In some languages, the name for cloves is related to the carnation flower. However, from a botanical point of view cloves and carnations have nothing in common. The characteristic aroma of cloves is due to the high concentration of the eugenol molecule.
The use of this spice is very diverse. It is found in some medicines, for example for dental care, due to its anesthetic and analgesic properties. It is used in cooking in numerous recipes. It is an ingredient of many perfumes and widely used in the cosmetic industry. It is present as an aromatic descriptor in some quality foods and beverages.
Precisely because it is present in so many food and non-food products, its unmistakable aroma is easily recognizable even blindly by many people. However, it can trigger the recall of very different memories in the brain: some people may associate its aroma with the dentist, and others with holiday food. Both of these descriptions are valid as they are intrinsically linked to personal experience.
The scent of cloves characterizes some styles of beer, some quality chocolates and some red wines that have high concentrations of the eugenol molecule.
In beer, the clove aroma, is often associated with that of pepper, thus recalling allspice (or Jamaican pepper), and is formed during fermentation. It is a characteristic scent of some specific styles such as Weizen and some Belgian Ale (e.g. Saison). If you try sniffing a banana and cloves together, it will bring to mind the unmistakable smell of Weizen beer. In some cases the presence of the clove aroma may also be due to aging in wood and for this reason it can be found in Lambics. In the other styles of beer it can be considered a defect due to poor control during the fermentation phase.
In chocolate it is a faint smell reminiscent of a mix of sweet spices (pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg). It can be found in many varieties of cocoa, from Trinitario, to High Amazonian cocoa.
In red wines the clove aroma can be present in a very subtle form, as an effect of aging in wood barrels. It is more easily perceived in wines aged in barrels made with wood of French origin, compared to those aged in American barrels which usually have more pronounced hints of vanilla and coconut. It is more frequent to find it in wines obtained from certain grape varieties such as Nebbiolo, Shiraz, and others.
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