What are Pink Berries?

Fragrance marketing lingo is in a world of its own, and I have given up trying to find the logic behind the use of terms that nobody, not even professionals, can untangle. Perfumers, of course, have their own vocabulary, and the bulk of my perfumery training was learning how to use it correctly. So, the best I can do is to explain some of this vocabulary, both professional jargon and marketing inventions, in a series of installments. In my latest FT column, Pink Pepper Perfumes, I look at the mysterious “pink berries.”

For an introduction, you can also take a look at my Speaking Perfume: A-Z Glossary. It was written four years ago, but is still one of the most quoted articles from Bois de Jasmin. Also, the individual essays on raw materials and accords might be helpful.

pink pepper

“A list of notes describes a perfume’s smell as well as an enumeration of pigments captures Mona Lisa’s smile. While notes can suggest whether a fragrance is predominantly floral, leathery or spicy, they can also be misleading. One example is pink berries. To continue, please click here.”

I wrote the article before I tried the most recent Aedes perfume, Grenadille d’Afrique, but it would be a perfect contender for an innovative take on pink pepper. It was created by Alberto Morillas.

Photography of pink pepper by Bois de Jasmin



  • Solangen: Wow, great article. I had always thought “pink pepper” was a catchall euphemism for the harsh, “buzzy” edge added by “bugspray” musk chemicals. September 15, 2016 at 7:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Pink pepper is one of my favorite essences for its complexity. Smells absolutely wonderful, which anyone can experience for themselves by crushing a few grains. September 15, 2016 at 8:01am Reply

  • Laura P Schulman: Oh, pink peppercorns! I haven’t encountered the oil. I would love to acquire some. Can you suggest a source?


    Laura September 15, 2016 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: I like the pink pepper essence from Mane. Their Pink Pepper Pure Jungle Essence is spicy, sharp and bright. September 15, 2016 at 11:05am Reply

      • Laura P Schulman: Nice, thanks. I like a drop of diluted black pepper to “pick up” a perfume that needs a “je ne sais pa” note 😉 September 15, 2016 at 3:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: Pink pepper has a brighter but less pungent effect. You do have to be careful about stability, however. September 15, 2016 at 3:40pm Reply

  • Jillie: I love to eat and smell pink pepper! The first time I was really aware of it as an element of fragrance was in OJ’s Ta’if and it mesmerized me – it was like smelling a spicy, explosive, pink citrus. As for eating it, I am guilty of adding it to many dishes; I put the berries in a big peppermill which doesn’t really grind them well as they are a bit soft, but I get little tasty pink flecks on the food which add interest to even boring meals. September 15, 2016 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Ta’if is a great example of how well pink pepper can enhance deep, rich notes. It sets the mood.

      I usually keep a jar of pink peppercorns and a small mortar and pestle to crush them, since they tend to clog my grinder otherwise. A combination I’ve been enjoying recently is grapefruit zest, pink peppercorn and basil. It’s very good on fish and on lamb. September 15, 2016 at 11:07am Reply

      • Sarah: I usually buy a mix of peppers, but I want to try pink pepper on its own. September 15, 2016 at 11:17am Reply

        • Victoria: Do try it! It has an interesting violet-like accent. September 15, 2016 at 11:36am Reply

          • Laura P Schulman: Do you ever use star anise in perfumery? September 15, 2016 at 3:12pm Reply

            • Victoria: It’s used in perfumery too, yes. September 15, 2016 at 3:41pm Reply

      • Jillie: That’s another lovely tip, thank you. September 15, 2016 at 11:43am Reply

        • Victoria: I admit that it was inspired by a basil-grapefruit accord Jean-Claude Ellena often uses in his perfumes. September 15, 2016 at 3:41pm Reply

          • Jillie: Victoria, that’s a great inspiration.

            I was inspired once by Jo Malone herself to use her fragrances to scent different courses of a meal (I had read that she did that) – not literally, of course, just the flavours. The best course was the Lime Basil and Mandarin Pannacotta. This was a long time ago and I had been hesitant to use basil in a sweet, but it worked well. I think that these days it’s not such a surprising ingredient! September 16, 2016 at 1:02am Reply

            • Victoria: I can imagine how well it must work. I sometimes make raspberry compote and add a few basil leaves at the end. Basil adds a delicate licorice-pepper flavor. September 16, 2016 at 7:18am Reply

      • mj: Ohh! I have to try that! thanks for the tip September 16, 2016 at 3:04am Reply

  • Nick: Hello, Victoria. Great to see the peppery creamy opening of 28 La Pausa mentioned. I think Les Exclusifs Gardénia and Terre d’Hermès also have that dry, peppery — not quite the hot pepper, but recalling parts of it — in the opening as well?

    And, long time no see! Catching up on your articles! September 15, 2016 at 10:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Terre d’Hermes Eau de Toilette has a nice pink peppercorn note. Paired with the mineral, flinty dryness of the composition, it’s so exhilarating.

