Not to be confused with its Brazilian cousin Schinus terebinthifolia, Peruvian Pink Pepper is the fruit (berry) from the tree Schinus molle. The plant bears a dozen names including “Peruvian peppertree”, “pink peppercorn” and “false pepper”.
Ety(molle)ogy speaking the latin word “molle” in Pink Pepper’s scientific name comes from “mulli”, meaning “tree” in Quechua – language spoken in the Peruvian Andes.
This cold spice, also used as a culinary spice, is native to South America where the tree still grows mainly in Peru. The country provides the perfume industry with an expensive essence which can be obtained by two different chemical processes.
The finesse of its spicy yet fresh scent – extremely appreciated in fine fragrance and niche perfumery – has made it a much-celebrated natural ingredient in the past ten years.
A GENERIC NAME
The appellation Pink Pepper – from French “baie rose” translated into “pink berry” – is used in the common language to designate different kinds of pink to reddish dried berries.
Indeed, three different species of dried berries from three different locations are called by that name.
Despite their many purposes (don’t worry we’ll get to that later), the ones we’re interested in – you might have guessed it – are the fragrant ones used in the perfume industry.
To give you a good understanding of this raw material, we’ll first introduce the three different provenances and then focus on one in particular: Peru!
GOOD SOURCING COMES IN THREE
SOUTH AMERICAN BERRIES
As introduced above, two trees that flourish in South and Central America are both from the Schinus genus – Schinus molle and Schinus terebinthifolia.
The two belong to the Anacardiaceae family – the same family as the cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale) – and produce pink berries as their fruit. These are collected to produce Pink Pepper essential oil. Not only their berries but also their leaves exalt a dainty fragrance, both peppery and citrusy!
Native to Peru’s Andean mountain range down to central Chile, this evergreen tree’s current habitat extends until the South of Brazil!
In Peru it grows not only up to about 3200 meters in the mountains but also along the pacific coast.
Ingredient houses such as Nelixia source their Schinus molle from the mountains in the region of Ayacucho (south-central Andes).
WHAT’S COOKING GOOD LOOKING?
Aspect-wise, this “wild peppertree” – another one of its many names – is reminiscent of a tree you’re definitely familiar with: the weeping willow (Salix babylonica).
In fact, this pretty one has been cultivated in South and Central America as an ornamental plant.
Its flowers – broken-white and small in size – flower in the spring (no joke) and its berries (drupes) appear during the fall under the form of dried fruits looking like small pepper grains.
PI(N)CK ME UP
Despite its berries coming in the shape of little balls – like black pepper but make it pink – it’s the biggest of all plants from its Schinus genus. Definitely not the smallest tree out there, it can grow up to 15 meters tall, and….wait for it…wide as well!!
Female and male trees are grown apart, and the berries are harvested throughout May/June, and dried before extraction (see below).
Even if you have never smelled Pink Pepper essence, you’ve definitely seen its berries in someone’s – if not yours – kitchen!
Yep, these pink to reddish berries – initially green – are often commercialized by themselves under the name of “pink berries”, or more often in blends along with black pepper (Piper nigrum) – because of their similar, yet more subtle for pink berries, taste.
In both cases they’re used as a condiment. In Peru the coastal pink berries serve this purpose.
Taken up North from its Latin American homeland to San Diego, California by missionaries in the 1830s, it started to spread in the golden state first as a wild tree, then became cultivated due to its invasive character.
Also called “Brazilian peppertree”, Schinus terebinthifolia is native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It’s also distilled into an essence used in fine fragrance, but its scent differs from Schinus molle!
How can you visually tell both species apart? One infallible way: Schinus molle has the largest fruits out of the two, and by a lot!
INDIAN OCEAN BERRIES
One of Pink Pepper’s many names is “Poivre de Bourbon” (Bourbon pepper in French). This name is related to its introduction to Indian Ocean islands in the 19th century, starting with Mauritius (ex French territory), and the Reunion Island (anciently called Bourbon Island).
Schinus molle was exported to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, where the production of its essential oil takes place today – making it one of the main provenances for the fragrance industry.
A completely different species called Euonymus phellomanus is grown in Madagascar (Indian Ocean) and known to be the “traditional” baie rose plant.
It was banned for human consumption by the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the past, but it’s not the case anymore. Nevertheless, if this plant might be used in the kitchen, it’s not in the perfume industry as there is no evidence of any essence extracted from its fruits.
PINK PEPPER IN OLFACTIVE STUDIO FRAGRANCES
This ingredient is – with Vetiver – among the most represented in our fragrances. The Pink Pepper they offer comes from different procurement locations: Madagascar and Peru.
