Black pepper and pink pepper are two popular top notes in perfumery, though pink peppercorns are not, strictly speaking, true pepper. Black pepper—true pepper—comes from the Piper nigrum plant. Its essential oil is distilled from the dried berries, or peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are the fruits of the Schinus molle tree. Both have a woody, stimulating, warm, clean-spice character. Black pepper is more sharp, where pink pepper is softer, and sometimes has subtle floral or fruity aspects. Pepper has high odor intensity, and a little bit can help bring definition to a blend.
Jazmin Sarai Otis & Me is, to me, the ideal black pepper-forward scent. Accented by incense smoke and the grit of dry coffee grounds, its character is simultaneously “dirty” and “clean,” like black pepper itself.
And of course, Blackpepper by Comme des Garcons does justice to its namesake: dry and woody, crackling with cedar and agarwood, with just a hint of tonka bean to smooth out the sharp edges.
For pink pepper, Xinu Copala is a beautiful example—bright and sweet with vanilla, made monastic with copal resin and mesquite smoke. Pink pepper bridges these two sides and forms the backbone of the perfume.
Anna Zworykina My Vanilla puts black pepper at the top of a complex, spiced vanilla, with woods, resins, green galbanum, and a sweet floral heart.
In Pink MahogHany Gent, black pepper and rosewood provide balance for a soft pineapple note.
In Oriza L. Legrand Les Tourterelles de Zelmis, black pepper and saffron add depth to a waxy geranium-rose.
Parfums de Nicolai New York Intense is a powdery, aromatic cologne with citrus and black pepper.
Filigree & Shadow Eperdu is a bright scent with pink pepper and citrus fruits on a dry, woody-sweet vetiver base.