      Hope that you’re well! September 15, 2016 at 11:09am Reply

  • solanace: I love pink pepper, especially in my fish tartare. In perfume, I can’t quite get it. Pink pepper trees are quite common here, they look cute. September 15, 2016 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: The foliage is very pretty. I used to think that pink pepper grew on vines, so, I was curious to spot trees during one of my visits to Spain. September 15, 2016 at 11:11am Reply

  • Sarah: Thank you for this article. Whenever I read pink berries, I thought it might be something like strawberries or raspberries. September 15, 2016 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Quite reasonable! It’s the marketing people who don’t bother to think things through when they come up with the lists of notes. September 15, 2016 at 11:35am Reply

  • Geraldine Ethen: Do you know if pink berries are available in Portugal? I’m going there in March. September 15, 2016 at 11:29am Reply

    • Victoria: If it grows in Spain, I suppose it should grow in Portugal, but probably more like an ornamental plant. September 15, 2016 at 11:39am Reply

      • Geraldine Ethen: Thank you, Victoria. I will look for it, ornamental or not. I appreciate your articles which open up my appreciation of so much that is around me and I haven’t had the eyes, ears or nose to notice them! September 15, 2016 at 11:43am Reply

        • Victoria: The leaves also have a delicate perfume, by the way. September 15, 2016 at 3:42pm Reply

    • mj: Hi Geraldine

      I live in Spain and travel frecuently to Portugal. Are you going to be in Lisbon? There, if you want to buy pink berries (pimenta rosa in portuguese) to cook, on option would be going to El Corte Inglés department store. They have a gourmet shop in the premises, El Club del Gourmet, a smallish but very well stocked shop full of difficult to find foodstuffs. Also it could be a great place to buy sardines, Regina chocolate and “natas”, the delicious creme brulee pastries tipycal of Lisbon (also know as Pasteis de Belem)
      Enjoy your trip! September 16, 2016 at 3:11am Reply

      • Victoria: I need to visit our local Portuguese store for some pasteis. September 16, 2016 at 7:19am Reply

        • mj: Portuguese have the best pastries! Every time I go there for business meetings/events I have the best coffee breaks ever. Delicious stuff!

          Then, when I come back home, the scales says another story… 🙂 September 16, 2016 at 8:03am Reply

          • Victoria: I usually buy bread, olive oil, and fruits from our store, and the flavor is so much better than anything I can get from a supermarket. September 16, 2016 at 10:48am Reply

      • Nick: Dear mj,

        I love El Corte Inglés! The wide variety of goods and quality services at a resonable to slightly pricey rate there would put many ultra premium department stores to shame. Whenever I visit Spain, one of my missions is to seek out their own brand of freshly squeezed orange juice. At 2,35€ per litre and a 50% discount on the second bottle, I just have to come back to El Corte Inglés! Don’t even let me get started on their choices of spices! September 17, 2016 at 6:51am Reply

  • Alicia: I had no idea of pink peppers, but unknowingly I loved them since I have worn large quantities of Pleasures in the warm seasons, much smaller ones of delicious La Pausa (because it’s fleeting), and I enjoy several of Alberto Morillas’ creations. Have to try Palissandre d’Or. Thank you, Victoria, you’ve send me in a new quest. September 15, 2016 at 11:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Alberto Morillas is one of the most talented perfumers. He can add something special even in the most commercial project, and whenever he works for a brand like Aedes (more creative freedom), the results are especially impressive. September 15, 2016 at 3:45pm Reply

      • Alicia: I agree, Victoria. Morillas is a talented Andalusian. I love his Pleasures, as you know, and several of his other creations. One I tried and was not enthusiastic for was Valentina, for Valentino. From Morillas I expected more, but so much depends on the brief he received. It happens nowadays to all of the great noses, such as Ropion and Duchafour. I am wearing today a perfume you recommended, and I love, Eau de Narcisse Bleu. One of my many debts to you. September 15, 2016 at 4:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: Perfumers have very little say over the final form of these big launches. Plus, Valentina was created by other perfumers, including those who work directly for Valentino’s umbrella organisation, P&G.

          Duchaufour, on the other hand, works independently, so all of the mistakes or inventions are his own. September 16, 2016 at 6:56am Reply

          • Alicia: Well, when I saw Morillas’ and Oliver Cresp’s names, I thought to be on sure grounds. if I would have thought of P&G, it would have been a different story.. Nevertheless, I don’t mind these small disappointments. They are part of the life of a perfume lover. Then, when something lovely appears, one is surprised by joy. September 16, 2016 at 7:38am Reply

            • Victoria: Whenever something has to be market tested as is the case with many big launches, the results will rarely have a strong fingerprint of a perfumer (or perfumers). But you’re right, it’s all par for the course. September 16, 2016 at 10:49am Reply

  • Rita: Pink berries definitely has a nice ring to it! I am learning everyday thank you! September 15, 2016 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy to hear this. 🙂 September 15, 2016 at 3:42pm Reply

  • Triciajo: Great article! I really appreciate all your educational pieces. I would love to know if there is a resource for pronouncing terms. I have to google terms like “sillage” and “bergamot”, because I have no idea how they’re pronounced. September 16, 2016 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, very happy that you find them useful. As for a resource on pronouncing names, specifically French ones, here is a very good site:

      Bella, its owner, occasionally comments here. Also, you can alway email her and ask for a new word to be added. September 16, 2016 at 11:23am Reply

  • Aurora: Great article to clarify things about this spice, Victoria. I have just experimented by crunching on a berry in the kitchen and your description of pepper with a touch of violet is spot on. I have a residual fondness for Kenzo l’Eau and have now discovered it contains pink pepper. September 16, 2016 at 6:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: One of my favorite Kenzos, and yes, the opening is a great example of pink pepper in action. It’s such a shapeshifter of a note, and it works in so many different compositions. September 19, 2016 at 11:46am Reply

  • Jennifer: I just discovered Yves Saint Laurent Elle and have never come across and more beautiful expression of pink peppercorn in a mainstream fragrance. It is so uplifting in this composition, so well-balanced. I’m in love and naturally Elle is discontinued. September 17, 2016 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it has lots of pink pepper. Rose highlighted with pink pepper seems especially sparkling. September 19, 2016 at 11:47am Reply

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