Pink Berries or Pink Peppercorns in Perfumes

If you’ve ever wondered what “solar musk,” “lunar petals” or “electric vanilla” smell like, you aren’t alone. 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. 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.” The name hints at the scent of strawberries or raspberries, but instead, “pink berries” is a literal translation of baies roses, French for “pink pepper.” The rose colored berry of the shrub Schinus molle is unrelated to the black pepper plant, but it has a spicy, sharp scent reminiscent of crushed peppercorns with a touch of violet. Its presence in perfumes is confined to the top notes where it reveals its fiery temperament, but pink pepper’s piquancy is without bite. It softens readily, allowing the subsequent layers to shine, be they flowers or woods.

Michael Edwards’s database “Fragrances of the World” includes more than 1200 fragrances featuring pink peppercorns in one form or another, but this note is of recent vintage. It was made popular by Estée Lauder’s Pleasures in 1995. Attempting to give radiance to the rich bouquet of rose, jasmine and peonies, perfumers Annie Buzantian and Alberto Morillas added a large dose of pink pepper essence. The spicy note offset the lush heft of the floral accord, without compromising the gauzy character of the perfume. A formula for success was born.

A similar pairing of flowers and pink pepper can be found in Chanel 28 La Pausa and Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir. The former is an understated etude of iris edged in spice, while the latter is a baroque confection layered with moss, myrrh and patchouli. Narciso Rodriguez’s masculine scent titled simply Narciso Rodriguez for Him sets this trendy note into a classical lavender accord, while Eau d’Italie’s Jardin du Poete uses it to create an impression of a green tangerine.

Pink pepper can end up as an olfactory cliché.  Do most florals need it as a perfunctory addition? Does the relaunch of Givenchy L’Interdit, a perfume created for Audrey Hepburn in 1957, require it for a “modern touch”? I think not. On the other hand, Aedes de Venustas’s Palissandre d’Or makes a case for this popular material. The perfume smells of smoky tea, antique books and fine tobacco. Pink pepper with its mellow sizzle adds to the quirky yet elegant impression. It won’t come as a surprise that the hand behind this composition is that of Alberto Morillas, one of the creators who made us fall in love with pink pepper in the first place.

Do you have favorite fragrances with pink pepper?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • GinaP: Several months ago, I finally cam down with COVID after three years of working very hard not to. I was traveling and happened to have my bottle of Nuit de Tubereuse with me. The first day of being sick my olfactory system seemed fine. The second day, however, when I tested it by sniffing my perfume–lo and behold, all I could detect was pink pepper! I’ve never quite isolated it in that perfume (which is one of my favorites) before. But there it is was, standing all alone, asserting itself. September 22, 2023 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I also lost my sense of smell after I had COVID and it took a few weeks to return. I kept testing myself by smelling my spice box in the morning, and pink pepper was one of the first things I could smell (along with lavender). You would think that it’s a fresh, light scent, but it’s really bright and effervescent. I fell in love with it all over again. September 22, 2023 at 9:34am Reply

  • Alityke: I admit to having a soft spot for EL Pleasures.
    Back in the 90’s EL did a set of LE’s of Pleasures, each bringing one of the floral aspects to the fore. I really wanted to try it with pink pepper in overdose September 22, 2023 at 9:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I do too. I don’t wear it, but I really enjoy smelling it on others. September 22, 2023 at 10:42am Reply

  • MmkinPA: My favorite with pink pepper is Lolita Lempicka Si Lolita. Definitely has the spicy without bite element, tickles the nose just a bit and makes it unique in my collection. Somewhere along the way I acquired a travel spray of Moschino Toy Boy which has the same feeling. September 22, 2023 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Si Lolita really does have a beautiful pink pepper note. So vibrant! September 22, 2023 at 10:43am Reply

  • matty1649: I have si lolita it’s very nice September 22, 2023 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Another vote for this pretty perfume. September 22, 2023 at 10:45am Reply

  • Ana S.: Such beautiful, vibrant note in perfumery! I’ll have to agree Sí by Lolita Lempicka. But i also admire its use in Bottega Veneta, where it helps to brighten up the darker elements. September 22, 2023 at 1:46pm Reply

  • Potimarron: I like Chypre Sublime by Floral Street. The pink pepper lifts it, I think. September 23, 2023 at 3:01am Reply

    • Alice: Another vote for Chypre Sublime by Floral Street. I’d be interested to hear what others think of that range. October 2, 2023 at 12:20pm Reply

  • John Luna: Thank you of reminding me of Narciso Rodriguez for Him…I was sad to learn that it had been discontinued. My son loved it’s ‘wet cement’ accord) — I still have a sealed bottle tucked away for him somewhere. Your identification of a violet-like facet in pink pepper is very interesting to me… I agree that perfume pyramids should generally be treated an an inspiration board more than an ingredients list, but do detect pink pepper, a named ingredient, in Guerlain’s Heritage; interestingly, violet appears as another of its listed notes in the fragrance as well, at least on (the admittedly not-always-accurate) Fragrantica website. September 23, 2023 at 3:09am Reply

  • Nina Z: Thanks so much for this article! I didn’t know much about pink pepper and it was fascinating to hear the background. After all these years I still love learning about the history of perfume and how it is made. September 23, 2023 at 8:19am Reply

  • Aurora: Pink pepper is so popular, it is inthe top notes of Le Couvent Fort Royal and as you would expect Fragrantica got confused and describes it as wild berries. I wonder which perfume used pink pepper first? September 26, 2023 at 2:54pm Reply

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