Black Magic

You know what they say about small packages. Never was a truer word spoken when it comes to the deceptively innocuous-looking black peppercorn. For thousands of years, it has dictated trade routes, seen empires rise and fall, and accompanied pharaohs on their journey to the afterlife. Black pepper is the king of spices, adding an earthy undercut with a burst of heat.

It all began when someone very astute discovered that the unripe fruit of a perennial flowering vine had an explosive secret. Part of the Piperaceae family, the plant produces a fruit that is picked before it has matured. While it is still green and at its most piquant,
it is flash-boiled and then left to dry in the sun, where its seeds shrink and darken. This
is when the magic happens and that delicious, subtle fieriness evolves.

Birch & Black Pepper, a cologne that
 is the eye of the storm between
rebelliousness and tradition

Black pepper was originally traded from the Malabar coast (now Kerala) and was so valuable, that it was sometimes used as currency instead of money. It is said that at one point during the Middle Ages, it was worth its weight in gold – hence its nickname, ‘black gold’. Alaric, king of the Visigoths, whose sacking of Rome set the wheels in motion for the empire’s decline, demanded 3,000 pounds of peppercorns as part of his siege negotiation. 

Such was the world’s fixation with black pepper that it helped maintain trade routes between India, Egypt and Rome for 1,500 years. Arab traders invented dramatic tales of how dangerous it was to harvest in order to keep the prices high. They claimed peppercorns grew on Indian trees guarded by poisonous snakes and that the only way to obtain the spice was to burn down the trees, which was why the fruit turned black. 

In our homage to this mightiest of spices, we have created the limited-edition Birch & Black Pepper as part of our collaboration with Huntsman of Savile Row. A cologne that is the eye of the storm between rebelliousness and tradition. Seductive and confident, it has notes of cardamom and smoky birch. Black pepper’s grip on the world it seems, is not loosening.

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