Still life or the most in motion of still lives! Pink Pepper (Schinus molle) is the key spicy ingredient among the top notes of Olfactive Studio’s fragrance of the month.
The head of this perfume is adorned with a Yuzu accord (Japanese lime) that stands out, clearly identifiable by its component notes (bergamot, mandarin, hedione), and whose freshness is increased tenfold by the four spicy/peppery notes: Black pepper (Piper nigrum), Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum ritum or bungeanum) an ingredient obtained from the shell of a fruit of a tree belonging to the Rutaceae family (such as citrus), Pink Pepper (Schinus molle), and Elemi (Canarium luzonicum), which is the gum from the trunk of a southern Asian tree.
These last ones bring an undeniable freshness to the fragrance while each having their own features: the first one confers an aromatic and woody facet, the second one is particularly floral, such as the third one which also gives a fruity aspect to the ensemble, as for the last one it is known for its incense facet.
In the heart, Galbanum (Ferula galbaniflua) is perceived, a very powerful green note which has a terpenic facet as Elemi (scent often compared to paint due to terpenes). We perceive the vegetal green facet, which perfectly marries Star Anise's (Illicium Verum) aromatic facet. This incredible spice also brings a spicy aspect, bonding the heart of the fragrance to the base as Dark Rum possesses a spicy side as well.
Still Life's base features Dark Rum absolute, a very expensive raw material resulting from the distillation of dark rum (also called amber rum), in order to retain only the fragrant compound by completely eliminating the alcohol. This one brings a spicy-vanilla note to the base, allied to the eternal Cedarwood, with its earthy and woody notes, and to Ambroxan, also woody-cedar, and naturally ambery. This raw material adds substance and depth to the fragrance.
STILL LIFE IN RIO
The start of Still life in Rio is extremely stimulating; it is a real sparkling explosion of juicy citrus fruits. Yuzu (Citrus junos), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) and Lemon (Citrus limon) are omnipresent; these three citrus bring vitality and an unmatched tangy freshness. The freshness is enhanced by a touch of Green Mint (Menta spicata) with a spicy side.
These ingredients complement the citrusy and spicy Ginger (Zingiber officinale), whose peppery side is enhanced by three cold spices: Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), B (Schinus molle) and Jamaican Hot Peppers (Pimenta dioica). If Black Pepper brings a woody side noticeable from the heart of the fragrance, Pink Pepper has a floral and lemon-like aspect, and the Jamaican Hot Peppers, with their cinnamic and woody facets, remind us of cinnamon and nutmeg.
The heart of the fragrance offers a sweet and lactonic facet due to the Coconut Water accord that intensifies the exotic fruity dimension. The head and heart are in harmony, and the link between the notes is fluid. The perfume awakens our taste buds by reminding us of slightly sweet and sour candies, as we sense a fruity sweetness more than a gourmand one. The acidic facet persists over time satisfying our nostrils, and takes us for a long ride under Rio's everlasting sun.
The base of the perfume is gently revealed just after the heart, where a woody facet emerges from the Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera officinalis) a raw material both resinous and cedary. The Dark Rum (Saccharum officinarum) brings the most addictive vanilla-like base note, and spices up the White Leather accord both woody and slightly smoky.
Still life in Rio is interesting by its olfactory diversity, and its explosion of facets!
At the top of Olfactive Studio's floral-white fragrance, Italian Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) attracts us with its sparkling sour facet. This refreshing sensation is not only due to this citrus fruit so appreciated in perfumery but also to several aromatic raw materials that mark our nose from the start of the perfume.
First of all, we have the Glacial Mint (Mentha piperita glacialis) whose cold side confers to the start of the perfume the frosted brightness of the great Norwegian north which inspired it. This freshness is also supported by the Siberian Pine Needles (Pinus pinastere) — from the olfactive family of terpenic conifers — both revivifying and with Eucalyptus accents, it perfectly matches the aromatic top notes.
Can you smell the so-called "cold" spices among the top notes? The Guatemalan Cardamom (Eletteria cardamomum), whose zesty facet combines with that of Bergamot, is also peppery just like their spicy mates the Indian Ocean Pink Pepper (Schinus molle), which have both fruity and floral facets. The first facet blends with the sunny Pineapple accord and the creamy Fig Milk accord, and the second introduces the floral heart of Dancing Light.
