Perfumer’s Nose: The Other Lavenders

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Lavender Flowers Copyright Elise Pearlstine

There are lavenders that are wild, lavenders that are hybrids, and lavenders that are not distilled but extracted via solvent. I’ll go through this varied group today. The same descriptors I used in my last blog apply: floral, herbaceous, sharp, woody, balsamic, coumarinic, refreshing, and clean notes.

For my last blog (Part 2), I evaluated 12 varieties of Lavandula angustifolia here (http://tambela.com/blog/perfumers-nose-lavender-a-purple-haze/), and Part 1 was an introduction to lavender here (http://tambela.com/blog/perfumers-nose-lavender-love/).

Today I sniff other lavender types and species:

Lavandula angustifolia Wild—is sharp, woody, and slightly rooty. The floral lavender is apparent underneath the woody notes and the dryout is mild and fresh. It definitely has a wild aspect to it but is not harsh.

Lavandula angustifolia English—my sample is a few years old but the fragrance is pretty, being woody/sharp/floral with a transition to floral that has sharp, green notes.

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English Lavender Field Copyright Elise Pearlstine

Lavandula lanata—this one is sweet with fresh floral aspects, and the fresh floral lavender fragrance remains on the scent strip. L. lanata is native to southern Spain and grows on dry calcareous slopes. It has a beautiful silver-grey foliage that can be quite dense.

Lavandula latifolia aka L. spica—spike lavender. This species generally occurs at lower altitudes than L. angustifolia and flowers later, however the two species may occasionally hybridize. The fragrance is sharply green with a definite camphor/eucalyptus note that is almost tea tree-like. The oil may be used in ceramic paint, in the preparation of varnishes, and in soaps and other products.

Lavandula x intermedia aka lavandin—my sample is slightly sharp and yet floral with fresh notes. There is a true lavender fragrance, a bit on the sharp side, that becomes a bit dirty-rooty. This is a cross between L. angustifolia  and L. latifolia. It has longer stems, produces more oil, is good for cut flowers, and is a favorite of soap-makers. Where the two parent species grow in the
same areas natural hybrids are produced that are sterile.

Lavandula stoechas—this one is very different. The words that come to mind are incensy, woody, complex, also slightly rough and dirty to describe my sample from the U.S. I also have a sample from Greece that is similar, being incensy, woody, and sweet with hints of eucalyptus and floral. The dryout is nice but slightly damp, also woody and sweet.

Concrete from L. angustifolia

As a refresher, the concrete is the product of a solvent extraction. It is generally waxy and thick or solid. Lavender concrete is semi-liquid and a green/brown color. Initially, I get the impression of sharpness mixed with sharp-floral that transitions to a fine-floral fragrance. There is a good bit of waxy residue in the bottom of the bottle of my 10% solution.

Absolute from L. angustifolia

The concrete is washed with alcohol to extract the fragrance producing an absolute. Lavender absolute is dark green and liquid. I have always loved the sweet green fragrance that hits the nose first off followed by a sharp/floral note. The dryout is floral and fresh, lavender but reminiscent of clary sage.

The absolute and concrete are very similar in fragrance and described by Arctander as resembling the stalks and flowers very closely.

In spite of their differences, all the lavenders share a lovely sharply floral fragrance that is iconic, popular, wonderful in perfumes and body care products, and it’s really not just for old ladies. Bees love it too!bee-on-lavender-closeup

Have you used the concrete or the absolute? Do you use lavender in perfumes?

For more information about bees and lavender see these websites:

http://uslavender.org/2013/07/lavender-and-bees/

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/17/bees-most-attracted-lavender-marjoram

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