Originally, nutmeg trees were found only on the Banda Islands in Indonesia’s Molucca archipelago. The story of nutmeg really begins in South-East Asia in the 15th century, when European traders would buy it from Arab merchants. As it was already one of the most precious spices, often worth more by weight than gold, Europeans sought to obtain the marvellous spice directly.
In the 18th century the French, by then well-established in the Indian Ocean, managed to get hold of a few plants and, after experimenting for many years, succeeded in cultivating the nutmeg tree. Nutmeg production soared in the mid-19th century, when it became widely used in European households. It was a very popular ingredient, especially in the many recipes for punch invented at that time.
Nutmeg is the seed of the fruit of the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans). Plantations are situated at an altitude of 500-800 metres, taking advantage of rich volcanic soil and covering the high slopes of sheltered valleys.
The fruit of the nutmeg tree is the only one in the world to yield two spices: nutmeg and mace. When it reaches full maturity, the funny little pale-yellow, apricot-shaped fruit splits in half to reveal a dark-brown kernel, the nutmeg proper (which is not therefore a nut), covered in a lacy scarlet-red membrane which gives mace.
Nutmeg is unusual in that it is also grown far from Indonesia, its place of origin. The nutmeg we use for Citadelle gin comes from the tiny island of Grenada, nicknamed “Spice Island”, in the Caribbean, in the southern part of the Grenadines archipelago. Although small, Grenada is now one of the world’s largest and most prestigious producers of nutmeg.
Nutmeg gives Citadelle gin a spicy and slightly woody note which harmoniously enhances its juniper flavours.