This blog is for anyone, anywhere on their fragrance journey.

What Does Cardamom Smell Like?

Table of Contents

With its beautiful emerald green pods and spicy-sweet scent, cardamom is one of the loveliest spicy notes in perfumery. An excellent addition to perfumes of all kinds, both male and female, the sweet, spicy, resinous scent of cardamom adds an exotic flare and compelling depth. 
It’s also a staple in Indian cuisine, used in a number of curries and in flavoring chai tea. Considered the queen of spices (with pepper being the king… I have no clue why), it carries with it a weighty reputation and a heady smell.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what cardamom smells like, a brief history of cardamom, and some popular perfumes with cardamom in them. 

Let’s dive in (nose first, of course).

What is Cardamom?

Cardamom is a spice with years upon years of history, used as everything from a perfume element to a culinary ingredient. There are two types of cardamom: black and green. Black cardamom is, obviously, black, but smells more earthy. Green cardamom is more bright (in smell), with more freshness and an almost minty accord. 

Also known as cardamone, these plants grow to be about 6-15 feet in height and thrive in tropical climates. Hence, cardamom’s popularity in India going back over 3,000 years to the Vedic age, and its intermingling with myth and religion. 

It’s the third most expensive spice, and has a historic association with oriental opulence. It is said that Cleopatra used to burn cardamom perfume before her dates with Mark Antony. When she was sailing in to see him, she would perfume the sails of her ship so that he would smell her advent on the breeze. 

Very romantic. 

The rest of the Ancient Egyptians used it as a perfume (though on a lesser scale), as an incense, and to whiten their teeth. 

It later (but still a long time ago) became a staple of Ancient Greek perfumery. 

In the east, they were busy making cardamom tea, where, in China, it was considered the key to longevity. 

All this is to say that, throughout history, cardamom has played a pretty important role for a spice. The Greeks, being the Greeks, developed a method for distilling their favorite scents into a more pure essence, and the modern scent of cardamom was born. 

Today, cardamom is used widely in perfumery and with heavy prevalence in cooking in Southeast Asia. It’s the most popular spice in India, and flavors many curries and massalas, in addition to chai tea. 

Let’s take a look at what cardamom smells like. 

What Does Cardamom Smell Like?

We’ll start with green cardamom, as that’s the variety more commonly used in perfumery. Cardamom smells warm, spicy, and sweet. It’s resinous and often described as ambrosial (maybe because of its Greek history?). While warm, cardamom also smells fresh and invigorating. 

Black cardamom smells more smoky and earthy, and is commonly used in conjunction with amber, vanilla, and musk to add depth and counter the sweet smoothness. Black cardamom has a skin-like quality, and a luxurious softness sometimes compared to suede. Read more about vanilla in our guide to vanilla

In either case, cardamom is the rare spice that is applicable in all of the fragrance families, and this is because of its almost counterintuitive profile. It’s both aromatic and spicy, warm and sweet yet fresh. There aren’t a lot of notes that can boast this, and it’s part of what makes cardamom so charming — and so widely used. 

How is Cardamom Used in Perfumery

Cardamom is a very popular perfume note in both men and women’s perfumes, and can be used in all perfume families. That said, it works particularly well in ambreés, orientals, and other similar families. 

Adding green cardamom often brightens a composition, invigorating it and adding some zest. It also adds an aromatic freshness while still being sweet-spicy. For these reasons, it’s commonly used as a top note, and is quite common in men’s perfumes.  

Black cardamom, on the other hand, is used in more heavy scents because of its eartheir, smoky nature. It adds smoothness and a natural spice, with less freshness than green cardamom. It smells very elegant and is quite potent.

Perfumers generally prefer Guatemalan green cardamom, as it’s brighter and adds an even more vibrant freshness. 

Production of pure cardamom essence is fairly labor intensive, thus driving up its price further — the cardamom seeds are removed from the pods before being flattened and steam distilled. 

