In my blog post about naturals (Part 1), I talked briefly about distillation. Distillation is the process whereby we get nearly all of our essential oils, cold-process being the other method that is used for citrus oils. In many cases, distillation begins at the beginning and continues to the end with temperatures and timing strictly controlled for highest quality and to yield a blend of desirable constituents. Various combinations of distillation techniques may be used to adjust oils, remove undesirable components, and otherwise produce a desirable and commercial product.
In the case of the ylang ylang flower, the distillation process is interrupted at very particular times to yield different products. The distillation of ylang ylang is an example of fractional distillation. By timing the distillation carefully, four different fractions can be separately created. Generally referred to as ylang ylang extra, ylang ylang I, II and III they are quite different in fragrance with the extra being quite sweet and ethereal for perfumery while the 3rd is more suited to making soaps, the other fractions are less commonly used. Over the course of about 24 hours, distillers interrupt the process and pull off each fraction separate from the others. During the first 1 to 2 hours the essential oil is collected and separated as the ‘Extra’. Using experience, fragrance, and specific gravity measurements distillers remove the other fractions in their time. Or, distillers may simply continue the distillation uninterrupted to create the ‘complete’ which is sometimes referred to as ylang ylang VOP or Very Old Process.
The topnotes of a perfume are the fragrant ingredients that come to the nose first. They are usually bright and cheerful, even effervescent, and also short-lived for the most part. Citrus essential oils such as bergamot or mandarin fit this description perfectly and work wonderfully in the topnotes of perfumes. In the search for something else, something that can bridge to the heart of a perfume, and that adds interest and a piquant note, I reach for the peppers frequently. Black and pink are the most commonly used in perfumes but there is also a lovely green pepper essential oil and a funky white pepper CO2. If you have ever used these in cooking, you know the personalities. Black, green, and white are all variations on the well-known Piper nigrum, a tropical vine whereas pink pepper comes from a tree.
Black pepper keeps its heat in the dark outer covering and grinding the peppercorns fresh releases the aromatic oils stored in this shell. Bright and sharp, citrusy and woody, black pepper is wonderful with just about anything. White pepper is the peppercorn without the interesting outside layer. What is left is wonderful in white sauces and some Chinese dishes but often contains a very funky fecal note. Green pepper is the same fruit but harvested before completely mature and often preserved in brine. Pink pepper, although from an entirely different plant, shares a bright pungency but is more resinous.
We have had so much fun with our new website and working with a wonderful graphic artist, Robin MacLean, to get our new logo. My better half is the designer on our website and created a beautiful site that featured my photography in addition to perfumes, soaps, links to perfume classes, custom perfumes, and this blog. However the pages were slow to load and we all know that you have to catch people within seconds or they leave. So, crazy genius that he is, he found another way to keep the photos front and center but also to incorporate the logo. He loves doing this and manages to get it all done evenings and weekends.
There are a few oils that I collect obsessively and keep on my shelves to age before I use them. Patchouli is one, vetiver is another, rose and sandalwood. All of these get better with age. Five year old patchouli, to me, is much preferable to the new stuff. As I was filling a rather larger order for patchouli to deliver to Miami (see previous blog) I decided to pull out all my bottles and give them a sniff. I found dark patchouli oils from two different vendors both over 5 years old, an aged dark patchouli that I purchased already aged, three bottles of old patchouli, a molecularly distilled patchouli, a patchouli absolute, and a patchouli with 27% patchoulol.These all went onto my scent strips for sniffing. It turns out that I don’t actually have any new, fresh patchouli essential oil.
Ask any perfumer and they will tell you that packaging is a very challenging aspect of our art. Some love it but many, including me, find it very difficult. To go along with our name change we have a new design for our existing bottles and a dream for a completely new bottle.
As my yard makes the transition from winter to spring the Osmanthus shrubs in the front yard are covered in blooms for probably the last time. At the same moment, three kinds of jasmine are blooming in the back yard. Frangipani blooms are on the bare tree branches against a blue sky. Our mango trees have bloomed and tiny mangos dot the trees and our winter vegetable garden is giving us the last of the tomatoes and peppers. Continue reading →
Hi, my name is Elise and I am a natural perfumer. There is so much to discuss in our world of natural perfumery and natural scents. You’ll start seeing my posts here very soon. We used to be called Bellyflowers perfumes and you can find my previous post at our former site, http://bellyflowers.blogspot.com.