Allspice (Pimenta dioica)

Allspice (Pimenta dioica) is a dried unripe berry in the Myrtaceae family native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America. A common warming spice, allspice has a comforting, autumnal aroma that comes from the antibacterial compound eugenol.

Now commonly cultivated in warm climates, allspice first became popular in the early 17th century because of its distinct flavor and aroma. The English named the botanical ‘allspice’ because it combined the sweet, warm flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove into one ingredient. While the botanical offers its own unique flavor properties, it is still often included in ingredients lists with those other warming spices to balance and bind them together.

The dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant, allspice is picked when green and unripe and left out to dry under the hot summer sun. These fruits are left until they’re small and shrivelled, resembling peppercorns. In many parts of the world, allspice is called ‘pimento’ because the Spanish once mistook the botanical for black pepper, which is called pimienta.

The allspice we know and love, though, is actually just one part of the Pimenta dioica plant. The Pimenta dioica plant’s leaves are harvested to be used in a similar capacity to bay leaves. In regions where allspice is a local crop, the wood of the Pimenta dioica is also used for smoking meats.

Native to Jamaica, allspice is an important ingredient in Jamaican cuisine like jerk seasoning, with its wood being used to smoke jerk. The spice makes its way into other cuisines as well, featuring prominently in Mexican cooking and in “pimento dram,” an allspice liqueur produced in the West Indies. In the Levant, allspice is used to flavor stews, tomato sauces, and meat dishes, while in northern Europe, it’s often found in sausage, curry powders, and in pickling. 

In the US, allspice is reserved mostly for desserts and drinks, from pumpkin pie to mulled wine. Its sweet, dry aroma lends itself nicely to woodsy, comforting fragrances like Four Thieves, where it joins allspice and clove for a warm scent to balance the soothing herbal qualities of eucalyptus.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is a biennial herb belonging to the Apiaceae family believed to be native to Syria. The “Root of the Holy Ghost,” as it is sometimes called, is now a common flavoring agent in gin, aquavit, and various liqueurs, as it lends the liquids an earthy, herbal quality.

Native to temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, angelica is a bit of a nomad. These days, the plant is grown widely throughout Syria, France, Germany, Romania, and some East Asian countries, among others. One of the few aromatic plants that thrives in cold climates, angelica was long considered a life-saving food, often staving off starvation when other nutrients were unavailable. One species of the botanical–Seacoast angelicawas eaten as a wild substitute to celery, while in the 1700s the roots and stems of angelica were candied and enjoyed as sweet treats in England. 

The plant’s musk-like aroma has made it well-suited for perfumery, and it is still found today in musky fragrances like Jo Malone’s Tuberose Angelica Cologne Intense. Outside of its culinary and olfactory uses, angelica was used by the Sami people of Lapland in the production of the fadno, a traditional reed instrument akin to a flute. In fact, the instrument derives its name from the botanical, as fadno literally means one-year-old angelica. 

Angelica is named after the legend of an angel who appeared to a monk in a dream and told him that the plant could cure the plague. A derivative of the Latin word angelicus meaning angelic, angelica was long held up as a cure-all across cultures. The Missouri tribe of North America smoked the plant to treat colds and respiratory ailments, while the boiled roots were applied to wounds by the Aleut people to speed healing. Today, essential angelica oil is used widely as a rub for joint pain. The botanical is also prized by Wiccans, who use the herb to dispel negative energies and promote healing. 

There are over 40 known species of angelica, with some grown to be used as flavoring agents and others for medicinal purposes. Only very advanced plants are perennial, with most dying after seeding just once. The botanical grows abundantly in parks and squares throughout London, although its perception varies. Some view it as a useful form of foliage, while to others it’s treated as more of a bothersome weed. The plant continues to be valued for its taste, and is used as a flavoring agent in Aquavit and various liqueurs, including Chartreuse, Fernet, and some vermouths. Angelica is one of the most important botanicals in gin distillation, falling third only to juniper and coriander. Its roots are most commonly used in gin, although some brands also use the flower and seeds. When distilled, the botanical adds an earthy, bitter, and herbal quality to the spirit.

