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….

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8 Responses to Nutmegery

  1. Liza says:

    Nutmeg & Ginger sounds like fun; I’ll have to check it out next time I’m around the Jo Malones. Cacharel pour L’Homme is another scent with a very prominent nutmeg note (at least the vintage was, I’m not sure about the current version).

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Cacharel pour Homme…hm, I’ll have to try that one. In the Nutmeg and Ginger it’s much more nutmeg than ginger-hence this post- but as I personally like nutmeg, it’s all to the good.

  2. fleurdelys says:

    Yummy! That’s a great idea, using the bath oil as an after-bath spritz. And I love rich and spicy fragrances during the winter, so it would make an excellent base for me.

    I’ve always thought the gardenia flower smelled like nutmeg, and can detect it in fragrances like Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia and Truth or Dare.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      The spritz advice came from a brand representative at Sniffa, nice guy and a bird watcher in his spare time, but he said the clients had worked out the spritz bottle idea. It works. I tried it for a week, and it was a pleasant thing to do on your way to bed.
      A nutmeg note in gardenia is an interesting observation. I never noticed it in Tuberose Gardenia, and I haven’t got around to Madonna’s scent- but I will now. There is something sort of like nutmeg in Ineke Ruhland’s Hothouse Flower, but that is predominantly fig on me, other people perceive that differently, more gardenia less fig, but now I’ll check for nutmeg!

  3. Mals86 says:

    Mmmmm, nutmeg. I bought The CEO a bottle of CSP L’eau du Gouverneur because of its lovely dry spice – and he doesn’t like it, never wears it (pout pout). I steal it from time to time, because it’s not terribly masculine, and it lasts for houuurrrs on me, despite being EdT. (Notes: citrus, nutmeg, allspice, clove, black pepper, vetiver, cedar, tonka, musk.)

    Intrigued by the bath oil spritzer idea. I usually find that Jo Malones don’t last long on me at all, but perhaps the oil… hmm.

    A favorite spice-vanilla scent for me is that Smell Bent One I keep mentioning. No overt nutmeg, but cardamom and perhaps a bit of cinnamon. It’s somewhat dry, but sits between Dzing! (which is FANTASTICALLY dirty on me) and spice cake, which is my favorite cake flavor after vanilla.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Smell Bent is a new area for me. But spice scents are good, so will have to try it. Why did you mention spice cake, it has given me such a food cue! I’ll be thinking about it forever now.
      The oil lasted a couple of hours on me, bear in mind, I have skin more retentive than a puppy with a Sunday Shoe. Usually I’m relieved when a scent only lasts three hours. N&G reasonably long lived therefore.

  4. Meg says:

    A) Are we identical cousins? Because in my family, you NEVER serve a baked macaroni without plenty of nutmeg in the mornay sauce. :)

    B) My favorite nutmeg note in a perfume can be found in Histoires de Parfums’ Jules Verne 1828… but nothing beats a dusting of the genuine article on the surface of a goodly serving of eggnog.

    C) Remind me, my friend, to bring my perfumer’s essence of nutmeg for you to sniff when we see each other next. It manages to be subtle and assertive at the same time, all leading up to lovely.

    D) One of my nicknames growing up was NutMeg. Guess why. :)

    • They must have left us in identical handgrips in the cloak room of Victoria
      Station! And we are both Ernest, aren’t we?

      The nutmeg is important in macaroni, the daughter says it is crucial, and I would love to smell essence of nutmeg, whether or not the bearer of said nut is a Nutmeg or a Meg.

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