How Clove Essential Oil Lifts The Middle Notes Of Fragrances

Coveted as as a spice down through the centuries because of its warm, sweet and aromatic essence, the name, clove, derives from the French word, clou, which translates into nail and perfectly describes the physical appearance of a single bud. 

Cloves are the dried flower buds of the evergreen clove tree that is native to the Maluccas, which were once known as the Spice Islands, particularly Ambon, where experts believe the oldest clove tree in the world still stands. Clove is a member of the Myrtle family and is related to allspice and eucalyptus. Today The Spice islands are part of Indonesia and the tall clove trees grow there in tropical zones as well as India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

Cloves are considered one of “The Big Four” spices, the other three of which include cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. Generally a dark brown color, the fragrance of clove essential oil is sweet and spicy due to the presence of eugenol (a colorless to pale yellow, aromatic liquid extracted from clove oil).

Clove Modern Perfume Ingredient

Wood, wine and floral traces (lavender) with an added fresh and smooth vanilla further define the fragrance profile so often utilized by our master perfumers at Alpha Aromatics. The fragrance and flavor of clove are reminiscent of home, hearth and holidays. It is also vital to carnation and floral fragrances, and when blended with lavender renders the iconic rondeletia perfume accord. 

In his book, The Art of Perfumery, and Method of Obtaining the Odors of Plants, French perfumer, GW Septimus Piesse, who in the mid-19th century is credited with having classified the odors associated with essential oils according to musical scales, referred to clove and the important perfume accord, Rondeletia, as “…. undoubtedly one of the most gratifying to the smelling nerve that has ever been made…”

Clove Has A Rich And Colorful Past

Ancient Chinese records dating back to 226 BC indicate that the Emperor commanded officers in the Chinese army to chew on clove to eliminate bad breath before speaking with him. Arab traders brought cloves to the European market place, and during the Middle Ages they were used to disguise food that was poorly preserved and retained a sour or bitter taste. 

Clove from Ambon (Spice Islands) became a highly valuable commodity in the 16th and 17th centuries that was said to be valued as the same weight as gold bullion. According to Douglas Bender of Charenton Macerations, “In pursuit of clove, many expeditions were spurred and many wars were fought, mostly involving disputes amongst the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British vying for clove trade domination. But it was the Dutch that ultimately kept control over Ambon and its people, and with it, access to clove…”

Clove As A Modern Perfume Ingredient

Often used in the production of incense and fine perfume formulations, clove offers to the expert perfumers an ingredient that provides a touch of the exotic anywhere it is used. It is an essential component in many of today’s perfume formulations, and is highly prized as a middle note because of its warm, sweet and aromatic qualities.

Clove Essential Oil Fragrances

It is a particularly popular ingredient in spicy, floral, woody and oriental fragrances and it combines especially well with rich amber, cinnamon, aromatic frankincense, pungent, woody myrrh, sensual musk, spicy tonka bean, creamy vanilla, cedar, sandalwood and guaiac wood. It is a spice with deep sweet and woody tones. 

Other effective clove combinations utilized by the chemists at Alpha Aromatics include: slightly sweet and nutty nutmeg, sharp and woody rosemary, floral clary sage and sharp, fresh peppermint. It also blends well with essential oils in the citrus and floral families. Clove is powerful when added to scents that include: complex and spicy bergamot; sweet, fresh orange; lemon; uplifting grapefruit, honeyed tangerine, lime, sweet, strong lavender; earthy geranium, romantic and musky rose, and rich, erotic ylang-ylang.

Clove As A Middle Note

Middle notes are those that evaporate with 2-4 hours of application. In a general Alpha Aromatics formulation, half as much middle note is requited then top, and twice as much as that is used in the base.

Essential Oils Most Used Fragrance NotesExplore our guide to the top essential oils used in each fragrance note.

Clove essential oil adds character and warmth to a blend, and like other middle notes, lasts longer than top notes, even though initially its presence may not always be immediately evident. It can take a few minutes to fully blossom and integrate into the fragrance

12 Little Known Facts About Clove

1. French explorer and botanist, Pierre Poivre, stole seedlings from the 400-year-old clove tree in 1770. He then planted them on the Isle de France and Zanzibar, which later became the world’s largest producer of cloves.

