AROMA 3: MIXED SPICE
Aroma 3 is MIXED SPICE.
This most distinctive of spicy blends, (typically a mix of Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Mace, Cloves and Allspice) would no doubt have been the nostalgic smell of Christmas to many a Victorian. Queen Victoria was responsible for the revival of interest and popularity in Christmas (though it seems hard to believe it was waning in popularity!), and the introduction of many a new concept that now seem integral to the very idea of Christmas, such as the Christmas tree. From Gingerbread, to Plum Pudding, to Stinking Bishop (though the clove plays the key role) this spice blend would have been an essential ingredient of Christmas provisioning. Gingerbread was one such item that became associated with Christmas thanks to Queen Victoria who gave not only her children but also her King Charles Spaniel, Dash, Gingerbread at Christmas. Gingerbread cake was traditionally given to Carol Singers who would sing for:
"A little bit of pepper cake
A little bit of cheese,
A cup of cold water
And a penny if you please."
A traditional Victorian Christmas plum pudding (plum being the word for any type of dried fruit at the time) would have contained a hearty dose of mixed spice.
As Scrooge is made to watch the heartwarming scene of the Cratchit's preparing and sitting down to their frugal Christmas dinner, with the Ghost of Christmas Present, the plum pudding is a cause of much worry, anticipation and celebration, and is a great example of Dicken's knack for conjuring vivid scenes using olfactory cues:
"But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose: a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered: flushed, but smiling proudly: with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.”
In Chateauneuf du Pape mixed spice, or other brown spices, especially Star Anise, is a common descriptor. Much like the peppery, clove notes, it is as a result of interaction between maturation in toasted oak, and the inherent characteristics of the complex grape blend that makes up Chateauneuf Du Pape.