Skip to main content

Piper Nigrum - Over-looked and under-rated

I had to make some decant samples last week, one of which was Piper Nigrum by Lorenzo Villoresi. This is one of the first niche scents I owned, a gift from a friend after a trip to Florence. I’d told her she should visit the LV shop in Via de' Bardi in Florence,  a 15th century palazzo owned by his family, and have a perfume created for her, which she did. She was  thrilled with the whole “once-in-a-lifetime”experience, and wanted me to share some of the Villoresi brilliance – hence the gift of Piper Nigrum.

Lorenzo Villoresi isn’t a household name (maybe in Florence) and it’s a small niche brand. Villoresi didn’t train as a perfumer, his passion for exotic scents developed after a trip to North Africa in 1981, and he launched his brand in 1990 with pot-pourris and scents for the home. Personal fragrances were added later, and the custom design business of personal or “bespoke” scents continues to draw the rich and famous to his studio.

In 2006, he was awarded the Prix François Coty, the perfume Oscar, for his Fantasy Collection - the first independent perfumer to receive the award. Villoresi has an unmistakable heavy-handed style, using intense, strong notes such as citrus, spices and resins, which can result in a love ‘em or hate ’em reaction for some noses.  

On his website, Villoresi describes The Fantasy Collection as “olfactory visions of exotic worlds” and  Piper Nigrum as a “ seducing fragrance of peppers and African spices. Reminiscences of oriental and Arab markets on the Mediterranean sea: fresh, aromatic, spicy and peppery.”

Piper Nigrum is a WOW fragrance. The name Piper Nigrum translates as Black Pepper, and pepper is the central note from top to bottom, but before you say, “Yuck, no thanks!”, read on, because this is a pepper you’ve never experienced............

The first notes are an assault of green - mint, fennel, herbs - strong and medicinal. This is a perfume??? pepper, intense and sneezeable, but so aromatic and tantalizing. The mint starts to fade first after five minutes or so, followed by the fennel, and is replaced by cedar and sandalwood, the scented resins creating an incense-like accord with the pepper. This is starting to smell deliciously exotic and Middle Eastern, even more so when the clove, nutmeg and rosemary enter the mix.... I can see a line of camels loaded with their precious cargo of spices, moving slowly over the desert sands.

The fragrance softens with the base notes – amber, myrrh, benzoin, balsam, more woods -  their sweetness contrasting with the dry pepper. At this point, about half an hour after the first spritz, Piper Nigrum takes on a creamy quality that lasts and lasts, every so often releasing a snippet of mint, or anise, or clove, but through it all  is the unique note of the black pepper – dry, spicy, resinous. Unlike some of Villoresi’s other scents, this fragrance is complex and surprising, with a rich satisfying dry-down and long duration, which I love in a perfume.

Piper Nigrum has a unique quality that I rarely find in other fragrances. It’s built on contradictions – all the other notes contrast dramatically with the black pepper – resulting in a scent much different than its individual parts. Dry and aromatic, cool and green, spicy and sweet, resinous and creamy, there is something hypnotic about it, natural and pure, like opening up the spice drawer and inhaling deeply. It is one of my "go-to" scents when I want to feel calm and clear-headed.

Piper Nigrum is one of my favourite Oriental fragrances, and I wear it in winter and summer, because it is so darned brilliant. I don’t think that it’s received the recognition it should, so I’m telling you - try it. See if I’m right.

Piper Nigrum is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.


I love this scent!

I have a sample of Piper Nigrum that I get friends to try when I'm having the "Okay, you might think you won't like this but wait until you smell it" conversation about unconventional perfumes. I looooove it--and pretty well everyone I know who has sniffed it has been blown away by it. Thanks for a great post on it, Kay!

Re: I love this scent!

I love that game, too - most people can't name the pepper note as pepper, if you don't tell them about it first - they'll say they like/love it, and ask what it is. It's such an unusual smell in a fragrance, and now that you know it, you'll be able to identify it in other scents you smell - try Poivre Piquante from L'Artisan. But Piper Nigrum is the best interpretation of the pepper note that I've ever come across! -definitely FBW.