Friday, July 27, 2007

Pandanus, wild and crazy, "screwy" fun scent

The male flower of the Pandanus odoritissimus can weigh two pounds or more.

The Pandanus is also known as the Screw Pine due to the swirl of the leaves. It is one of the most useful plants in the tropics. Practically every part of the Screw Pine is used for all type of different purposes: clothing, bowls, housebuilding, food, medicine and fragrance.

But it's the wild and crazy flower I'm interested in as a natural perfumer. High, pierceing, radish-y, rosy, green, dirt, glorious, sun-drenched, yet cool as can be - that's the hydrodistilled oil of the Pandanus odoritissimus. Also can be described as hyachinth-honey, fresh floral, addictive. Dilute it down to 1% to have some of the hyacinth notes really release - wow. Male flower only, please - like the male peacock with his technicolor plumage, only the male flower of this tree has the scent. Yes, the lady trees may have the bombastic, grenade-looking fruit, but it's the essence of the male flower that is craved. And coveted. And oh-so-rare to obtain.

I've obtained some of the rare essential hydrodistilled oil of this flower, and although I'm selling off tiny amounts of it to natural perfumers so that they may experience this and keep it in the scent library in their brains and their studios, I will hold on to it for my Fairchild perfume.

It's the fierce, fleeting topnote of Fairchild, grabbing your nose for the wild rollercoaster of a Tropical dreamscape perfume. Other than Fairchild, I cherish my "kewda" or "kewra" or "keora" water I get at the Indian grocery to flavor my dishes. The hydrosol left over after this process is softer and rounder both to the nose and the tastebuds.

I'll probably experiment making "floral water" with a gram of the oil in a liter or more of distilled water, so I can use it as an after-bath splash. It's a scent that has its own top, middle and bottom note, complex and intriguing as it slides down the scale towards drydown.

Arctander says once you have experienced the true pandanus essence, you will never forget it, and that is so true. I'm on the hunt for some absolute. I absolutely adore keora/kewda/pandanus, as do millions of folks in Northern India, where it is a culinary staple. Arctander also says fixation can be a bit of a problem, and I have to laugh and take that two ways -- "fixing" the scent so it lasts longer, or, in my case, my fixation with the scent.


  1. What a glorious, savage blossom that is...
    Worthy of O'Keefe, I'll wager.

    [I could be tempted- I confess to 1/6 oz. of Boronia from Mandy....
    Shhhh- don't tell !
    The stuff of which dreams are made]

    Hope you are well and thriving, my lamb.

  2. Various pandanus sp. grow all over Miami,C, and if I ever get a free moment and the camera in my hand, I'll try to be O'Keefe-y for ya ;-)

    I'd have to knock on doors and ask to grab a male flower or two, so that's on my agenda, also.

    Boronia, oh wonder of wonders, gorgeous stuff!

    I'm doing rather well, never so busy in my life as now, and trying to enjoy the frenzy.


  3. something new to me, very interesting to hear about it. I hope to have the chance to try it someday. There seems to be a lot going on in the tropics that is only now coming to us in perfumes and such. btw, I mention you in my pean to niche perfumers today...

  4. I live in NY and am trying hard to get my hands on some really good quality Kewda hydrosol. Unfortunatley most of the Indian grocery stores that carry Kewda water have product that has fillers etc that render the hydrosol not usable. Any ideas as to where I could get some? Thx JH


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