The heart is adorned with a wonderful bouquet of white flowers composed of natural ingredients and subtle accords imagined by the perfumer. We have the splendid Egyptian Grandiflorum Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum), obviously floral, so solar, fruity, and even animalistic (indole facet); and the sweet Moroccan Neroli (Citrus aurantium) with its soothing honey and green facet reminiscent of its tree leaf (orange tree). The Freesia accord interprets the soft scent of this luminous flower close to Jasmine, while the Seringa accord — also called "poets' jasmine" or "mock-orange" — gives us a hint of Orange Blossom.
Another ingredient in the heart of Dancing Light makes the freshness last... It is the French Lavandin (Lavandula latifolia) — Lavender's little sister — whose Lavender facet (characterized by linalyl acetate — its main component) brings a refined floral-fresh aspect.
Two noble woods complement the base of Dancing Light — the first one comes from India — the great Sandalwood (Santalum album) with its unique milky facet, extends the same facet given by the Fig Milk accord. The scent of Sandalwood is certainly woody, but it also reminds us of yellow flowers, making it an ideal asset for a floral fragrance! Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) comes straight out of Virginia (USA). Its resinous side echoes the Pine Needles, and its earthy facet adds to that of the woody Mosses (Evernia furfuracea) — evoking the undergrowth — which also offer ambery notes. These voluptuous Ambery Notes dance in the base of Dancing Light, hand in hand with the tender mellow Musks.
Flash Back starts with a burst of freshness and vitality: both sparkling with citrus notes such as the essence of Red Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), Orange (Citrus sinensis), and green notes with a Rhubarb facet that gives it a joyful, tangy, fruity note, which recalls the rhubarb pie of our childhood.
The heart of the fragrance is adorned by the floral and fruity facets of the essence of Pink Pepper (Schinus molle). As for the base of Flash Back, it combines the essence of Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) with that of Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), whose smoky and woody facets are rounded off by Musks and ambery notes. The latter also brings a mineral facet.
The contrast between the humus facet of Vetiver and the woody-dry facet of Cedar reminds us of the diversity of scents that mother nature can offer us.
A real stroll through the mists of an undergrowth!
The variety of notes in Flash Back is such that they seem to juggle under our noses, juxtaposing each other along the rhythm of its composition.
From the top of the perfume comes the peppery Pink Pepper (Schinus molle), with their slightly zesty edge. A quite expensive raw material that blends well with the woody facet of the perfume, which it enhances thanks to its floral-spicy side. The latter ingredient acts as a junction between the head and the heart.
Chambre Noire quickly reveals its heart of Egyptian Jasmine (Grandiflorum Jasmine) – a dark Jasmine – both animalistic and floral, but that’s not all! Papyrus (Cyperus scariosus), from which the fragrant rhizome is extracted (like Vetiver) brings a spicy facet to the woods of the perfume, while matching them with its earthy facet reminiscent of Vetiver (a woody ingredient). Allied to Jasmine is the Violet accord with its floral-powdery side and its little fruity-strawberry note.
Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) is clearly sensed, emphasizing the sensual woody character of the fragrance. It is a very balsamic Incense, a facet supported by the Vanilla Absolute (Vanilla planifolia), itself sweet and creamy. Its spicy side matches perfectly with Pink Berries, and Papyrus, which each have characteristic spicy notes. Rounded by Vanilla, the Prune accord is fruity and sweet, and echoes the fruity side of Violet.
In the base we have the Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) and Sandalwood (Santalum album) couple. The yellow flower facet of Sandalwood resonates with Jasmine (white flower) and its lactonic facet with Vanilla and Musks. The woody-earthy Patchouli and its dark chocolate note combines with the sweet facet of Vanilla to awaken our taste buds through gustatory notes! The association of these two woody raw materials to Incense accentuates its woody-resinous power and gives an Oud effect (Aquilaria malaccensis).
The Musks have a creamy facet that matches the milky Sandalwood, as well as a fruity side reminiscent of red fruits, combining with the Prune accord at heart. Vanilla, with its spicy side, joins the head of Pink Berries, and makes the spices persist in the base. The Leather accord offers an opulent and bewitching base, whose animalistic facet matches that of Vanilla and Musks.
In Rose Shot, we have very fresh, acidulous start, typical of citrus. This one is particularly lemony, thanks to the essence of Bergamot (Citrus bergamia). We feel immediately the Turkish rose (Rosa damascena) in this complex rose “soliflore” (perfumes olfactively built around a main floral raw material). We encounter a fresh rose, belonging to the "rose essence" type, with a fruity lychee/pear facet and a little artichoke aspect. Lychee and artichoke are representative of natural rose essences and absolutes, unlike synthetic rose recompositions, which do not offer these facets.
