Smell of the week: Allspice

A fitting final installment in the spices of mince pies, allspice’s name hails from its blending scent characteristic of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Allspice, however, is its own spice and comes from the Myrtaceae family (like cloves and others in this series), in the genus Pimenta. The Pimenta dioica tree is related to bay laurel, and, similarly, the leaves are used in cooking (but removed before serving or eating). Like cloves, allspice is versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury cooking. Having it’s origins in Jamaica, we find it featuring in the cuisine of the island.

The fruit from the Pimenta dioica is dried into peppercorn-like berries and when distilled into an essential oil, eugenol is a key volatile (along with caryophyllene and methyleugenol). A nice summary of its chemistry is here.

As with the other spices, allspice is best ground fresh. While we’re at it, here’s a nice holiday spice guide. Next week, continuing with the mincer theme, the fruits of mince pies!


Published by Kara C. Hoover

I am a bioanthropologist living in Alaska studying human olfactory variation and prehistoric human health and diet.

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