Perfumer’s Nose: The Lovely Frangipani


Frangipani Plumeria alba Copyright Elise Pearlstine

The absolute of frangipani comes in a jar; the true fragrance from my side yard in the early morning and early evening. Also known as plumeria, it is an amazing tree with a luscious tropical fragrance that is strongly floral and just slightly fruity. It has just the slightest hint of the decadence that characterizes some tropical flowers. The one above is my favorite and was grown from seed pods scavenged at a local nursery. Another planting yielded a more familiar yellow and white variety that also smells lovely with a slightly stronger hint of peach. The branches seem to be quite fragile and I will sometimes find them broken off and growing leaves as they lay on the ground beneath the tree. Since this is Florida, such things happen.

golden frangipani 750 px

My yellow one.

As with many tropical flowers the fragrance is heady and narcotic when in full flower. It’s not sweet so much as rich and full. The fruity part of the fragrance is not at the forefront but acts in the background giving it a fresh complexity.

The fragrance of the flowers from the frangipani tree is obtained through solvent extraction. The concrete is the first product from solvent extraction and it is washed with alcohol to yield the absolute of frangipani. With a small sample of the concrete, absolutes from two vendors, and a nicely aged 10% dilution I look forward to this evaluation.

Both samples of the absolute begin just a bit understated, sort of creamy and tropical. It doesn’t take long for the full effect of the lush tropical floral to come through. Both samples were very close to each other while the aged dilution was more fresh and refined, definitely close to the fragrance of the flowers. It went on to become gardenia-like, rich and fruity. The fruit aspect of frangipani is often described as reminiscent of peach, which is accurate, but it’s a really wonderful and rich peach that is fully ripe and warmed in the sun.

frang in bowl 750 px

First flowers of the season last year.

I often like concretes at least as much as their absolutes and find them different in a very lovely way. This time I found the concrete to be a somewhat pale imitation of my favorite frangipani absolute. It has a lovely and clean fragrance that is a bit sweeter but less complex somehow. The drydown, however, is quite similar and very lovely. The two would complement each other nicely in a soliflore.

Frangipani lends itself nicely to enfleurage and I have captured the scent this way getting a true but very light fragrance in the alcohol wash. However, I have enjoyed the tree too much and have allowed it to grow too tall for easy harvest. And there is just nothing like the fragrance of the tree in full bloom; I guess it will be my private perfume right here.

Frangipani flowers for enfleurage.

Frangipani flowers for enfleurage.

One of my favorite notes, I could wear this alone and enjoy the lovely complexity. Do you have the tree? Do you use the absolute?

Read more about frangipani and other tropical flowers in my ingredients post at CaFleureBon from 2012.

5 thoughts on “Perfumer’s Nose: The Lovely Frangipani

  1. Michel Fanton

    Hello from Byron Bay seed savers gardens, 28 latitude south on East Coast Australia, beginning summer temperatures- 24 to 29 celcius (F ?) trying our second season shea butter enfleurages this time with Gardenia species and var, several types, taking calix out, using large glass salad bowl and one cheese cloche containing 15-17 heads. Will stop at 10 charges so to avoid contaminants. Have tried coffee flowers first time to tincture with 96 degree (180 proof from sugar cane) Flowering season of our several var of coffee only lasts five days max so we will be charging daily? May test enfleurage as we have plenty of shea butter. love to hear your experiences. Very grateful to Elise for been so clear and her generous nature. Jude & Michel Fanton,

  2. gerlinde

    This is alsome ! And i have this trees
    here in my country. Im from Brazil.
    And i made my own perfume with those beautiful flowers . Thank for this post!

  3. dabney

    OOO so many tropicals that evade my climate Elise! And this one is top o my list of favorites! Reading this made me wish for a basket of blossoms to see if I could make an absolute; I’ve got a rose & hedychium going now and have luck with lilac, as well. (Not s much the hyacinth & gardenia).
    I love to watch your garden go by and love reading about your observations.

    1. Elise Post author

      Dabney – I love me some frangipani! Funny, I have had more luck with hyacinth and gardenia. Although the gardenia gets a funky mushroom-y note, whether it’s from leaving the flowers in too long I don’t know. I do know that gardenia does have a nuance of mushroom.

      I also enjoy my garden, thanks, and try to get out most days with a camera. Basically it’s an excuse to get outside 🙂


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