Found in: AMASS Dry Gin

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family native to the drier areas of India. Classified as both an adaptogen and a nootropic, the bitter botanical can help the body manage and cope with stress while improving memory and concentration. 

Ashwagandha goes by a few different names, including Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, and winter cherry. Though entirely unrelated to the plant, ashwagandha is often called Indian ginseng because it is treated similarly in Ayurveda–the Indian system of medicine–as ginseng is treated in traditional Chinese medicine. One of the most important herbs of Ayurveda, ashwagandha has been used for several millennia as a Rasayana or rejuvenator, an herbal remedy intended to promote longevity. 

Though the effects of ashwagandha are impressive, you wouldn’t guess it based on appearance alone. The unassuming plant stands at just one to two feet tall, with dull green leaves bearing small orange fruit. It is primarily cultivated in the drier regions of India, but can also be found in Nepal, China, and Yemen, where it thrives in dry stony soil and direct sunlight.

The species name somnifera means sleep-inducing in Latin, referring to the calming properties of the plant. Ashwagandha, meanwhile, comes from a combination of the Sanskrit words ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. Its loose translation is “the smell and strength of a horse.” While the smell is rather literal, the strength winkingly refers to the plant’s aphrodisiac qualities, as it is sometimes used as sexual function support. ‘

Legend has it that Apollo found the ashwagandha plant and gave it to his son Asclepius, a celebrated hero of health and wellness in Greek mythology, cementing the botanical early on as an important healing herb. It’s purported that Alexander the Great and his army would prepare wine made with ashwagandha to give them the energy and vigor needed to succeed in battle.

Today, ashwagandha is classified as both an adaptogen and a nootropic, words usually reserved for the wellness tea and tincture space and found far less frequently in gin and other spirits. To put it simply, an adaptogen is a plant that helps the body adapt to and cope with stress. Nootropics, meanwhile, are thought to enhance cognitive function, improving memory, creativity, concentration, and even motivation. You’ll rarely find ashwagandha for purchase in its whole form, as the botanical is almost always produced, packaged, and sold as a powder or pill. When distilled, the botanical offers a bitter, herbal taste that acts as pleasant foil for brighter citrus notes and earthy mushrooms. 

Found in: AMASS Dry Gin

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a culinary herb in the Lamiaceae family native to tropical regions from central Africa to Southeast Asia. There are many varieties of basil, though Genovese and Thai basil are the most common.

Basil is delicious. Ground up into pesto or sprinkled onto larb, the anise-like herb lends freshness and sweetness to countless dishes across continents and cultures. Thai and Genovese basil are the most popular varieties, but holy basil and lemon basil are plant powerhouses in their own right. Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a powerful healing herb in Ayurveda and is highly revered in Hinduism, while lemon basil offers a citrusy flavor perfect for lightening up your favorite basil-centric dish.

In Greek mythology, basil was thought to be an antidote to the basilisk’s fatal stare and breath. Some say that’s where it got its name basilicum, while others believe the name comes from the Latin word basilius, meaning “royal plant,” because of the botanical’s usage in the production of royal perfumes. 

Basil’s symbolic significance doesn’t end there; in ancient Greece, the plant represented hatred, while in Portugal dwarf bush basil was presented alongside a poem and a paper carnation as a profession of love on the religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony. Jewish folklore suggests the plant adds strength while fasting, and in the Greek Orthodox Church, basil is used to sprinkle holy water. The plant has long been used in burial rites, as well, placed in the mouth or the hands of the dying to ensure a safe journey into the afterlife. 

It’s a rich history, especially for a plant that we now know best for its appearance alongside pine nuts and parm. Basil’s modern day uses go beyond pesto, though. The botanical is increasingly used for its essential oils, which contain high concentrations of linalool, a soothing terpene found in lavender that works wonders in easing anxiety and stress. In Basilisk Breath, basil is complemented by herbaceous notes of peppermint, rosemary, sage, and thyme for a refreshing clean.

