartier Declaration Eau de Toilette
Few spice fragrances are as iconic as Declaration and, when I smell it, I always think of that old Superman slogan, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superman.” This fragrance is so amorphous that you could ask yourself, “is it an aquatic scent?” or “is it a spicy scent?” – and the answer is “no, it’s Declaration.”
Declaration is an essay in the freshness of spice, where their silvery, mineral facets are pushed to feel bracing and cool. But that’s not to say it’s clean; in fact, it feels oddly sweaty, but because it’s so light and airy, this makes it wonderfully sexy. It may not be Superman, but he’d smell good wearing it.
Scent D: The Ginger Spice
Roger & Gallet Gingembre Rouge Fragrant Wellbeing Water Spray
Is there anything more refreshing than a big splash of ginger? I really don’t think there is. It’s tart; it’s tangy; it’s juicy, sweet and spicy. But, whilst it’s utterly delicious, it can sometimes to be a bit too foody to wear as a scent. After all, ginger beer is great to wear, but you don’t really want to smell like you’ve poured a whole can over your head (that would be sticky and uncomfortable), do you? Nope. Roger & Gallet’s Gingembre Rouge avoids Eau de Can O’ Ginger Beer by capturing the juicy zinginess of ginger, but it showers it with fruits (pomegranate), flowers (orange blossom) and woods (cedar) to give you that unmistakeable refreshment of ginger with just enough abstraction to make it perfectly wearable.
Scent E: The Sexy Spice
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros Eau de Toilette
I’m just going to come out and say it: Kouros is one of the sexiest masculine fragrances of all time. Taking its name from a style of Greek sculpture that celebrates the male form, Kouros is distinctly masculine and is evocative of tanned skin and tight abs baking in the sun. The spice has the freshness of pepper, the earthiness of cardamom, and the funk of clove and is blended with floral notes and musk, creating a fragrance that smells impeccably clean and delightfully filthy at the same time. Kouros is big, bad, and bold, and it’s not for everyone, but on the right guy, damn, it’s near perfect.
Scent F: The Unexpected Spice
Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger Eau de Parfum
I know what you’re thinking, this fragrance is called “Fleurs d’Oranger”, which means it’s all about orange blossom and not spice. Well, I’m here to tell you that Fleurs d’Oranger showcases both beautifully. The sweet, glistening, and honeyed orange blossoms are contrasted by a generous sprinkling of a truly unexpected spice: cumin. Cumin is a bold and distinct spice with a slightly sweaty odour, and by blending it with clean, airy florals, Serge Lutens has created a wonderfully multi-faceted perfume with intense depth. Sometimes a dash of spice can be the magic ingredient that makes others sing.
Scent G: The Manly Spice
Calvin Klein Obsession for Men Eau de Toilette
Obsession for Men is an excellent example of spices used as accent materials. The fragrance’s core is a sweet, vanillic amber that is pulled in a classically masculine, aromatic direction by the herbal note of lavender. On top of that, there are bright, juicy citrus notes and spicy notes of cinnamon and clove. Put this together, and you get Obsession for Men, a fragrance that feels just right with any outfit or on any occasion.
Scent H: The Coffee-Fueled Spice
GUERLAIN Epices Exquises Eau de Parfum
Let’s finish up our spice tour by talking about Epices Exquises. The most recent addition to the Absolus d’Orient collection by GUERLAIN, Epices Exquises is inspired by spicy cardamom coffee – and yes, it’s just as addictive as your morning cup of joe. A delicious blend of fresh coffee, hot spices and sexy leather, GUERLAIN’s fragrance starts with a bright, energetic blend of bergamot, coriander and lemon, but the heart is the star of the show – you get a strong hit of cardamom, clove tree and sage, with a few luxurious rose petals thrown in for good measure too. And Epices Exquises’ irresistibly spicy woodiness continues right through to the base.