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Calamus in perfumery

Calamus, an aquatic plant that is several millennia old

The calamus is a kind of rush belonging to the arecaceae family, like the palm tree. Its name comes from the Greek calamos which means reed. This one refers to its slender stems almost similar to those of the reed. Calamus is found mainly in Southeast Asia and more particularly in the forests of western Malaysia. In the vast majority of cases, it is a climbing palm that quickly becomes creeping. The diameter of its stems is very variable, ranging from a few millimeters to more than 10 cm. Likewise, its length can be from a few centimeters to more than 200 m! Its leaves are pinnate, thorny or armed with hooks. This plant is, in fact, known for millennia and is part of the ingredients of scented preparations of theancient Mesopotamia. It was used in particular to prepare the famous Egyptian kyphi.

The too often unrecognized smell of calamus

The essential oil of the calamus can be extracted by steam distillation from its rhizomes but also, more rarely, from its foliage. However, note that the composition of the latter can be particularly changing depending on the origin of the calamus used. Thus, some calamus are characterized by their large share of beta-asarone while others contain more methyl-isoeugenol, thus becoming more spicy. If the calamus is an almost biblical scented raw material, it is in fact very little used nowadays. Indeed, its olfactory profile is quite ambiguous and not always easy to associate with other smells. In other words, calamus is an unclassifiable ingredient on the perfumer's palette. It is so rich that it alone contains many fragrant facets,being at the same time spicy, aromatic, herbaceous, green, sweet and leathery. Moreover, the calamus is stitched with contradictions. Indeed, it gives off an almost creamy breath while it has nothing edible.

Today, few perfumes dare to use this product. Nevertheless, the calamus is present in the Dual Water of Dyptique, A Garden on the Nile of Hermes or Actor of Azzaro. Only the Comme des Garçons brand has dared to create a juice entirely dedicated to it. It bears the name of Calamus and was created in 2000.

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