Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Celebration of the Perfumes of the Earth and the Art of Those Who Love Them



Aztec Gold Plumeria aka Fragipani

Natural perfumers have an innate love of nature, flowers and the beauty of this planet. I say that after years of observing the posts by them on a Yahoo group devoted to natural perfumery. Most like to get their hands "in the soil" and grow herbs and flowers so that they can enjoy the harvest as tasty food or as an ingredient in a perfume they create. I'm one of them. I've been a gardener for many, many years. I wrote a paper on organic gardening for a class back in 1972, and later wrote for Organic Gardening magazine. Passionate about herbs, fragrant plants, veggies and tree crops, I've grown plants in Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Florida - talk about spanning growing zones!

The photo of the white and gold plumeria above, the variety known as "Aztec Gold" was taken in 2003 in my garden. I've been tincturing the flowers for years, obtaining a beautifully golden fragrant extract that I use in my perfumes. I encourage you to click on the top photo to see it enlarged, when the exuberant nature of the flowers can be more completely appreciated. This year I'm enfleuraging the flowers for the first time, and with only three changes of flowers in the nonhydrogenated organic palm oil shortening, the fragrance I'm collecting is fantastic - much more peachy than the tinctures. The fresh flowers smell like ripe peaches, and the enfleurage fat does, too.

Vietnamese Gardenia

Another flower I'm enfleuraging is the showy and delightful Vietnamese Gardenia. Not at all like the gardenias we're very familiar with here in the States, it has a distinct ylang ylang note, albeit subdued, and a hint of what I can only describe as Beechnut gum! Floral and spicy, this knockout flower absolutely captivates me.

I'm not sure if I'm correct, but I may be the only person in the United States enfleuraging these flowers. That is part of the unique niche we natural perfumers find ourselves in. We're always seeking the next great sniff, and we try to extract it ourselves if it isn't on the market. Many report about the dried fruits, soil, mushrooms, rare flowers and sticky resins they're exploring via extraction processes.

The future will see many more artisanal extractions like this coming from natural perfumers. The regulators may try to clamp down and make us only buy from narrow-channel sources, but I know we'll just keep on our artistic and outlaw path. It's just what we do.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

White Sandalwood Oil + Full Moon in Libra = A Perfumer's Dream


I'm overwhelmed with the sultry, woody, spicy, balsamic, heavy, transcendent scent of the bottles of Santalum album, aka White Sandalwood essential oil that I've been pouring for the members of the Natural Perfumers Guild. Tonight there's a Full Moon in Libra, the sign of beauty, and sandalwood is in the Pantheon of glorious, gorgeous, sought-after rare and elusive beautiful raw aromatics for fine natural perfumery. My sign is Libra, so I feel the utterly exalting power of this historic, deep, balsamic oil. Being a rather sloppy "pourer" of raw materials, I managed to get about 2mls of this oil on either my hands or in the pouring tray, where it was easy to recover. So I just got to schmering it, to use a little Yiddish, in honor of Pesach, and I'm in heaven!

I also rubbed some on my shoulder, which was yanked out a bit today playing with the huge puppy I'm fostering, and the pain just melted away. Or maybe I'm just melting. I'm as tranquil as that moonlit river in the photo - serene, tranquil and reflecting(ive).

This is the second buy from Anya's Garden that I've put together for the Guild, sourcing extremely rare aromatics. Previously I received the only bit of the 2008 golden Boronia absolute that was parceled out to non-longterm customers. Now I've found a sustainable source of "old school" sandalwood untouched by the ecological, political or other negative issues found in Mysore, the historic home of the finest white sandalwood. I've been sourcing sandalwood oil, or at least buying directly from reputable retail sources, since 1974. This oil ranks up there with the best Mysore, and it just goes to prove that aromatic plant materials can be established far away from the original home base and manufactured beautifully by skilled people, giving rise to the hope that as some homelands disappear (for whatever reason) that others can be born elsewhere.

I may offer some for sale to the general public after the Guild members place their orders. I didn't have any extra Boronia, but I may have the sandalwood. I'm thinking of just buying more, I shouldn't pass up on this great aromatic - it's just so, so fine.