What Does Cassia Clove Smell Like?

Introducing Cassia Clove

Cassia clove, also known as Chinese cassia or Chinese cinnamon, is a spice made from the dried inner bark of the Cinnamomum cassia tree. This tree is native to China and Southeast Asia. To produce cassia clove, the bark is harvested from the cinnamon tree, then dried and rolled into a tube shape known as a “quill.” The quills can then be ground into a powder.

Unlike “true” cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), cassia clove has a much stronger flavor and aroma profile. It contains high amounts of a compound called coumarin, which gives it a more intense cinnamon taste. Both true cinnamon and cassia clove originate from the bark of tropical, evergreen trees in the genus Cinnamomum, but they come from different species within that genus.

Aroma Profile

Cassia clove has a warm, spicy aroma that is sweet and aromatic. The scent is often described as being reminiscent of cinnamon, with a cozy and comforting fragrance. When inhaled, cassia clove releases a rich, vanilla-like scent with hints of nutmeg and allspice. The sweetness comes through initially, followed by the spicier notes. The overall impression is a round, smooth, and slightly balsamic aroma, rather than a sharp spiciness.

The main aromatic compounds in cassia clove that create this distinctive scent are eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, and linalool. Eugenol gives it a sweet, woody, clove-like smell. Cinnamaldehyde provides a cinnamon and spicy character. Linalool contributes a floral, fruity impression. Together, these compounds form the unique, sweetly spicy aroma that cassia clove is prized for.

Main Aromatic Compounds

The main aromatic compounds responsible for cassia’s distinctive scent are:

Cinnamaldehyde – This compound gives cassia its sweet, cinnamon-like aroma. Cinnamaldehyde makes up about 75-90% of cassia’s essential oil. It has a sweet, spicy scent with notes of honey.

Eugenol – Eugenol has a spicy, clove-like scent. It composes about 5-15% of cassia’s essential oil. Eugenol gives cassia its subtle clove nuances.

Linalool – With its floral, lavender notes, linalool comprises around 1-2% of cassia oil. It provides light floral highlights.

Benzaldehyde – This compound lends a sweet, almond-like aroma. Though small in quantity, benzaldehyde rounds out cassia’s overall scent profile.

Comparing to Clove

Both cassia and clove contain the aromatic compound cinnamaldehyde, which gives them their distinctive spicy aroma. However, there are subtle differences between the two spices.

While clove has an extremely pungent, hot aroma, cassia is slightly more muted and less spicy. The scent of cassia is sometimes described as clove-like but softer, warmer, and more mellow.

Clove contains more essential oil and eugenol than cassia, making its aroma stronger and sharper. Cassia’s scent is more well-rounded with additional notes of cinnamon.

So in summary, while cassia clove and regular clove share similarities due to the cinnamaldehyde compound, cassia has a less intense spiciness and is generally more subtle and delicate in its aroma profile.

Comparing to Cinnamon

Cassia has a much stronger aroma and flavor compared to cinnamon. This is due to its higher content of cinnamaldehyde, the compound primarily responsible for the spicy aroma and taste of cinnamon.

While cinnamon contains only around 2% cinnamaldehyde, Cassia can contain up to 10 times as much. This gives Cassia a much more intense and pungent cinnamon flavor profile.

Cassia is also less sweet than cinnamon, with its flavor dominated by the spiciness imparted by cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamon has a more balanced profile with subtle notes of sweetness rounding out its spice.

So in summary, Cassia provides a much more potent cinnamon aroma and flavor due to its abundant cinnamaldehyde content. It lacks the sweetness of cinnamon and comes across as a purer, spicier, and less delicate version of that familiar spice.

Uses in Perfumery

Cassia clove is valued in perfumery for its warm, spicy aroma. It is commonly used in oriental fragrance accords to evoke an exotic mood. The sweet yet peppery scent provides a rich complexity when blended with woody, floral, or musky notes. Cassia clove is often combined with true cinnamon to accentuate the spicy nuances in the composition. At low concentrations, it imparts a subtle flair. Higher amounts create a bolder presence with tenacious lasting power. The dried buds and leaves, rather than the bark, are utilized for fragrance to capture the distinctive clove-like aroma. Cassia clove adds allure and mystique to perfumes marketed to both men and women.

Uses in Food

Cassia clove adds a lovely aromatic spice to baked goods like pies, cakes, cookies, and pastries. Its warm, sweet flavor complements fall and winter holiday desserts. Many bakers enjoy pairing cassia clove with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and other baking spices for a complex blend of flavors.

The taste of cassia clove also works well in some liqueurs. It provides a distinctive flavor note to after-dinner drinks. Some bartenders will use a small amount of cassia clove extract or essential oil to craft unique liqueur recipes.

Cassia clove has an affinity for chocolate and is able to stand up to the rich, dark flavors. It is commonly used to flavor hot chocolate recipes. The spicy warmth of the clove balances beautifully with the cocoa. Chocolate-covered cassia cloves are a decadent confection that highlights this perfect pairing. Cassia clove can also add interest to chocolate cakes, brownies, cookies, and chocolate confections.

Culinary Substitutions

Cassia’s warm, spicy aroma makes it a popular ingredient in baked goods, curries, and other dishes. However, cassia can be difficult to find in some areas. In these cases, there are a few suitable substitutes to consider:

Cinnamon is the most direct substitute for cassia in recipes. Cinnamon has a milder flavor and aroma, so you’ll need to use more cinnamon to achieve the same intensity as cassia. As a general guideline, use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon for every 1 teaspoon of cassia called for.

Clove bud oil or ground clove can also add back the spicy, sweet aroma missing from cinnamon alone. Add just a small amount, starting with 1/4 teaspoon clove oil or 1/2 teaspoon ground clove per teaspoon of cassia.

Experiment with the ratios to find the right cinnamon-to-clove balance to suit your tastes and the particular dish. The substitution won’t be exact, but should produce good results in most baked goods, stews, curries, chais and other cassia-seasoned foods.

Health Benefits

Cassia clove comes with several health benefits, backed by scientific studies. Some of the main health benefits include:

Antimicrobial properties

Research shows that cassia clove oil contains compounds such as cinnamaldehyde that have antimicrobial effects against certain bacteria and fungi. This may help explain the traditional use of cassia clove as a cleansing agent and natural disinfectant.

Good source of antioxidants

Cassia clove is rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. These compounds help neutralize free radicals and may provide protection against oxidative stress and inflammation.

May support heart and liver health

Some studies indicate that cassia clove may help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, which supports overall heart health. Its antioxidant effects may also benefit liver health by reducing damage and inflammation.


In summary, cassia clove has a warm and spicy aroma reminiscent of a combination of cloves and cinnamon. Its main aromatic compounds like cinnamaldehyde give it a sweet yet spicy scent profile. While similar to cloves and cinnamon, cassia clove has its own unique identity as a fragrance and culinary ingredient. It is versatile enough to use in perfumes, baked goods, curries, and more. Cassia clove packs in numerous potential health benefits too. With its complex blend of flavors and aromas, cassia clove adds interest and depth to many dishes and fragrances.

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