Rose essence like the one present in Rose Shot, has more rosy alcohols that are top notes (mainly citronellol and geraniol), while rose absolute is composed mostly of heart notes (phenyl ethyl alcohol). This explains the singular freshness of the rose essence when compared to rose absolute.
The head of the perfume is also aromatic with a strong peppery side given by the essence of Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) and Pink Pepper (Schinus molle), both spicy raw materials with a lemony facet due to their component limonene (also present in citrus raw materials).
In the heart, the White flower lactones are associated with the rose to enhance the floral dimension of the fragrance, and bring a creamy-lactonic aspect.
The base reveals itself gradually, following the freshness of this top noted rose. Atlas Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) is recognizable thanks to its milky-sandalwood facet. This one underlines the lactonic white flowers found in the heart. Guaiac wood (Guaiacum sanctum) intensifies the woody base of Rose Shot while offering vanilla and smoky facets, which make it so recognizable and pleasant! Finally, the Tree Moss Absolute (Evernia furfuracea) adds a woody-mossy touch with a slight leathery facet, providing depth to the fragrance.
The start possesses a bursting and metallic facet attributed to Iris aldehydes. We immediately perceive the Iris (Iris pallida), modern and powdery, as usual. Its woody-dry, earthy, almost dusty side radiates the fragrance from the heart.
The top is also very spicy offering us the finesse of the essence of Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), both fresh by its zesty and aromatic side which does not escape us, and warm by its cinnamic and oriental facet.
The "queen of spices", marries its colder but equally delicious mate, the Pink Pepper of Madagascar (Schinus molle), which doubles the aromatic facet with its peppery side. It also merges the top and the heart of this soliflore through its floral aspect. Blackcurrant Bud absolute (Ribes nigrum), a natural raw material of the green family with a distinctive sulfuric side, brings vitality and naturalness to the ensemble.
Iris Shot is a consistent and linear Iris, faithful to its precious rhizomes, whose scent can only be extracted after 6 years (three years of cultivation and three years of drying).
The Almond milk accord is gradually revealed by its soft and almondy facet, reminiscent of unctuous flavored desserts. This balsamic note rounds out the proud Iris to sweetly envelop it. The essence of Carrot Seed (Daucus carota), accentuates the beautiful Iris even more as both ingredients share a woody, earthy facet, truly rooted in the soil.
Very "heart" fragrance by its star flower, the base still finds its place as Virginian Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana), brings a different woody dimension, more resinous, evoking the bark of the American tree. The Haitian Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanoïde), brings a moist touch contrasting with the dry character of the other ingredients, as well as a smoky facet of its own!
Ambroxan, which appropriately bears its name, brings a powerful ambery note to the base, contributing to the fragrance's substantivity.
An elegant and cocoon-like fragrance, Iris Shot explores genres by bringing back to life a beautiful flower, long associated with rice powders and lipsticks in cosmetics.
In this third opus of the floral trilogy of the Sepia collection, our noses immediately perceive the Violet Leaf (Viola odorata) and its green facet. Distant cousin of the Violet accord – typical of the 19-20th century – which interprets the scent of the powdery and slightly fruity-strawberry Violet flower, the Leaf on the other hand has a leathery aspect. Still among the green notes, the Cut Grass accord – composed thanks to the cis 3 hexenol molecule – obviously matches this green vegetal aspect, so natural, of Violet Shot's key ingredient.
At the top, we also feel a fresh and sour touch... It's the Calabrian Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)! The spices do not escape our senses, olfactory family acting as a link between the top and the heart of the fragrance, they’re represented by the Pink Pepper (Schinus molle) and the Saffron (Crocus sativus). The first, with its zesty and peppery facets, blends well with the Mandarin, as well as with the upcoming woody notes in the base; the second is spicy but also subtly floral matching the floral-Violet facet.
Remember that Saffron originates from the pistils of a flower related to Iris and has a fruity facet through its characteristic molecule, safranal. These two spices are both endowed with great freshness.
The woody facet of Violet Leaf supports the woody base given by Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), also sharing with it a certain earthiness.
The base also includes Labdanum (Cistus ladaniferus), both ambery and resinous. Excellent ally of the spicy notes, another one of its assets is to boost floral notes! The sweet and spicy Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) offers a continuity to the spicy top notes that are found in a warmer form in this ingredient containing spicy molecules such as benzyl cinnamate and anisic aldehyde – cinnamic and metallic. Also used for its ambery note in leathery and floral fragrances – as in Violet Shot – the latter rounds out the base with its balsamic facet.