Black Spruce
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)

The black spruce (Picea mariana) is an evergreen coniferous tree in the Pinaceae family native to the northernmost parts of North America. It's used in everything from essential oils to fast-food chopsticks.

Venture up north to Canada and you’ll find the black spruce spanning across all 10 provinces. It’s the official tree of both Newfoundland and Labrador, where it outdoes every other tree by sheer number. You can find the black spruce stateside too, where it thrives in Alaska, the upper Northeast, and among the Great Lakes. It’s an integral part of the biome known as the boreal forest, or otherwise known as taiga.

The Latin epithet for the black spruce’s botanical name, mariana, means “of the Virgin Mary,” though it’s not entirely clear why it bears the name. What is clear, however, is the black spruce’s propensity to grow in harsh, wintery conditions. 

The growth of a black spruce varies substantially depending on where it’s planted. In swamp conditions, the tree shows progressively slower growth rates. In the northernmost regions of the black spruce’s range, the trees are often seen with less foliage on the windward side. Called “drunken trees,” these tilted trees are associated with thawing of permafrost.

While the black spruce has all the characteristics of a classic spruce, such as glaucous green needles and scaly bark, Its cones are by far the smallest of all the spruces. Often less than one inch long, these cones are nearly round, with a dark purple hue that ripens to a red-brown color when mature. 

In Canada, the black spruce is the primary source of pulpwood, the material used to make paper products. The tree is also used to make beer and spruce gum, a chewing material made from the resin of spruce trees that has long been used medicinally to treat coughs and heal deep cuts.

Black spruce is one of several coniferous notes found in AMASS Forest Bath, which harkens back to the coastal forests of the Canadian Pacific Northwest.

Cacao (Theobroma cacao)

Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is a small evergreen tree in the Malvaceae family native to the deeper tropical regions of Mesoamerica. Its seeds, known as cocoa beans, are used in the production of chocolate and cocoa butter. Unlike commercially produced chocolate, however, unprocessed cacao has a bitter, nutty taste and is loaded with powerful antioxidants.

While varieties of cacao abound, there are three primary types–Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario. The first, Forastero, is the most widely used, making up 80 to 90 percent of the production of cocoa and chocolate. Terminology surrounding the plant and its products can get tricky, but this is the general breakdown: the term cacao typically refers to the plant or its beans before processing, while chocolate refers to anything made from the beans. The word cocoa, while sometimes used interchangeably with cacao, technically refers to the fine powder of roasted cacao beans after a portion of their fat has been removed. Cocoa butter, meanwhile, refers to that fat extracted from the cocoa bean.

Native to Mesmoamerica, for centuries cacao was considered valuable enough to use as currency. Prized for its powerful antioxidants and nutrients, cacao was believed by the Maya and Aztec peoples to possess magical properties suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage, and death. In fact, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate tinged with the blood of previous victims to cheer them up. 

According to Mayan mythology, the plumed serpent gave cacao to the Maya after humans were created from maize by the divine grandmother goddess Xmucane. The Maya celebrated an annual festival to honor their cacao god, Ek Chuah, an event that included the sacrifice of a dog with cacao-colored markings, additional animal sacrifices, offerings of cacao, feathers, and incense, and an exchange of gifts.

The earliest linguistic evidence of chocolate consumption stretches back three or even four millennia, to pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica such as the Olmec. Anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania announced the discovery of cacao residue on pottery excavated in Honduras that could date back as far as 1400 B.C.E. Cacao is believed to have been fermented into an alcoholic beverage at the time, which was used as a ritual by men only, as it was believed to be intoxicating and therefore unsuitable for women and children. 

Today, cacao nibs or powder are used in desserts, smoothies, granola, and more. Compared to chocolate, cacao is much more bitter and richer in flavor.