2. While it is well known that fragrant and aromatic clove buds are often used in the production of perfumes, they are also vital ingredients added to incense and as an ant repellent.

3. The flower buds appear at the tips of the branches on the clove tree and are initially a pale green. They become bright red when they are ready to harvest. 

4. Ambon in the Molucca Islands in Indonesia, was the epicenter of trade from the days of  the Chinese merchants in the 8th century. This island was famous for having forests of cloves trees, partly due to the local custom of planting a clove tree whenever a child was born. 

5. It is believed in some cultures that clove used as incense attracts wealth, prosperity and a positive atmosphere. Wearing or carrying cloves is said to attract members of the opposite sex.

6. Ancient Greeks and Romans used clove bud essential oil to help ease toothache pain, a natural remedy that remains popular today.

7. In modern Palestine, clove necklaces are worn by the bride and are also handed out to guests at weddings. Cloves soaked in bath water are part of a bridal ritual performed on the morning of the wedding.

8. In the early days of American settlement, colonists used cloves to stud oranges to create pomanders, which scented homes for the holidays.

9. Clove oil is an anesthetic to fish and is sometimes used as a humane euthanizing agent for fish. 

10. The Dutch wrested control of the Spice Islands from the Portuguese in 1605 and tried to monopolize the clove trade business by destroying clove trees that weren’t a part of their territory. This action caused the islanders to hate them because of the symbolism associated with planting clove trees to commemorate the birth of a child.

11. Approximately one-half of the world supply of clove is sent to Indonesia where it is used to create cigarettes called kreteks, which are made by blending tobacco, clove and other flavors. The word derives from a description of the sound of cloves when they are being burned. They are also smoked throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, where they were  outlawed in 2009 due to their flavoring which, can be attractive to children.

12. Clove bud essential oil is laden with antioxidants and contains high levels of eugenol, which is among the most volatile compounds plants can produce. As such, it has been used for centuries for a variety of different ailments.

Alpha Aromatics And Some Of Our Clove-Infused Fragrances

We are an undisputed leader in the modern perfume industry. Our researchers and chemists have been producing fine perfumes for more than seventy years. Our expertise is unquestioned and unparalleled when it comes to translating any company’s brand into fragrance terms that will attract and engage consumers. 

Our fine compositions are used for a multitude of purposes including but not limited to: superior quality perfumes; scent branding; personal care products; candles and diffusers and fragrances for home cleaning products.  We also have the most diverse repertoire of effective odor neutralizing additives for any application.

Best Odor Control Additives For Scented ProductsExplore our repertoire of odor neutralizing additives.

Our edge over their competitors lies in our state-of-the-art 85,000-square-foot Technology Center, which is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our team of chemists headed by Roger Howell, Vice President of Alpha Aromatics, are always one step ahead of industry trends and our laboratories are equipped with the most advanced tools available within the field of industrial science.

The following are some of our most popular fragrances that include clove in their fine formulations.


This expansive fragrance is the quintessence of autumn, harvest and thanksgiving, from which its horn-of-plenty moniker derives. Potent and woodsy, this sweet, spicy scent is appealing to both sexes. Infused with inviting, fruity and spicy cinnamon, piquant clove, fresh, ripe berries and dried autumn leaves, this enticing blend evokes the sweet smells of home and hearth like nothing else in the world. Conjured images and aromas fill the mind’s eye from holiday cookies, scrumptious pies, apples, cranberries and like the words sung in the velvety, timeless baritone of Nat King Cole, “chestnuts roasting by an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at your nose.”

Cornucopia autumn harvest fragrance

Neroli Citron

Dry aromatic citron, spicy, brisk bergamot, fuzzy, soft apricot and sweet, dark cassis hallmark the top notes of this floral citrus scent. These soon fade into heart notes comprised of fresh garden herbs, lightly floral and bitter neroli and sharp, spicy, carnation and clove. The scent completes with a base note of warm, woody cedar and sensual, creamy and powdery sandalwood. 