Did you also notice the delicate leathery aspect in the fragrance? This is due to the presence of several iconic leathery raw materials like the star Violet Leaf, Saffron, and Patchouli, all of which offer elegant leathery notes.
A fragrance with green, woody, floral, ambery and leathery facets, this combination by Dominique Ropion – a perfumer who knows how to handle the art of floral compositions better than anyone else – delights our nostrils with an incredibly original Violet, true to its leaf, whose green and woody facets are given pride of place.
It' s a natural, deep and sensual Violet that Violet Shot embodies.
PINK PEPPER AS A PERFUMERY RAW MATERIAL
Belonging to the spicy family, the scent of Pink Pepper is not only peppery – no joke, irony intended – but also fruity, floral and even anis-like. These unusual facets for a spicy natural raw material have made it stand out among other spicy ingredients and conferred it such refined identity.
H2O VS CO2
If a hydrodistillation process is enough to extract the essential oil from the dried then crushed berries with a 5% yield ; the fruits can also be treated by supercritical CO2 extraction for a better quality essence.
The olfactive profile of such essence is considered even more refined and quite distinct, although they are used in a very similar way regarding fragrant compositions.
SCHINUS PLUS PLUS
With uniqueness comes priceless, and Pink Pepper is no exception to such phrase. One kilogram of essence extracted with supercritical CO2 costs about 1000 euros; the regular essence’s price is not too far behind with a price per kilogram of 200 euros !
Supercritical CO2 extraction is an extremely advanced and costly process leading to very high priced – but exquisitely precise on a olfactive level – extracts.
This luxury characteristic justifies Pink Pepper extract’s perfect fit for high end fine and niche perfumery.
When composing fragrances, Pink Pepper essence tends to be replaced by Black Pepper and Elemi – Canarium luzonicum a woody-spicy raw material – for price reasons. These two ingredients remain cheaper and also possess spicy facets.
BERRIED FROM THE INSIDE OUT
This heart note, renowned for its unequalled freshness within the spices’ world, has the ability to uplift many fragrances – both feminine, masculine, and gender-free. Although, it’s commonly employed with other spicy and woody notes among the still-gendered men’s perfumes (found in fine fragrance).
MULTITASKING DONE RIGHT
The complexity of its scent gives character to transparent floral notes such as lily of the valley, and hedione – a molecule found in traces in Jasmine. On another hand, it’s got the magic of softening intense floral notes! Awesome, don’t you agree?
And that’s not all, Pink Pepper also combines wonderfully with citrus, green notes and musks – thanks empress freshness!
ALL PINK EVERYTHING
Pink Pepper is THE ultimate natural product of modern perfumery!
No random perfumes count Pink Pepper among their ingredients – a whole bunch of classics actually!
Estée Lauder’s most pleasurable floral green fragrance by Alberto Morillas (Firmenich), Pleasure, launched in 1995; and Kenzo’s floral-musky success, Flower (2000) both honor the spice!
Pink Pepper is considered a cold spice just like Cardamom and Black Pepper. This is due to its olfactive profile which offers refreshing top notes just like limonene.
Schinus molle is composed essentially of quite volatile compounds like terpenes (about 90%) such as the commonly found D-limonene.
Its cousin Schinus terebenthifolia possesses the following chemical profile: D-limonene (15%), alpha-pinene (25%), myrcene (20-25%), alpha-phellandrene (15-20%), delta-cadinene (9%), and cadinol (7%).
These percentages are very similar for both Schinus molle and Schinus terebenthifolia, although the latter contains almost 10% of delta-cadinene, whereas Peruvian Pink Pepper contains nearly none of this compound.
Regulation-wise these essences are not regulated by the IFRA but (there’s always a but) they do contain an allergen… D-limonene!
A CURATIVE PLANT
Schinus molle has been used for centuries – if not more – and up to this day by local populations for its healing virtues, putting to good use its antiseptic and antibacterial characteristics.
These little red berries have also been found to treat rheumatism, depression and even toothache! Shamans from Central-America still employ the young leaves for cleansing purposes during ceremonies, perpetuating their traditions.
Moreover, it’s placed in the Peruvian countryside to delimitate the agricultural fields, and burned as combustible.
Pre-Columbian times also extensively used the plant. The leaves have been employed ever since to dye textiles, and the berries to make “chicha” a typical alcoholic drink. This yummy practice dates from around 600-1000 AD among the Wari people (southern Peru).
They definitely already knew how to get the best out of it – cheers!
Anna Grézaud-Tostain for Olfactive Studio @therawmaterialist