Found in: AMASS Dry Gin

California Bay Leaf
California Bay Leaf (Umbellularia californica)

The California Bay (Umbellularia californica) is a large hardwood tree in the Lauraceae family native to coastal forests of Northern California. Similar in flavor and usage to Turkish bay leaves, California bay leaves offer a subtle herbal flavor when distilled.

California bay trees typically grow in coastal forests of Northern California, stretching up as far north as Oregon and sometimes down into the dry desert heat of Southern California. Considered an excellent tonewood ideal for woodwind and acoustic instruments, the California bay is often sought after by luthiers and woodworkers.

Today, the wood from the California bay–otherwise known as Myrtlewood–is the only wood still used as a base for legal tender. The story goes that in 1933, the only bank in North Bend, Oregon was forced to close, leading to a city-wide cash-flow crisis. The crisis was resolved when North Bend decided to mint its own currency, using Myrtlewood coins printed on a newspaper press. The city promised to redeem the coins for cash once it became available, but many decided to hold onto their sheckles as collector’s items, which have since become incredibly valuable.

The California bay’s storied past doesn’t stop there: in 1869, the Golden Spike was hammered into a railroad tie made from California bay wood, signifying completion of the Transcontinental Railway, which linked the East Coast to the West by way of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. 

Despite its longstanding cultural significance, the California bay is now much more prized for its leaves, which have a flavor similar to but much more assertive than the subtly sweet Turkish bay leaves. Both leaves are added to soups, stews, and sauces to imbue a deep, complex flavor, and are removed before eating.

Medicinally, poultices of California bay leaves were once used to treat rheumatism, among other ailments; a poultice was placed on the heads of those who suffered from seizures, for example, to restore consciousness. Single leaves were inserted into the nostrils to cure headaches, while a tea was made from the bark and leaves to treat the common cold and clear mucus from the lungs. In some Native American tribes, California bay leaves were used as natural bug repellents. 

Today the California bay grows widely throughout the coastal forests of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Despite its NorCal roots, the plant has found its way into AMASS Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan’s Los Angeles backyard, where it grows alongside rosemary and grapefruit. 

Found in: AMASS Dry Gin

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a plant in the Zingiberaceae family native to tropical and subtropical Asia. The sweet warming spice comes in two varieties – black and green – and is used widely in Indian and Middle Eastern  cuisine.

Cardamom comes from the Elettaria and Amomum plants, which grow in thick clumps of leafy shoots with dark green, sword-shaped leaves. On those leaves grow small pods, what we commonly know as cardamom. These thin papery shells encasing tiny black seeds are available in two varieties; black and green. In the fourth century BCE, Theophrastus, the Greek father of botany distinguished the two varieties of cardamom. While green cardamom, Elettaria, is more commonplace, the black variety, Amomum, has a smoky flavor well-suited for savory dishes. 

A known breath freshener, cardamom is used by the Wrigley gum brand Eclipse “to neutralize the toughest breath odors.” Individual seeds are sometimes chewed in the same manner as chewing gum for this very reason. Before the advent of toothpaste, ancient Egyptians chewed on cardamom seeds as a way to keep their teeth clean and breath fresh. 

Native to tropical and subtropical Asia, cardamom is now primarily cultivated in Guatemala, Malaysia, and Tanzania. There it is harvested in October, when its whole pods are laid out to dry in the sun or in curing houses. Guatemala is currently the largest producer of cardamom, and in some regions the spice is a more valuable crop than coffee. Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight, surpassed only by vanilla and saffron. Thankfully, its flavor is potent and very little is needed to imbue a sweet, spicy taste.

The spice is widely used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, added to sips, sweets, and savory dishes alike. One of its applications is in gahwa, a coffee blend often recognized as a symbol of hospitality in Indian households, with some even considering it rude to refuse a cup. In recent years, cardamom has been increasingly used in gin distillation, becoming emblematic of the modern gin movement. Its complex warm flavor becomes subdued when distilled, lending a subtle sweet grassiness.