Tonka Bean 

This flavorful bean from South America derives its name from coumarin, which is its main ingredient.The name translates to cumaru which in Amazonian dialect is the name for the actual Tonka bean tree. Mystical, gently uncommon and delicious, this essential oil belongs to the oriental category of perfume notes. Top notes of spicy, nutty and warm nutmeg fade into heart notes of fruity cinnamon and piquant, aromatic clove. The scent finishes with base notes comprised of dark, intoxicating patchouli, enticing vanilla and smooth, whipped sandalwood.

Tonka Bean In Scented Products

Warm and Nutty

This subtly complex, sweet and spicy bouquet triggers a delightful journey down memory lane with its blend of aromas reminiscent of home-baked holiday meals and delectable desserts. Certain to please and evoke the pleasant recall of times past, middle notes of cozy and spicy cinnamon, warm, sweet clove and base notes of alluring vanilla and very sweet, creamy and rich caramelized sugar powerfully suggest smelling those roses and buying that special item now. 

For female consumers, this scent is a powerful incentive to shop (and obviously buy) more. This is especially true for those seeking products such as luxury soaps, bath oils and lotions as well as home accessories and appliances that are designed to enhance women’s lives.

Holiday Harvest

This fragrance is a potent blend of warm, spicy cinnamon, pungent, sharp and green eucalyptus, strong, woody and crisp wintergreen, inviting and sweet clove and fresh, clean citrus. It is a holiday scent that evokes a winter kaleidoscope of colorful impressions, swirling and colliding through that all-seeing mind’s eye. Family gatherings, joyful reunions and all the glitter and glorious commotion of the holiday season live and rejoice in this nostalgic scent.

Wild Honey Lotus

Named for a sacred flower steeped in legend and ancient religious symbolism, this intoxicating, sweet floral fragrance is marked by top notes of fresh, sweet and juicy orange and zesty red berry. These soon give way to heart notes of lemony, green geranium, sweet honeysuckle, sugary and romantic rose, spicy, woody clove and haunting blue lotus. The scent completes with a blended base note of warm honey nectar and rich, earthy sandalwood. It is a scent that transports to remote, far away realms with sweet smelling breezes and sparkling sapphire waters.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Reminiscent of scrumptious holiday pies and joyful family celebrations, this complex fragrance captures the quintessence of autumn in all of its splendid colors and aromas. Top notes of nutty and slightly sweet nutmeg tinged with astringent, sour lemon, green and fruity apple, tangy berry and fresh, uplifting melon merge into middle notes of creamy pumpkin, spicy and inviting cinnamon and sweet, aromatic clove. Pumpkin is a powerful and arousing scent for men. Retailers catering to men’s clothing and accessories often incorporate this fragrance into their holiday branding strategy.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte Fragrance


Sweet and warm with a pinch of bright, tart, fresh ginger, this fragrance represents a potent melange of spices that evoke the holiday season and all of its dazzling trappings. Infused with natural essential oils that include the sulfury and sweet caramel aspects of molasses, piquant clove, spicy, creamy vanilla and warm cinnamon leaf, gingerbread provokes powerful memories of childhood, Christmas wonder and gift sharing.

In Conclusion

Clove is a highly valued ingredient in modern perfume formulations. Its presence in a fragrance creates an unforgettable bouquet of delectable aromas. From its mystical origins in the Far East, clove has distinguished itself throughout the world as a vital spice in the art of perfumery.

If you’re a product developer or formulator, product development scientist, senior cosmetic chemist, brand owner or purchaser or you’re a business owner looking to add a fragrance to your product line, call our perfume masters at Alpha Aromatics today. Let us create a unique clove-infused fragrance for your commercial enterprise.

This blog was conceived and created with the insight and observation of our President and CEO, Arnold Zlotnik, along with our amazing Alpha management team members and quality control teams. Learn more about our perfume manufacturing center, our mission and commitment to creating the world’s finest scents while meeting every environmental and quality standard set by RIFM, IFRA, Oregon Tilth, ISSA and the NPA.

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