My daughter likes to claim that she is a Nutmegger, that is, a native of Connecticut. I don’t like to tell her the origin of the state nickname. It’s actually a folk memory of the local cottage industry in the days of the tall ships, when the Connecticut natives would toss hand-whittled “nutmegs” into baskets of the fantastically expensive real thing in order to up the weight and cheat trading partners.
Well, everybody should have a hobby, and that was how they got through the long winters back in Stamford and New London a hundred and fifty years ago.
Nutmeg as a spice and a smell is perennially attractive. My daughter is true to her heritage in loving the taste. Nutmeg is rare though in perfumery. For years my best reference was in Guerlain’s veteran vetiver: Vetiver. In fact, and full disclosure here, that was one reason why I always had a bottle on hand (and still do). Just so I could smell the nutmeg. You can smell it in the Killian’s Straight to Heaven too, battling it out with Mr. Killian’s favorite cedarwood for perfume domination. Serge Lutens Arabie is another sophisticated scent with a distinct nutmeg note in it, but no one really features nutmeg nearly nude.
That is, except for Jo Malone.
I’ve always liked their Nutmeg & Ginger. It hasn’t received the rave reviews that Lime Basil & Mandarin did, but it is still one of the best of the Jo Malones, together with Vanilla & Anise. The ginger is mostly a sparkling effervescing effect before you get to the nutmeg which settles down nicely on skin (and is a far better accompaniment to Thanksgiving Dinners- to my mind- than Etat Libre’s “Like This”). Nutmeg & Ginger sounds homely but works out to a respectable, even sophisticated, spicy oriental fragrance on skin, a good alternate for people who like Opium or L’Origan, and a very good base for other perfumes.
Jo Malone has so many things in its line up, that it can be overlooked as a brand, because that brigade of bottles can seem intimidating. In many ways its business model is similar to the hipper Memoire Liquide. You buy an accord or two, and then build up your own scent. I don’t think the public is comfortable with this idea, but at any rate, among the accords they sell, Nutmeg & Ginger is one of the best, and is sadly under-rated.
When I was at Bergdorf’s recently, I ran into a brand spokesman who taught me a few tricks concerning Nutmeg & Ginger and layering. The first is that you can easily make the bath oil into an after bath lotion by combining a couple of doses with some hot water. He said that some of his clients used this in a spritz bottle as a way to beat winter skin and as a base for layering other fragrances on top. Pretty neat, no? It’s economical too, as the oil is less expensive than the colognes.
As to what worked on top of Nutmeg & Ginger, tried and true combinations were Jasmine & Mint, Grapefruit, Orange Blossom and Wild Fig & Cassis. I might also add that the new Blackberry & Bay may be worth a try. You get a whole range of orientals/floral orientals by using this method. I’d experiment with samples first to get a sense of what you prefer.
For my daughter, I’m guessing the smell of childhood would be close to Nutmeg & Ginger’s possibly combined with a vanilla note. She’s grown up in a household that bakes, and usually macerates vanilla beans in bourbon, and that routinely grates nutmeg into macaroni and cheese. There are worse smells to grow up with, and after all, once a nutmegger….