Found in: AMASS Dry GIn

Cedar Leaf
Cedar Leaf (Thuja Occidentalis)

The cedar leaf (Thuja Occidentalis) comes from the cedar tree, a genus of coniferous trees belonging to the Pinaceae family native to the western Himalayas and Mediterranean region. These leaves have a sharp, fresh, and woody camphor scent that is used often in pharmaceutical products for its therapeutic properties.

Because cedar trees share a very similar cone structure with firs, it was long thought that the two were genetically similar. Molecular evidence, however, shows that the genuses are actually quite different.

Cedar leaves are evergreen and needle-like, growing in an open spiral phyllotaxis on long shoots. They are arranged in dense spiral clusters of 15-45 needles together, and vary from a bright, grassy green to a deep verdant hue to a dull blue-green depending on the thickness of the layer of white wax that protects the leaves from desiccation, or drying.

The plant’s seeds have several resin blisters which possess unpleasant tasting resin. This resin is thought to be a deterrent to squirrels, who otherwise are considered predators due to their propensity to snack on the seeds.

The cedar genus contains four known species, including the Atlas cedar, the Cyprus cedar, the Himalayan cedar, and the Lebanese cedar. These species vary in size, color, and distribution, though all grow in mountainous regions around the world.

While cedar wood and cedar berries are more commonly used, cedar leaves have their own speciality uses. These leaves were long thought to be useful in steam baths, helpful in curing rheumatism, arthritis, and congestion, as well as to wash swollen feet and burns. It was used in treating scurvy as late as the 1900s, and today is commonly used in perfumes, cosmetics, and soaps for its delightful aromatic properties. A carrier oil is recommended when applied to the skin to dilute both the scent and effect.

In AMASS Forest Bath, cedar leaf oil blends with Siberian fir and black spruce for a full forest aroma that transports to the towering trees of the Pacific Northwest.

Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)

Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) comes from the red cedar, a species of juniper native to eastern North America from southeastern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and east of the Great plains. Its warm and woodsy aroma makes it a commonly used oil in aromatherapy.

Cedarwood comes from a tree bearing many names; red cedar, Virginian juniper, pencil cedar, and aromatic cedar being just a few of them. It’s considered a pioneer species, meaning it’s one of the first trees to repopulate eroded or damaged land. Among other pioneer species, it lives unusually long, sometimes standing for over 900 years.

Because of its propensity to thrive on forgotten land, the red cedar is often found in prairies, old pastures, along highways, and near recent construction sites. Where there is nothing, the red cedar grows. 

It’s for that reason the red cedar is considered an invasive species, growing sometimes in spite and regardless of whether it is wanted. It’s fire-intolerant, however, and in the past has been controlled by periodic wildfires. Its low-hanging branches provide a ladder that allows a flame to engulf the whole tree, and in places with dense red cedar populations, the tree is often to blame for the rapid spread of wildfires.

The red cedar’s fragrant, soft wood is surprisingly durable. Because of this, fence posts are sometimes made from its wood. Its strong aroma keeps away moths, which is why closets are often lined with cedar to keep away cashmere-loving pests. In the past, the heartwood of the tree was used for the production of pencils. Over time, however, the supply has diminished and the wood of the incense-cedar has largely replaced it. 

Among many Native American cultures, burning cedarwood is believed to expel evil spirits prior to healing ceremonies. Several tribes have also historically used the wood to demarcate agreed tribal hunting territories. In fact, that’s how the Louisiana city of Baton Rouge got its name; French traders named it to denote “red stick,” referring to the amber color of these juniper poles. 

Steam distilled cedarwood oil contains a wide variety of terpenes, including Cedrol, alpha-Cedrene, and Limonene. These terpenes contribute to the botanical’s distinct woodsy scent. At AMASS, we use cedarwood in our Pseudo Citrine, Forest Bath, and Art of Staying In scents, where it lends a warm, cozy aroma. 


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