Men’s Fragrances With Cardamom

As you’ve seen, cardamom is very popular in fragrances. Here are some of our favorite men’s fragrances with cardamom:

  • La Nuit de L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent is a fantastically sensual men’s scent with cardamom. Ruled by a subtle masculinity that resorts to subtle caresses, La Nuit de L’Homme whispers where other perfumes shout. If you’re looking for one of the best smelling men’s perfumes ever, you have to give this a try. Learn more in our full review
  • Layton Parfums de Marly is a delicious masculine sweet perfume with cardamom in the base. It’s warm, relatively heavy, and lasts for ages. With notes like lavender, apple, violet, sandalwood, and vanilla, it’s amazing in the three cooler seasons.  
  • Azzaro The Most Wanted is a sweet men’s scent with cardamom that basks in its simplicity: with just three notes, cardamom, toffee, and amberwood, you get great performance and a compliment-drawing allure. If you’re looking for a relatively unique cardamom men’s perfume, give The Most Wanted a try. 
  • Le Male Le Parfum by Jean Paul Gaultier is a composition featuring cardamom, along with a whole host of other yummy notes. These include iris, vanilla, and “oriental notes.” All this adds up to a dark and mysteriously sweet scent that somehow avoids smelling feminine. If you’re looking for a cardamom perfume for men with a darker draw, this is your guy. 
  • Narciso Rodriguez for Him Bleu Noir Narciso Rodriguez is a really interesting men’s fragrance with cardamom — it’s a sophisticated scent with musk, nutmeg, amber, and woods that excels at getting compliments, particularly in the cooler months. However, this is one scent you’ll want to smell before you buy. 

Women’s Fragrances With Cardamom

Cardamom is being used increasingly in many women’s fragrances. Here are a few of favorites:

  • Intoxicated By Kilian is a gorgeous cardamom heavy scent for women and men. In addition to cardamom, Intoxicated displays notes of coffee, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The result is a refined, romantic scent that smells of gorgeous, sweet spiced coffee. With great longevity, it’s a fantastic night time and cold weather scent. Just beautiful.  
  • Mimosa & Cardamom Jo Malone London is different from others on this list — instead of leaning into the sweet, spicy side of cardamom, this perfume introduces its fresh, aromatic side. This scent is very floral and elegant, and it’s reminiscent of lightly breezy summer sunsets. If you’re looking for a lighter, more elegant scent that retains the depth of cardamom, look no further than Mimosa & Cardamom by Jo Malone London.
  • Starlight by Xerjoff is a cardamom-dominated scent for both women and men with a unique, exotic scent. It’s warm and just smells lovely, with notes of almond, cinnamon, cloves, and amber. I’d recommend this one if you like oriental scents and want a perfume that really displays an accurate and noticeable rendition of cardamom. 
  • La Collection Nu Yves Saint Laurent is a women’s perfume featuring cardamom as a top note. Counterpointing the cardamom are incense, olibanum, orchid, and bergamot. All of this results in a beautifully spicy scent that enchants with its color and sensual depth. It’s very versatile, and lasts a long time on the skin. We’d recommend it if you’re looking for an all around excellent perfume with cardamom. 
  • Rebecca Minkoff Rebecca Minkoff is a warm-spicy women’s perfume perfect for the fall and winter. With heavier notes like tobacco, tonka bean, leather, and patchouli, the dry down is positively magnetic. It evokes girl-who-knows-what-she-wants vibes, and could be worn both professionally and casually, depending on the outfit. It’s very smooth and cozy, evoking visions of chunky sweaters in a winter cabin. It’s just lovely, and for the price, you’d be hard pressed to find better. 


Cardamom smells warm, sweet, resinous, and aromatic. It’s deeply invigorating, and used as an uplifting note in perfumes to inject some vibrancy and color. Additionally, its chai tea flavoring prowess is appreciated the world round. In perfumery, it’s beloved as an aromatic men’s note and a growing presence in women’s perfumes.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and wish you the best of smells.

Isaac Marks

Isaac Marks

Isaac is a fragrance expert from Chicago, Illinois, specializing in smelling good at all times. When he isn't sniffing things, Isaac likes to read, write, run, bake, and play the guitar.

Related Articles

Jack Harbor

Full Time Fragranista

Jack Harbor is an expert in all things scent – from wearing, to mixing, to making perfumes, his expertise is varied and robust. He loves to smell good, and loves helping other’s smell good – for the good of us all!

Jack Harbor

Featured Articles